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The best automations for smart lights

Smart lighting is better than it’s ever been: There’s a myriad of smart lights and smart bulbs for every possible location or socket, all of them equipped with extra features that can be controlled with an app on your mobile device. But what exactly are you supposed to do with them?

We’re answering that question with this useful guide on the best automation options for your smart lighting, and pointers about how to set them up. Take a look to get some ideas!

Set up a “good night” routine

If you have a voice assistant, you have the ability to set up smart home routines, or a collection of smart device actions that will all trigger together with a single voice command. For Alexa, for example, you can literally set up an “Alexa, good night” routine that will easily turn off all the smart lights in your home, or set a particular bulb to a dim setting to serve as a nightlight or other function. For more information on creating Alexa routines, check out our guide here.

Holding a smartphone with a lighting app for adjusting lights.

Routines aren’t limited to saying good night to the house, of course, but we’ve found this is one of the most useful ways to tie in smart lighting to a routine. You can also arrange morning routines that will turn on specific lights as you get ready for your day — this may be an effective way to encourage your kids to wake up, too!

Setting up daily schedules

Using your smart lighting app, it’s easy to schedule your lights to turn on at specific times during the day and turn off again — every smart app should have this capability. That’s useful if you want to save a little bit of time turning on and off every light in your house (especially if you have a predictable schedule), but homeowners may particularly enjoy this option when they are away on vacation. The scheduled light activity makes it look like the house is still occupied even if everyone is gone.

Lutron Caseta Smart Lighting Dimmer Switch in bedroom.
Ian Bell/Digital Trends

Connecting lights to a motion sensor

This is a common tactic in offices across the world, but you can enjoy the benefits at home as well thanks to products like the Philips Hue Indoor Motion Sensor for Smart Lights. This allows you to put a motion sensor at a key spot in your house and connect it to a smart bulb so the bulb automatically turns on when someone approaches.

This is a very handy setup for areas where it’s difficult to fumble for the light switch, when it’s very dark, or when your hands are frequently full. Think about basement stairways, cupboards and pantries, garages, and other locations. You can also use this method on your porch if you don’t already have a smart security cam, as it will alert you when anyone approaches.

Mood lighting setups

Smart lighting also makes great accent lighting, and this allows you to try out another trick as well — changing shades to find the right mood lighting. One of the great things about smart lights is that many of them can be adjusted to very specific hues (some span millions of potential colors) so you can get just the shade you are looking for. From game rooms and playrooms to behind-the-TV background lighting, there are dozens of innovative ways to use smart lights like this.

Remember how we talked about setting up a good night routine? It’s also easy to create a “romantic night” routine that will automatically dim those accent lights and turn them to a sexier shade while starting a timely song playlist in the background. If your evening looks less like romance and more like corralling the kids to bed, think about setting up a color switch routine that announces it’s time to start cleaning — and that changes again when bedtime becomes mandatory.

A row of smart bulbs in different shades.
Heelight

Light alerts when alarms sound

There are many ways to set up this kind of connection, but IFTTT is one of the best examples. Let’s say you have a Nest Protect, which can detect smoke and carbon monoxide, then sound an alarm. The Nest Protect is compatible with IFTTT (If This, Then That), a platform that allows you to link smart devices and tie them to specific actions or responses. That means you can use IFTTT to connect your Nest Protect’s actions to your smart lights — when a smoke alarm sounds, you can have your lights flash, or turn red, or make some other sign that something is wrong.

Like the idea of light alerts? You can set them up for lots of other things too, such as creating blinking lights when a baby monitor detects noise in the baby’s room.

Slow illumination or fades

Many smart lights, including Philips Hue and Lifx lights, have dimming options so you can control the brightness (usually on a scale of 1 to 100). Their apps will allow you to add dimming options to your scheduling. One of the most popular ways to use this programmed brightening and dimming is to simulate the rising and setting of the sun throughout your house, something that your circadian rhythms may appreciate (it also looks cool). Or you could create a brightening timer that acts as a visual alarm when you want to take a nap.

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