How Can I Control My Lights When Away From Home?

Leaving a light on when not at home: sometimes it is a purposeful safety practice and sometimes it is a frustrating headache. Either way, is it possible to control your lighting, as you need to, from a distance? How smart is your smart lighting?

Smart lights can be controlled remotely using various apps or voice assistant systems, given the controlling device is connected to an internet source. If the smart lighting system is based on smart bulbs, the light switches must always be switched on. Bluetooth bulbs must be connected to a hub that connects them to an internet connection.

Controlling your lights when away from home is quite easy once your system is set up. Below you will find more information about the apps that you can use and what you need to consider when setting up your lights to be controlled when you are not at home.

How can I control my house lights remotely?

1. Use an app to control smart lights

Depending on your smart home platform and ecosystem, apps can be used to control your light bulbs, switches, or hubs. Apps can also be used to group lights to switch an entire group on or off at the same time.

This article we wrote is an excellent guide on grouping your smart lights.

Choosing the best app depends on the existing smart technology in your home and how many systems you want to be able to control with your chosen app. Single-tasking apps will only be able to control one system or device, which is fine if you are starting small and only have one smart lamp or one smart switch connected to the lights in one room of your house.

For a more integrated system, a multi-tasking app is a better choice because it integrates all the smart devices in your household and makes them easier to manage.

Popular apps that can be used to control smart lights away from home include, in no particular order:

  1. Philips Hue App
  2. Smart Life
  3. Apple Home
  4. Yonomi
  5. Samsung SmartThings
  6. Belkin Wemo
  7. Wink
  8. Google Home

Some apps have a setting that detects whether you are home or not and switches lights on and off accordingly. The video below shows how to set this up in the Philips Hue app.

2. Use a virtual home assistant

The three main virtual home assistants are Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. Each one of them can follow your instructions to connect to your home system and switch your lights on and off or dim them and change their color.

Even though these assistants respond to a simple spoken command when you are at home, you do need their corresponding apps (Alexa’s app, Google Home and Apple Home) to connect them to your home system remotely. If you have these apps installed, a spoken command still works to ask your assistant to control your lighting through the app when you are away from home.

Virtual assistants also have some cool functions like Alexa’s “Away” lighting. For this function, Alexa monitors your habits and mimics these when you are on vacation. This function needs to be switched on in the app, but then Alexa makes sure it looks like someone is home by ensuring lighting patterns true to your habits.

Google Home can do something similar where you can set up a Google routine that will switch your lights on and off at random to make it seem like you are at home. These functions make it unnecessary to control your lights when you are not at home, as your assistant does it for you.

What can I do with Wyze?

Wyze is an up-and-coming technology company that offers smart lighting technology at affordable prices. Wyze lights can be integrated with Alexa or Google Home and controlled in the same way as I explained above.

Unfortunately, Wyze bulbs are not compatible with Apple HomeKit yet but they do have a great benefit when compared to the Philips Hue app because they do not need a hub to be connected to an app, keeping your start-up costs low.

Wyze also have their own app that you can use with their smart bulbs, which allows you to control the lights from anywhere. Just like your virtual assistants and the Philips Hue app, the Wyze app also allows you to switch to vacation mode which will turn off your lights at random to create the illusion that you are home.

This process is similar to the one from Google Home and not quite as sophisticated as Alexa’s mimicking of your usual routine.

Lights can be controlled manually through apps or with routines and scenes preset with your virtual assistant.

Must smart lights be switched on to be controlled remotely?

Smart lights can be controlled as long as they are connected to the internet. Smart light bulbs must therefore be switched on at the hard switch for you to control them remotely.

Smart switches don’t have this problem and can be controlled as long as your device is connected to the internet and your home internet is functioning.

You can read more about the benefits of smart switches when compared to smart bulbs in another article that I wrote on that specific topic.

Do you need a hub to control your smart lights remotely?

This depends entirely on your smart lighting technology. If your lights are connected through Bluetooth, they will not be able to be controlled when out of range unless you also plug them into a hub that connects them to an internet source.

If you have bulbs or switches that connect directly to a Wi-Fi connection, you will be able to control them remotely as long as you have an internet connection, no hub needed. Zigbee bulbs, like the Philips Hue, are bulbs that cost less than Wi-Fi bulbs, but they also need a hub plugged into your router to connect them to an internet source.

Luckily, some smart devices, the Amazon Echo, for example, double as Zigbee hubs. 

What is the best way to control smart LED bulbs?

The ideal way for you to control your smart lights is a personal choice and depends on the system that you already have in place. Apple HomeKit has a limited number of devices, but if you use only Apple products, this is a great system for you to use and integrate into your Smart Household.

The Philips Hue app is very popular and is compatible with other brands too. It does have a high start-up cost though because all devices need to be connected to a bridge, which adds to the initial costs. Google Home is a dynamic and widely compatible assistant that is praised for its responsiveness and how well it understands your commands. 

While it is convenient to be able to quickly switch off a light that you left on, this is not really what you want to be able to control your lights for when you are not at home, and I would say that the “away” option on either an app or from a virtual assistant is your best bet.

Using these preset routines you do not need to worry about checking on your lights and you can know that they will be on and off at the exact times that you need them to be.

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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.