For a very long time, I have been avoiding smart lighting in my home. The main reason is that my husband is not nearly on board with all of the smart home devices. He would much rather flip a switch with his hand when he enters a room than rely on an app to get the job done for him.
Back when smart lights first came out, and I was trying them out there was one big problem with them. As soon as you used the light switch to turn off the light, you could no longer control the light and turn it back on. When you did turn it back on, it would have reset itself back to its default settings instead of the color combinations you had previously used for the lights.
Now smart lights are MUCH smarter and you can use all sorts of combinations to make the lighting in your home work for you, instead of against you. I was able to learn more about some of these great products at an event I helped co-host recently in Salt Lake City. The event was sponsored by the CTA and Techlicious. Yes, the same CTA that puts on a little event every year called CES.
Many brands were available at the event to help explain all of the latest in smart home devices to the attendees, and it was a huge success! We were able to show how these smart home products can work together to make your home smarter, but we definitely had a strong lighting focus.
The brands in attendance that were showing off their latest smart home lighting devices were GE, Philips, Lutron, and RoomMe. Although the brands are different they can actually work together to really make the lighting in your house incredibly smart.
There are many choices when it comes to smart light bulbs. 2 of the more popular options are the Philips Hue lights, and the C by GE bulbs. There are advantages and disadvantages to both bulbs.
Being pretty much first to the smart home lighting game, this is definitely the most mature system. They have a large variety of lights, and the app is very stable. The lights work extremely well and can connect to most smart home systems like Google Home, Samsung Things, Apple Homekit and more.
The main downside to the Hue lights is for the system to work best you need to get the Hue Bridge. It is typically included in starter kits for the bulbs. You can work the lights without the bridge, but you would need to purchase a specific dimmer to control each light. The best solution is to use the bridge to help control all the lights in your home.
C by GE
These lights are able to connect to Google Home without the use of a bridge, so you can purchase the bulbs individually and have the ability to use them right away. If you want to utilize the lights outside of your home, however, you will likely need to purchase the C by GE C-Reach.
I did have some difficulty setting up my C by GE bulbs, which I’ll outline in another post with solutions to the common issues. The app is clearly newer and the whole system still has quite a few bugs to be worked out. Once you have them working properly though, it is a great affordable option for smart lighting.
Smart Light Accessories
As I mentioned earlier, smart lights become dumb when you flip the switch on the wall essentially cutting power to the smart bulb. Now there are various accessories you can purchase to give you the best of both worlds, app controls + physical switch controls.
One of the easiest ways to keep your smart lights smart, yet still keep the ability to adjust them from the wall, is the new Lutron Aurora. The Lutron works with Philips Hue Lights and requires no special wiring or difficult installation. The device fits right over a standard toggle switch, which allows the toggle to remain turned on, while you control the lights with the dimmer dial on the Lutron switch. You can also press the button to turn the lights on and off.
Taking smart lighting to a whole new level is RoomMe. Based on the fact that most people carry their phone with them around the house, the RoomMe consists of sensors that you place throughout your home. The sensors detect which person is entering the room, and will adjust the lighting to that person’s preferences. This not only works with smart lights but it will also control other devices like Sonos speakers or smart thermostats.
Lighting aside, we also had Panasonic there displaying (and giving away) a brand new microwave! This microwave had some really amazing features, including convection cooking, air frying and more! The microwave offers super even cooking, which many microwaves struggle to provide. Our rep from Panasonic made a delicious Mexican casserole that tasted as if it came out of a real oven.
The event was great and I was able to help local influencers understand a little bit more about smart home tech. Can’t wait to help more families get their homes smarter in the near future!
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Sarah Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 16 years of her career as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on KSL News, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com