Smart Home Series – Lighting and Thermostats
In our last blog post, we discussed security related smart home products such as locks, doorbells, and camera systems. Continuing the smart home series, this post will discuss smart home products for lighting and thermostats.
An easy way to enter the smart lighting world is to purchase smart light bulbs. The market for smart light bulbs has greatly increased over the past few years with more and more manufacturers and bulb styles available. The one common characteristic of all smart light bulbs is they are LED bulbs, which means if you are replacing standard incandescent bulbs you will see immediate benefits of lower power consumption and heat output. AFT Construction chose to install LED bulbs in our Gilbert custom home and it made a substantial difference on not only the power bill, but also the brightness of the home.
The main function of smart light bulbs is the ability to control the bulbs via your smart phone or other mobile device. This will give you the ability to control the bulbs when away from home, set schedules to turn the lights on and off, and some even have support for geofencing allowing lights to automatically turn on or off when arriving or leaving your home using your smartphone’s location. Because you can control the bulbs using your mobile device, you can also turn off the basement lights you forgot to turn off without getting out of bed or check and see if you left any lights on when you are away from your home.
Besides setting schedules for the lights, many smart bulbs allow you to set lighting moods and scenes by taking advantage of dimming capabilities. Perhaps you want all lights to turn on when you arrive home at night or have a special lighting scene when watching movies that turns certain lights off and dims others – this is all possible with smart light bulbs.
The advantage of smart light bulbs is you do not need special lamps or install new electrical switches. They provide a quick and relatively easy entry into the smart lighting world. The biggest disadvantage of smart light bulbs is that you will need a bulb for every light fixture you want to control. This can quickly become expensive if you are replacing bulbs in numerous lamps, ceiling lights, etc. Also, most smart bulbs require you to purchase a hub to allow them to connect to your home network, which can add to the initial startup cost.
The Philips Hue series offers different types of lighting products including bulbs and LED tape lighting. One fun feature of the Philips Hue series is many of their bulb choices have the ability to change colors allowing you to set even more lighting scenes and moods.
Other products available and worth looking into include bulbs from Cree, GE, TP-Link, and Sylvania.
If the idea of buying a number of new light bulbs does not appeal to you, a potentially less expensive option that allows you to control many existing lights are smart light switches. Rather than having to replace each bulb on a light switch, simply replace the light switch itself.
Smart light switches offer some of the same benefits of the smart light bulbs in that you can set schedules when the lights should turn on and off, set dimming scenes, and some also offer geofencing capabilities. Light switches allow you to use your existing bulbs, which may include special bulb styles that may not be readily available as smart bulbs such as candelabra.
However, unlike smart bulbs, with a smart switch, all lights connected to that switch will need to have the same programming. In other words, all lights on the switch will need to be dimmed, on, or off. You cannot set each bulb individually. Another potential disadvantage of smart switches is you will either need to be comfortable wiring the new switch yourself or hire an electrician to do so. As with bulbs, many smart switches will require the use of a hub to connect to your home network.
Examples of smart light switches include Lutron Caseta, Philips Hue, Belkin WeMo, and Leviton Decora.
A third option is smart plugs and outlets. A smart plug as the name suggests plugs directly into your existing power outlet and the device you want to control then connects to the smart plug. This is a simple way to turn any lamp in your house into a smart light. But it doesn’t just work with lighting. You can plug any type of device or appliance into the smart plug and will be able to control it using your mobile device.
The advantages of smart plugs include the simplicity, relatively low entry cost, and the versatility of being able to control more than just lighting. One disadvantage of smart plugs and outlets is that you can only control what can be plugged in meaning you will not be able to control items like your ceiling lights. Also, much like smart light switches discussed above, smart outlets require that you be comfortable wiring yourself or hiring an electrician.
Available smart plugs include the Belkin WeMo, iDevices Switch, and Zuli Smart Plug.
While many of the benefits of smart lighting are experienced when inside the home, the benefits of a smart thermostat are most valuable when outside the home. A smart thermostat allows you to control your home’s thermostat using your mobile device when you are outside of your home.
Living in Arizona, we all understand the cost of running our air conditioners during the summer months. A smart thermostat can help reduce energy costs a few different ways. Imagine you leave for your summer vacation and forget to adjust the air conditioning setting before you leave. Without a smart thermostat, your air conditioning will run as normally scheduled cooling your house when no one is home. If you have a smart thermostat, you can simply use your mobile device to adjust the temperature setting saving valuable energy. On the flipside, when you are returning from your trip or simply being away from home, you can use your mobile device to precool your home so you are not arriving to a hot house.
Many smart thermostats also have the ability to learn your schedule and automatically adjust the temperature if it senses no one is home for a certain period of time. For instance, when you leave for work in the morning and the smart thermostat does not sense any movement in the house for an hour, it will automatically put itself in away mode and adjust the temperature setting accordingly. This feature can also save energy and help lower your utility bill.
As with lighting, there are several options for smart thermostats on the market today. Some of those products include offerings from Nest, Ecobee, and Honeywell.
Smart lighting products and thermostats not only provide convenience and ability to customize lighting scenes and moods, but also can also provide savings on your utility bills. While the world of smart home products may be overwhelming, there are ample opportunities to “dip your toe in the water” without having to make the full dive. A Finer Touch Construction is here to build your Scottsdale Custom Home with these amazing features.