It can be confusing to buy smart lighting and install it, so we have some tips for you here. We also have a separate guide on how to use smart lighting to transform your child’s bedroom.
Finding the ideal location for your smart lighting will maximize its impact. Consider potential reflectors, especially if you are installing them in a living room or office, as you do not want your smart lights to be reflected on a TV or screen. Always carry a cable to an electrical outlet, so consider cable management to best hide it. Connect the lighting and connect it via the app before installing it. With panels, make your design first and make sure you are happy with it before trying to put it on your wall.
Most smart light panels and moldings come with adhesive on the back. You need to prepare them properly before you start sticking. It is crucial to clean the wall before installation and follow the instructions to the letter to ensure that it adheres and remains (if it says “press for 30 seconds”, do so). Be sure to lock your curious cat or dog in another room while you install it!
Removing panels and moldings can damage your walls. I have had cracked paint and plaster plaster when I have removed some smart lighting. Walking slowly and applying heat with a hair dryer can help reduce the risk of injury, but the difficulty of this process is a solid reason to be careful with your installation.
The brightness of the lighting is measured in lumens. A standard 60-watt bulb, for example, emits about 800 lumens. Because most decorative smart lighting is not designed to be the primary light source, it is often quite limited in brightness, so keep this in mind.
RGB (red, green, blue) is standard and mixes these three to make other colors. RGBW includes a proper white along with red, green and blue, which provides greater flexibility and is important if you want high quality white light. The color temperature is measured in Kelvin (K) and is specified as a range (eg 1200K – 6500K). This range dictates how warm or cool your lighting can get. Perhaps counterintuitively, red and orange are at the lower end of the scale, and blue is at the higher end. The last thing to keep in mind is the Color Rendering Index (CRI), a score out of 100 that indicates how effectively a light can mimic daylight. It affects how the colors of illuminated objects appear. With low CRI scores, reds can e.g. look brown. A score of 80 or above will work fine in most situations.
Most smart lighting is connected via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and controlled by an app on your phone. You need a decent Wi-Fi signal or to be within Bluetooth range. While for simplicity it may seem desirable to have lighting connected directly to Wi-Fi or to use Bluetooth, there are benefits to systems with dedicated hubs. With Philips Hue, for example, light is much faster to connect and respond to commands using Hue Hub than via Bluetooth in the app. Most smart lighting can be controlled by smart voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri, but make sure you check the compatibility before you buy. You will probably want a smart speaker or smart screen in the same room as your lighting.
Consider physical control. Smart lighting must be plugged in and on at all times to be responsive. If it’s only app-controlled, it can be difficult for children in the home or visitors to turn the light on or off. Many light strips and panels also come with a control unit with physical buttons and sometimes a button to cycle through colors or effects – it’s worth looking for if you have children at home.
Check how many zones your smart lighting supports. Smart light strips at the cheap end of the market may have only a single zone, which means that the entire strip can only reproduce one color at a time. If you want more colors or animated effects, you want more zones (the more, the better).
For light strips, check the length and measure it out in your room before you buy. Cheap light strips may lack protective coatings for the LEDs, which will affect the service life. If you want to cut a light strip to a certain length, make sure that your preferred option allows for this, and be very careful to follow the instructions. Some light strips can also be extended, but always check before you buy.
There may be some concerns about privacy with smart lighting. The ambient lights here, which offer a reactive mode that changes the lights in time with the sound in your room, have microphones so that this feature can work. This is something to be aware of, even though companies claim that they do not record sound or transmit it anywhere, and that everything remains on the device.