Smart Lights on a budget [How-To]

Say you want to get in on the whole “smart home” craze that has begun to pick up steam, but you don’t want to break the bank just to get your lights to come on automatically. Well thankfully, there are a bunch of wallet-friendly solutions for getting your lighting situation into the “smart home” bubble.

Prerequisites:

  1. Strong home Wi-Fi
  2. A budget
  3. Electricity

Setup:

There are only a few steps for getting smart lights on a budget:

  1. Choosing your light source
  2. Choosing your control method
  3. Integration and optional expansion

Step 1: Choosing your light source

The first thing you’ll need is LED light bulbs. They don’t have to be smart bulbs necessarily, but they are also an option. Regular old-fashioned light bulbs of yesterday won’t get the job done anymore for automated lights, unfortunately. They don’t offer the dimmable functions or efficiency of a standard LED bulb, so it’s time to upgrade! Luckily LED bulbs are rather inexpensive now, a 4-pack of standard size bulbs runs you about 20 bucks at your local store. Also, there are some affordable smart bulb solutions that can get you started even faster but are a bit more expensive.

philips smart bulbs

Smart bulbs from brands like Belkin, GE, LIFX, Philips, and Tikteck are offered in more affordable packages that won’t break the bank for a few bulbs and are also expandable within the brand ecosystem so you can add more lights in the future. Choose the one that looks right to you based on features and price, and set them up for the easiest way to get started with smart home light control.

Step 2: Choosing your control method

Once you’ve decided your lighting choice, the next step is to pick your method of control. There are a few options to control non-smart LED bulbs including smart plugs and smart switches.

wemo

WeMo is a Belkin brand of smart home devices that offer a few different solutions for smart light control. The easiest is the smart plug, a $40 smart outlet that attaches to your current lamps and lights, allowing them to be turned on and off remotely or on a schedule. Just plug it in and set it up on your phone using the app, and you’re done. There are a few different models of smart plug from WeMo that offer additional features and cost a bit more, but we’re focusing on the cheapest option here. Alternatively, the WeMo Light Switch replaces your current light switch for $50 and does much the same thing as the plug version, but for any lights controlled by that switch.

D-Link is alternative to WeMo, as they offer a smart outlet of their own for slightly less money and a bit less functionality. However, if you’re just looking for cheap automated lights and nothing too fancy, then the D-Link smart plugs are a strong option. Other brands offer smart plugs and switches as well, like Lutron, Philips, and Logitech. These tend to be a bit more expensive and require a hub or other hardware to function, however, so may not be the best budget option.

So once you’ve picked your smart system of choice; be it bulbs, switches, plugs or a starter kit, the only thing left to do is to set them up in your home and on your wireless network. Each device has it’s own setup process, so once you’ve completed that you are all set up with smart lighting done affordably. Depending on how many lights and your method of control, a couple of room’s worth of smart lights should cost less than $250.

Step 3: Integration and optional expansion

echo dot and tap

Now, the final step for true smart home light control would be integration into other smart home systems. Products like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo Dot, a $50 smart home hub and speaker, will allow you to voice-control most popular brands of smart products. There are few options this robust in the sub $100 price range, but if eventually down the line you want to add more smart home devices and lighting options there are a few to consider. Products from Samsung, Logitech, and apps like IFTTT all allow additional control over your smart home.

See Also: Making your house WiFi enabled with Alexa and WeMo

Use Google Home to control your lights with Hue

Samsung’s SmartThings, a whole-home smart system that controls most popular brands through a hub and app. The Smart Things ecosystem includes door sensors, light control, and motion sensing along with other smart home devices like garage door openers, cameras, and even sprinklers and door locks. The price for entry into Samsung’s system is reasonable and comes with a few sensors to get you started, but is totally optional as well. Also, the Logitech Harmony remote system is a good option, which offers control of lights and plugs connected to your smart home as well as your entire home theater setup as well, all on the app or one of their excellent remotes.

Smart home technology doesn’t have to break your bank account these days, and even the most simple smart lighting solution can save you money and give you peace of mind. So go ahead and embrace the Internet of Things into your home, and get your own smart home lighting system set up today!