HomeKit Smart Bulbs vs. Smart Plugs/Switch for lighting

Discussion in 'HomeKit, HomePod, CarPlay, Home & Auto Technology' started by warren8r, Dec 8, 2017.

  1. warren8r macrumors newbie


    Dec 7, 2017
    I have a few smart devices (including a smart plug) that I use for my HomeKit setup and it has been really fun and simple to implement. I am going to take my first stab at lighting and I keep going back and forth on the pros and cons of using smart bulbs vs. smart plugs/light switches. In other words, do I put the "smart" at the source or the display?
    I am leaning on the smart plugs/switches - so I can economically swap out the bulbs whenever I want, but then again, the smart bulbs are cheaper and offer color and other features.
    If anyone has done some exploration in this, would you be so kind as to share?
    Thank you so much in advance!
    P.S. Side question: What happens if you have a non-smart dimmer paired with a smart bulb and you dim both - are there any complications? Thanks!
  2. cynics macrumors G4

    Jan 8, 2012
    I was just talking about this in another thread.

    First, don't use a smart bulb on a dimmer. It needs 120volt and uses its internal circuitry to dim via its apps/controls/whatever.

    Aside from that its completely up to you.

    A smart bulb has a lot to offer, integrated dimming that is better than a dimmer (even the best dimmers) can dim a dimmable LED. If that makes sense? Basically a Philips Hue bulb will have a wider range for dimming than a Philips LED bulb and a Lutron/Leviton smart dimmer. A smart dimmer isn't BAD but LED's just don't dim as well and evenly as an old incandescent. A smart bulb can also be adjusted from white output temperature to its color in general. Many smart bulbs also offer external controls that can be used like a switch. Smart bulbs are infinitely easier to install.

    That said I prefer a control at the source (switch/dimmer). I feel its easier for me personally and guest especially to deal with. If you are walking in a room and find yourself 2 feet away from the switch (since switches are near the entrance of rooms) it just makes sense to flip the switch. They can control other things than just lights, like ceiling fans (dont use a dimmer on a fan). Plus you don't need to worry about losing settings of the bulb if you turn off the switch. Its embarrassing in a first world sort of way explaining to a guest how to work the lights.

    I've been using Leviton HomeKit switches. I got them initially because they don't require a hub. In retrospect now that I have so many I think I would consider Lutron and use a hub so I don't have 20 devices on my Wifi network. However the good thing is there is one less common point that can fail and make all the lights stop working.

    Bulbs are relatively affordable. Go buy a couple and put them in rooms you always use, see how you feel about them. If you don't like them get smart switches and move the smart bulbs to places that are less used.
  3. manuseg macrumors newbie

    Dec 4, 2017
    Bulbs have more to offer in my opinion. You can dim and even change the color of them. I have Philips HUE bulbs all around my place, with Philips motion sensor in the bathroom and Philips wall remote switch. Soon as you get in the bathroom the lights turns on, and you turn them off with the wall remote or you can set them to turn off after a specified time without any motion. Also have remote switches in every room. Philips remote and sensor now works with Homekit. I also use the Apple TV4 as a hub, so when I get home my lights turns on and when I leave they all turn off.
  4. Debauch, Dec 9, 2017
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2017

    Debauch macrumors member

    Jul 6, 2013
    I have caseta switches to control the main lighting with dumb bulbs (so anyone can control lights and I don’t have to worry about someone accidentally turning power off to a smart bulb) and smart color bulbs in lamps (lamps are secondary and only controlled through homekit). Sort of a “best of both worlds” scenario. I also have Lightstrips on automation to add color.
    --- Post Merged, Dec 9, 2017 ---
    I didn’t like the idea of hubs until I had to reset Homekit. One major benefit to hubs is that you don’t need to reconnect each of the individual bits (bulbs for philips and/or switches for lutron). You reconnect the hubs to homekit and the individual bits come with it. Much easier to get a smart home back up and running in case of homekit reset.
  5. mnsportsgeek macrumors 68000

    Feb 24, 2009
    For lights that are on a switch, I'd put in a smart switch for the simple reason that sometimes it is more convenient to use a switch and for guests/friends.

    For lights that aren't on a switch, such as lamps, I'd put in smart bulbs.
  6. parseckadet macrumors 6502a


    Dec 13, 2010
    Denver, CO
    Here's the problem with that thinking, how many light fixtures/circuits have only one bulb? For example, in my master bathroom I have two vanities, each with 4 bulbs. So one switch controls 8 lights. To replace the switch it would be $35-$50. To install Hue lights it would be about $200 just for the white bulbs, or $400 for color (assuming you don't have a hub already).

    Here's another example. The ceiling fan in my bedroom has three bulbs. Now I could do the math on switch vs. bulb, but in this case it's moot because the fixture takes candelabra sized bulbs. I've not found any smart bulbs in that size.

    On top of all of this, add on the points that others have made about switches being easier for family members and guests to understand and I think it's a pretty slam dunk case for switches. Really the only time where smart bulbs are the right answer are when you really want color changing, or if you're renting and aren't allowed to replace switches.
  7. wesley96 macrumors 6502


    Sep 21, 2009
    For use cases where you simply need to control multiple bulbs as if it was a single light, switch is definitely the way to go. That being said, I think the cost estimate is a bit off for the Hue lights. Currently, you can order 4 Hue White bulbs with a bridge for $80 from Amazon, with 4 additional bulb pack for $50. So that's $130, not $200.

