The smart lighting industry is quickly expanding with new products and brands continuously appearing on store shelves. While we all love being spoiled for choice, the wide range of products and brands can sometimes make choosing a lighting system for your home confusing and overwhelming.
I spoke to the Director of Engineering at the ALA to find out which aspects you should consider when choosing the best smart lights for your home. Read on to find out how you can find the best brand to light up your home.
The Philips Hue White and Color Ambience bulb is the best smart light bulb brand when considering the ALA’s most important aspects of rating a smart light bulb according to its ability to produce high-quality light with smart control.
A detailed explanation of these factors in the following article helps you to find the best brand for your lighting system.
- 1. High Efficacy
- 2. Long Rated Life
- 3. Good Color
- 4. Changeable Color (Chromaticity)
- 5. Dimmability
- 6. Controllability
- Energy efficacy
- Life Rating
- Color Rendering
- Changeable Color
- Controllability and Voice Control
What do I Need to Look for When Choosing a Smart Bulb?
Smart bulbs come with different features and effects that also affect the price of individual bulbs.
The ALA suggests that you consider the following factors to rate the bulb’s ability to provide high-quality lighting with smart control in your home.
1. High Efficacy
The efficacy of a light bulb is measured in lumens per watt (lm/watt).
The standard rule for incandescent light bulbs is that a higher wattage means a brighter bulb, but the lm/watt rating on an LED bulb shows how many lumens a bulb can produce with one watt of electrical energy. Lumens are the brightness of the bulb and watts measure the energy used by the bulb.
The higher your lumens per watt, the more energy-efficient your smart bulb and the more energy you save.
2. Long Rated Life
The average smart bulb lasts for 15 000 to 25 000 hours or 15 to 25 years. According to the ALA, you should look for a smart bulb with a predicted life span of 25,000 hours or more to ensure a quality buy.
3. Good Color
The quality of the light of a smart bulb is given through the bulb’s Ra value. The Ra value is the color rendering index and indicates the light’s ability to render colors accurately. Incandescent lights and daylight are described as ideal lighting and the Ra value is based on incandescent light.
Some brands give their Ra values as CRI values, color rendering index, where the numbers carry the same meaning as in the Ra system.
The highest possible value is 100 and the ALA suggests looking for a Ra value of 90 or more to ensure that people and furnishings in the home look their best.
4. Changeable Color (Chromaticity)
Standard light bulbs are often sold with the color descriptions of “cool white” or “warm white”.
The temperature or color of your lighting has a drastic impact on how everything looks in the lit space and it may affect how you function in those spaces. Bulbs that have a color close to daylight, or daylight lamps, help you to feel awake and focused for work.
Daylight temperature laps are also ideal for reading because the color contrast on the pages is better in that light. While the cooler light temperatures are ideal for task lighting and to keep you energized while working, soft light is ideal for relaxing in the evenings and to help you to fall asleep.
Because of the different activities that take place in your home at different times of the day, the ALA recommends choosing a smart bulb that can “tune the color of the light to the changing needs of the users during both day and night”.
Choosing a smart bulb that can be dimmed is often a first step in choosing smart lighting. Dimmer lights help to create the correct ambiance in living spaces and can help you wind down after a long day before going to sleep or they provide light paths during the night without blasting you with full brightness and waking you up.
A dimmable smart bulb should be able to dim smoothly and easily down to 1% of the bulb’s full output using the remote control or app.
This aspect is especially important if you are planning on expanding your smart home system to more than just lighting. Smart technology for homes was first applied in smart lighting, but products that are only compatible with the manufacturer’s app, are a problem for users.
Smart homeowners become overwhelmed with the number of apps that they need to manage their various systems and lose the convenience of their smart systems. The ALA names the integration of the lighting product as a key aspect to consider when choosing your smart lighting brand.
Ensure that the smart bulb does not only work with the manufacturer’s app but can be controlled by apps and systems used for other devices. Hubs and universal apps often make this integration easier as long as your products are compatible.
These aspects should make it easier for you to decide whether specific bulbs are a good buy. To make it easier for you, I researched 9 popular smart bulbs and rated them according to the ALA’s recommended guidelines.
The following table shows how the popular smart bulbs of 2021 compare to each other according to the described categories.
|Philips Hue White and Color Ambience||Lifx Mini White LED||Sengled Soft White A19 Bulb||TP-Link Kasa Smart Light Bulb, Multicolor KL125||Yeelight Smart LED Bulb W3 (dimmable)||Philips Wiz Smart Wi-Fi LED Color Bulb||Cree Lighting Connected Max Tunable White + Color Bulb||Wyze Bulb||C by GE Smart 60-Watt EQ A19 Full Color Dimmable Smart LED Light Bulb|
|Long rated life||25 000 hours||15 000 hours||25 000 hours||25 000 hours||25 000 hours||25 000 hours||25 000 hours||15 000 hours||15 000 hours|
|Good colour (CRI / Ra)||91 at full brightness||89||90||90||80||90||90+||90+||90|
|Changeable color (chromaticity)||✓||X The temperature of light only||X||✓||X The temperature of light only||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Dims smoothly and easily to 1% of full output||Dimmable but no deep dimmable function||✓||✓ with app||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓ Not able to dim fully to 1% of full brightness||✓|
|Controllability||Compatible with major universal apps||Compatible with Smart Things||Compatible with SmartThings, Wink, and IFTTT||X||✓||X||Compatible with SmartThings, WeMo and Wink||X||X|
|Voice Control||✓||✓||✓||✓ no support for HomeKit||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
Is Philips Hue the Best Option for Smart Bulbs?
