Outside of a smart home assistant like a Google Home or Amazon Echo, perhaps the most common entry into the world of automation is with a smart lighting system. Using a smart lighting system, you can connect LED bulbs to your wifi network. Some systems work directly, while others make use of a hub.
No matter how they connect, you will have the ability to control their color, brightness, and warmth via your smartphone application, or even by using voice commands. Smart lighting comes in handy in a variety of settings. Whether you’re showing off your new entertainment room, or adding some accent lights to your kitchen, smart lighting can help.
Keep in mind, however, that smart bulbs are much more expensive than the typical LED bulbs you buy for your home. Even though they appear to be the same, you’re looking at a price for one white smart bulb and roughly more expensive for a bulb with the capability to display any color. But since they’re LED bulbs, their life expectancy is in the tens of thousands of hours, so you should get your money’s worth out of them.
Not only can you replace the bulbs in your ceiling fixtures and lamps, but some systems offer LED light strips which you can place above or below alcoves or railings to shed some light on your ceilings or floors. Some good places for this type of lighting are behind your television, or above your kitchen cupboards.
These are just a few of the capabilities of a smart home lighting system. There are weather resistant bulbs, remote controls, dimmer switches, motion sensors, and smartphone applications that allow you to get a great experience out of your lighting system.
This article will discuss some of the best smart lighting systems available on the market today. Some of these manufacturers allow their bulbs to integrate with other smart lighting systems, but your best bet will be selecting one system and going with it.
So let’s take a look at the best smart lighting systems of 2018, and give you a better idea of which one will work best for you and your home.
Contents (Jump to)
- 1 Sylvania
- 2 C by GE
- 3 Wiz
- 4 Lifx
- 5 Philips Hue
- 6 Comparison Chart
- 7 Conclusion
The smart lighting system is one of the primary starting points for those looking to get into home automation. Sylvania offers an excellent solution with its Apple HomeKit compatible bulbs. These color-changing smart bulbs are simple and easy to setup and use.
Each bulb has a Bluetooth radio built-in, so there’s no need to invest in a router to do the work for you. The only action required is screwing in the light bulb, turning it on, and syncing with Siri. All it will cost you is the price of a light bulb.
With HomeKit capability, Sylvania lets you control your bulb right from your iOS device via Apple’s Home application. You can use the Home app to control your Sylvania light bulbs along with other Apple-friendly devices.
The Home app will also let you set up bulb controls on your control center so that you can access them quickly, or if you want to use commands via Siri, you can do that too. This means if you want to change the color of your bulbs, just tell Siri what color you want. The capabilities aren’t as in-depth as those of Philips Hue or Lifx; however, Sylvania still provides a pleasant user experience.
Sylvania has positioned itself well in the smart lighting system world thanks to two things: First, its bulbs are a little cheaper than its competitors. Not a lot, but enough that it might make a difference when you’re purchasing a half dozen or so. Second, it’s an excellent alternative for those that are loyal to Apple.
Like nearly every LED bulb available on the market, Sylvania’s Smart Plus LED bulbs use very little energy. However, it still boasts a high-level of brightness, and at nearly 800 lumens is one of the brightest available. It’s not quite as bright as the bulb Lifx has available, but it’s brighter than other competitors and plenty bright enough to replace your current 60W bulb.
As mentioned, Sylvania leans a lot on Apple’s Homekit, and as a result, the Home app for its lighting controls. Unfortunately, it does not integrate with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, or even with other platforms like Wink or SmartThings. The drawback to using Siri as the centerpiece of your smart home is that the system leaves a lot to be desired from a smart lighting perspective.
Setup with the Sylvania smart lighting system is really simple. To pair the bulb to your Home app, just screw it into the fixture, make sure it’s turned on, the hit the plus icon in your application. The Sylvania manual has an eight-digit code that you’ll use to pair your device; then you let the app take care of the rest. In less than a minute you can have a Sylvania smart bulb up and running.
