We all know that saving power in the home starts with turning off lights when leaving rooms, but what if there was a way that you could control how much energy your lights actually use. Well there is! By replacing the bulbs in your house with smart bulbs you can not only see how much energy each light is using in your house, but also set schedules and so much more.
What is a Smart Bulb?
A smart bulb is a special LED bulb that can be controlled via a starter hub or an app and can also be linked to your smart home devices if you have any. These lights can either be white (or shades of white) or can be multi-coloured. What a way to give some colour to your rooms.
Most of the smart bulbs have a brightness up to 60W or 800 Lumens which is more than bright enough for a normal sized room in your home (the LIFX A60 can go all the way up to 70W if you’re looking for something even stronger).
There are a number of options available, however, be aware when choosing yours that the ones that need a starter hub, such as the Philips Hue, might be cheaper at first glance, but the hubs can be expensive. Some say that bulbs work better when they are connected to a hub because it allows for better internet connectivity but personally, we’ve been using our smart bulbs that only link to the app on our phones and it’s been working perfectly for almost a year. You don’t have an extra piece of plastic gathering dust and you can control it from any smart device with the app installed on it. For the purpose of this piece, I’m not going to go into the hub version because I prefer the app option. More on the options available below…
Why Replace Your Bulbs with Smart Bulbs
We’ve all heard how important it is to replace old bulbs (when they die of course) with new energy efficient LED bulbs, but what if you can do one better by replacing these bulbs with bulbs that are not just energy efficient, but also energy saving. Here are a couple of reasons why you should be replacing your bulbs with Smart Bulbs:
- Firstly, LED bulbs themselves last 25 000+ hours and most of the smart bulbs can last something like 16 million hours because of the control you have over the brightness and schedule of the bulb.
- For the first time, you can see how much power each individual bulb in your house is pulling as well as how long a bulb is in use in hours. Similar information can be seen if you have a smart meter, but this is even more accurate.
- Not only can you see how much power each bulb uses, but using the apps for these smart bulbs you can even see the estimated amount of power you will use each month. A very handy tool if you are looking to save on your energy in any given month.
- You can set the light brightness of individual lights in the same room! Unlike with old school dimmers that control all the lights in a room, you can now set your nightstand light to be on 20% while your partner’s is turned off completely.
- You can set lights to be either warm or cold white which allows for your body to adjust to different times of the day.
- Scheduling is probably one of the best features of smart bulbs. You can set your lights to come on at specific times of the day and turn off at specific times. This means your lights can be on when you arrive at home from work in the evening and turn off at a specific time to help you get into a better sleep pattern if you’re struggling to go to bed at the same time every night.
- Adding lights to turn on and off at specific times also allows for a safety element to be added to your home (which is especially great for South Africans).
- My personal favourite is definitely connecting your smart bulbs to your smart home devices… more on that below.
What Do You Need to Use and Set Up a Smart Bulb (without a hub)
As with any smart device, there is a bit of tech you’ll need to set up and use your smart bulb:
- WIFI: Your smart bulbs need to be set up with WIFI and it’s WIFI that allows them to turn on and off according to their schedule. Without an internet connection, this cannot be done.
- A Smart Phone or Tablet: You will need to download the specific app for the bulb you have and set up the bulb using a Bluetooth connection.
- The Bulb App: If you don’t have a hub then you will need to download the app for your specific smart bulb and set up your different bulbs.
Connecting Your Smart Bulbs to Your Smart Home
At first glance, this might seem like a lazy person trick, but I’ll be honest that being able to speak a world and turn off the lights while I lie in bed has been my secret wish superpower since I was a kid! It’s just that cool.
Most of the smart bulbs on the market today can be connected to your Amazon Alexa, Apple Home Kit or Google Home through their respective apps. Once this is set up you can connect your schedules for when your lights need to turn on to your smart home device and control your lights via voice activation.
This isn’t just for lazy people but also helps with saving power because of how much easier it makes it for you to turn off lights anywhere in your house, instead of just ignoring it because you are already in bed. It might seem like a cop-out but it is one of those great ways in which technology is making it easier and more efficient to save energy.
My Top Smart Bulb Pick: TP-Link
As I mentioned there are a number of different smart bulb options out there and if you want to read a good comparison article you can give this one a go. For us personally, we like the TP-Link smart bulbs.
There are a couple of reasons why we decided to go for the TP-Link bulbs and I’ll go through them now. One of the downsides of the TP-Link bulbs, however (as one colleague of mine pointed out) is that they are quite big which means the bulbs sometimes don’t fit very well in smaller light fittings like bedside lamps. There are adapters you can buy to allow you to use your bulbs in any lamp, but this is definitely a gap in the market that TP-Link could work on.
The Kasa App
The best thing about the TP-Link smart bulbs is the Kasa app to which all TP-Link smart home devices (plugs and cameras as well) are linked. The app is so easy to use and you can access it from anywhere on your phone or tablet. What’s also great about it is that you can have the app loaded onto multiple devices, meaning every person in your house can have the app on their phone. You can also change your light colour on the app and set a number of different schedules. Best of all is how user-friendly the app is, which once again makes saving energy so much easier.
Points from Green Start Energy Provider
Our energy provider here in the UK is Green Start Energy. All of the electricity they supply is produced from renewable energy sources including wind turbines and more than half from hydroelectric generators. As of 2018 they didn’t contribute to any CO2 emissions and zero levels of radioactive waste. They can also support you in finding a Green Deal partner in home renovations and they give you points for saving energy which you can then use to buy things like the TP-Link bulbs. It’s a win-win for everyone because you are saving energy to buy smart bulbs which will make your life easier and help you save even more energy.
Are Smart Bulbs Worth It in South Africa
The difficulty with smart bulbs is that they need a wifi connection to work and in many places in South Africa the internet connection is not that strong. On top of that, internet is still expensive in South Africa. However, if you do live in a big city and have access to fiber then I’d say definitely give smart bulbs a try.
Another option for South Africans, especially when it comes to loadshedding is Rechargeable Light Bulbs. These bulbs actually charge a battery inside them while they are connected to electricity and as soon as the power goes off, their backup power kicks in. This means that you will still have light from your bulb, even during power outages. These bulbs are also LED, which means they are more energy efficient and they come with a remote which can be used to turn them on and off. You might not be able to activate them using voice control but you can still lie in bed and use the remote to turn the light on and off.
We had one in South Africa and it really was a lifesaver during loadshedding periods. Unlike other rechargeable lights that you need to remember to plug in, and ultimately become vampire devices, these bulbs are dual purpose as they will act as normal bulbs when you have power, and as reserve smart bulbs when you don’t. There are a couple of different brands available but we had an Ellies and I would highlight recommend it. You can even buy them at Game.