How Do Smart Bulbs Work with Switches? In-Depth Know-How

Smart bulbs are a new concept in intelligent home technology; they first started as a bulb to change the room’s ambiance. You can set schedules with a smart bulb. Trying to get your smart bulbs to work together with your current light switches in your house can be tricky. 

If the smart bulb has a power source, then it will stay on and ready to receive your commands from the app that controls it. When power is disconnected (switch turned off/open), the smart bulb cannot function. You can continue to use the bulb after the switch is turned on. 

Dimmer switches or regular light switches are two of the most common standard controls people refer to when talking about smart bulbs. Smart switches are another thing altogether that sometimes can be confused with a smart bulb. A few smart switches are compatible with the same smart bulb; people use smart bulbs and smart switches to achieve the desired ambiance in the room.

Do Smart Bulbs Work with Normal Switches?

Smart bulbs must be connected to a power source to function correctly. The Bluetooth function in your device can only work with electricity. If the switch is turned off, then no electricity is flowing into the smart bulb.

The lack of electricity means that the device cannot send and receive signals from your mobile device or home control hub. 

A typical light switch works by stopping the electric current from the source to the end device. The control can stop the flow of electricity or open the line to supply electricity to the device. This simplistic design feature has no compromising or programmable features. Smart Switches do work differently than a standard light switch, as they are already connected to a power source. 

We were all taught to turn off the light when we are not in the room, and it becomes a tough habit to break. If you only need to control your smart bulb when you are in the room, a standard light switch will do the job fine. 

Do Smart Bulbs Work with Dimmer Switches?

Smart bulbs do not work together well with traditional dimmer switches. Since the smart bulb needs a constant flow of electricity to power itself, a dimmer switch limits the available electricity to the fixture that the smart bulb is installed.

Most smart bulbs will start to act glitchy at first, and they may even stop working altogether. Using a dimmable smart bulb with a regular light switch will give you the desired dimming effect that you want. 

You can find smart bulbs that will work with a dimmer switch explicitly designed for that smart bulb. This option can control a dimmer switch in an area that you want to keep the button accessible. If you insert a dimming smart bulb into a dimmer switch, the two dimming devices will clash. The smart bulb needs maximum power from the original switch to work as designed.  

Research from one of the top smart light switch manufacturers, Lutron, indicates the average home could realize lighting energy savings up to 60% by combining dimming and occupancy sensing in a residence. idisrupted.com

You Could Switch Out Your Current Switch For A Smart Dimmer Switch

Using a regular bulb or a smart bulb designed for the switch comes with its own set of perks and troubles. You can find fantastic combinations of light switches and smart bulb compatibility. Some even offer a range of extra scenes and settings by combining the two devices.

You can easily find a smart switch with dimming capabilities and use regular bulbs. 

You Could Swap Out Your Old Bulbs For Smart Bulbs

If you still want to keep the dimming switch on the wall, you want to swap it out for a newer regular switch. The smart bulb will have controls built into the bulb to control the dimming of the light. Since the traditional dimming switch controls the voltage of the fixture, it makes it difficult to use with a smart bulb. 

A Smart Bulb Works Exactly Like the Average Light Bulb

There is no special equipment needed to use a smart bulb, you only need the light bulb and the app downloaded onto your phone.

You can then place the light bulb into the fixture, flip the switch and then control the light bulb with your smartphone. When you are not using the smart bulb, you can switch off the light switch. 

If you wanted to use some of the more advanced features of the Smart bulb, you would need to leave the light switch on to supply power to the light bulb. Things such as scheduled lighting, color-changing, or brightness would need to be reset every time you flip the light switch in most cases.

Some bulbs will keep your settings in your app, so when the light bulb reconnects through Bluetooth, your saved settings load into the light bulb. 

We write a detailed article on How To Reconnect Smart Bulbs with Troubleshooting Guides. Have a look to find some helpful tips.

