On our most recent IoT Podcast episode, Logan left us a voicemail question because he just bought a house and he’s about to equip his entire home with new LED lights. And that raises the oft-asked opinion on whether to use smart bulbs or smart switches.
Stacey and I often disagree on this: I’m in the former camp while she’s in the latter. That’s mainly because we have different lighting situations where one of these solutions is more effective than the other. In my home, we don’t have many overhead lights controlled by switches, for example. Stacey has fewer lamps than I do.
So to answer this question, we took the approach of offering different choices for different situations. In Logan’s particular case, he definitely wants smart lighting, uses the Google Home platform already and would prefer not having a home hub. However, he’s not averse to the idea of a Samsung SmartThings hub so that he can add more smart products later.
Depending on how many lights Logan is converting, my first thought is to consider Wi-Fi or Bluetooth bulbs such as C by GE or the newer Philips Hue line, for $10 to $15 and up a bulb, depending on desired features.
These work with Google for voice control and grouping but don’t require a hub. However, since Logan likely has many bulbs to switch out, this could be more costly than it’s worth. I mention it mainly for people who, like me, have more lamps than overhead fixtures in their home.
Logan says he wants to keep costs down, especially if he goes the smart switch route and he’s looking into smart switches from Zooz, which generally cost $30 in either toggle or paddle options.
While we haven’t used any Zooz products, they appear on paper to fit the bill. Other choices here within a limited budget are available from GE, found in either Z-Wave or Zigbee options. A hub like SmartThings, or the SmartThings WiFi gear which has hub capabilities, will be needed in this case. If you’re still anti-hub, Wemo does make a $50 Wi-Fi smart switch.
Stacey’s a huge fan of the Lutron line of switches, which look fantastic, require a hub and cost $60 each. You’ll also have to add in the cost of standard LED bulbs if you decide on smart switches. But you’re getting one of the best and widely supported smart switches currently available without having to worry about compatibility.
The bottom line: The more fixtures you have in a home, the more it probably makes sense to replace switches instead of bulbs. Determine what features and compatibilities you want first, then sum up the costs of a bulb versus switch solution. Oh and if you think family members will just turn off dumb switches for smart bulbs, lean towards the smart switch side.
To hear Logan’s question, as well as our discussion in full, tune in below to the IoT Podcast:
Dan Moutal says
One way to decide if you should get switches or bulbs is to decide what features your prefer. Do you want to change the light colour? Or so you want the ability to use physical switches?
Decide what you prefer and that will dictate if you should get bulbs or switches
Randy Janzen says
The decisions are different for fixtures and lamps:
Paying $50 for a wifi wall-switch would definitely skew the decision, but I just checked Best-Buy and $20USD for a simple switch and $25USD for a dimmer is more reasonable. LED bulbs, like their predecessors- the CFLs tend to have overstated lifetimes. so a $15 bulb is not worth it UNLESS you need to change color ( Vanities?) Odds are, you’re going to replace at least a few LED bulbs in the lifetime of the switch.
For plug-in lamps, aesthetics come in to play if you are considering smart-plugs. I haven’t seen many built-in wifi outlets, so you’re likely going to have a block plugged in to an outlet. If the outlet is switched, then it’s more like a fixture. The smart plugs can be even cheaper than the wifi switches, so if they are easily hidden the aesthetic issue is moot.
Logan is talking about an existing home, so if he uses smart bulbs in fixtures, what does he do with the existing switches that will turn off his smart bulb? I’m not sure electrical code will let you defeat the wall switch.
That said- color controlled coach lights for Christmas would be attractive to some.