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Smart Lights: Where Do You Put Smart Bulbs In Your House? + Where NOT

Smart Light Questions

Today we are going to be talking about smart light bulbs, and a little about smart light switches. Whether you’re just getting started, or you already have a few smart lights, this post will hopefully point you in the right direction to add more smart lights to your house.

I’ve been using both smart bulbs and smart switches for a few years now, so I know the good and the bad of each one.

Where Do You Put Smart Bulbs In Your House? If you asked a experienced person in the home automation space, they would say use smart bulbs for lamps, and for everything else, use smart light switches. That would mostly be correct, but there are some exception to the rule where you might want to choose smart bulbs over smart switches.

One of those reasons being, for example, someone walks up to your front door and you have a camera there. You can have the the camera detect motion, and trigger your smart bulb to flash a certain color so you know someone’s there.

Not Only Smart Bulbs — Consider Switches and Plugs

Smart Plug Dimmer
Lutron Caseta Dimmer. Caseta also has Switch options.

You came here looking for uses for smart bulbs, but as we go around the house, it may be a better idea to use a different type of smart device, depending on the room. If you’re shopping for smart lights, you’ll find the most variety by looking at smart bulbs. However, I would definitely recommend adding smart plugs and smart light switches into the mix as well when they are more appropriate.

For smart plugs, you will find plenty of affordable options that can automate anything you plug in behind them. There are also more expensive ones that can monitor energy among other things. If you’re curious, check out my page on The 6 Best Smart Plugs on Amazon in 2020. Use a smart plug with a lamp, and you’ll be able to automate it to turn on and off whenever you want, and you can even use voice commands if you want, all while using your favorite light bulb. It doesn’t have to be a smart bulb when you are using a smart plug. Smart plugs are also a great for turning on Christmas lights, and seasonal things you may not have setup all year.

Smart light switches can save you a lot money if you have a whole bunch of light bulbs wired to a single switch. Switches are easier to install than you might think. If you’ve done it once, you are now an expert at it. Another benefit of smart switches is that your automations and voice controls will continue to work even when the lights are turned off. You don’t have to worry about always leaving a switch turned on.

Let’s take a look at some different rooms and scenarios to see what the best choices are.

Kitchen

The first place we are going to look at is the kitchen. The kitchen usually has a lot of light bulbs, so a smart light switch would be a great option. It is going to be a lot less expensive using a smart light switch. Smart light switches might cost about the same price, sometimes even less, than a smart light bulb. So, if you have a lot of bulbs that could add up really quick putting in a bunch of smart bulbs. If you want to add a little bit of color to your kitchen, it might make more sense to just put some light strips on top or on bottom of your cabinets.

Light switches; they’re pretty easy to install. There is no reason to be intimidated because you’re not very handy or whatever reason. After you’ve done a few, it’s really not all that bad. The most important thing you have to do is make sure you turn off the power, and that might be the hardest part of the whole process. Knowing which circuit breaker to turn off for the light switch can be tricky and might be a process of trial and error. Circuit breakers aren’t always labeled clearly, and even if they are, the switch may be on a different circuit. Most smart switches will need a neutral wire to power it. Most modern homes with electrical systems that are up to code, will have these. It is just a little bunch of white wires in the light switch box. If your house doesn’t have neutral wires, you can use the Lutron Caseta, which doesn’t need neutral wires and is also a good quality light switch. the main downside is that you will have to replace batteries once in a while.

Automatically Illuminate Cupboards and Storage Space

It seems like most of our homes have at least one dark storage space in them that is not adequately lit. Whether it’s the cupboard or pantry in te kitchen, or the storage space under the stairs, or the closet for stashing coats and shoes. When you go to get something out of one of these areas, your hands will be full of stuff.

Have you ever had your hands full of food after going into the pantry? It can be a real inconvenience reaching for the light switch. Not only do you get that sort of inconvenience every time you use that space, but I know from experience that these lights also have a tendency to be left on. If I don’t catch it after I put the food down, or just forget, these lights can be left on for long periods of time. Wasting electricity, creating unnecessary heat, and shortening the useful life of the bulb are the results.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution, and it doesn’t cost much money or take much time to install. Get rid of the switch and install smart bulbs and a motion sensor. That way you can make sure the light comes on in the closet or cupboard when in use, and then goes off again as you leave. The other alternative is a smart switch with a motion sensor built into it.