Your smart bulb will be a led style light bulb; you need to select the correct lumens for your room type as you would any L.E.D. Light bulb. You would also want to consider the desired lighting effect in the room to place the bulb in. Is it going to be a white ambiance, such as at a kitchen table, or do you need some color for a social gathering? 

Some of the most common things to consider for a smart bulb use are: 

  1. Ambiance
  2. Equipment (such as a bridge) 
  3. Purpose 
  4. Indoor or outdoor 
  5. Colored, white, or combination
  6. Ease of service with the app
  7. App permissions
  8. Light placement and type 
  9. A light bulb or light strip 

Set Up For A Smart Bulb Is The Same 

Setting up a smart bulb is as easy as changing a light bulb. All you must do is screw the bulb into the fixture as if it were any light bulb. Turn the switch on and connect the bulb to your phone. The extra features are optional and are there when you want to use them through the app.

These smart bulbs do not require any additional equipment, such as a bridge or centralized hub.  

Some smart bulbs only work with a centralized hub. You would need to purchase a starter kit that includes the bridge to connect your lights. You only need one bridge per circuit of lights that you wish to control. You may add multiple bridges, such as one for upstairs and one separate one for downstairs.

Most brands only allow for a single bridge to be controlled at one time on an app, although you can add multiple bridges to the app. 

You also have some smart bulbs that are compatible with voice or other smart home systems. You set these up the same way you would any other smart home device. Install the bulb, flip the switch, and follow the instructions in the app to connect Alexa or another voice command hub.

The light switch does need to stay in the on position for these features to work correctly. 

Some smart bulbs have speakers; others can have a streaming light being emitted as an option. Picking the features you want for the specific area you want to provide smart lighting is the first step in selecting the correct bulb for the fixture.  You will need WIFI-enabled bulbs to control the bulb away from home. 

Philips Hue is now producing bulbs that use 90% less energy than traditional incandescent lights while producing the same warm and familiar light.

idisrupted.com

Smart Bulb, Smart Switch, or Smart Plug?

A smart bulb will give you the most options out of all three smart devices. Sometimes you can find a smart switch that will work with the same brand smart bulb. The switch is supplying the constant power that the smart bulb needs to operate.

The smart switch allows for manual control over the smart bulb to dim the light or change the color from the smart switch in some cases. 

A Smart switch expands the functionality of your smart bulb in the fixture. The smart switch allows you to control the smart bulb from the wall, sometimes even tell you the weather outside (this switch is great by the front door). The array of options is too many to list here and is brand-specific.

For the best experience using a smart bulb, the switch may allow you to control each light individually based on several different factors, including a schedule, motion detection, and geofence location pings from your cell phone. 

Smart plugs are great for turning things on and off, even at specific times. Smart plugs in their basic form control the electricity from the wall plug to the appliance in question.

Whether you connect a coffee maker or a lamp, the functionality is the same. You can also set schedules for your smart plugs to automate things like turning on/off appliances such as a coffee maker. 

FunctionalitySmart BulbSmart SwitchSmart Plug
On/OffXX
Standby ModeX
Controllable from AppXXX
DimmingXX
Constant PowerXXX
Color Changing ResponseXX(Sometimes)
Scheduled actionsXXX
Voice ControlXXX
Music SyncXX
  Controls AppliancesX

Common Smart Bulb Uses

There are several different uses for smart bulbs across the home. Several bulbs can help outdoor control lighting or even daily routines and entertainment. Below we will discover some creative ways people use smart bulbs in their daily lives. 

Light up Outdoor Spaces

There are always several options for a smart bulb or fixture to be placed outside. The color bulbs look nice on some blooming backyard plants to spice up the night.

There are also pathway lights and even light strips to help create the perfect ambiance in the used space. You could place these lights on a schedule and change the projected light’s color from your smartphone app.

Outdoor smart bulbs come in everything outdoor lighting offers, from floodlights to spotlights and everything in between. 