Once the bulb is connected and paired, you can assign it to a specific room, or group it together with HomeKit gadgets and devices. You can also tap it to turn it off and on or adjust the brightness. The Home app also lets you change the color temperature, or the color, although these particular controls are relatively basic compared to other smart lighting systems.
For instance, the Home app does not provide an option to match the color of a photograph or personalize a color cycle. Additionally, if you want the ability to control your smart bulb when you’re no longer in Bluetooth range, you’ll need to have an Apple TV.
As long as you give the bulb a name when you’re setting it up, controlling it with Siri is pretty simple. There are some challenges with word recognition, specifically homonyms like “read” and “red.” This is a little frustrating since it’s something both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are capable of handling.
If you’re looking for a smart lighting system that works with Apple’s HomeKit and isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg, then Sylvania is the way to go. Its Smart Plus LEDs are the first color-changing bulb that doesn’t require a hub to integrate with HomeKit.
The tradeoff here is that you’re not going to have an experience that is as robust or personalized as you will get with other smart home lighting systems on this list. If you want Siri powered smart lighting, then Sylvania is definitely worth your consideration, especially if you are loyal to Apple and HomeKit.
C by GE
The fact that smart lighting has been around for a few years is both a good and bad thing for C by GE. It’s affordable and easy to set up, which means it will attract those that are interested in breaking into the smart lighting market. On the other hand, experienced users won’t be impressed with the system for the same reasons.
When it comes to smart home devices, the light bulb might be the easiest to use and install. GE’s smart lighting system takes things a step further by providing lights that don’t need a hub. The C light bulbs skip the wifi connection and sync via its C mobile application, using Bluetooth. Additionally, you can control the bulbs with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.
The bulbs for the GE system come in two types: C-Sleep, and C-Life. C-Sleep bulbs allow you to change the color temperatures from warm, to neutral, to cool. C-Life, on the other hand, is a dimmable bulb you’ll find perfectly suited for your living room. It does not have the ability to change color temperature.
You’ll find that the performance of the C system bulbs is where it should be in comparison to its competitors. The C-Sleep offers 850 lumens, while the C-Life is at 800. They have the ability to switch intensity, so if you want brighter lights in the morning and softer ones in the evening, you can do that through the app. The C smart home lighting system lets you set up scenes so that these events occur automatically.
It would be great to have the features of both bulbs combined into one. However, it’s nice to have the option which means you’ll have two price points from which to choose. Both the C-Life and C-Sleep have bulbs that will fit in ceiling fixtures and lamps. If you decide to go with GE’s starter pack, you’ll get two C-Life and C-Sleep bulbs each.
As previously mentioned, you have the ability to control your C-Life and C-Sleep bulbs via Bluetooth with your C App option. However, GE provides another method to control your lights: the C-Reach hub. Using the C-Reach you can use voice commands to control the C-Sleep and C-Life bulbs, and set up is nearly as simple as it is with Bluetooth.
Instead of messing with another box you have to connect to your router, GE’s C-Reach hub simply plugs into a wall socket. It is small and discreet and doesn’t require you to mess around with a bunch of cables and cords. Open up the app, connect to the C-Reach, enter your network information and you’re all set.
After the hub is connected, you’ll have the ability to set it up to work with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. You can use either a smart assistant to control the lighting in your home via voice commands. The C-Reach hub also allows you the convenience of turning off and on your lights if you’re away from home.
For instance, if you’re on vacation or a business trip, you may want your lights to come on and go off at certain times to give the impression you’re home. You may also want to have a well-lit home welcoming you if you’re arriving home late in the evening.
GE also offers a product they call the Sol. This smart bulb houses Alexa within it and allows you to sync all your GE bulbs via your wireless network. Unfortunately, at this time, the GE C smart home lighting system doesn’t work with Apple HomeKit, but it expects to do so in the near future.