Office

Next is an office. And let me be honest with you all: I really don’t like overhead ceiling lights in my office. I feel like they are harsh and they make me feel a little uncomfortable, so I wouldn’t want to automate that ceiling light with a smart switch. Instead, I would rather use smart bulbs in a lamp.

In my office I have smart light bulbs they make quiet the difference compared to the fan light. I like changing the colors of the white to be more of a bluish white. It feels more like natural sunlight and makes me have a lot more energy compared to a warmer white. Of course, I can change the color to change things up a bit when I feel like it.

Sure, smart bulbs are may cost more than a smart light switch, but if you spend a lot of time in a room, like I do in my office, then it might make more sense to have smart bulbs in there. That way you can dial it in just the way you want and change it on a whim.

Don’t Forget To Take a Break When You’re Working – Smart Bulbs Can Remind You

Remote working is becoming more and more popular. You pretty much don’t have a choice in 2020 with Coronavirus. Employers have started to see the benefits of allowing people to avoid wasting time commuting, when they could do their job very easily without leaving the house. There are other benefits for the employer as well, such as increased job satisfaction.

Sitting in front of the screen for a whole shift at work, without taking a break, is bad for your eyes. It doesn’t help with the quality of your work either. Taking a short break every 30 to 40 minutes is recommended, and definitely take a break once an hour. That said, it is easy to forget, especially when you are in the middle of something. You could set the alarm or use an app, better yet, you could also use your smart lighting to prompt yourself with a clear visual reminder when it’s time to take a break and step away from the monitor for a few minutes. By using apps that are integrated with your smart bulbs, you can make sure you stay rested and focused throughout the working day. You can be more efficient by not skipping any more breaks.

Bedroom

Next up is the bedroom. A place where light, or the absence of light is important.

Smart Lights Can Help You Get a Better Night’s Rest

Your eyes and brain are pretty sensitive to light. Light plays a huge role in our sleep cycles. When it’s dark, we begin to relax, and if your body works normal, our brain tells us we’re tired and that we should go to bed. The sun comes up in the morning and it starts getting bright again, our brain senses it and tells us it’s time to wake up.

Now if your schedule doesn’t match sunset and sunrise, smart lights can help you hack that biological clockwork by simulating a nice, slow sunrise to help ease you out of bed on an early morning. Personally, I also have an easier time falling asleep when I set my bedroom’s smart lights to a low setting, then tell them to fade out slowly over 20 or so minutes.

Smart light bulbs are a good bet for use cases like this. You can choose one that is integrated with IFTTT and allows you to trigger a customized fade with the command of your voice. You may also want to choose a smart bulb that can automatically sync with your Google Assistant and your alarms that go off in the morning. Just set an alarm with Google Assistant, and the bulbs you have programmed will slowly begin to fade up a pre-set number of minutes before it goes off. I’d suggest choosing something around 30 minutes.

Teach Your Children Better Sleep Habits

If you have ever had children, you know that one of the most difficult things with them is bedtime. Encouraging them day after day, year after year, that bedtime is not a bad thing. The earlier you can teach your children healthy sleep habits, the better. And good luck with that! If you can teach them good sleep habits from a young age, you’ll end up with a much better night’s sleep yourself.

So, what does this have to do with smart light bulbs? Well, once again, smart bulbs can be used creatively to give your kids a clear visual indicator of when it’s time to wake up and get out of bed, and when it’s time to settle down and go to sleep. When it’s time for bed have the buld start dimming and change to a warm white. Gently illuminate the room with a cool white when morning rolls around to simulate sun light.

You could also experiment with colors, instead of trying to mimic the suns natural tone. Perhaps trying your kids favorite color to get your children fired up for a new day in the morning. Or switching between colors to add excitement. Try incorporating this into your child’s sleep routine, and see if you notice a pleasant difference. If not, you haven’t really lost anything! Just move the smart bulb to somewhere else in your house where it is needed.

Family Room

Samsung Smart TV

For a family room, I prefer smart light bulbs paired with smart light strips. It’s a lot more fun to change the colors and their are a lot of creative, fun things you can do in this area of the home where you spend a lot of your time. You can also automate smart light bulbs or switches by having them automatically turn on or off, or you could control them with your phone or your voice.

