Which smart light bulbs are best?
Light bulbs are far more advanced than they once were. Nowadays, connecting your smart home means learning how to use smart light bulbs. You may need patience and time to acclimate to using smart bulbs — first, try starting with a solo bulb to see if it works in your home and with your hub.
Our buying guide gives you the basics on what it takes to light up a smart bulb, plus a short list of our favorites, including the popular Philips Hue White Ambiance 60W LED Smart Bulb, which offers various settings so you can customize your lighting for every occasion.
What to know before you buy smart light bulbs
Hub vs. no hub
Smart bulbs don’t simply screw into a lamp socket and turn on. When choosing a smart bulb, the biggest question is whether to buy a brand that requires a hub or one that works hub-free from a smartphone and app. There are pros and cons to both types of bulbs. The bottom line: decide how you’re going to control your bulbs. Always check what the bulb needs to work before purchasing and what smart home platforms it’s compatible with so it can easily interact.
Hub: Bulbs that are connected to a hub work more consistently than hub-free ones. You need to buy a separate hub to access the smart features in your bulb unless it’s compatible with the one you have. Though brands often require their own dedicated hub for their bulbs, it means it’s a more robust system that lets you control your lighting from remote distances. The hub has to plug into your router, and setup can be a bit complicated since it can be controlled by multiple users.
No hub: Without a hub, your smart bulb essentially works right out of the box. You can work certain smart bulbs over WiFi, built-in Bluetooth, or an app and link it to other smart home gadgets like Alexa and Nest. The light can only be controlled by those with the app.
What to look for in quality smart light bulbs
After the initial setup, working a smart bulb can be fun, even if all you have to play with are thousands of shades of cool and warm white. If you want to use your smart bulbs to set a mood, you may want to try out one with color-changing functionality.
A number of smart bulbs also function as basic speakers. The quality of the audio won’t be ideal, but you may like the option of having music stream through your home without having to set up more expensive devices.
How much you can expect to spend on smart light bulbs
Expect to pay more for a smart bulb because of all the built-in technology. Look for sales where you can buy one bulb for $4-$8, so you can test it out first. Or if you’re already sold on the technology, you can outfit your whole home. When not on sale, prices range from $9-$15, mostly with just white light capabilities. At $15-$30, you begin to find dimmable and color-changing bulbs. Multipacks of smart bulbs begin at the $30 price point.
Smart light bulbs FAQ
Do smart light bulbs save energy?
A. Smart bulbs are LED bulbs, resulting in double energy savings. Smart bulbs are set to go on when necessary, so you’re never wasting electricity. LED bulbs use 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent or halogen bulbs. In other words, you won’t have to open your wallet quite so often when it comes to smart bulbs.
Can I use smart bulbs outdoors?
A. Yes, there is a growing selection of outdoor smart bulbs suitable for wet locations. There are floodlights that can be connected to hubs and bridges or used via your smartphone. The only caveat — an outdoor light on a hub may need to be located within 30-60 feet of the hub, because metal and other exterior materials may block signals.
What are the best smart light bulbs to buy?
Top smart light bulbs
Our take: This smart bulb continues to improve by generation. Once it’s up and running, find your perfect white light by adjusting through the thousands of shades of cool to warm whites.
What we like: The bulb fits a standard socket and acts like a regular bulb if you don’t have a bridge to make it smart. It pairs with Hue Bridge, and the bulb is compatible with Alexa and Echo, making the learning curve easier.
What we dislike: It’s pricey and complicated to set up.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top smart light bulbs for the money
Our take: A versatile smart bulb that works with Alexa and Google. It’s also a bit easier to set up than a few other smart bulbs since it doesn’t require a hub.
What we like: The circadian setting turns on in the morning and brightens throughout the day, finally dimming in the evening. The bulb can be dimmed down to 1% for a candle-like glow.
What we dislike: Customer service is on the light side.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
Our take: A simpler Bluetooth set up that makes this a perfect smart bulb for newbies to try out.
What we like: It’s always good to go with a product that’s evolved beyond the first generation, like this bulb. It’s fun to use, thanks to a color palette of millions of possibilities in addition to cool and warm whites. A sunrise feature acts as an alarm clock and brightens throughout the day. You don’t need controllers or hubs, just your smartphone and the bulb’s app.
What we dislike: The app could work better. Kinks and bugs that may cause bulbs to disconnect need to be worked out.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Marilyn Zelinsky-Syarto writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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