The Best Smart Lighting for Your Home, From Simple to Sophisticated

Modern living room with colored smart lights illuminating it
pozitivo/Shutterstock.com

Odds are, you’ve heard us talk about smart lights at some point. And with millions of color and style options, smart assistant integration, and automation abilities, how could we not? If you’re looking to introduce a few smart lighting products into your home, we’ve gathered up tons of useful and exciting picks for every room in your home.

A Note on Smart Home Ecosystems and Hubs

Whether you’re looking to start building your smart home, or you’re simply wondering which smart light products to buy, there are two things you’ll need to think about first: smart home ecosystems and hubs. You’ll need to choose a smart home ecosystem before you proceed, and the three most common ecosystems are Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa. Every one of the products we’ve listed below will be compatible with at least one of these three ecosystems, which give you the ability to control the lights with only a simple voice command. Many people choose an ecosystem based on the smartphone or smart speakers they already own, like an Apple iPhone or Google Nest Hub.

Also, keep in mind that not every smart light is compatible with every ecosystem, and that some ecosystems are compatible with fewer products than others. For example, Apple HomeKit doesn’t support nearly as many devices as Google Assistant or Alexa. Likewise, some products only work with Amazon Alexa, while some offer a more agnostic approach and work with all three ecosystems.

Additionally, pay attention to whether a device needs a hub. A hub system serves as the brain of your smart home setup. It’s where you’ll connect each of your smart devices and manage things like routines and so on. Some products (like the Philips Hue line) require a hub to work, while others (like LIFX) don’t. Opting for products that use a hub can affect things like product reliability and pricing. Ultimately, though it all comes down to your preferences and budget.

The Benefits of Using Smart Lights

Controlling smart bulb temperature and intensity with smartphone app
RossHelen/Shutterstock.com

As with any smart device, smart lights have a variety of fun and convenient features that their “dumb” counterparts lack. First, you can control them with your voice or with an app. Depending on the device, you’ll have control over things like power, dimming, color, and routines. Second, you can control them even when you aren’t at home—say, when you’re away on vacation but still want to make it look like someone’s home.

Most of these functions can be accessed with voice commands, which is perfect if you’re just walking through the door and your arms are full of groceries. Smart lights also conserve energy. What’s not to like about that?

Different Smart Light Types

While most people are already familiar with smart bulbs, it’s worth noting that there are multiple other types of smart lighting products out there. You’ve got smart switches, table lamps, atmospheric lighting, and even lights for your garage and yard. There are tons of amazing ways to smarten up your home’s lighting and add a splash of exciting ambiance.

Which Smart Lights Should You Buy?

There are also a ton of options to choose from and it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed if you’re brand new to smart lighting, or even smart home technology in general. So we’ve broken the products down into different categories and suggested which rooms are the best places to put them in to make things a little easier for you.

You’ll also want to consider what your budget will be for your smart lights in addition to choosing the right ones for your ecosystem. In most cases, there are options across all budgets but buying multiple products for each room in your house can add up. If you don’t want to spend all that money up front (which is totally understandable), you can just add a few at a time.

The Best Smart Lighting for Beginners

Philips Hue Starter Kit with bulbs and hub
Philips Hue

If you’re just getting into smart lights, the best place to begin is with individual bulbs, sold either individually or in starter kit packs. Single bulbs make for a great starting place as they’re already something your familiar with. They work in nearly any lighting fixture, and are just as easy to install and use as regular light bulbs. With the fun colors and functionality these bulbs offer, they make for an easy way to step into the world of smart lighting without much risk.

Individual Bulbs

You can keep things simple and just start with a single smart bulb. They work well in any room, but they’re especially nice to have in garages and basements where your hands might be too full to flip on a switch. Keep in mind that while some offer standalone functionality, others have to be connected to a hub in order to work. Here are our favorite smart bulbs:

  • Philips Hue: Philips is an excellent premium brand for smart bulbs, because it offers reliability, simplicity, and variety (but it’s also the priciest option) You can manage everything from the requisite hub and control the colors and scenes through the iOS and Android apps. There’s also a White and Color Ambiance option you can get if you want to enjoy bolder colors.
  • Wyze BulbThis 800-lumen white bulb offers adjustable white temperature and brightness, and works with both Google Assistant and Alexa (and on the iOS and Android apps). The budget-friendly bulb connects directly to your 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network and does not require a hub. You can also opt to pre-order Wyze’s color bulbs, which will start shipping in April 2021. They offer 16 million colors as well as tunable whites at up to 1100 lumens.
  • LIFX: These A19 bulbs are another popular choice but, unlike the Philips Hue, they each connect directly to your Wi-Fi network, so there’s no need for a hub.  With a LIFX bulb, you can enjoy millions of colorful hues including white. Plus, they work with all the major ecosystems, and you can control them from the iOS and Android apps.
  • Philips Hue White & Color Downlight: If you’re looking for recessed lights and want something that integrates with your Hue Hub, these are terrific. They’re compatible with all major ecosystems and work anywhere you’d use a standard recessed downlight.
  • Juno Dimmable Downlight: This is another solid series of recessed lights , and they don’t depend on a hub to work. You can run them on a schedule and adjust the temperature. You can control them via Alexa or through the Juno AI app on iOS and Android.

