After 15 hours of research evaluating 20 products, we picked Philips Hue LED Starter Kit as our top choice.
Let's face it, we are all familiar with that moment when you've decided to call it a night but you know the lights are on downstairs. Wouldn't it be so much easier if you could turn off all of the lights in your house without ever having to get out of bed because they are smart light bulbs?
Finding the best LED light bulbs would certainly make life easier. After all, a wifi light bulb means you have complete control at your fingertips using your smart phone.
You're not the only one:
According to Icontrol Networks, 70 percent of people are excited about the cost savings which is something smart lights do rather well.
Smart lights give you total control over your in-home illumination without having to actually get up. That's why we worked hard to find the best LED light bulbs that are are not just smart, but also color changing. This list will give you endless lighting options that can bring your home to another level of cool.
Energy-efficient, cheapest smart light on the market, 650 lumens, voice controlled via Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, compatible with smart home platforms, very easy to install and set up, personalized lighting, smart controls, and 25,000 hour lifespan.
Element hub is required and it's not the brightest light.
If you’re looking for a cheap way to make your home “smarter”, Sengled’s Element bulbs are a great option. Setup is a breeze with this smart light, and the app allows you to customize brightness, color, on/off timer, and many more settings. It’s incredibly easy to use, and you’ll find it will take you just a few minutes to get your smart lighting system up and running once you have the hub set up.
What systems does it connect to? You’ll need to use a Sengled hub (sold separately) to use these light bulbs without any home automation platforms, but they’re compatible with Wink, Zigbee, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa. If you already have any of these hubs, you can install the bulb easily and add it to your smart home devices.
How does it connect? Once the light bulb is screwed in and turned on, simply go to your Sengled hub or other smart home (Zigbee, Wink, etc.) hub and let it search for the new device. It’s a matter of a minute or two and the bulb will be ready to go!
What colors are available? For the basic Element bulb, all you get is warm and bright lighting (classic yellow and white), but no colors. You’ll need to upgrade to the Element Color Plus for that.
Lumens? You get 650 lumens from this bulb, more than enough to illuminate your bedroom, office, or kitchen.
Watts or watts equivalent? This is the equivalent of a 60 Watt light bulb, but it uses a fraction of the energy. It’s Energy Star certified and highly energy-efficient!
How long should a light bulb last? This light bulb has an average lifespan of 25,000 hours or up to 22 years (depending on use).
Cost for an individual bulb or fitting? You’ll pay just $10 for a single light bulb, which is the lowest cost of any bulb on our list. The hub is also fairly inexpensive—the hub + 2 light bulbs will run you just $40-$60, way cheaper than the other options on our list.
These Wi-Fi lights are compatible with Amazon Echo and Alexa devices to take your home to the next level, but you can control your lights from anywhere with the app. Bulbs come in 50W and 60W equivalents and additional color options are available.
Some users report issues keeping the Wi-Fi connections stable, which sometimes means lights adhere to their own schedules (which you may not enjoy).
There are lots of reasons we recommend the TP-Link bulbs, beginning with the sturdy construction of the bulbs themselves. You get all the color and dimming options you want, plus the ability to program your lights and work with them anywhere you’re connected to WI-Fi. We’re especially fans of the tunable white bulb that allows you to mimic daylight when you want everything to feel like a long, peaceful spring day.
Sadly, you can’t control groups of lights, but you can set them to work at the same time, and the app is remarkably intuitive. Also, there’s no geofencing on this, but you will be able to tell Alexa to turn on the lights when you walk in the door. A serious bonus of these lights is the complete lack of hub, but the ability to link with Alexa and Echo if you like. No need for Bluetooth or Zigbee. You kind of have to appreciate that simplicity. But, on the same tip, you need to buy into the Amazon systems to make this part of an overall Smart home system. If that’s fine with you, then you’re gonna love these lights.
What systems does it connect to? These TP-Link Smart lights connect to Amazon Alexa and Echo devices relatively seamlessly. You can also use the free app for Android or iOS on your phone or tablet.
How does it connect? Now, you don’t need a hub for these lights, but you can only control them one at a time. Of course, you can program entire rooms, but you still will need to schedule each light to go on, off, or dim individually.
