For the last hundred years or so, incandescent bulbs were considered good enough to provide light for homes and offices. They could turn on nearly instantaneously and provide light with relative ease, so for several generations they did the job quite well.
Things have changed, though. With the coming-of-age of CFL bulbs, then the even more efficient LED models, more options have been added to modern society’s menu of lighting options. At the same time, the familiar incandescent bulb has been phased out of manufacture in the US.
The most obvious feature of these new LED models is increased efficiency and longevity. Because they can last for a decade or more, there is no reason that advanced features can’t be integrated into LED bulbs themselves—that’s why it can be so difficult to figure out which bulbs to purchase. If you’re looking for features beyond just lighting your home for the next decade, here are a few you can choose from.
Wireless Control Options
Flipping a switch to power a bulb works pretty well, but a truly smart bulb can be controlled at a distance. Some sort of built-in switch, or even an infrared (IR) remote as you would your television, could be used to signal extra features on a light bulb, but right now two wireless technologies dominate the smart LED space: Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Each of these has its own advantages and drawbacks.
Bluetooth allows you to log on to a light via a smart device, taking advantage of features listed further in this article. Generally, connection is fairly simple, but the drawback is that the signaling device must be within range of the light’s Bluetooth signal for control. This technology can also allow lights to communicate with each other, meaning that if you are within range of one bulb, you can potentially control several bulbs together.
Wi-Fi can also be used for control, whether through your Wi-Fi router directly or indirectly through a smart hub. One big advantage of this type of system is that you can control your lights from anywhere you have access to the internet.
Turn It On
Perhaps the most obvious thing you’d like to do with these new control options is to turn your bulbs on or off. This can mean scheduling your lights to come on at a certain time in the morning, or programming them to mimic your behavior when you aren’t home as a security precaution.
Generally, the lights will need to be switched on in order for automatic control to work, but some models integrate a battery backup, so that for a limited time you can turn your lights on when switched off or when the power is out. Some bulbs can also be set up to listen for an alarm or your doorbell and turn on when they hear it, further enhancing their security features.
Many bulbs can be integrated with voice control systems like Alexa for switch and hands-free use. Finally, lights can be organized into groups, so if you’d like certain lights on in one situation, and others in another, you can do that without flipping the correct switch every time.
Since you’re making a potentially decade-long commitment when buying LED bulbs, selecting color temperature is quite important. This can give you lots of options to set the scene in your house. If you want more options, you can go with a color-changing bulb that can be adjusted to your preferences—whether you want bright white, soft yellow or a variety of festive colors to set the mood. Depending on the model, and how you have everything set up software-wise, you can even sync your lights to change color with music or a movie.
Adjusting color and new ways to control your lights are interesting, but in the end, you’re still just providing light to a room. Is there anything else that you might use to provide more than light (however well-controlled) from your LED bulbs? The answer is a definite yes. Here are a few options you may not have considered.
- Wireless Speakers. A smart LED bulb already has power and connectivity, so what’s to keep audio data from being transmitted via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi as well? Some LED lights double as a wireless speaker that connects easily to any Bluetooth- or Wi-Fi-compatible device.
- Floodlight Camera. Although floodlights aren’t exactly something you’d substitute for a normal incandescent bulb in your living room, these clever lights integrate a camera that can be viewed live into the same housing as the bulb itself. The light also provides a two-way intercom system—a natural fit once you consider the application.
- Wi-Fi Repeater. If you need more Wi-Fi range in a certain section of your house or yard, one way is to use a Wi-Fi repeater. This requires occupying an outlet that might get in the way. On the other hand, a Wi-Fi repeater integrated into an LED light could be quite useful for keeping your repeater out of the way, yet always powered.
From switching lights on remotely to changing the room’s color temperature, it’s exciting to see what’s now available in home lighting. Whether you need to replace a few bulbs in your home or are moving to a new place, it’s worth considering the new technology that’s out there.
Guest Author Bio: Jeremy Cook is an engineer who is passionate about technology and writes about it for The Home Depot. He provides advice on cool new LED light bulb features, including how to set them up. Click here to see Home Depot’s selection of LED light bulbs and lighting.