Smart homes are getting even smarter. Recently people have been upgrading their living space with smart bulbs. But why would anyone pay anywhere between $10 and $200 for one or a set of smart light bulbs? Are they really that “smart”? Actually, yes. Yes, they are.
How Do Smart Lights Work?
Smart light bulbs connect to your home’s WiFi and provide incredible control over the lighting in every room of your house. These smart bulbs usually work through a companion app that lets you dim, set timers and control your lights from anywhere — even when you’re away from the house. This means you no longer have to come home to a dark house or worry about that bedroom light you accidentally left on during vacation.
But the advantages of smart bulbs don’t stop there. Many smart light bulbs also give you a much wider range of color, brightness and warmth options, letting you set the mood in every room. Plus, most smart bulbs also connect to your other smart devices, such as Alexa and Google Assistant, to utilize voice control.
Hubs vs Stand Alone Smart Bulbs
Take the Philips Hue Starter Pack for example. If you’re using more than one smart light bulb throughout your home, many systems require a hub or bridge. The bridge is the piece of equipment that allows you to control the three lights provided in the starter kit. But the bridge and these Philips Hue lights do more than just turn on and off. You can also switch between 16 million colors to set the mood for any occasion, as well as control the lights with your voice and set schedules for when the lights turn on and off.
But not all smart light bulbs require a hub. For instance, the Wyze Bulb connects directly to your home WiFi. Then you can control the light with your app, set schedules and change the white color temperature of the light (it doesn’t change different colors like red or green).
Even without a hub, you can connect stand-alone bulbs like the Wyze Bulb to services called IFTTT (If This Then That). Once connected to IFTTT you can program your lights to change according to certain triggers such as the weather or notifications on your phone.
The possibilities with this kind of smart lighting are vast. Activate lights while you’re carrying things or working at your desk, schedule dimming in the evening to help your sleep cycle, switch colors to relax (or wake up) and much more.
What Else Should You Consider
There are the nitty-gritty technical specs to consider if you really want to nerd out. Lighting temperature, which ranges from hard to soft, is expressed in K (which stands for Kelvin). So, 8500K translates to harsh office light for working or cooking, while 2500K means soft moody lighting for dinner parties or movie watching.
Finally, there’s brightness, which depends on how many lumens the bulb puts out. Most smart bulbs have an output of about 800 lumens, but others (such as outdoor bulbs) boast as much as 1,300 lumens.
The Best Smart Bulbs
Below are several of the best smart bulbs on the market. Although there are plenty of cheap smart bulbs (with questionable quality), our list is mostly high-quality options. Your home is smart now. It deserves the best.
1. Philips Hue Color Smart Bulb Starter Kit
Philips is at the forefront of the smart lighting world with the best bulbs and system available. This Hue starter pack is one of their best-sellers with a bridge hub and four color bulbs. The dimmable bulbs can switch between 16 million colors and connect to virtually any smart home assistant for voice control. But the real reason for Philips’ superiority is their incredible app for controlling the system. The intuitive app boasts more features than any other smart bulb system, allowing you to connect to IFTTT, create lighting schedules and easily change colors. If you can muster the $194 to buy the set, there’s no need to read on.
2. Wyze Bulb 800 Lumen A19 (4-Pack)
You can get a single for $14 or a four-pack for $37 and save yourself almost $5 a bulb. You can schedule the bulbs to change brightness and temperature to ease into your morning and settle down right before bed. These also connect to IFTTT devices and systems to integrate with the rest of your smart home. And if you have other Wyze devices in your home, like a spy camera, you can control all of the Wyze devices in one place.
3. LIFX Mini White Smart LED Light Bulb
The LIFX Mini White doesn’t get wild with the colors as the LIFX Smart Bulb below, but if you’re more interested in changing the temperature of your white bulb to help you wake up and go to sleep at night, this smart bulb is a winner. Even if you aren’t home, you can control your lighting through the LIFX app. And when you combined a voice-enabled device, like an Amazon Echo, you can even control the smart light bulb with your voice.
4. Yeelight Smart LED Bulb
The Yeelight provides easy-to-use control over the smart light thanks to an intuitive smart app that allows you to set certain moods like “movie night” or “sunset” with the touch of a button. You can also sync the light to music that is playing and really get the party started. This bulb gets bright, too, giving you a wide variety of lighting options. Plus, it’s compatible with all the major voice AI players for extra convenience.
