Smart lighting buying guide: How to choose the right one for your home
Smart home set-ups range from the high end – fully integrated, professionally installed systems, which control everything from your blinds, air-conditioner and garage door – to inexpensive D.I.Y. models that can often be fairly easily retrofitted.
Many appliances or systems can be controlled using an app on a smart device, connected via bluetooth or wi-fi. However, you may also want to consider the benefits of using a smart hub, which enables you to coordinate your smart products so they talk to each other and perform functions or ‘routines', like turning on the kettle at a set time after your heating comes on. Certain smart home controllers, like Google Home, respond to voice commands.
Easy to retrofit or install in new builds, adding smart LED lighting can be as simple as replacing a light bulb. It can be operated remotely via an app so you can, for example, switch it on and off to give the impression someone is at home – handy for security reasons. Plus, you can use your phone to check live energy reports to help you monitor your usage.
Some smart lights, including Philips Hue, offer myriad lighting effects, with a spectrum of colours from the one bulb that can be synced to your music, TV and games for an immersive effect.
The possibilities with smart lights range from novel effects (bulbs that flash colours when you receive a text message) to the incredibly practical, such as versions that incorporate movement sensors – perfect for late-night trips to the toilet. A smart light is also an easy way to add dimmable lights to a lounge or bedroom without the need for electrical rewiring.
Be aware that completing the set-up will require technical knowledge. Smart lights can talk to each other via their own bluetooth network; this is effective if they're in close proximity. However, where multi-level homes or greater distances are involved, you could consider using a local wi-fi network, which will allow you to operate lights from different rooms or remotely from your smartphone.
Smart plugs make inaccessible power points easy to control via your smartphone. Whether they are located behind your Christmas tree powering your decorative lights or behind your entertainment unit serving devices that are in stand-by mode while you’re away, these plugs add the benefit of safety as well as energy savings to previously hard-to-access power points.
Smart home technology is also inching outdoors. Devices can be used to control garden and path lighting to achieve different effects, which can be practical as well as a fun touch when you’re entertaining. Products such as the Holman smart tap timer allow you to program and control watering from your smartphone.
The latest smart security technology can give you control over your front door. Bluetooth-enabled locks control the latch with your phone for ease of use. “You can register up to eight smart devices and RFID (radio frequency identification) key tags and get notifications on who enters and exits,” says Christopher Long, business development manager at Digital Door Locks. Some locks also allow biometric access via fingerprint recognition. Another innovative gadget is the video doorbell, which lets you view your entrance and answer the front door via a smartphone or tablet. When you answer an alert, you can see and hear visitors and speak to them remotely, ideal if you want to let someone in while you're out. Smart security systems send you an alert if the alarm is triggered.
Wi-Fi-enabled outdoor smart security cameras provide round-the-clock surveillance, monitored via your smart device. “You can control your cameras and view footage remotely and, if something happens, be alerted in real time,” says Nick Nigro, national account manager for Australian home security firm Swann. Swann cameras use True Detect heat-sensing technology, so they're about seven times more accurate than cameras that use motion detectors, says Nick. “The camera only records when it senses people, large pets and cars, which preserves battery life and means you only get sent relevant push notifications,” he explains.
Renters can benefit too – some devices are battery powered so there's no need to drill holes or run cables; you just need a phone and a wi-fi connection. Certain cameras even have a built-in speaker, microphone and two-way audio functionality, allowing you to communicate with the person at your front door remotely.
Smart home hub: A central hub that can communicate over a range of network protocols (for example wi-fi or bluetooth) to connect various home automation devices.
Bluetooth: Allows fixed and mobile devices to exchange data within wireless personal area networks (WPAN). Limited in range from 10 to 30 metres.
Geo-fencing: A location-based feature used to trigger a pre-programmed function when your phone or tablet enters or leaves a virtual perimeter for a geographical area, such as your smart lights turning on when you pull into the driveway.
To ensure seamless connectivity between devices, it's best to call in a tech expert.
Visit your local Bunnings to shop our range of smart home products.
Photo credit: Gap Interiors/Colin Poole; Gap Interiors/Bureaux