Create Accent Lighting For Your Furniture With Smart Lights

If you want to set off your furniture with strips of accent and mood lighting, Philips Hue light strips are great. Feature Framing allows you to accent certain areas of the room. You could highlight shelving, stairways, cabinets or the area under the couch. You could even add a glow behind your TV.

Smart LED light strips work particularly well since the physical strip of lights remains out of sight and just the mood lighting is visible, making a real statement. Mounting these lights around a TV can also yield some impressive results. There’s more than one variety of smart light bulbs so get creative and give your living room added edge that will be sure to impress anyone you have over, no matter what mood you are setting.

Create a Color Wash on Your Walls

It is amazing how you can change up the whole fell and atmosphere in a room just by changing the color of the lighting. So let’s run d with this idea. Stick some smart bulbs in the rooms accent lamps where you can angle the lamp to shine onto a wall. This will make it so you can cover an area in soothing blue light when you’re trying to relax or you can use a brighter and more stimulating color wash when you sit your desk ready to attack a mountain of paperwork.

Since colored lights appear much less bright than white lights, you will get the best effects doing a color wash on white walls, or walls with very little color. Walls that are painted dark will not work well for this. Lamp shades will also result in a less intense and weaker output when color washing a wall.

Restroom

Smart Bathroom
Look what you can do with a smart bathroom!

You walk into the bathroom and the light switch is usually right there, so it might seem a little silly to put smart lighting in this area. But have you ever had to get up in the middle of the night? There is one likely place you are probably headed to. Why not make it easier on yourself by adding some smart lights so you don’t have to walk in the dark to get to the bathroom?

This would also be a good place to combine lighting with some type of motion sensor. Whether your fully awake or sleep-walking, there are plenty of times when someone in the house will forget to turn off the lights.

There are plenty of switches available that can turn lights on and off when you enter the room without having to touch anything. Perfect for when you are in a zombie/half-asleep state. Smart switches know what time it is, so they know when it’s daylight. You won’t be wasting energy by unnecessarily turning on the light. Plus, they can work with any light bulbs, which is good in a humid bathroom setting where a special light fixture may have to be used.

If you put a smart bulb in the bathroom, you can have all sorts of soothing colors when you go to take a bath. However, I still recommend having at least one light connected to a smart switch, so you can control lighting without the need for a smartphone.

Outside The House

For other places around your house, like your outdoor lights, I usually prefer smart switches. In these situations, its not uncommon to have multiple lights. For example, you might have multiple porch lights, so adding a smart light switch to automate their operation is really easy.

Having smart lighting out front, you can turn on lights from the driveway, your office (no, I’m not talking about your home office, although that works also), or anywhere else, and be guided safely to the door when you get home. Add in the fact that it also makes your home to look like it is occupied, even if you happened to be on a beach 3,000 miles away. You don’t have to leave your house dark, like the start to some horror movie.

In addition to keeping the front of your house well lit, it is also important to have lighting around the back of the house as well. It can keep rodents and animals out of your trash can, and kids from hopping your fence for whatever reason. Nothing more frightening than a light turning on when you’re not where you are supposed to be.

Outdoor lighting also improves safety. Keep those pool and/or patio areas well lit and safe, so you won’t slip and hurt yourself while hanging out and having fun outside. It can even add ambiance, for example, putting a spotlight on the pool area or a favorite plant. It’s even possible to color wash exterior walls as well.

As an added bonus, a lighting system with a motion sensor combined with a security camera will record any event that occurs outside your house and make sure that is well lit as the action unfolds.

Entertainment Areas

Home theater rooms and areas used for entertainment, such as a basement, should have the lighting connected to a smart wall switch. It’s like when you go to a movie theater. The ceiling lights are usually on during the previews as people are coming into the room. When you are finally ready to watch your movie, everyone is sitting down.

In a movie theater, the lights are dimmed for you. At home, your smart switch can help take care of that for you. Perhaps you just want to watch TV after you get settled in. I have a “TV Lighting” scene that turns off the main overhead lights and turns my lamps to 40%, as well as changes the color of those lights to blue. In my opinion, a perfect setting for watching TV!

Hallways (High Traffic Areas)

In your hallways and other areas of the house that have a lot of foot traffic, I would recommend automating the lights. Set it up so these lights are connected to a switch that can be triggered by a motion sensor to turn on and then off again in 2 minutes. Using a smart switch, they can be programmed not to turn on during the night, or to be kept on at a low level and used as a night light.