5. Harth Sleep-Shift
This isn’t your traditional “smart light.” This bulb is smart in a way that helps promote healthy sleep patterns. Did you know that even a little blue light can really mess with your sleep at night? This ambient light emits light wavelengths that don’t interrupt your body’s natural sleep cycle. And when you sleep better at night, you perform better in almost every way the next day. Consider a different type of smart light — one that helps sleep well.
6. Cree Lighting Smart Bulb
The “follow the sun” feature will automatically adjust the temperature and brightness of the bulb throughout the day to mimic natural sunlight. Of course, you can take even more control using your smartphone and change the colors, dim and set additional schedules. No hub required, so you can screw in the bulb, connect it to your WiFi and you’re ready to go. Not a bad choice for around $10.
7. Kasa Smart KL110
This smart bulb has a dimming range from one to 100 percent meaning you can really ease into your morning and get comfortable with ultra-dim lighting right before bed. Using the Kasa Smart App, you can control the smart bulb, as well as other Kasa devices like smart plugs, for example. You can even pair this with any Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Microsoft’s Cortana device to gain voice control.
8. Nooie Smart LED Bulbs (4-pack)
Although this smart light pack doesn’t get as dim as other lights, you can still change between 16 million colors to get the mood just right. And these smart bulbs pair with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant devices for hands-free control. There’s no need for a hub, just screw it in and control your lights with the Nooie app.
9. Philips Wiz
Not to be confused with the Philips Hue family, the Wiz doesn’t need a hub, nor can you use a Hue hub or the app to control this smart bulb. Even without the hub, you can change this bulb to display millions of different colors, adjust the warmth and coolness of the app, set schedules and connect it to voice control devices such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. If Philips Hue lights are a little too expensive for your taste, the Philips Wiz smart light bulb is a great alternative.
10. LIFX Smart Bulb
If you’re looking for a bulb that connects directly to the WiFi without a hub, LIFX’s multicolor bulb is your best bet. This fun, color-changing bulb is SPY editor-approved for its ease of use and Alexa compatibility. It also competes with Hue in terms of reliability, ease of use and breadth of features, but works solo. The LIFX even offers more power than most with an impressive 1,100 lumens. This makes it great if you want to upgrade one or two lights in a small apartment, or just want to see if smart lighting is really for you.
11. TP-Link Kasa Filament Smart Bulb
This filament bulb from TP-Link is affordable and straightforward but very high-quality. If you don’t care about color or bright, hard light then it’s a great purchase for just $13. The bulb also provides a more stylish look, as these filament style bulbs are very trendy right now. They cast a warm 2,700K glow (which can’t be changed, sadly), making it ideal for bedside or living room lamps.
12. Philips Hue White Smart Bulb Starter Kit
Philips’ best-selling Hue system also comes in a non-color version that costs far less than the color set. The kit still has all the other premium features, including compatibility with all major home assistants, an included hub and Philips’ industry-leading app. It’s a great way to upgrade your home in a low-key way or add to an existing Philips Hue system in rooms that don’t need special colors.
13. Philips Hue White Outdoor Smart Bulbs
This is the last Philips product on our list, we promise. These smart outdoor lights connect to your existing Philips system, so you’ll need a hub. They upgrade your driveway with floodlighting that does handy things like sensing your phone when you’re almost home and illuminating your driveway, front yard or door. The dimming feature also means you can avoid that awful blinding light that you get from normal floodlights. But if you need serious brightness (for, say, a basketball hoop or barbecue setup) the lights boast up to 1,300 lumens.
14. Sengled Smart Bulb Starter Kit
While Philips’ Hue system is great, it is quite pricey — especially if you don’t need that many bulbs. This Sengled system is much more affordable but still boasts some upper-tier features. It’s a full system, meaning you get the necessary hub and two bulbs. This comes at just $41, which is a pretty great deal. Using the Sengled app you can change colors, dim or brighten (but not change warmth) and connect to Google Assistant, Alexa and IFTTT. The only real loss with the lower price tag is quality, as some reviewers say these don’t last that long.