What colors are available? Bulbs are available in 50W and 50W (equivalent) white and a dynamic color option (with 16 million colors). There’s also a tunable white bulb that ranges from soft white to daylight. That should inspire you to start programming your lights rather than controlling them reactively.
Lumens? You’ll get a lovely 800 lumens out of these bulbs. That’s not bad at all. In fact, it’s quite good.
Watts or watts equivalent? The actual wattage draw on your power supply is 11, but you get the equivalent of 60 watts on that. There is also that 50-watt bulb available. And, the app has a handy little energy usage screen, so you can play around with settings until you’re as green as can be.
How long should a light bulb last? Based on the three-hour daily norm, each Smart bulb should last 22.8 years. That’s much longer than the two-year warranty you get with each light.
Cost for an individual bulb or fitting? If you’re looking to go all out with color in your home, you’ll pay about $50 per bulb, which is on the pricy side. But, if you’re more of a 60-watt-white kind of a person, you’ll pay about half. For the lower wattage bulb, you’ll pay somewhere in the middle.
This works with Alexa when you need voice controls. Super bright bulbs are easy to set up and there is no hub with this Wi-Fi system.
Um, not cheap. Not cheap at all. And, the bulbs can become a little on the hot side if you run them for too long.
You can do a lot with these bulbs. Besides the ability to program your lights to switch on when you return home, there are color moods and palates that you can set. The associated app is quick and easy to download (even for iPhones, though not for HomeKit). And, you can connect up to 100 bulbs to your phone. You can dim your lights and the interface is rather intuitive. And, the lack of a hub is a plus for some people. The downside? Take a look at the price. ARGH!
What systems does it connect to? The ability to integrate with your favorite platforms is one of the reasons we really like these light bulbs. You can connect it with Amazon Echo/Alexa, IFTTT, Samsung SmartThings, and Nest. But, you should know that it doesn’t connect with Apple’s HomeKit. We know that will turn some of you off. You can also use it alone with the LIFX app on your smartphone--no need for a hub or system.
How does it connect? No hub is needed. You might like that, especially because you can link these lights with your home WiFi network. In case you’re wondering, each one is Wi-Fi enabled; no Bluetooth needed.
What colors are available? Each bulb can adjust to 16 million different colors and 1,000 shades of white from warm to cool. You kind of have to appreciate the amount of thought put into the colors.
Lumens? Looking for super bright bulbs? These have 1055 lumens. That’s about as powerful as you’re going to get with home lighting.
Watts or watts equivalent? You get the equivalent of 75 watts with each 11 watt LED bulb.
How long should a light bulb last? Expect 25,000 hours of light. That’s a little low as far as LED lights go, but these are really powerful bulbs.
Cost for an individual bulb or fitting? $50 for a single light bulb? That’s hard to justify, but somehow, this bulb pulls it off. We would like it more if it were cheaper.
You can control these lights from your Smartphone or tablet, but you can also get yourself a couple of switches at an extra cost. It works over Wi-Fi through a bridge plugged into your router and you get plenty of color options.
Sadly, you can’t add these bulbs to another hub; they only work with the Philips system. And, they’re not exactly cheap.
In this starter pack, you get two LED light bulbs that provide the equivalent of 60-watts of light, using 20 percent of the energy! You get about 15,000 hours from the light bulb (roughly 4 years), and you can use your smartphone and/or tablet to adjust the brightness or hue of the bulb. You can use up to 50 Hue light bulbs with the same bridge (the controller device), and the starter pack is fully compatible with a number of home automation systems.
One of the features we love the most is the ability to design a lighting concept from your favorite pictures. And, we're fans of the ability to set lights to integrate with the sounds of your movies and music. If you're keen to learn a little more about the light-changing applications, this video demonstrates quite a few of the options.
What's new in these second generation Hue lights? Mostly the Siri controls, as the folks over at CNET point out in their comparison. You'll also notice the jump in lumens from 600 to 800.
What systems does it connect to? You can work with the Philips Hue app, or you can connect this to your Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, IFTTT, or Nest systems. We rather like the flexibility of the integration abilities, which makes this a rather useful set of light bulbs. The link to Apple is a little unbeatable though. If you're whole home runs on i-devices, you definitely want to take a look at these lights.
How does it connect? The Philips Hue hub plugs into your Wi-Fi router. You’ll be able to connect to your lights from anywhere in the world. (Remember those plug-in timers people once used to make their house look occupied? We don’t either. Well, regardless, they will no longer be necessary.)
