After purchasing a set of smart light bulbs for a particular fixture, many people are faced with the trouble of getting them to work together. I get it. Who wants to have to turn each light on or off individually, especially when you are used to turning all of the lights on with the flip of a switch?
For me, the problem started when I was upgrading the lights in my ceiling fan, which has a total of four lights. The good news is that syncing smart bulbs together is an easy problem to solve thanks to the options that smart home apps provide.
Most smart home apps, such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa, have the option to create “Groups” of smart bulbs. A group will create a single on/off switch in the app, allowing control of multiple smart bulbs with the push of a single button. The smart bulbs will all by synced together when placed in a group.
If you have smart bulbs, there is often a lot more you will want to do besides turning on and off the bulbs. For example, dimming the bulbs or setting the color just right are common uses. Let’s take a look at what options are available in the various smart home apps for groups, and how to create groups specific to each app.
Google Home Setup for Multiple Smart Bulbs in One Fixture
Google is one of the more confusing smart home platforms for setting up groups of lights. I say this because theirs groups are called ‘rooms’, but they also have another option to pair speakers which they do call ‘groups’.
Groups of Google Assistant enabled speakers, Smart Displays, and Smart Clocks can be synced together to play the same audio throughout your house. You can even add your Chromecast to the groups.
Now that we have an idea of what a group means to Google, let’s take a look at how to group lights in Google Home. Here are the steps:
How to Group Lights in Google Home
For New Devices
- First, make sure the light is setup in the manufacturer’s app
- From the Home screen of Google Home, tap the Add button
- Select “Set Up Device”
- Select “Have something already set up?” (Or select New Device if it’s a “Made for Google” device)
- Add and link your service (This is the name of whoever makes the bulb, i.e: Philips, LIFX, etc.)
- Select the devices that are discovered, and add them to a room
For already linked devices (To add or change a Google Home room):
- From the Home screen of Google Home, scroll down until you find the list of devices
- Select the device you want to add to a room
- Select “Add to a room” at the bottom of the screen
- Select your home and click next (Most people only have one)
- Select “Move device”
- Choose a new room for the light, and click next
Here is an example of what you can do with rooms in Google Home using Google Assitant.
- Control using your voice
- Turn on/off a light
- Dim or Brighten a light
- Change the light color
- Turn on/off all lights in a room
- Turn on/of all lights in the house
- Schedule lights to turn on or off using ‘schedule actions’.
There are also a few things that you can’t do with Google Home rooms, and a few things that take a little extra work.
- Add lights to more than one room
- Example: You can’t have lights in “kitchen” and also in “downstairs”
One work around for this is to put the lights in the room “kitchen”, and then nickname them “downstairs #”, where each bulbs gets its own number. With this setup, if you say “turn off downstairs lights”, then the kitchen lights, as well as all the other lights nicknamed downstairs will turn on, such as lights in the living room and dining room. You can also turn off lights by the room.
A second work around it to setup a custom Routine, or shortcuts as they used to be called. Google explains how to set those up on their support page here.
Be Aware: Google Home will auto group lights
This one can be tricky to figure out if you don’t know what Google is doing. Hopefully this will save you a few minutes. Google Home will automatically group any devices with the word ‘light’ or ‘lamp’ in it when they are added to the same room. If you don’t want this to happen, change the name of one of the devices.
Smart Life Setup for Multiple Smart Bulbs in One Fixture
The Smart Life app makes it fairly straight forward to create a group of lights, with one little caveat. You have to FIRST select one of the lights you want to control. Here are all the steps for creating a group of lights:
How to Create a Group of Lights in SmartLIfe
- First, select one of the lights you already have setup in Smart Life
- If you have rooms setup, go into the room’s menu, and then select the bulb.
- Select the three dots in the top right to open the bulbs option menu
- Select create a group
- Add the desired bulbs to that group and click save in the top right
- Enter the group name in the pop-up menu, and click confirm
A new tile will show up with the name of the group. When you click on the group, you will see options to control the following:
- White Mode
- Color Mode
- Scene Mode
The only option that was not straight forward to me was Scene mode. Scene mode has predefined options for the color and intensity of the bulbs.
Setup for Multiple Hue Bulbs in One Fixture
Philips Hue is the leader in smart lighting. It’s not shocking that, in my opinion, they have one of the best set up for creating groups, or ‘zone’ as they would call it. Zones allows full control of the bulbs, scheduling and anything you could do with an individual bulbs.
