Smart homes are getting even smarter. Recently people have been upgrading their living space is smart bulbs.
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.
Some smart bulbs also connect to a service called IFTTT (If This Then That), which lets you get even fancier with your smart bulbs. 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 to Consider When Buying Smart Bulbs
The key difference in smart bulbs is whether they use a hub system (A.K.A. bridge) or not. Hubs link up to your WiFi router via an Ethernet cable and connect to smart bulbs around the house. Obviously, this is an extra step that costs more money and usually a little more setup time, but it has advantages worth considering. A bridge bulb system will take the strain off your WiFi router and increase the distance you can place bulbs from your router. This allows you to have as many smart bulbs as you want without slowing down the WiFi speed. Without a hub, you might start to notice a change in WiFi speed with just three or four bulbs around the house.
Then there are the nitty-gritty technical specs to consider. Lighting temperature, which ranges from hard to soft, is expressed in K (which stands for Kelvin). So, 8,500K translates to harsh office light for working or cooking, while 2,500K 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. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Philips Hue White Outdoor
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.
6. 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.
These Nanoleaf triangles are equal parts smart lighting and statement-making wall art. The kit includes nine triangle lights that can be organized however you see fit, even allowing you to create your own shapes. Once organized, you pick each panel’s color using an app as well as any major home assistants. This special Rhythm edition also features sound sensors that react to music with a light show.