Pros & Cons
We know that there is no perfect smart home lighting system, so let’s take a look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of GE’s C lighting system:
- Doesn’t require a hub
- Bluetooth support
- Optional hub for additional integration
- Good intro kit for novice smart home users
- Few options
- App is not very user-friendly
- Bulbs split into two types
- May not be a good system for experienced, smart home users
Your familiarity with smart home technologies will define whether or not GE’s smart home lighting system is a good fit for you. If you’re familiar with home automation and all it has to offer, the C lighting system may be a bit underwhelming. However, if you’re new to the smart home world, GE’s easy to setup and use might be just what you need.
If you do decide that the GE C smart home lighting system if for you, then you have a few options. You can go with the bulbs themselves, which is a relatively cheap option. You could also dive a little deeper and use the C-Reach hub to use voice controls and commands. Either way, if you’re just stepping foot into the smart home arena, GE’s C smart lighting system might be the way to go.
Like many other smart lighting systems, Wiz offers bulbs that have the ability to connect to your wireless network, and don’t require a separate bridge or hub. However, if you already have a hub in place, you can use IFTTT (If This Then That) to connect your Wiz bulbs to it. You can connect your bulbs to other smart devices in a similar fashion.
You can control the Wiz smart lighting system through your smartphone via an app, or with voice commands using Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. Wiz offers an infrared remote control that you can use as well. Using a remote might seem outdated, but for those that aren’t familiar with smart lights, or home automation, it will probably be easier to use than a smartphone app.
If you’re considering the addition of smart lights to your home, Wiz is a good option if you’re familiar with smart home technologies. For instance, before adding Wiz lights, you’ll need to determine where you want to control them. You’ll need to set up the appropriate wiring for your switches and ensure that they can be controlled by the switch if necessary.
Wiz Smart Lights
As stated previously, Wiz’s smart home lighting system does not require the use of a hub. It connects through your wireless network and can be controlled through your smartphone or via voice commands.
The starter kit comes with two 60 watt LED smart bulbs, which boast 810 lumens of brightness. You’ll also get your infrared remote and setup guide with your starter kit. The bulbs are dimmable, and Wiz states that they will last up to 18 years if you only use them three hours a day. Requiring only 12 watts to operate, the bulbs don’t use up a lot of electricity and offer 16 million color combinations.
Setup and Installation
Installation is simple, especially since no hub is needed. Download the Wiz smartphone app first. You can find it on both the Android and iOS marketplaces. Once you have, it installed, follow the guide to pair your bulbs with your network.
The bulbs connect over the 2.4 GHz wifi channel, so if your router supports both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, you’ll want to make sure you’re connecting to the appropriate option. Otherwise, follow the on-screen guide to get your bulbs set up. That’s all there is to it.
For some folks, integration with other systems and platforms is paramount to their smart home. The same could be said for smart home lighting systems. Knowing which devices and gadgets work with your lights gives you the ability to control them better. You’ll have the capability to create effective automation and scenes within your home when you know what your lights connect to.
We’ve already talked about how Wiz’s smart bulbs connect directly to Amazon Alexa, and Google Home enabled devices, but if you want to add additional gadgets, you can do so through IFTTT. Using IFTTT applets, you can connect your lights to devices like your home security system, or a smart thermostat.
Upon visiting the IFTTT site, you’ll discover that there are a variety of applets for Wiz smart bulbs, which you can use with other smart devices. For instance, if you decide to connect it to a smart thermostat, there’s an applet that will change the color of the lights if the temperature in the room gets too high or too low.
There are plenty from which to choose. One applet will turn your smart lights a particular color if your favorite team is about to play, or your favorite show is coming on. Just remember that for these applets to run, you’ll have to have the third-party system that powers the applet, if necessary.
By using the Wiz smart home lighting system, you have the ability to create times and schedules for your lights to turn off and on. You can also use something called vacation mode, which makes your lights behave as though you are at home. In this scenario, your lights will turn on at times like breakfast and lunch, then turn off during the day when you’re typically gone. All of these schedules can be set up via the mobile app for your convenience.
