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Smart light bulb buying guide

Finding the perfect smart light bulb is a major challenge. Between the multiple brands to wade through, to figuring out the style you want, and assessing which features you need, we’re going to help you find the smart bulb that’s right for you.

What is the point of smart light bulbs?

Smart light bulbs changing color on command.

First and foremost, smart light bulbs offer convenience. By being able to turn on an entire room’s worth of lights without having to go to each lamp individually is worth the price of admission alone. Connecting the bulbs with voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant, you don’t even need to access the mobile app to do it.

The other major benefit of smart light bulbs is the wide range of color profiles, which can be as subtle as making a white bulb cooler during the day and warmer at the night. These changes can improve focus or relaxation in ways you hadn’t realized until you started playing with smart lights.

Full-color LED smart bulbs can take you into entirely new home decor territory. Setting a spooky purple for scary movie night, or filling the room with green while you go over vacation photos from a jungle hike add an extra level of immersion. With a bit of work, smart lights can sync to shows or music to expand the experience to a whole living space.

Finally, smart lights let you create automations. This way your home lights can turn on and off on their own once certain criteria are met. Some of the more common criteria include turning the lights off when you leave home, usually by noticing your connected smartphone has left the network. Lights can also automatically turn on at sunset by checking the internet and cross-referencing it with the home’s location.

Which are the best smart bulbs?

Philips Hue are typically regarded as the best smart bulbs. There are a bunch of different brands in the space, especially at lower price points. We keep a roundup of the best of the best smart bulbs here so you don’t have to spend too much time shopping around.

How much do smart bulbs cost?

Smart light bulbs can vary quite a bit in cost. Prices from reputable brands can go from $10 for a white smart bulb up to $45 for a full-color Hue bulb. The kind of fixture you’re getting a bulb for and the need for color will largely dictate how much you’ll pay for one.

If you’re upgrading from older light bulbs, you’re very likely to end up saving money on your electrical bill, and these bulbs could pay for themselves over the long term. LED lights use at least 75% less power than incandescent bulbs, and can last up to 25 times longer. Even if you don’t make your money back on your power bill, you’re likely to save on replacement costs at a minimum.

There is a case to be made for the cheaper bulbs, but don’t skimp too much or you might be hitting performance issues.

Can you use a smart bulb in any light?

Smart bulbs are available for a wide range of socket types. The standard Edison E26 bulbs are supported across every major smart light bulb manufacturer. More specific types of bulb screws like PAR38, GU10, and E12 are also available, but at differing levels of availability. You can check charts like these to figure out which non-standard bulbs you own.

Besides the socket type, you may also be concerned about voltage. 110V – 130V and 10W – 12W inputs are common for E26 smart light bulbs. Odds are good that if you’re using the right-sized bulb for any given socket in your home, you should be fine.

What kind of smart bulbs are out there?

Govee Lyra Smart Floor Lamp illuminating corner.

The traditional Edison bulbs are just the tip of the iceberg for LED smart lighting. Light strips are an increasingly popular option, because you can tuck them into corners and behind furniture to provide a great new kind of indirect light.

Smart light bulbs are also being built into certain kinds of lamps. Floor lights, for example, are great to place in corners, emitting their light along the adjoining walls. Outdoor floodlights are even becoming an option now. These are perfect for adding ambiance to backyard parties.

If you’re perfectly happy with your existing bulbs, it’s possible to buy adapters that add intelligence to your current lights. This mainly means creating a remote control feature via a smartphone app, but can also include automation by way of security camera motion detection, for example.

Do smart bulbs really work?

Smart bulbs really do work! They provide loads of convenience and entertainment around the home. LED lights are also a great upgrade from traditional incandescent bulbs thanks to a steep drop in electrical usage. There are some things you’d be surprised that a smart light bulb can do.

The one major caveat here is that you want to make sure you’re using a reputable brand. There are loads of cheap smart light bulbs available, and they can be highly inconsistent in performance. Even if you’re on a budget, it’s worth taking the time to check the reviews of the smart light bulbs you’re considering to ensure they function consistently.

Should I get color or white smart bulbs?

White smart bulbs tend to be a fair bit cheaper. You’ll also be able to pick between pure white bulbs that are only dimmable, and those with some degree of warm/cool temperature control. Starting with warm/cool smart light bulbs is a good entry into this smart home convenience. They aren’t too expensive, they demonstrate the value of extra light control, and they cover the basics.

Color bulbs are certainly the most fun option, and if you have the budget, it’s worth springing for them. Some folks might not appreciate how vibrant this kind of lighting gets, so it may be worth sticking to some of the white models for those with more buttoned-down sensibilities.

Hopefully after going through these questions you’ve been able to settle on which smart light bulbs to get. It’s a booming product category with loads of options, so you should be able to find something for every situation.

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Simon Sage
Simon has been publishing in tech since before the first iPhone was released. When he's not busy lighting a candle for the…
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