Starter Kits

Starter kits are the perfect way to get a feel for smart bulbs, which are, in turn, the best type of smart lighting product to start off with in general. The bulbs work via a centralized hub. You can put them in any room in your house, but we recommend putting your first few in your living room and home office to start with.

  • LIFX Mini Day and Dusk Four-Pack: These bulbs are a great place to start, as they come four to a pack and offer easy installation—simply screw it in, download the iOS or Android app, and connect it to your Wi-Fi network, no hub required. The 800-lumen bulbs work with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant. You can easily dim or adjust color temperature for the bulbs, and even set them up to brighten with daylight tones in the morning and dim to an amber glow in the evenings, mimicking the sun.
  • C by GE Two-Bulb Kit: You can directly connect these LED bulbs to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant for voice-controlled management while you’re home, or use the iOS or Android apps to control things when you’re out and about. With these lights, you’ll have millions of colors at your fingertips and you won’t have to bother with a hub.
  • Philips Hue White LED Starter Kit: Philips Hue bulbs are of incredible quality, and they just so happen to work with all three of the ecosystems we mentioned above. The kit includes four A19 white smart bulbs and a single hub. You can use them in lamps or mounted fixtures, set them up to run on a schedule, too, and add up to 50 light points to the hub should you want to expand. There’s also a starter kit that includes color ambiance bulbs, if you want to spice things up.

Intermediate Smart Lighting Options

A smart switch and a Hue Bloom table light
C by GE, Philips Hue

If you’ve already got a few smart bulbs and are enjoying them, you’re probably ready to start adding even more smart lighting products to your home setup. We recommend looking at smart switches for your bathroom, external lights for your backyard or front porch, and even a few options for bright lights to put in your basement or garage.

Smart Switches

If you’re looking to automate a hardwired light or “smarten up” a fixture that uses multiple lights without also paying for multiple new smart bulbs, a smart switch is a great alternative. We recommend using smart switches in bathrooms or any other room where you have multiple lights you want to automate.

  • Kasa Smart HS200 Light SwitchThis is the option we recommend for newer homes with neutral wires. It works on a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connection and is compatible with Google Assistant and Alexa. With it, you can control and schedule your lights from anywhere on the iOS and Android app, or with voice commands.
  • C by GE 3-Wire Smart SwitchThis is the best option for older homes that lack a neutral wire. It works most lights, like incandescent, halogen, and LED. You can control it through Alexa and Google Home, or via the iOS and Android apps.
  • C by GE 3-Wire Motion Sensor SwitchThis clever switch is a motion sensor light switch and also boasts a lovely dimming functionality. With it, you can control lighting by touch, via the C by GE app (for iOS and Android), or by Alexa or Google voice assistant. The sensor works with both standard bulbs and smart bulbs, and doesn’t require a neutral wire for installation.

External Lighting

Smart lights aren’t just for the inside of your home—you can add them to your patio, porch, and yard as well ! Though smart floodlights and pathlights might seem like a ridiculous spendy upgrade, they offer convenience that’s hard to argue with. You can use voice commands to turn them on or set them to run on a schedule, and they can make it easier to find your keys when you’re at your door or even scare away potential intruders.

  • Philips Hue White Outdoor Smart Bulbs: If you’re already plugged in to a Hue Hub and you already have outdoor light fixtures installed, this is an easy pick. The 1300-lumen bulbs work with all of the major ecosystems, offering you plenty of light in your driveway, yard, or garage right where you need it. These bulbs offer a slightly more focused beam than the Philips Hue Floodlight we’ve recommended below.
  • LIFX BR30 Wi-Fi Smart LED: Not interested in outdoor smart lights that need a hub? We totally get that. This one from LIFX is a solid choice, and it has an IP65 rating that should withstand most weather scenarios. plus it works with any of the major ecosystems to control colors, white hues, dimming and even infrared for night vision.
  • Philips Hue Welcome Floodlight: If you’re looking for a more intense flood of light, the Hue Welcome Floodlight is hard to beat. It’s also a great option for anyone who doesn’t already have outdoor lighting fixtures mounted and ready to go, although it will require a bit more of an installation practice than the Hue White Outdoor Smart Bulbs we just listed up above. It’s easy to adjust once it is installed, though, and it matches the white light output of two standard halogen floodlights. You can also pair it with the Hue Outdoor Motion Sensor so it’ll turn on when you pull into your driveway or to scare away potential burglars.
  • Ring Pathlight: These little lights are an easy way to illuminate the walkway from the sidewalk or driveway, as well as your flowerbeds. These work with Alexa-enabled devices, but you’ll need to snag the Ring Bridge as well.