    Also, Philips Hue actually has candelabra (E12) sized variety. It's just as costly as the normal (E27) sized one, so cost is the issue, not the availability.
  8. MistrSynistr macrumors 65816

    May 15, 2014
    I have smart plugs because smart bulbs were too $$$ when they first came out. Now they are cheaper than the plugs and wish I had them. The plugs stick out and most of them block the plug underneath. Bulky, silly.
  9. AustinIllini macrumors G3


    Oct 20, 2011
    Austin, TX
    This. Smart bulbs are ideal for lamps, but not a viable solution for switched lighting.
  10. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    Something to consider with switches (aside from dimming, scenes, colors and all the other things smart bulbs like Ikea's and Hues do) is the increasing number of lamps with digital switches, not mechanical ones. I can't use the smart switch on a whole mess of lamps we have in the house since you can't leave them "on" all the time, so it's useless that the smart switch is sending current to them. And that's true with some other devices as well. For some other applications, of course, the smart switches are great. Just make sure you've got something that they CAN control by simply flipping on/off a connection to the AC.

    I do like smart bulbs for stuff controlled by wall switches, in part because it was much cheaper to get even Hue lights and hub and puck remotes than to retrofit the switches (not all landlords like this, etc). For some stuff like a bathroom light I didn't even bother with smart bulbs.

    And I had three overhead lights controlled by a wall switch for dining, and with the Hues I can control them as a group, or individually. It's nice.
  11. mmomega macrumors demi-god


    Dec 30, 2009
    DFW, TX
    Most of the rooms in my house have 4 lights per switch. I installed normal LED bulbs and then a SmartSwitch.
    Maybe $100 total vs $200 for bulbs.
    Multiply that out times 6 rooms like that. Saves $600.

    For nightstands or lamps they get smart bulbs.

    Master Bathroom, no way I'm putting 12 smartbulbs in there when they will NEVER be individually controlled anyway, so a switch there.

    This was my main thought when planning out switches or bulbs.
    Am I going to ever want to dim 1 light independently than those others? No? Then put in a switch.
  12. TheBearman macrumors 6502

    May 23, 2008
    Cary, NC
    A problem you can run into with switches is the need for power to the smart switch. Let me explain... To cut cost I've found electricians will feed a hot wire to several fixture points/rooms. To control the lighting they will then run a single line to the switch point from the light fixture and interrupt the feed at the fixture. What you'll find in your switch box is the single wire feed (14/2) with the white wire on one side of the switch and the black on the other. In such a case you'll be unable to power the electronics within the smart switch and will need to use light bulbs.

    All I'm saying is, check before you order. Look for the single feed to the switch and the use of a single white and single black wire.

    BTW, I'm planning to use switches wherever I have a switch today (if I can). As already stated it's easier for guest to use a switch.
  13. scotio200 macrumors regular

    Mar 4, 2015
    I have had Philips hue bulbs since they were releases. I have needed to buy a replacement hub to give them HomeKit compatibility BUT in the last 6 years I have not needed to replace a single bulb and don't expect to need to for another 15-19 years. Yes they are expensive to begin with but its a one off cost per bulb that you wont need to do for a long time.

    I did get another starter kit when I needed to get a new hub, so actually got 2 more bulbs that I needed anyways and the hub for the price of 2 bulbs on their own. My setup is as follows.

    Living room - Hue bulb in ceiling light and one in a lamp, light strip behind TV cabinet.
    Bedroom - Hue bulb in ceiling light.
    Kitchen - Hue Bulb in ceiling light, 2 light strips under wall cabinets
    Office - Hue bulb in ceiling light, light strip behind desk
    Hall - Hue bulb in ceiling light
    Bathroom - Hue Bulb in ceiling light but used as a normal bulb via the switch. Looking to get a motion sensor for this.
    Toilet - Normal bulb, no need for smart lighting in your loo!

    The living room lights are programmed using IFTT to come on at sunset and all lights will turn off at 11:30pm again using IFTT. I am planning on adding a Home Pod this week to my living room and in the future one in the kitchen (I am currently using Amazon Echo Dots.)

    I also have the Logitech Harmony Remote and hub which allows me to control lights with the TV remote and even dim the lights when I do a certain task (For example all the lights in the living room dim to 10% apart from the strip light when I open the Netflix app on my TV)

    The only issue I have had is when my Fiancé turns off a light by the switch on the wall, this was just with force of habit and only really happened the first few weeks of having the Hue lights.

    Philips are also selling Hue light fittings and lamps, however they are very expensive
  14. mritech, Oct 20, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2018

    mritech macrumors member

    Jul 29, 2015
    This depends on you’re set up Get a lutron caseta switch and use cheap led cree A19 replacement 2 for like 4 bucks at Home Depot if you have a room that you could do with 1 dimmer switch that would be cheaper or if you have high hats already
  15. Toonartist macrumors regular

    Sep 19, 2017
    Newcastle Upon Tyne
    I've been using Philips Hue for a while now, most bulbs in the house are now Hue and they have been excellent. No bulbs failing etc. The benefits of Hue over switches for me. I can control multiple lights at a time with one switch, command, Siri etc. Also (hopefully not for a while) if we move home we just take our bulbs with us and pop in cheaper LED's in there place. Smart wall switches would have to stay, too much of a ball ache swapping them back.... certainly not as easy.

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