The idea of smart bulbs seem pretty simple, you can turn them on and off with your phone. But, they’re so much more than that. You can have additional colors, Alexa and Google integrations to keep in mind, and which smart device universe you’ll live in (like Philips Hue or Apple for example).
The dilemma is there are literally dozens to choose from. These little connected gadgets have really become a staple in the smart home ecosystem. With so many brands and different compatibility options, choosing the right one for you may seem like a daunting task. Our goal here is to make that choice an easy one for you.
Philips Hue and LIFX are the two clear leaders in the Smart Bulb world. These 2 are nearly identical in their amazing light quality, dimming functions, Alexa/Google Assistant/Nest integration, Smartthings, IFTTT friendly, and superior quality. The biggest differences you need to pay attention to is:
The Philips Hue
- Requires a Hub, an additional device to plug in
- The Hub however gives you connection reliability through ZigBee
- Produces only 800 lumens (Lifx does 1050 lumens and it really shows)
- Does not require a Hub
- Produces 1050 lumens (Brighter)
- Every single bulb will need to connect to your router (imagine 12 bulbs connected wirelessly to your router (No Hub is a double-edged sword)
- A handful of reviewers have complained of receiving “bad” bulbs or random dropped connections
Both are at the top of the food chain in terms of functionality, but with it comes a hefty price tag. Keep scrolling if you’re interested in cheaper alternatives.
what to look for in a smart bulb
There are a lot of factors to consider when purchasing a smart light bulb (who would have ever thought we’d be here). Here are the major ones we have discovered are important:
- Smart Compatibility – Alexa, Google Assistant, Homekit. You want to make sure your Smart Bulb is compatible with those voice assistants! Don’t forget about IFTTT and thermostats too.
- Does it require a Hub? If you plan on using a lot of bulbs, get a Hub and avoid having 20 bulbs connected wirelessly to your router. If you aren’t using that many, stick to something like Lifx.
- Is superior brightness a deal breaker to you? The Lifx produces 250 more lumens than Philips.
- Price – Smart bulbs can be as cheap as $15 for a simple white color or as expensive as $50+ per bulb for the premium color name brand one.
- Reliability – By spending more money, you will in result get a higher quality of connection and reliability. This isn’t to say that those other budget choices are terrible. Just know the chances of running into a bad apple are slightly higher.
If you don’t need a lot out of a smart bulb except the ability to turn it on and off from your phone, there are cheaper options to not break the bank (like the White Cree Bulb for under $15 – Woo!). But if you want a product that will do A-to-Z in terms of color options, features and reliability, then you may need to pay more for peace of mind.
Make sure you know what you want out of your smart bulb before shelling out a few hundred dollars.
our top 5 smart bulb recommendations
Did we mention there are a lot of options? Here are some honorable mentions that are considerably cheaper than the hefty price tag of most premium bulbs. You won’t be paying $50+ per bulb on any of these options. This is the section for my frugal friends 🙂
- Teckin – This is nearly half the price of Philips Hue premium color bulbs but works with Alexa/Google, has different color options, and there’s no hub required! Very easy to setup and easy to control. Some downsides to keep in mind are:
- The color bulbs on dim are pretty dim. Don’t expect to be able to read with them on unless you’re using the White one.
- Cree Connected – This is one of the cheapest smart white bulbs on the market with the best quality for the price. It will work with your Amazon Echo, Wink, Wemo, smartphones and ZigBee certified hubs.
- This is only available for White
- Sengled – If I had to choose a 3rd place option among the premium bulb winners, this would be it. Sengled has nearly identical features to the Philips Hue too along with coming with its own Hub. Alexa, Google Assistant and ZigBee are good to go.
- The Sengled App can be a little finnicky with connecting everything
- Novostella – For the price of 1 Philips Hue Premium colored bulb, you can buy 3 Novostella’s. Yes you read that correctly. This is the best budget-friendly smart color bulb you can buy. It has all the basic requirements of Alexa and Google Home Assistant you need to get by, no Hub required.
- Novostella hasn’t been around as long as other brands so it’s hard to tell if their quality will hold up
- Many owners have reported connection issues but their support is very responsive
- Berennis – Berennis hasn’t been around that long either but they bring the punch in terms of quality and functionality. This too, is Alexa and Google Assistant friendly. The reason why I just had to add this as my final choice is because the over 75% Amazon reviewers has given this a 5 star which is HUGE in percentages of reviewers.
- Berennis is still too new to really know their quality in a few years
how do smart bulbs save you money?
Most smart bulbs are LED which use on average 75% less energy than the conventional incandescent lighting as well as lasting 25 times longer. Not only will a smart light bulb use less energy per month, they also last a lot longer than the old fashioned filament bulbs.
When you add the extra features such as remote and motion controlled sensors, the savings could be even more.
DO SMART BULBS USE ELECTRICITY WHEN THEY ARE OFF?
Smart bulbs technically are always on, which means they still draw a very small amount of power. No worries though, it is not as bad as it sounds. It is so minimal, I would be impressed if anyone even noticed on their monthly bill.
HOW LONG DO SMART BULBS LAST?
Smart bulb lights also last much longer than traditional light bulbs. The old school incandescent light bulb will last anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 hours!!
Most smart light bulbs will last up to 25,000 hours-30,000 hours!
UPFRONT COSTS AND ANNUAL SAVINGS
Unfortunately, upfront costs of most smart bulbs will be much higher than the traditional incandescent light bulbs. For example, the Phillips Hue, starts around $15 per bulb and can go up to $350+ for a kit. Ouch.
To summarize, you will end up saving both energy and money in the long run by upgrading to a smart bulb. The fact that they last 25 times longer than the light you probably have now paired with the savings from energy efficient LED lighting alone, make any smart bulb upgrade worth it.