As you use the Wiz smart home lighting system, you’ll find a few features that set the system apart from some of the others on this list. One feature that we’ve already talked about is a remote control. The Wiz remote allows you to control your lights via infrared signal. On the remote are four distinct and separate favorite buttons which enable you to customize any room in your home that has Wiz bulbs.
The Wiz smart lighting system also offers flash memory in its bulbs. Each Wiz light bulb includes 2MB of memory, which allows Wiz to store your personal settings and manage updates. Flash memory also allows Wiz to pre-load dynamic lights, and ensure each bulb has the most current security information to prevent hackers from accessing your network.
Wiz smart light bulbs typically come in a two pack and includes the remote control. You can purchase individual bulbs and remotes as needed from retailers like Home Depot, Costco, and Amazon.
Pros & Cons
Here are some of the pros and cons of the Wiz smart home lighting system:
- No hub needed
- Remote control support
- Robust and durable
- Large number of IFTTT applets
- Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa compatible
- Pairing can be a challenge
- Limited integration outside of IFTTT
- Incompatible with Zigbee and Z-Wave technologies
If you’re looking for a solid wifi LED smart home system that includes a remote control, the Wiz smart lighting system is a good choice. The ability to use vacation mode and set a schedule that mimics your behavior is a great feature to have. A robust IFTTT offering doesn’t hurt, as you have the ability to connect to other smart devices in your home.
Unfortunately, the price of the Wiz smart lighting system is a little more than you might expect to pay, especially given its shortcomings. Its ability to integrate with other devices and systems is lacking, and you’re limited to what you can do with IFTTT. It would at the very least be nice to see the Wiz system have the ability to work with smart security systems. It would also be nice if the system worked with other technologies like Zigbee or Z-Wave.
However, if all you need is a smart light system that works with wifi and you’re familiar and comfortable with IFTTT, then you should give the Wiz smart home lighting system a look. Outside of the lack of Z-Wave and Zigbee support, and inability to use a hub, the Wiz system is a good choice for your smart home lighting system.
Even though Lifx is relatively new to the smart home lighting industry, it is viewed as one of Philips’ (which we’ll discuss next) most significant rivals. While bulbs for the Lifx system are typically more expensive than they are for the Hue, they are also brighter and support invisible infrared, which helps you see night vision on your security cameras.
Additionally, the Lifx smart lighting system does not require the use of a hub. The bulbs connect right to your router. Lifx offers a wide variety of bulbs and fittings, as well as LED strips you can hide behind your television or cabinetry to create specific scenes. Lifx also offers Beam and Tile, two options that can draw attention to specific pieces throughout your home.
If you prefer to use voice commands, Lifx bulbs and lights can be customized to respond to instructions you give to Apple’s Homekit platform, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant.
Lifx lights, similar to Hue, can be set so that they slowly come on in the morning, which simulates morning, and slowly dim in the evening, to mimic sunset. You can group certain bulbs in specific rooms together, which means you can control whole rooms and floors through the Lifx smartphone app or via voice controls.
If you’re used to typical light bulbs, or other smart lighting systems, the Lifx bulbs may throw you off a bit. The bulbs used with the Lifx system look primarily like a “normal” bulb, except that it’s coated with a plastic film, and topped off with a light, circular, flat casing.
The night vision bulb mentioned earlier looks precisely the same, with the exception of a + symbol beneath the Lifx logo. There aren’t many differences with the light strip, although it does have fewer connector pins that a few other systems.
The bulbs themselves have a modern and updated feel, which is more than can be said for some lighting systems. However, many bulbs reside behind fixtures or lamp shades, so it’s not too big of a deal.
When you’re purchasing a smart light, you want to be sure you’re getting what you pay for. You want a light that is bright, colorful, and vibrant. This is precisely what you’ll get when you choose to go with Lifx’s smart system.
