Smart lighting is one of the most common entry points for any newcomer to home automation and it’s easy to see why…
Whether you want the plug-and-play simplicity of smart light bulbs or a more full-bodied system with replacement switches, streamlining your lighting adds a layer of convenience undercut with security.
Let’s be honest, if your house looks unoccupied when you’re sipping cocktails on the beach on vacation, there’s a strong chance you’ll come back to a huge headache and expensive insurance claim. With smart lighting, you can schedule lights to come on and off while you’re sipping cocktails on the beach.
Today, we’ll assume you’ve already decided that smart lights can make your life easier and safer both. What you might be wondering is, how do can go about controlling that smart lighting once it’s installed.
We’ll walk you through 5 different methods of taking charge of those Philips Hue or LIFX lights so you can go about your business with as little input as possible.
- Traditional Switch
- Mobile Phone
- Voice Activation
- SevenHugs Smart Remote
1) Traditional Switch
We’ll kick off with controlling your intelligent light bulbs using an existing switch and using this method comes with several inbuilt benefits…
All you’ll need to get going is a smart bulb or multiple bulbs depending on your intended usage. This translates to by far the cheapest and easiest way to get started if you’re not sold on the idea of a connected home and fancy testing the waters first.
We would qualify this by making it clear it’s only the cheapest way to get started. If you intend to buy multiple bulbs to cover your whole home. If you want this kind of coverage, smart bulbs are absolutely not the most cost-effective solution.
Another key advantage of using smart bulbs is the way you can take command of the lighting using either the traditional switch when you want to take manual control or some of the other methods we’ll outline next. As with all smart home tech, the best examples are highly versatile affording your maximum choice when it comes to home automation control. After all, we’re all different and while you might enjoy voice control, perhaps your elderly relative is not so sold on Alexa.
You can also use replacement switches the traditional, manual way. If you’re looking to swap out the switches in your house and smarten them up in the process, check out 6 of the best dimmer and on/off switches right here.
If you want manual control with some added intelligence alongside less overall expense than kitting out your entire house with new smart bulbs, switches make perfect sense.
Are you an Insteon fan?
If not, you should be, and we’ll tease you now by alerting you to an upcoming sale. More on that later this week…
So, launched way back in 2005, Insteon is among the true OG’s of the domotics scene. They were pioneers of smart home tech before the major tech giants jumped in on the act.
And if you want an innovative method of controlling not just your lighting but also other Insteon devices in your ecosystem, they’ve got some impressive keypads giving you robust, multi-purpose control.
Rather than speaking in generalities, we’ll give you a snapshot summary of what they have to offer. These keypads come in white, ivory or light almond so you can mix and match according to your décor.
Insteon Remote Control On/Off Keypad
This Insteon On/Off Keypad comes in 6-button form and lets you control 5 separate devices or clusters of devices using multiple methods.
Tapping and toggling the switch itself gives you a user-friendly way of triggering lighting Scenes throughout your smart home.
Adding the Insteon Hub brings remote control and voice control within your reach, too. If you want to use Alexa or Google Assistant, though, you’ll need an enabled device. Investing in a hub gives you the means to integrate other smart devices with your lighting from thermostats to WiFi cameras and much, much more.
And there’s good news if you want to do more than just turn your lights on and off…
Insteon Remote Control Dimmer Keypad
This dimmer keypad from Insteon comes in 2 variants:
Both perform in the same manner except the 6-button model allows you to control 5 devices or groups of devices, while the 8-button version steps things up to 8 devices.
You’ll enjoy the same ability to control your lights using the keypad itself, remote control in-app on your cellphone or using voice commands. You can even take charge from your Apple Watch giving you complete freedom of choice.
As long as your fixtures and electrical permit, you’ll also be able to dim the brightness levels using these keypads so you’ll get an even more versatile performer than an on/off switch.
The best-connected homes are customized every step of the way so how about making your light switch your own by injecting a little personality?
Insteon offer a fully bespoke keypad with etched buttons so you can replace those pedestrian letters with something a little more descriptive.
If you want a more mobile keypad solution, choose a mini keypad in either 4-scene or 8-scene configuration so you won’t even need to head to the wall to manipulate your lighting by keypad. This works well for anyone not particularly tech-savvy wanting to avoid smartphone control but disinclined to keep jumping up and down to hit the lights.
3) Mobile Phone
Perhaps the most popular and regular approach to controlling the lighting in your smart home is by using an app on your cell phone.
Whether you want smart bulbs, smart switches or smart outlets, you’ll be able to control all of these lighting variants using nothing but a free app and your phone as a remote. Given that pretty much all of us live with our phone within reach at all times, this is arguably among the most convenient methods of control. It’s also probably the first thing you think of when smart home technology pops into your mind.
One of the original and best providers of smart lights, Philips Hue has a broad selection of phone-controllable lighting split into 3 main types:
- White Ambiance
- White and Color Ambiance
Check out our recent article on the Philips Hue Starter Kit for a detailed breakdown of these lights and we’ll stick now to outlining how you can control them remotely…
With most smart lighting if you want more extensive remote control, you’ll need to invest in a central hub. The Philips Hue Bridge is compatible with both Zigbee and HomeKit and gives you scope far beyond lighting but for the purposes of today, all you need to know is that this hub lets you add as many as 50 Hue lights and take charge using the responsive app.