Can you group Philips Hue lights? Philips Hue added the Zones feature in 2019, which allows users to group lights together. Zones can group any set of lights together, independent of the room, allowing the lights to be controlled together and in sync with each other.
How To Create a Philips Hue Zone
- From the Hue home screen, select the three dots in the top right to open the option menu
- Select ‘Rooms & zones’
- Select ‘Create’
- Select ‘Create zone’
- Select ‘Create new zone’
- From the ‘New Zone’ screen
- Enter the name of the zone
- Select which icon will be displayed for the zone
- Add lights to the zone
- Select the checkmark in the top right corner
The new zone will be created. You can view in the Rooms & zones screen, below all your rooms. Zones have all the same options as rooms. You can turn the lights on or off, set up predefined scenes or create your own, and change the colors.
When a zone is selected in the app, you can easily control individual bulbs within that zone when needed.
HomeKit Setup for Multiple Smart Bulbs in One Fixture
HomeKit has all the grouping options we’ve mentioned: Rooms, Groups and Zones. So, let’s clear that up first.
Zones: Zones are groups of rooms (i.e.: Upstairs, Downstairs, Bedrooms)
Rooms: Rooms are groups of devices (usually in a specific room in the house, or are outside)
Groups: Groups are used to group devices with a particular service together (i.e.: lights, or plugs)
Groups are not able to group different types of services together. That means you can’t group a plug together with a light bulb, because they have a different service. Groups are able to group devices from different manufacturers together as long as they have the same service.
I think of the service as, “what is the function of the device?” Is it a light bulb, a switch, plug, speakers, etc.
Steps to Create a Group in HomeKit:
- Select one of the lights to enter the light’s menu
- Select ‘Details’
- Select ‘Group with Other Accessories’ located toward the bottom of the screen.
- All the lights will appear grouped by room (These are devices with the same service.)
- Name the group, and select the lights you want to group together
- Click ‘Done’ in the top right corner
The lights will now appear as one tile in the menu. Lights that are grouped together will be controlled as if they were a single unit. Click on the tile to open up and view each individual light.
Alexa Setup for Multiple Smart Bulbs in One Fixture
Yes, Alexa lets you control your smart devices individually, or in a group. Here are the steps to get you started:
Steps to Setup Alexa Groups
- Initially set up each bulb in the manufacturer’s app,
- Tell Alexa to Discover new devices.
- Select the + icon in the corner, and then select Add group.
- You will be given the option to use predefined group names, or the option create your own
- Select the devices you want to include and then Save
Ideas and Examples of what To Do With Groups in Alexa.
Here are some ideas and examples of what you can do with groups in Alexa.
Place a single bulb into several groups
For example, if you have 3 smart bulbs in a fixture in your Kitchen, ou could create a group called kitchen lights. That would allow you to control each bulb individually or as a one when using Alexa. You could also add them to a ‘Downstairs Lights’ group and a ‘All the Lights’ group. Given all these groups, you have the power to control the bulbs individually, turn on just the kitchen lights, turn on only the downstairs lights, or turn on lights in the whole house.
Group lights and switches together
Alexa can group most compatible lights and switches. They can even be different brands.
Change the color of an entire group of bulbs
I thinking the heading is self-explanatory. Select a group of bulbs, and choose which color you want them to be. They’ll all change at once.
Things Alexa Groups Cannot Do
There are also a few things that you can’t do with Alexa groups.
Groups cannot be scheduled
While a group cannot be scheduled, you can automate each bulb, individually, to go on/off at the same time, effectively making them function as a group. It’s a bit more work on your part, but that would be how to do it.
Smart Switches Instead of Multiple Smart Bulbs in One Fixture
Using all smart bulbs in just one fixture may not be the best idea in every situation. If you need to be able to control the color, then sure, put in smart bulbs. Otherwise, use regular LED light bulbs. These bulbs can be controlled using a smart switch, which will save you money, as well as create less hassle to setup and maintain.
You will be able to get all the same features using a smart switch as you would using white smart bulbs. The main feature I’m talking about is turning the lights on and off remotely, and If you need dimming capability, be sure the bulbs and smart switch both have that feature.
Here are a few extra things to think about: