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5 features new smart lights

So you’ve given your home the gift of smart lighting. Depending on your particular setup, that meant screwing in bulbs, swapping light switches in walls.
Here are the first things you should try with your lights. I’ll cover simple tasks like daily automation, and grouping lights together and into scenes, plus more advanced pointers, such as enlisting your lights to increase your home’s security.

Smart Bulb Features

Smart bulbs offer a degree of control and interactivity you just can’t get with traditional bulbs, like scheduled timers and remote control options. They’re also more convenient; it’s easier to tap on a smartphone screen than to get up and trudge over to a wall switch.
Aside from keeping you out of the dark, most of the bulbs listed here can be scheduled or controlled remotely, which is great if you want to save on energy costs or you often forget to turn off the lights before leaving the house. Some bulbs use geofencing, which means they work with the GPS in your smartphone to pinpoint your exact location, and can automatically turn the lights on or off when you reach a certain point. Color-changing bulbs are great for mood lighting, and some can even sync up with certain movies and TV shows.
As touched on, some bulbs hook up with Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s HomeKit, or Google Assistant, so you can control your home lighting with your voice. You can also integrate some of the bulbs on this list with security cameras, thermostats, and other smart home devices. If This Then That (IFTTT)compatibility lets you create recipes that automatically cause your lights to react to certain triggers, like phone notifications or changes in weather.
Right now we don’t recommend bulbs that do double-duty as a speaker, as we haven’t found any particularly good ones in testing.

Schedule your lights

Any lighting system labeled as smart should be able to operate on a schedule.
To schedule your lights, first look to the official app for your specific hardware -whether that’s a wall switch, smart plugs, or individual light bulbs. Lutron, Leviton, or Belkin light switches are examples of hardware with companion applications.
Within the app, look for scheduling options for your device. There you can choose to have lights turn on (and off) at specific times.
If there’s a choice for sunrise and sunset timing. It’s a lot easier than choosing specific hours of the day, or confirming exact times for dusk or dawn. And don’t forget to select options for your exact location, along with daylight saving data. It’ll save you from having to manually adjust the schedule as daylight hours shorten and lengthen throughout the year.
If the app for your smart lights does not offer this amount of control, you can use a third-party solution as a workaround. IFTTT is good place to start. The service enjoys a vast library of smart home integrations, connected lighting among them. Among the major players you’ll find there are Philips Hue, Lifx and Belkin Wemo.

Come home to the lights on

No one enjoys coming home to a dark house or pitch-black driveway. At the same time, leaving fixtures and bulbs burning around the clock is a surefire way to waste energy and money.
First check your lighting app to see if there’s a way to make your lights turn on as you arrive home or shut off when you leave. For instance, you can set this up in the Philips Hue app, if you have those lights.
Not available in the app?

Group lights for greater control

An effective way to use smart lights is to group them together by room or zone. For instance, you can schedule all of the lights in your basement go dark after midnight. Or, after 1 a.m. make every light on the main level to dim to 20 percent brightness. You get the idea.
You can do this two ways; using the app for your bulbs or switches, or using a smart speaker, such as Google Home or Amazon Echo. In either case, you can create rooms (or groups) and assign your lights to them so they act as a single unit.
Then, you can schedule the entire room or group to turn on or off at a specific time.

Set the scene

Scenes are another slick hack I recommend. Use them for specific conditions and tasks like watching movies, daytime or nighttime reading, dinner parties, etc.
Within a scene — which is programmable in your smart bulb’s app -you can manipulate brightness, color temperature and even different hues. Once you’ve tweaked a room’s lights just right, save those settings as a scene with a unique label. Once your scene is set up, you’re only an app tap away from your favorite mood lighting.

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