For most smart home enthusiasts, buying a hub is a non-issue, but how about if you’re operating on a tight budget or you have less ambitious needs? Well, consider some LIFX bulbs. You’ll be able to control these smart LED bulbs and light strips without needing to lash out more for a third-party hub.
Sengled also boasts a diverse selection of remote-controllable lights but you’ll also need a hub with these if you want to use your phone to manipulate them.
When you’re using your phone within your smart home, you can avoid accumulating a mountain of remotes. A single app is all that’s required and most smart lights apps are pretty intuitive and beginner-friendly.
Another significant advantage of taking control in-app is the ability to build out Scenes and Routines. You can also integrate your lighting with other appliances in your smart home.
As if all that wasn’t enough motivation, you also get the safety aspect afforded by remote access to your lighting we mentioned earlier. Whether it’s taking advantage of Away mode or simply scheduling your smart lights to come on and off when you’re not at home, you can ramp up security in your connected home in more ways than just relying on a camera or video doorbell.
And the final kicker? You can potentially slash those rampant power bills by eliminating wasted electricity so remote control by mobile phone remains the most popular form of controlling your smart lights.
4) Voice Activation
It’s impossible to talk about smart homes without considering the role of digital assistants and voice control, and lighting is no exception.
Whether you have an Echo device and favor the services of Alexa or you prefer to use Google Assistant, there’s never been a better time to issue voice commands to dim or turn off the lights so you won’t need to lift a finger.
One of the chief advantages of using voice control for your lights comes along with the way you can get your tech working together meaning a single command as you walk in the door can not only make sure the lights come on but also regulate the temperature and even get the coffee maker going.
Setting up your smart lights with either Alexa or Google Assistant is device-specific so we can’t offer a detailed how-to for every permutation. All you need to do, though, is set up your smart light both in-app on your digital assistant and also within its own ecosystem then you’ll be ready to roll.
You can group your lights together so that you can control upstairs or downstairs independently. You’ll also be able to control clusters of lights or specific rooms using voice commands.
With the main bases of smart light control covered, we stated front and center that the fifth method of control would shock you…
And this is because you perhaps thought the days of the physical remote control were over with smart tech. In reality, they’re just getting warmed up and even more intelligent than ever.
For a dose of traditional control with a healthy side serving of smarts, how about the SevenHugs remote?
5) SevenHugs Smart Remote
When we bring you any smart home product, we always prize multi-purpose kit. Think about reading devices, for example. A Kindle is all well and good, but an iPad Mini offers you pretty much everything Kindle does along with a great deal more.
The same principle of maximum value has been applied to this awesome smart remote from SevenHugs and you’ll be able to use it for your smart lights but also for much more in your connected home besides.
We’re a sucker for aesthetics here at Smart Home and this remote looks mighty fine from a design standpoint. Form is useless if it doesn’t encompass function. Luckily, the SevenHugs smart remote hits the spot on both counts. This device reached its funding goal on Kickstarter in just 10 minutes but what’s it all about?
In brief, you’ll be able to control multiple devices from this universal touchscreen remote with Bluetooth, WiFi, and infrared capability.
The key selling point is that all you need to do is point it toward the device in question, whether that’s your Philips Hue lights or your smart TV, and it automatically recognizes that device and allows you to make adjustments.
While it’s great to introduce your kids to smart home technology early on, if they’re too young to be unleashed with a smartphone, this remote makes perfect sense to ease them in. Equally, if you have elderly family members or anyone not particularly keen on tech, the SevenHugs remote is not too much of a leap forward psychologically from a regular remote control.
Here’s what you’ll get in the box along with all necessary guides and instructions:
- Smart Remote
- Charging Base
- 3 x Sensors
- Velcro Strips
Getting up and running is an absolute breeze.
Plug in your charging base and pop the remote on top
- Download then flash up the free SevenHugs Smart Remote app on your cell phone
- Enter your name and email address
- The remote will then be found and a security code pops up on the touchscreen Enter this code in-app on your phone
- Remove the tab from each sensor, and add the Velcro strips
- Place the sensors in the primary room where you want to use your smart remote
- Activate Point Mode
- Wait for the system to update fully
- Add each individual smart device in-app
- Test each device then add more to build out full remote control of all compatible devices
The UI on this remote is great and it makes changing the color of your Hue lights borderline fun, and that’s saying something.
The only real drawback to this remote is that the glass screen obviously offers you nothing by the way of tactile feedback. Depending on how sharp your eyesight is and how keen your focus, you might find it a pleasure to use or something that distracts you from your movie when all you want is to turn the volume down a notch. That said, this is more of an issue with controlling a TV than smart lights. Let’s face it, you’re generally not in urgent need of manipulating the brightness of your bulbs when you’re in the middle of another task so this is worth mentioning but not an issue with smart light control.
In summary, this is by no means cheap but then the best things in life seldom are. If you’ve got a fluid budget and you want the most intelligent remote on the block, check out the SevenHugs Smart Remote and get 2019 going in fine style.
As you can see, you’ve got a diverse spread of control options at your disposal if you want to install and make the most of smart lighting.
Use any of these methods or a combination of all of them and you’ll find your life will get easier as you automate more of the tedious processes in your home.