Help Me In Daily Happenings 

Using a combination of smart bulbs, you can control your daily environment with warm to cool lights. These lights give off a hue inside of a spectrum of color.

You would have to change the bulb every time you wanted to do this with a traditional bulb. You can switch the bulb’s output hue from the app or set these warm cold white light smart bulbs on a schedule for you. 

Also, great to establish a plan for the lights to welcome you home also. 

Entertaining Guests and Other Visitors

The array of options when it comes to smart bulbs is almost endless. You can set up your smart bulbs to help you relax with a lovely light blue hue or get moving with a warm, bright orange light. The color options are almost endless, and most apps will have a color wheel to help you find the perfect mood.

Some accessories allow you to connect your smart light strips or bulbs to sync and change in response to your music and movies. 

Do You Want To Know How Smart Lights Can React to Music? Read this helpful post from one of our other articles, to see all the cool things you can do!

Some Smart Bulbs Will Need A Centralized Hub

Smart bulbs are designed to send and receive signals from one another without bogging down your Wi-Fi connections. Some brands may use connection types specific to that brand or wavelength, such as Z-wave or Zigbee.

The good news is that if you already have one of these, the choice is a lot easier to make when deciding to expand your home lighting options.

While having a centralized hub does add to the cost, the added cost-saving and signal control benefits outweigh the cost tremendously.  If you want to start with only one bulb, you want to consider that the bulb needs to have Bluetooth capability to control the smart bulb from your mobile device.

Once you pick a mesh network connection, Zigbee, Z-Wave, or another connection type, you must stay with that specific protocol connection type. 

Picking a platform to work with is the easiest way to choose a brand or style of light that you want to use. While you could mix lighting brands with your centralized hub, you will have a much better experience using the same brand for any additional lights that you add later to your setup. 

Making sure that the devices communicate well with each other leads to a beautiful experience. A Z-Wave device will not connect or speak with a Zigbee device. Zigbee is the more significant, more well-known, and secure option that most smart home devices use as a protocol. 

Purchasing a centralized hub that supports Zigbee and Z-wave protocols will lead to the best experience; this way, you minimize the common problem of setting up a whole house smart lighting system. 

Not all Smart Bulbs Are Created Equally

Even when coming from the same brand, different bulbs will have a different hue and respond differently to dimming. Each manufacturer will have another logarithm to determine how to dim the smart bulb.

Some use a curved logarithm, and others will use a straight logarithm to determine the amount of output compared to the amount of requested diming. 

Different brands will use different materials and different feature programming. If you mix light bulbs with varying dimming protocols, this may lead to a very frustrating experience as you struggle to find out why one light bulb dims more than the others in your lineup.

We perceive the changes in light in batches or sections not by the individual lumens that are higher or lower based on the setting. 

Each manufacturer has its protocols for programing the dimmable perception curve; some even go as far as making most of the changes in the top portion of the bottom half of the dimmable percentage. Using the same brand throughout your environment will give you the best experience as the logarithm is the same in every dimmable bulb from that manufacturer. 

The linear dimming curve gives you precisely what you are asking for in response to your dimming request. If you have a 650 lumens bulb and want it dimmed 50%, then the measurable output is 325 lumens. The logarithmic method lowers or raises that production based on the manufacturer’s logarithm programmed into the smart bulb.

Those 650 lumens may wind up being 360 lumens instead of 325 lumens. Make sure you stay with the same lighting protocol for your project. 

Conclusion

In short, Yes, a smart bulb can work with a standard light switch. Perfect as an option to try out a smart bulb and experience all the cool features in a controlled environment. The Bluetooth-only controlled options are affordable and make great gifts for teenagers.

If looking for a more elaborate setup, using a combination of smart bulbs and switches connected to a centralized hub may be the better option. You could always start small with a starter kit and build your lighting masterpiece from there. 

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HomeStreamliner

This blog aims to share my research and first-hand knowledge in a helpful way. My goal is for you to be able to save time and find happiness in a streamlined home.