Garages

Smart Garage Door Opener Small

Garages, and any other room that needs to haves the lights on when you are in the room, should have a smart switch if there are multiple lights, or a smart bulb if there is a single light. These lights can be triggered to turn on with a motion sensor or when the door is opened. If you use a door contact sensor, be sure to set a timer so the lights turn off automatically after a while. Its common for someone to have the garage lights turn on when they open the garage door, because they will immediately need the lights on if they are in that room, and then also have a motion sensor that turns the lights back off when there is no more motion.

Convenience & Other Factors

The last point I wanted to talk about is convenience. This is a really big factor. Lets say you have smart bulbs and you have guests over, or a babysitter. They may not know how to turn the lights on and off. You could write out a huge paragraph for the baby sitter on which tablet to use or what voice commands, but I prefer not to do that with smart light switches. It’s really easy because you use the switch just like a normal light switch. There are some accessories for smart light bulbs that have a remote that can mount on the wall, and you can turn the lights on and off with that remote switch. That way you don’t need to have the app or know the voice command to turn the lights on and off.

If you connect smart light bulbs to a light switch, it give me a major pain if someone accidentally turns off that light switch. I’ve known people that have even created a family rule to not turn off any light switches around the house because you might accidentally turn off a smart bulb. A solution to this is using a light switch guard. They have magnets on it, so it snaps right onto your light switch. That way you don’t accidentally turn off the light and it only costs a few bucks, so I think it’s definitely worth it.

Our smart light bulbs have worked very well, but occasionally one will go offline or become slow to respond compared with our z-wave light switches, which have been very reliable. If you use zigbee or z-wave you will need a hub , such as Smart Things or Wink, to control those z-wave light switches. If you want to control your smart lights with your phone, it’s gonna be a lot easier for your average family member to use an app like Lifx or Hue versus smart things app to control your smart light switches. There are also apps and software like Home Assistant where you could create your own dashboard to use. Just something to keep in mind.

A few more things to keep in mind. Another thing with smart light switches is that if you have multiple light switches controlling the same light, you will need a 3-way light switch. If you get a dimmable smart light switch, make sure your lights are dimmable as well.

After reading all this about switches, some of you are gonna be like, “Forget about it, I’m gonna swap out my light bulbs for smart light bulbs because it’ll be easy.”And that is totally fine.

When to use a Smart Plug?

Smart plugs are commonly used when you want to control a lamp. They’re small devices that fit into any outlet, and they’re the easiest way to convert a table lamp, floor lamp, or night-light into a smart light. They are cheaper than smart light bulbs also, so if a normal light bulb works for you in a lamp, try using a smart plug. They don’t require any familiarity with wiring or any electrical know-how, like smart switches do.

Smart plugs are especially easy to set up, and move from room to room as needed. Smart plugs only require setup the first time you plug it in, so if you move it to another room, it still will work fine with no extra setup. You might want to change your name for it though so you don’t get confused. The only downsides are that they take up some outlet space and don’t control hardwired fixtures like ceiling lights.

There are a lot of smart plugs made to be used just with lamps. These will often only have two-pronged outlets. However, if you come across a three-pronged version, it is probably designed for more uses. One of the great things about smart plugs is that you can use them for other things besides lamps. I’ve heard of people putting smart plugs underneath their house so that they can trigger a pump to clear out water when it starts to flood under the house. Smart plugs are often useful for holiday decorations as well.

Smart light plugs are perfect for filling the gap where smart light bulbs are over kill, or for when it’s a not-lighting application. That said, here are three situations where smart plugs are a better solution than smart light bulbs.

Multiple Light Bulb Lamps – Lamps with a single bulb should just use a smart bulb. If your lamp has two or more lights bulbs, it should probably be automated with a smart plug. There are dimmable smart plugs if you need that. However, if you need or want color changing bulbs, then you know what you gotta do.

Under Cabinet Lights – If you already have under cabinet lighting that plugs into an outlet, then you can add automation by putting in a smart plug. In my case, the lights are wired into a junction box, so smart light strips may be a better choice for me.

Specialty Bulbs and Lamps – If your lamp has some sort of unique specialty bulb, then use a smart plug if you want to automate it. Smart bulbs come in many options, but not all. You can, however, automate any lamp with any light bulb, by using a smart plug.