Smart Lighting for Expert Enthusiasts

Atmospheric smart lights turned on and glowing in living room setting
Govee, Philips Hue

If you’ve already got everything we’ve listed above, you’ve got an incredibly solid smart lighting setup in your home. However, we’ve got a few fun extras you perhaps haven’t thought of yet that we think you’ll like. Most of these are for your living room, but you may find use for them around the rest of your home, as well.

Motion Sensors

Okay so these aren’t lights, per se, but they can make your smart lights even smarter! With a sensor, you don’t have to use voice commands or open the companion app on your smartphone to get your light (or multiple lights in a room) to turn on. Plus they’ll help you save on your power bills and can even deter thieves. They’re oh-so convenient and make for a welcome addition to bathrooms, kitchen, garages, and basements.

  • Philips Hue Indoor Motion Sensor: If you’ve decided to join ‘Team Philips Hue,’ this sensor is a must-have add-on. You can place it freely or mount it to a wall anywhere in your home. It’s even battery powered, so you aren’t limited to placing it near an outlet. The sensor automatically detects optimum daylight levels and helps you conserve energy during the day.
  • Philips Hue Dusk-to-Dawn Outdoor Motion SensorThese sensors are an especially good idea to use on the exterior of your home, as they’ll automatically turn on your lights when they detect movement. This fully wireless sensor is weather-resistant and can be mounted anywhere and comes with a variety of mounting components. You can also adjust its daylight and motion sensor sensitivity to your specifications.
  • Shelly Motion Wi-Fi Sensor: Want a sensor that doesn’t rely on a hub? This one is speedy, reliable, and uses a rechargeable battery that lasts a year on a single charge. It stays connected to your Wi-Fi network 24/7 and doesn’t go into rest mode.

Atmospheric Lighting

If you’re wanting to create a unique vibe in your living room or den, these products are perfect for the job. They help create a more exciting and immersive TV-watching experience, and what’s not to like about that?

  • Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync BoxThis is hands-down one of the coolest items in this entire article. It lets you plug in up to four media devices in your home theater (like a gaming console, cable box, streaming dongle, or Blu-ray player) then it connects with your smart lights to sync them with what you’re watching. And because it processes the media before displaying it on your TV, you won’t have to worry about lag. It works with any Philips Hue lights you have in the room you put it in.
  • Philips Hue Play Bar LightsIf you’re looking to get the most out of the Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box, we recommend starting with these lights. The voice-activated lights can display white hues and colors to create a nice splash of ambient light and can even sync up with your TV media. You can set them on a table, place them on the floor, or even mount them to the rear of your TV.
  • Govee RGBIC LED Strip Lights: This colorful lightstrip attaches with ease to the rear of your TV, bookshelf, or desk (or anywhere else, really). It arrives rolled up in a wheel for easy use and has sticky tape on the back that’s ready to peel and stick. You can control the lights either by the attached controller or by a bare-bones app (on iOS and Android) that both give you options for colors, scenes, and music syncing. And you can change the color of every single LED, giving your rainbow-like effects.
  • Govee ImmersionTrust us—the only thing better than lights behind your TV or monitor are ones that respond to whatever is on your display. This lightstrip mounts to the rear of your display and points a small camera at your screen to gather the info it needs to change colors on the fly. It’s much cheaper than the Philips option, though at the cost of some slight lag, and doesn’t require a hub.
  • Nanoleaf Light PanelsYou can mount these shapely panels on your walls in any formation you can imagine. With their fun shapes (like hexagons and triangles) they make for a fun addition to your living room, home office, or kid’s rooms and let you choose from over 16 million amazing colors. Their thin design doesn’t stick out much from the wall, and they can be mounted either with double-sided tape or screw mounts. You can control them via the Nanoleaf app (for iOS and Android), with voice controls, or by touch, and they offer music sync and screen mirroring options if you want to add a little extra ambiance.
  • Philips Hue Bloom Table Lamp: This adorable little lamp offers you both tunable whites and a rainbow of colors to choose from. It’s perfect for use on a side table, TV stand, or bookshelf, and makes it easy to highlight your favorite piece of wall art or simply add a flash of color anywhere you need it. The lamp can even change color in sync with your media if you want. Customize it with the iOS and Android apps.
Suzanne Humphries Suzanne Humphries
Suzanne Humphries is a freelance writer for Review Geek. She has over six years of experience across multiple publications researching and testing products, as well as writing news, reviews, and how-to articles covering software, hardware, entertainment, networking, electronics, gaming, finance, and small business. Read Full Bio »

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