Do Smart Lights Use Power When Off? We Got Info

Smart light bulbs can make your life a lot easier. However, if you specifically want to invest in smart lighting to save power and reduce your monthly electricity bill, you will be wondering: do they tick the boxes when considering energy efficiency? In other words, will they save you money on electricity in the long run?

Smart light bulbs use a small amount of power while they are off. There is a small current flow through the smart bulb so that it can “listen” for a command to turn the device on. The energy required for this stand-by mode varies for bulbs of different brands and is affected by several factors.

Using LED lights has been shown to greatly reduce our electricity usage in the home. With the rise of smart technology in our homes, the following question arises: “Do smart LED bulbs show the same reduction in energy use and money spent on electricity bills as regular LEDs, even if they are connected to our phones or WiFi?” Carry on reading to find out!

Smart lights use power even when they are off

When comparing LED light bulbs to traditional incandescent light bulbs, as well as fluorescent, CFL, and halogen lights, LEDs require way less energy to shine at a comparative brightness. This is true for both normal and smart LED bulbs. 

However, smart bulbs are LED light bulbs that have much greater functionality than normal or “dumb” LED bulbs. Smart bulbs can be connected to your phone, WiFi, or a home assistant to automate your lighting, change the brightness and colors of your lights and even control your lights remotely. 

With this increased functionality comes an increase in power usage. While the Linked Non-Dimmable A19 LED light bulb producing 1600 lumens requires 14W, the Philips A21 E26 smart bulb with the same light output requires 17W.

In addition, smart bulbs are classified as “vampire devices.” This means that they use electricity when they are not in use. Also referred to as standby power or phantom power, this electricity is used to make the smart bulb immediately responsive to commands. 

This command may be sent via WiFi, a hub, your home assistant, or from an app on your phone, depending on how your smart bulb is connected. As soon as one of these systems sends a signal to the bulb to turn on, it does. This convenience has the cost of a small amount of electricity used while on standby mode. 

(Another example of a vampire device would be a television – it uses a small amount of electricity to be able to respond to a signal from the remote as soon as it is sent.) 

If a Philips Hue White and color ambiance Single bulb E26 is used for 8 hours a day, only 8,99% of its total power usage is attributed to being in standby mode.

How much electricity do smart bulbs use while they are off?

The amount of electricity used while the smart light bulb is off is negligible in most cases. 

The exact amount can depend on:

The brand of the smart bulb 

On the website How-To Geek, Craig Lloyd compared three different light bulbs in terms of how much electricity they use in standby mode. 

The table below shows the average wattage display of these three bulbs and the approximate calculated cost per bulb per month based on Craig’s data and calculations. 

Light bulbAverage wattage display on a Kill A Watt electricity usage monitor (watts) Approximate cost per bulb per month*(cents)
Philips Hue White smart bulb0.151.6
Eufy Lumos Wi-Fi smart bulb0.55.4
GoControl Z-Wave smart bulb1.6617.9

* assuming an electricity cost of 15 cents per kWh

Based on the Philips user manual, the Philips Hue White And Color Ambiance bulb has a maximum standby power of 0.45 W. 

This means that if this bulb is used for 8 hours a day (and is switched off for 16 hours a day), it would use 0.0072kWh in standby mode per day. The cost of this bulb in standby mode would thus be just over 3 cents per month. 

The system in which the smart bulb is connected 

A smart bulb that is controlled individually by an app on your phone may draw less power than a smart bulb that is connected to a system of other devices on a hub, for example. The more devices a smart bulb communicates with while on standby mode, the more power it will draw. 

Are smart lights always on?

Smart lights have to be on in order to be able to receive a command from the device they are connected to. They can be turned off so that they do not shine. However, they will still use a small amount of electricity when they are not shining. 

The only way in which a smart bulb can be made not to draw any electricity at all is to switch off the switch that controls it or remove it from its power source. This would have the effect of making the smart bulb “dumb.” It would no longer respond to commands from the device controlling it. 

If you would like to save electricity, purchasing normal LED lights would be a better option than having smart bulbs that you turn off at the switch. The latter would cost a lot of money for functionality that you would not have. 

It is worth noting that the bulb only experiences wear and tear while emitting light. There is thus no need to switch off its power source to increase its longevity. 

Does using smart lights save electricity? 

When comparing smart lights to traditional light bulbs such as incandescent, fluorescent, CFL, or halogen, they save electricity. 

When compared to “dumb” LED lights, whether or not electricity is saved may depend on the habits of the family in the home. 

Smart bulbs use more electricity than non-smart LED lights when both are switched on for the same amount of time each day because non-smart LED lights do not have a vampire draw. 

However, one of the benefits of smart bulbs is that they can turn themselves off automatically. This means that if your family has the habit of forgetting to turn the lights off during the day, smart lights might be a good option for you to save money on electricity. 

By automatically turning themselves off at a specific time in the morning, smart lights reduce the amount of time which your lights are on. 

@JulieK via Twenty20

When do smart lights use more power?

The amount of power that is used by a smart light may be affected by the light’s brightness.

The brightness of smart lights can be changed to suit the time of day, the mood you want to create and the activity you are busy with. 

For example, if you are watching a movie you will probably want to dim the lights to very low brightness. If you are working at your desk or your child is doing his homework, a higher brightness will be optimal. You would also set the brightness lower for a romantic dinner for two than for a big family meal. 

Smart light bulbs use more electricity when they are set at a higher brightness. Interestingly, the increase in power usage is not linear: a 50% increase in brightness leads to a more than 50% increase in power usage. 

Once again, if you want to save electricity and do not use the dimming (and brightening) function of your lights, for this reason, you would be better off simply purchasing non-smart LED lights. 

Interestingly, the color of your smart light should not affect the amount of electricity it draws. Even though different colors have different frequencies and thus different energy requirements, different colors would just shine at a different brightness with the same power input. 

In other words, there is no need to stick to a certain lighting color to save electricity in your home. 

Does using smart bulbs save money? 

Whether or not you can save money in your home by installing smart bulbs depends on which bulbs you are currently using. 

Although using smart bulbs can save a significant amount of electricity when compared to incandescent light bulbs, and thus reduce your electricity bill, the savings are significantly reduced when they are compared to regular LED lights. 

Because smart LEDs are so much more expensive than regular LEDs (the price is 2 to 4 times more), it will take much longer to break even and then start saving money with a smart bulb. If you add the cost of vampire draw (which, though insignificant for one bulb may add up if you have many bulbs in your home), savings are reduced further. 

If you would like to install LED lights in your home with the main objective of saving money, regular LEDs would be a better option for you than smart bulbs. 

Should you turn solar lights off at night?

Smart bulbs for outside your home may be powered using solar energy. 

Regular solar lights can be switched off while they are charging, for example, or when you want to store them away during a rainy season. However, they will not shine if they are switched off and should thus not be turned off at night if you want them to shine. 

Smart lights that are powered by solar energy, like indoor smart LEDs, have a vampire draw to pick up commands from the devices they are linked to. Turning off a solar-powered smart light would thus turn it into a regular LED light.

Home Streamliner’s Take:

Although smart bulbs have many advantages and can make our lives much easier, they would not be the best choice for someone wanting to save money in their homes. 

This is due to:

  • The high initial cost of smart bulbs when compared to regular LEDs
  • The cost of vampire draw, which can add up if many bulbs are used throughout the home

If your main priority is to save money, installing regular LEDs in your home would be your best bet. 

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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.