Smart Switches, or Smart Bulbs?

If you are planning to put in smart lighting in a room, you have two options, you can go with smart switches or smart bulbs. But which is the better option for you? There are no wrong options, they both will work well. Smart bulbs and smart switches each have their pros and cons.

Smart bulbs, have the option to change colour or the white temperature (from cool blue to warm white), they usually come with apps to play with them, and some features only found with smart bulbs. Smart switches cannot change colour or white temperature. They can only toggle on/off or dim them.

However with smart bulbs, switches must be left on permanently. If the switches was turned off, there are no power to smart bulbs therefore they cannot be toggled on automatically. They need power to be able to turn on by itself. Think of TV’s. You can turn them off with your remote. But the TV is technically still on. It’s still plugged to the wall, therefore drawing very little power, waiting for your command to turn it on. Press the remote, and viola! It turns on. If you unplugged the TV from the wall, it has no power. If you wanted to turn it on by pressing the power button on the remote, the TV will not turn on. The very exact same thing applies to smart bulbs. It needs power to be able to turn on automatically. You can turn the power off at the wall to turn off the smart bulbs, but you have to manually flick it back on to turn the bulb on. This defeats the purpose of automating smart bulbs.

I’ll give you an example. My bathroom has smart bulbs, connected to motion sensor. You walk into my bathroom, the lights will come on. And turn off when you leave the bathroom. It’s automatic. However because of that, my wall switch (not a smart one) always stays on. If a friend of mine who goes in my bathroom and does his business, and then leaves and turns off the switch by habit – he kills the power to the smart bulbs. The next person goes into my bathroom, the motion sensor is triggered and tries to signal the smart bulbs to come on, but they cannot turn on because they have no power.

Smart switches solves this issue. You can toggle a smart switch off to kill the power to whatever it’s connected to, but the smart switch is always powered internally. If something is to trigger it to turn it back on, it can do that. If I used a smart switch instead of smart bulbs in the bathroom as per the example above, it would have solved this issue. A friend of mine could push the switch to turn it off, and it’ll still be able to wait for a command from the motion sensor to automatically trigger the switch on if the motion sensor triggers it.

Also the cost is a factor. Smart switches are generally more expensive than smart bulbs (excluding colour bulbs). If you have a room with multiple lights, such as kitchen, dining table, or basements, where you could have several lights, it would be more cost-effective to control them all with a smart switch, rather than replacing multiple light bulbs with smart bulbs. If replacing just a single light, such as a bedroom, or closet light, smart bulb would be better.

Being Deaf, sometimes it’s better to use coloured bulbs for notification purposes.

If you go with smart bulbs, just be mindful of switches. Cover them up, or tape them up.

Discussed in the video in ASL!

Products shown: Philips Hue colour and Inovelli red series switch.

Published by Ross LaVallee

Deaf, smart home enthusiast. Plays around with smart home technology to see how much can be squeezed out of it to benefit the Deaf / Hard of Hearing community for accessibility uses.

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