What colors are available? You get 16 million colors, which is more than you will ever need. And, the warm white is just so lovely. Now, there are plain white lights available too. Actually, there are plenty of lights on offer in the Hue line. If you're not sure what you're after, How to Geek has you covered.
Lumens? You now get 800 lumens which is a big jump from the first generation. We still say it’s not enough for one light bulb to provide all the light in a single room, but you wouldn’t want to pay this price for a bulb of this capacity if you could get away with a single bulb.
Watts or watts equivalent? The nine and a half watts you get with this bulb is equivalent to the 60-watt bulbs you grew up with.
How long should a light bulb last? You’ll get 15,000 hours from a single bulb. That’s actually rather short for a Smart bulb, but we want to forgive Philips for that simply because the other features are just so darn useful.
Cost for starter set? A starter set with the hub and two bulbs costs about $50. That's a nice reduction in price from the old model.
Cost for individual bulb or fitting? You should be able to find individual bulbs for less than the $50 MSRP for a 4-pack, but we know that’s still expensive. That said, most people fall in love with this system. The integrations and options make this a useful Smart lighting system for anyone that can justify the cost.
Smart light bulbs are an excellent option for those who want to upgrade their home technology. The "smart" means the light bulbs can be remotely controlled—via your smartphone, home automation system, or even with voice control. Not only are they highly user-friendly, but they tend to be energy-saving as well—typically using LEDs to generate the light, with the LEDs in a tiny communications device that connects the light bulb to whatever gateway device or smartphone you're using to control it.
Smart bulbs are either white (your standard on/off bulb) or colored (with a pre-set range of colors). Some colored bulbs are intended to be just one color, while others can run through a broad spectrum of colors in order to add mood lighting to your home. The white bulbs are cheaper, but they don't offer the same versatility as colored bulbs.
The smart bulbs are designed to pair with your smartphone via your home Wi-Fi network or Bluetooth. Some of them are directly controlled, while others are integrated into an existing home automation system for all-in-one control. Bluetooth bulbs are cheaper, but they offer a shorter range. Wi-Fi bulbs are pricier, but they allow you to turn off your lights from LITERALLY anywhere in the world.
Some smart bulbs are designed to be compatible with Google Home and Amazon's Alexa system, allowing you to control them via voice commands.
The beauty of smart light bulbs is that they're nearly identical to regular light bulbs, at least in terms of the base type and size. They're compatible with your typical bases—Edison screw type, spotlights, bayonet cap, etc.—which means they can be inserted into any light fixture around your home.
According to the U.S. Government, "By replacing your home's five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with models that have earned the ENERGY STAR, you can save $75 each year."
Your typical LED light bulb will use anywhere from 25 to 80% less energy than an incandescent bulb, and has a lifespan anywhere from 3 to 25 times longer.
However, most people these days have gotten rid of their incandescent bulbs and made the switch to compact fluorescent lighting (CFL) in order to save electricity. CFL bulbs are cheaper than LED bulbs, but they have a shorter lifespan and use more energy.
One website did a breakdown of the cost to use a LED or CFL lightbulb for 25,000 hours. Though the initial cost of an LED bulb was higher ($8 on average), the ultimate cost (number of lightbulbs purchased, total electricity cost, etc.) was $38 for an LED light bulb and $48 for a CFL light bulb.
On the flip side, the incandescent bulbs cost an average of $200 for that same 25,000 hour use. Though the bulbs themselves were significantly cheaper, their shorter lifespan and higher energy consumption meant the cost rose sharply.
If you're trying to save money, you're DEFINITELY better off using LED light bulbs in as many light fixtures around the house as possible. LED bulbs tend to be brighter than CFL bulbs, and they will generate less ambient heat. Though they come with a higher initial cost, they'll save you a lot of money in the long run.
If you want to make the most of your smart light bulbs, here are a few tips to help you out:
Remove the dimmers – If you install a smart LED light bulb into a switch that's connected to a dimmer, it's likely to cause flickering or buzzing. Either remove the dimmer switch or install the LED bulb in a socket that's not connected to a dimmer.
