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Why smart lights are the perfect entry point to the smart home

Getting started with building a smart home can be daunting. The benefits are sort of nebulous at first, and the up-front cost can be off-putting. There are a lot of ways to approach the idea of building out a smart home, but we contend that smart lights are the best first step on that journey.

You can start small

If you want to upgrade your home’s entire lighting setup at once, you can, but that can be pricy. Luckily, you can buy a single smart bulb for $20 without a separate hub and enjoy the benefits right away, and then decide to expand. Mix and match brands one light at a time to find the combination of cost and value that works best for you, then go all-in with whatever lighting system you like best.

The benefits are visible

A man and woman in a living room lit by a Philips Hue sync box.

The benefits of many smart home devices aren’t quite as palpable as a smart light’s. A smart light changes the mood of your entire home and reinvents your relationship with a light switch. Meanwhile, smart speakers can amount to a spooky robot ghost lady that lives in your kitchen. A smart lock gives you a different way to fumble for your keys. A smart thermostat operates quietly in the background with the end result being a comfortable temperature. These benefits are harder to come to grips with than turning your living room purple whenever you want.

Smart lights are idiot-proof

Setup for smart lights is painfully easy. It’s often little more than turning off the light, popping out the old bulb, putting in the new one, turning the light on, and pairing with your phone. It’s hard to mess up. In a worst-case scenario, you’ll need to reset the bulbs and pair again. In the vast majority of instances, you’ll be dealing with the same standard size of socket, so not much chance of getting the wrong kind of bulb.

Your phone has great support

Smart lights are one of the product categories with the most consistent support for smart home platforms like Google Home and Apple HomeKit. These are well-integrated with the phone you already have, giving you an easy way to issue voice commands to your lights. These mechanisms are in addition to native Android and iOS apps that often provide home screen widgets and advanced functions you’ll need to dip into anyway during setup.

The Nanoleaf Elements are a decorative piece of lighting designed to evoke a natural forest.

Smart lights are highly extensible

Apps for smart lights are designed to manage multiple rooms with multiple lights, so adding more to your collection is easy once you’ve got started. Smart lights can also extend widely in function, too. If you’re comfortable with simply turning them off and on, you can get into scheduling, circadian rhythms, trigger-based automations, music sync, and display sync. There are plenty more hidden tips and tricks worth digging into after your first bulbs are set up.

Smart lights are readily available

Smart home devices as a whole are becoming easier to find, even in big-box retail stores. Most of us have seen smart products on the shelf at Best Buy. What sets smart lights apart is the fact these can be found even in stores like Home Depot, often alongside even more lighting-related accessories. In fact, smart lights are often bundled with smart speakers like the Nest Mini or the Echo Dot. Ikea even has its own brand of smart lights (and you don’t have to assemble the bulb.)

Smart lights bring variety

Besides the ease with which you can find smart lights is a huge variety to choose from. Between LIFX, Philips Hue, Sengled, Tradfri, and a dozen other lesser-known brands, there are smart lights for every budget and every use case. Not all smart lights are meant for use in a room where you need to be able to read; in fact, many smart lights are designed for decorative purposes. Not all smart lights come in A19 bulbs, either — some are long, while others are in unique shapes like the Nanoleaf Elements.

Hopefully, this rundown gives you a sense of why smart lights should be your first stop when building out a smart home. When you pick up your first smart bulbs, be sure to use our how-to on setting them up. If you’ve never dipped your toe into the smart home waters, smart lighting is an easy place to get started.

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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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