4 Easy Ways to Get Started with Smart Wireless Lighting Control

Try these products to get a taste of smart home automation for your lights.

Wireless lighting systems and smart lighting products are popping up everywhere from long-entrenched manufacturers to Kickstarter-funded start-ups. With so much interest, and so much variety, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. If you’re ready to dip your toes in the water and want to try adding a little smart lighting to your home check out these suggestions for easy lighting control solutions.
To learn what smart lighting is, check out What Makes Smart Lighting Smart.

Wireless Plug-ins: The easiest and least expensive products to bring a little smart lighting to your home is with plug-in modules, sometimes called lamp or appliances modules. The most useful ones come with an app, such as Belkin’s WoMo product, or a remote, which you’ll find for some Lutron products. With a simple wireless adapter you can experience the benefits of lighting control. Turn on or off a lamp without using the switch or dim the lamp to the designed illumination for your purpose. The best systems are expandable because you’ll soon want to add more.

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Belkin WeMo plug-in module.

Smart Light Bulbs: Wireless LED bulbs are simple to use, but can be costly compared to some other solutions. The LED bulbs themselves use very little electricity to create light, though that’s a bit deceiving since the built-in Wi-Fi radios also use a small amount of electricity, even with the light appears to be off. Wireless smart lights will work in most standard lamps (though the bulbs tend to be larger than standard incandescent or CFL bulbs. Some, like the Philips Hue, require a central control hub and connect to your home network, while others, like the Lumen Bluetooth Smart Bulb connect directly to your smart phone via Bluetooth. Many smart LED bulbs can display a variety of colors, depending on how you set the color in the corresponding app.

Philips Hue system.

Wireless Wall Dimmers: Wireless dimmer switches are a lot like the wireless plug-in modules except that they get installed in the wall and power whatever outlets the switch controls. While that seems like a small distinction, it’s important because it not only adds control via the dimmer switches’ associated app or remote, it maintains your original level of control. Smart home systems are best when they augment our control, not replace it. With a smart wall dimmer switch you can use either the app (or remote) to turn off the lights from anywhere in the house, or just tap the switch in the same way you did before your smart home project began. Many wireless wall switches are part of whole-house control systems. Some can be a installed on a DIY basis, while others require a professional.

Lutron Maestro wall dimmer with RF remote.

Smart Home Automation Hub: If you know you want to automate multiple lights and don’t want to mess around with basic point-to-point lamp modules or switches, then invest in one of the new hub-based home automation systems. Most of these, such as the Lowe’s Iris (reviewed here), Revolv, SmartThings, Staples Connect, and Insteon Hub, are fairly easy to set up. These hubs connect to your home network and use a smart phone or tablet app to operate all the wireless dimmers, outlet plugs or smart bulbs you need. They’re also easily expandable, and most go beyond lighting if you need them too.

Lowe’s Iris hub.

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