Consider Wi-Fi vs Bluetooth carefully – Wi-Fi smart bulbs give you the option to control the lights via your home network, but what happens if your Wi-Fi gets cut off or your router starts having problems? How will you be able to control the lights without Wi-Fi? Bluetooth may not offer the same range (35 to 60 feet may be all you get), but it's more reliable in terms of signal. On the flip side, Bluetooth connectivity can be spotty or problematic with older smartphones.
Both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth offer good options, but they both come with their drawbacks as well. Think carefully and decide which serves your needs better.
Group your lights – Many home automation systems and smart light bulb apps allow you to control up to 64 light bulbs at a time, but why control them all individually? Instead, group them into rooms or areas you want to control, such as "Dining Room" or "Living Room Overhead Lights". That way, it's easier to turn on/off/dim/change color on a lot of different lights with the press of one button.
Set up pre-sets – For many smart light bulbs, you can program pre-sets, such as the time to switch on/off, pre-set colors, dimming at a certain time of night, etc. The smart light bulb app will allow to create your own pre-sets, which will make it easier for you to control your lighting.
Try third party apps – All the manufacturers of smart light bulbs make apps that allow you to control the lights, but there are many third party apps that offer more versatility, control options, and features that the manufacturer app doesn't. They're worth looking into if you want to have total control over your light bulbs.
Use IFTTT – IFTTT ("If This Then That") is a suite of programming instructions that say "If this happens, this next thing has to happen". It allows you to establish pre-set instructions for your smart light bulbs. The IFTTT "Recipes" can offer you a lot of amazing features to help you have more control over your home's smart lighting.
Use Geofencing – Geofencing is an option that allows your smartphone to connect to your home lighting system when it's in within a certain range. With geofencing, you can pre-set the lights to switch off when your phone is out of range, and switch back on when your phone comes within the range. That way, your lights will automatically switch on/off without your having to do anything more than come home or leave.
Try it as an alarm – If you have a hard time waking up in the morning, use the pre-sets to program the lights to slowly brighten in the morning—simulating the sunrise. You'll know it's time to wake up every day, even without the noisy alarm!
Sync the bulbs to your phone number – This is a nifty feature that allows you to connect your smart bulbs to your phone so they'll flash or change colors when you're getting a call. You'll never miss another phone call with this setup!
The LIFX and Phillips HUE bulbs are the two most popular smart bulbs on the market. Many people have asked us "Which of the two is better?" As you can see by its position on our list above, we believe the Phillips HUE bulb is the better choice—but not by a whole lot!
Here is a general breakdown of the HUE vs. LIFX:
Brightness – The LIFX can generate as much as 1,100 lumens, on par with a 75W light bulb. The HUE however, can only generate 800 lumens, on par with a 60W bulb.
Colors – The LIFX has a better range of colors than the HUE, with more concentration of light and better brightness.
Energy Usage – The HUE only uses 10W, while the LIFX uses 11W.
App – The HUE app is much more user-friendly and straightforward than the LIFX app, with a simpler interface that makes controlling your light bulb a whole lot easier. However, the LIFX app is more precise when it comes to controlling the colors and brightness.
Light Bulb Platform – The platform is the device that connects your smartphone to the light bulbs. The HUE is the original platform, and offers a lot more customization options than the LIFX. It's also the only of the two to work with Apple HomeKit (for now), and it's compatible with off-brand Zigbee bulbs. This is great if you want to expand to third-party smart lights. However, HUE's platform allows you to change the light bulb's color using voice control.
Reliability – In terms of reliability, the HUE bulbs have a slight edge. Both LIFX and HUE deliver a long-lasting LED light bulb (with up to 15,000 hours of use), but the HUE bulbs will last a bit longer with regular use. They are incredibly consistent in terms of performance and lifespan.
Ease of Installation – The app for the HUE is easier to use right out of the box, making it easier for you to get your lighting set up right away. If you just want simple functionality (on/off, timer, geofencing, etc.), HUE is the better option. They're incredibly easy to pair with your Bluetooth/Wi-Fi and home automation system.
Cost – In terms of pricing, the bulbs themselves are pretty much identical—anywhere from $25 to $70 per bulb. However, the LIFX bulb has the slight edge in that you DON'T need the bridge/platform to run the light bulb. It can simply be connected to the smartphone app directly. You can use the LIFX bulbs with a platform (even a third-party one), but the HUE doesn't give you the option to control the bulbs without a platform.