The Lifx bulbs are some of the brightest, most colorful available on the market, with some of its colors unnoticeable when viewing the bulbs of other brands. In the color and brightness department, Lifx definitely sets itself apart from everyone else.
With a Lifx bulb, you’ll get upwards of 1100 lumens, which results in two things: First, you’ll have to turn the bulb down nearly to its lowest setting to get dim lighting, and second, turning the lights to their brightest usually requires special cases or events. It’s rare that you’ll want the bulb to be as bright as it can be.
The night vision light doesn’t provide a better bulb than any others on the market, but what it does offer is lighting that works well with security cameras. You can lower brightness levels enough that your security camera night vision capabilities aren’t washed out. These bulbs come in particularly handy if you’re considering a smart security system with cameras.
Where brightness is without a doubt the Lifx lighting system strong point, connectivity is the opposite. Connecting its lights via wifi and not via a router is less stable than other systems. Sometimes lights may flicker or drop completely due to connectivity issues. Fortunately, all you have to do to fix the problem is flip the switch the bulb is plugged in to.
If the issue didn’t occur very frequently, it wouldn’t be mentioned here, but the reality is that you may experience it enough for it to be an annoyance. However, the issues most often occur with the strip, so you may not encounter it with the bulbs. Sometimes it’s better to have a single point like a hub that handles everything for you.
That doesn’t mean the Lifx smart lighting system isn’t worth your time. Far from it. The Lifx system is very easy to use and has plenty of features. For instance, once your bulbs are all connected, you have the ability to view each of them on the smartphone app home page.
From the app, you can view any group or room customizations you’ve made. You can also see all active third-party services and a section that tells you about any special offers or coupons. If you want to control your lights, you can do that as well from home page of the smartphone application.
In the advanced section of the smartphone app, you can view four areas: effects, themes, colors, and whites. Both the whites and colors sections have a wheel that you can turn to set the exact brightness or color that you want. It’s intuitive and easy to use and it much more straightforward than some other smart bulb menus.
Themes and effects are usually ideal for the strips, or a set of lights. When you use themes, you can set your strip to show more than one color at a time. Overall, the Lifx smartphone app is one of the best smart lighting apps on the market. Someone with moderate experience should have no trouble navigating the app.
The Lifx smart bulbs aren’t cheap, so if your plan is to replace the majority of the bulbs in your home, you might want to stick with the more familiar names in today’s market. Lifx provides a quality product with a big name to back it up. You’ll be spending more money up front, but in the long run, you’ll have a better experience with a quality product.
The Lifx smart lighting system is a reliable, stable system that provides some of the best and brightest bulbs on the system. It’s really nice that these bulbs are capable of integrating with voice command devices like Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant. However, the downside is that you may experience connectivity issues since the lights connect via wifi, and not through a hub.
Lifx has a great smartphone app that is easy to use, and its system is easy to set up. Keep in mind that you’ll pay more for a better product, but the Lifx smart lighting system is one of the better products on the market today. It does have a few drawbacks, but overall Lifx is a robust system that provides a great experience.
If you aren’t familiar with the Philips Hue smart lighting system, then you’re either not interested in smart home technologies, or you just haven’t been paying attention. Commonly considered the market leader in smart lighting systems, Philips offers a variety of bulbs available in different fittings. Their goal is to make sure you have a bulb that will work with what you currently have in place, so you don’t have to make a lot of unnecessary changes.
Philips also offers ceiling fixtures, LED light strips, and lamps. Some of the options in the lamp collection are battery-powered, so you can take them with you wherever you go. In addition to bulbs, the Hue smart lighting system includes motions sensors, which automatically turn on your lights when you go by them, and dimmer switches.
Smart lights are one of the more common gadgets selected when someone decides to enter the smart home realm, mainly due to their price point and ease of setup and installation. The Philips Hue smart lighting is no different. When you open the box, you aren’t greeted with a lot of technical hardware. Instead, you’ll only see some network cables, your Hue bridge, and three bulbs.
