People interested in making their homes "smarter" can now easily do so with smart lights and switches. For example, Brilliant recently released a smart hub that lets people control the lights and other connected aspects of their homes from a touch screen control panel. There's also built-in Alexa functionality for voice-control capabilities.
This multitasking hub is an ideal solution for people who already have high-tech homes. But the bigger news about this offering is that it's likely to make a greater number of people curious about the specifics of smart home gadgets.
Here are some of the standout differences between smart lights and smart light switches. Many people use the terms interchangeably, but the gadgets only seem the same at first glance.
Here's what to know.
Smart bulbs are easier to install
Smart bulbs have integrated Wi-Fi capabilities, but you typically install them the same way you would screw in a conventional bulb. Then, you download an app that connects to your Wi-Fi network and controls the lights. Some brands also require buying a hub that "speaks" to the bulbs and costs approximately $50. However, there are also bulbs that don't require hubs.
In contrast, smart light switches are not as straightforward with installation because they usually require altering the wiring in your house and adding a component that automates the switch functionality instead of the bulb. Often, that means replacing the current light switch with a newer, more advanced one.
One potential downside of installing smart switches is they may not work in homes built before 1990. That's because they work with an available neutral wire or neutral line. Modern home codes require neutral lines for all switches in a home, but that's not the case in older properties.
Smart light switches are more cost-effective
When people start browsing for smart switches and smart bulbs, they typically notice that the bulbs are cheaper, or at least it appears that way. Indeed, it's possible to buy a smart bulb starting at about $15, but some high-end versions are twice that cost or more.
Then, there are the smart light switches that cost about $40 to $50 depending on the brand. The primary reason is that depending on how they're set up, smart light switches might control several lights, such as all the ones in a room.
Plus, smart light switches work with any kind of bulb. Even though the selection of available bulbs is growing, there may be cases when people cannot find compatible smart bulbs for some areas of their homes that suit their budgets.
Due to the way that they work with any bulb and allow people to set the switches to control many lights instead of one, smart light switches can pay for themselves over time.
Smart bulbs can bring color to a room
If people want to set the mood with colorful lighting — such as to make the atmosphere more exciting during a party — smart bulbs are the only option of the two covered here that do that. Smart light switches turn lights on or off, and they could dim the lighting as well, depending on the type. But only bulbs add color to a room.
Usually, the complementing apps enable choosing one constant color or switching between several colors, sometimes in rapid succession. Plus, because colored bulbs can often give off a plain white light, too, you don't have to keep changing the bulbs depending on if you want white or colored illumination.
Both kinds of technology could provide extra safety from intruders
One of the benefits of both smart light switches and smart bulbs is that the apps they come with usually allow turning the lighting on and off from a distance. Then, people who are traveling and want to give the impression they are at home could use the smart technology to mimic occupancy.
Smart lighting allows convenient scheduling
Many apps also allow turning on lights according to a schedule that's set up in the app. So, if a person wants to have a well-lit home for a youngster coming home from school to an empty house or turn the lights off at a time when a toddler normally takes a nap, that's possible.
Intelligent lights may save electricity
Whether people choose between bulbs or switches, a benefit of either kind of smart lighting is that it could bring energy savings. More specifically, many apps track usage and show graphs that help people reduce their dependency on the most energy-intensive apps, and those apply to both bulbs and light switches.
Plus, some switches connect to motion sensors that turn the lights off when people leave the room. Those could bring peace of mind if someone remembers they left a light on in the living room and won't be back home for several hours or days.
Alternatively, it's possible to turn off lights individually, provided the bulbs are synced to an app. The advantage for some people is that smart switches could permit turning off groups of lights, which may be handier than manipulating them one by one.
Both kinds of technologies offer value
This breakdown of some of the major differences between smart lights and smart light switches should help people feel like highly informed consumers.
By understanding the specifics, they can choose technology that offers the most benefits to their lives.