Choosing your smart lighting system does depend on the features that are most important to you and that are the reason for you buying the smart bulb.
The paragraphs below will discuss the features of the bulbs and how they compare in the table above.
As can be seen in the table, The Philips Hue and Yeelight smart bulbs have the best energy rating of the listed bulbs, ensuring the largest saving for your household. Both bulbs have the same efficacy, making them equals in this category, with the Philips Wiz coming in at a close second.
The average smart bulb seems to have an energy efficiency of around 88lm/W, but the Wyze bulb and Cree Connected specifically disappoint with notably low values in this category.
The average smart bulb is said to have a life rating of 15 000 – 25 000 hours, but according to the values provided in the table, it looks to be an “either-or” option, rather than a range.
Most of the bulbs have a life expectancy of 25 000, suitable for the ALA’s recommendation of 25 000 hours or more.
The LIFX bulb, Wyze bulb, and C by GE have a much shorter life prediction than the other bulbs, with only 15 000 hours, which is important to consider in long-term cost calculations.
The average smart bulb has a color rendering index of 90 at its brightest setting. The Philips Hue bulbs have a slightly higher rating of 91, while the Yeelight bulb, otherwise comparable to Philips Hue, disappoints in this aspect with a lower than recommended index of only 80.
The Cree Connected and C by GE bulbs promise an index that may be higher than 90, but without specific figures, I would read this as an average rating of 90.
Multicolor bulbs and rainbow lighting are not a priority for every smart homeowner and can be a category to compromise on when choosing a bulb.
As can be seen in the table, the bulbs that cannot change color are the white bulbs which can only change the temperature of the white light but cannot be switched into a rainbow palette.
The Philips Hue Ambience lights come in a starter pack with white and color bulbs, and the table indicates the option of color changing for the color bulbs specifically. The selected Yeelight bulb was the dimmable bulb that cannot change its color besides tuning the temperature of the white light.
While this may be a disadvantage when comparing the Philips Hue Color Ambience bulb, it is important to note that the Yeelight multicolor bulb is not dimmable, coming up short in either one of the two categories when compared to the Philips Hue bulb.
All smart bulbs listed in the table are dimmable using a control or app. The ALA recommends a quality check for dimming to be the smooth dimming to 1% of the bulb’s full brightness.
The Wyze bulb does not meet this requirement, while the rest of the listed bulbs do. It is important to note that the Philips Hue bulbs can dim fully, these bulbs do not yet have the new deep dimming software that the newer Philips bulbs have for an improved dimming effect.
Controllability and Voice Control
In the table, controllability was limited to apps that are separate from the voice systems that often integrate smart home systems. Voice assistants were included in the aspect of voice control. All these bulbs can be integrated into your larger smart home ecosystem, although the process will be easier with some.
The Smart Life app is a common universal app that is compatible with all apps indicated as compatible with other apps under controllability.
If you are looking for other apps that you can use, you can have a look at the list of smart lighting apps that are compatible with Philips Hue that I listed in my post on adding the Hue widget on your phone.
We Asked a Lighting Expert About Everything You Need For Smart Lighting. Feel free to click on the link to find helpful info.
Is the Philips Hue Worth the Money?
The Philips Hue bulbs are not only the best brand of smart bulbs available on the market, but they are also a more costly option.
Various smart bulb brands and models include different features and effects which often lead to higher prices. These features are worth the cost if they have a legitimate purpose in your home and can enhance the space that they are lighting up.
Philips Hue bulbs have excellent color and lifespan, with a vast product range, making it easy to expand your lighting system with equally powerful products.
Hue has sturdy hardware and is compatible with universal apps and voice assistants for easy smart home system integration.
Their high energy-efficiency rating will ultimately lead to you saving money as they use significantly less power than traditional bulbs and have a predicted life of 25 000 hours, saving a notable amount of money in energy costs.
Initial start-up costs for Philips Hue bulbs are also higher because of the Hue bridge that acts as the hub of the Hue lighting system. The bridge supports up to 50 devices though, making it a rare or even single buy that results in a smooth and reliable lighting system in your home.
Philips Hue bulbs can be bought at reasonable prices on sale and in bulk, and I recommend being strategic in your purchases, choosing specific products, and waiting for bargain buys.
If you do not care about specific features, such as color-changing, or the highest possible CRI, Philips Hue may not be for you, and you can choose my provided list of specifications to decide which bulb suits your needs best.
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