Setup is straightforward and simple. Install one of your new light bulbs into the fixture or lamp that you want to use, then turn it on. Then, connect your Hue bridge to your wifi router using one of the network cables (you’ll also want to plug it into the wall at this point). Download and install the Hue app, which can be found on both the Android and iOS marketplaces. Once you’ve done that, just follow the guide to get everything going.
The smartphone app does a fantastic job of walking you through the setup process one step at a time, ensuring that everything is working the way it needs to be so your home can have the smart home lighting system you want.
The Philips Hue smart lighting system does precisely what you want it to do. You can turn lights on and off via the smartphone app, or you can set them up to work on a timer or schedule. You also have the capability of adjusting how bright the lights are. This gives you the ability to control how dim or bright the light is around you, without the need to get up and mess with a dimmer.
A neat feature of the Hues smart lighting system are the pre-loaded themes you can use. You can choose from Tropical Twilight, Spring Blossom, Arctic Aurora, and many others. Additionally, you can set certain moods to align with your current activity. For instance, you can select the right lighting for reading, exercising, or just sitting on your couch and relaxing.
Another cool feature is the ability to input your own colors, which you can use the photos from your smartphone to select.
One drawback to the Hues smart lighting system is that the smartphone app could be more intuitive. It’s easy to get things set up, but changing colors on the bulbs was not as easy as it could be. If you want to change the colors, you select the Scenes tab for the room you want to change. Then you select the color, you want. Not as straightforward as it could be, but hardly a deal breaker.
However, it’s nice to be able to turn off lights without getting up. For instance, how many times have you been wrapped up in your blankets enjoying your favorite show when you suddenly realize you need to turn off the lights? A system like Hues lets you take care of it without getting up. The same goes for any lights in your home with a Hues smart bulb installed.
So, it the Philips Hues smart lighting system worth it? Does it make life easier? The simple answer is yes, although as with any smart lighting system, there are a few caveats.
The Hues smart home lighting system is easy to install and use, although the smartphone app could use some tweaking. Unless you consider turning off lights throughout your home a significant pain point, the Hues system is more of a nice to have than a necessity. That’s not to say Philip’s lighting system isn’t a good system, because it is.
On top of its ease of use, the starter package is well worth the money as you get three bulbs and your hub. Additionally, you can add sensors, bulbs, dimmers, and switches as needed, so it’s nice that you can expand your system when you’re ready. With the ability to integrate the Hues smart lighting system to Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, or Amazon Alexa, you can sync your lights to music and entertainment.
Overall, the Philips Hues smart home lighting system is worth giving a try. It’s not too expensive, is easy to use and install, and is chock full of great features. If you don’t mind something a little more advanced in the smart home arena, the Hues system is definitely worth a look.
|Sylvania||C by GE||Lifx||Hue|
|Starter Package||One (1) Bulb||Two (2) Bulbs||Two (2) Bulbs, Infrared Remote, Setup Guide||One (1) Bulb or LED Light Strip||Hue Bridge, Three (3) Bulbs, Network Cables|
|Lumens||800||C-Life: 800 C-Sleep: 850||810||1,000||800|
|Smart Assistant Support||Apple HomeKit||Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant||None||Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit||Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit|
As you can see, there is no shortage of high-quality smart lighting systems available on the market today. These five are the systems we consider to be the best for 2018; however, there are several we didn’t touch on, like Ikea’s Tradfri. There are also a significant number of bulbs and switches available on the market that aren’t necessarily systems, but one-offs.
For our money, Philips is still the king of the proverbial smart lighting system mountain. It’s a great system that offers compatibility with voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit.
The other systems on this list are great options – and you can’t really go wrong with any of them – but for overall performance and reliability, the Philips Hue smart home lighting system is the way to go.
Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!