In this installment of the “What do I need?” series, I’m taking a very brief look at smart lighting. Indeed, you don’t need to know a lot about home pre-requisites for smart lighting. They’re actually pretty brief and simple. As with installing smart switches, smart lighting itself is pretty black and white. You’ll either be able to put smart bulbs in your existing lighting setup, or you can look at replacing them altogether and installing a smart fixture.

As with any home automation products, you need to make sure you have a compatible phone or tablet to look after them. In most cases, an iPhone/iPad running iOS 9 or better should be sufficient, and any Android phones running OS 4.4 or better should work. Prior to purchasing anything, be sure to check out any minimum system requirements if you’re not sure whether you can support them. Both of the operating systems I’ve mentioned are a couple years old, so as long as your phone was released within the last 4-5 years, you should be alright.

Philips Hue Light Fixture

Picking your smart lighting

Picking out the smart lighting you want should be fairly easy. You’ve really only got two major choices — Bulbs and light fixtures. A third option does exist in the form of LED Strip Lights, but they seem to be more of a novelty/vanity option for homes rather than part of more traditional/practical lighting usage. Smart bulbs are the most common form of lighting, and they exist in all sorts of shapes and forms. Full smart lighting fixtures are harder to come by.

In fact, the only smart lighting fixtures you’ll find right now are by Philips. The Philips Hue line of smart lights is probably the most common and most dominant in the market right now. Philips Hue provides you the most options as well as offering more unique styles. Hue not only has a mixture of bulbs, but strip lights and actual fixtures themselves. I’ll talk a little bit more about what else Hue interacts with later in the blog. First, let’s look at what you should know about picking out bulbs for your existing light fixtures.

What you should know about picking smart bulbs

There is a lot to be said about smart bulbs. I’ve found that smart bulbs tend to run much cooler than most light bulbs, and I really enjoy their ability to dim and/or change colour (depending on the type of smart bulb you have) on the fly. The ability to turn the bulbs themselves on or off without being near a light switch is really neat as well.

As you decide to pick out smart bulbs, think about the type of light fixtures you’ll be installing your bulbs in. The recent recommendations many LED bulb manufacturers have had about only installing bulbs in open light fixtures seems to hold true to smart bulbs as well. I spoke to a lighting expert about this one time, and she advised me that the reason this is a recommendation is because installing the bulb in a closed fixture (when recommended for an open one) may cut the life expectancy in half.

While the open/closed light fixture debate may not be a big one, many smart bulbs recommend installation in a single switch light fixture. This is one of the reasons I haven’t put a lot of smart lighting in my home. Unfortunately, much of the commonly used lighting in my home can be powered by two different switches for the same fixtures. When I asked why this was problematic for smart bulb manufacturers a couple of years back, they advised me that their testing showed that installing a bulb on a multi-switch fixture and using the different switches repeatedly could result in the bulb losing sync with the app and being unable to be controlled. I’d say that there is less chance that this happens if you’re only ever using one switch and the lighting app itself, but if it’s still true, that could be quite annoying.

Does normal smart lighting work with any smart home systems?

Yes, some smart lighting plays well with other home automation systems. Philips Hue in particular is one that’s at the forefront of all connectivity, with the ability to work with IFTTT, Nest, and more. LIFX products also cooperate with most smart home systems. Connectivity to Alexa and Google Home is also available with these products as well, from which you can control your smart lighting with simple voice commands!

Do I need any additional hardware outside of my mobile device to run my smart lighting?

The majority of smart bulbs out there don’t require you to have any additional hub or bridging hardware, and operate right from your phone or tablet. However, most of the Philips Hue lighting systems require you to have a Hue Bridge. The standard Hue smart bulb doesn’t, but just about everything else does. You can usually find the bridge bundled with the more expensive systems, but be aware that you do need it if you’re starting out and Hue sounds like the system for you.

Whatever your smart lighting wishes are, there are options now available for you at Best Buy. Check out the full range of smart lighting now available online and in-store.

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