Smart lighting solutions: Here are nine options to choose from
Having a smart home isn't just about clever appliances or smartphone-controlled heating, there are also robotic vacuum cleaners, Bluetooth-enabled showerheads and music-playing mirrors available. However, and perhaps more importantly, you can also get clever lights too.
You switch lights on or off everyday and they can play an essential part in creating an ambience in a room, but once you are comfy on the sofa, the last thing you want to do is get up to turn the light off. Therefore, we have rounded up five of the best smart lighting options to consider installing that will ensure once you have sat down to watch that film, the only thing you'll need to move for is getting the popcorn out of the microwave.
Philips Hue has been around a while now, but it doesn't just offer a clever way to control your lights, it sets a new precedence when it comes to creating a mood in a room.
The wireless system allows you to use your smartphone to not only switch the LED bulbs on and off, but you'll also be able to pick the colour and brightness you want them to be.
Additionally, the system lets you program specific times so if you want everyone in the house to be woken up at 7am every morning by bright lights, this is possible, although you might not be favourite for doing it.
The Philips Hue starter pack offers three light bulbs and a wireless base that can control up to 50 bulbs but you can add more £50-a-pop bulbs as time goes on. If you are lucky enough to have a house that has more than 50 bulbs, bear in mind you'll need an extra wireless base.
PRICE: £179.95 for the starter pack, £49.95 per bulb thereafter
READ: Philips Hue review
MK Electric Astral
The MK Electrical Astral system from Honeywell will enable anyone with an iPhone, iPad or iPod to turn their lights on or off, as well as dim their lights from their device.
Astral doesn't require you to change your lightbulbs to work but you will need to swap your existing switches for Astral units and connect a Smart Interface to your router, after which the power of the lights is in your hands, literally.
The app will let you see which lights are on, allow you to turn them on or off remotely and you will also be able to set "scenes" so if you have a particular preference for movie watching, you can create this.
The Astral system also offers a holiday mode so you can make people think you are at home much easier than Macaulay Culkin did in Home Alone.
PRICE: From £45.99 for a 1G Dimmer Fascia
AVAILABILITY: Available now from Z-Wave Products.
Belkin WeMo Smart LED lighting
Belkin offers all sorts of WeMo connected devices and included within the range is the WeMo Smart LED bulb and the WeMo Light Switch, both of which allow lighting control from an iPhone or Android device.
The WeMo Smart LED Bulb will need to replace your existing bulbs but you will be able to control, schedule and fully dim them from anywhere using the WeMo Link, Wi-Fi and the WeMo app.
They can be controlled independently or in groups and like the Philips Hue base, the WeMo Link can handle up to 50 of the 60W bulbs, which according to Belkin last up to 23 years.
Belkin also offers the WeMo Light Switch that is designed to replace a standard light switch in your home and allow you to turn your normal lights on and off from anywhere using a smartphone.
PRICE: $99.99 for Belkin WeMo Lighting Starter Set, $39.99 for WeMo Smart LED Bulb, $49.99 for WeMo Light Switch
AVAILABILITY: Available now in the US through the Belkin website, UK availability said to be coming this year.
LG Smart Bulb
LG announced a Smart Bulb earlier this year that will require you to replace your existing lights like the Belkin Smart LED bulb and Philips Hue options.
The LG Smart Bulb will be controllable by iOS and Android devices and you will not only be able to set timers to decide when the bulbs switch on or off, but you will also be able to control the brightness.
The company claims you will get over a decade use from the bulbs if they are left on for around five hours a day and although there are no colour changing controls, the LG Smart Bulb will blink when you get a phone call so you'll have no excuse for missing any.
Those with an Android device will also get the benefit of Party Mode whereby the bulb will offer a brightness and blink effect complementing the music coming from the smartphone – clever right?
AVAILABILITY: Currently not available in the UK but we did find it on eBay with free international shipping.
READ: LG Smart Bulb hands-on
LightwaveRF is not just about lighting, it's about controlling your entire home whether that be heating, electricity or lighting.
It's a clever system to say the least and all it requires you to do is swap your sockets and switches for LightwaveRF units that offer push-buttons and LED indicators.
Once you have installed the system, you just use the switches and plugs as normal but you get the additional functionality of being able to remotely control and monitor your lighting, power and energy usage from an internet-enabled device.
The LightwaveRF app will let you to set routines based on your usual daily activities and because everything can be controlled while you are away, you can make it look like someone is home when you're on holiday to help deter unwanted visitors. If you want heating control too, you'll also need to add units to your radiators and boiler but this system has the potential to make your home completely smart.
PRICE: From £26.99 for a 1G 250W Light Switch
AVAILABILITY: Available now through Maplin.
Smartphone-controlled lighting isn't the cheapest upgrade you can do to your house, with many of the kits costing over £100, but once you have the convenience of it, you'll probably think it's the best money you've ever spent.
Elgato is tackling the smart home space. It has launched a new wireless light bulb, called Elgato Avea, and it even teased an iOS 8 HomeKit compatible range of sensors dubbed Elgato Eve for launch later this year. Elgato Avea pairs via Bluetooth Smart and doesn't require a hub, unlike Philips' hue system.
You control Avea through an iPhone and iPad app that offers various preset color scenes. Seven of those scenes are preloaded, though users will be able to adjust the bulbs to their preferences. There's also a wake-up feature that gradually increases the lighting to simulate a sunrise. Multiple bulbs can also be grouped together in the same scene.
Avea uses 7W and has 430 lumen brightness and matches Hue's 25,000-hour estimated lifespan.
PRICE: Avea costs $49.95/£39.95.
AVAILABILITY: Available now from the Elgato online shop and select resellers.
GE Link Smart LED
GE Link is a connected LED lightbulb that you can remotely control from anywhere and sync to other connected devices. Link works with an app called Wink - the same app for Android and iOS devices that controls GE and Quirky's Aros air conditioner.
You can use Wink to control one Link or even a group of Links. It has options to set timers, turn lights on or off by location, dim or brighten lights, etc.
Also, because the GE Link light bulbs connect via Wink hub to the Wink app on your mobile device, you can control the bulbs from anywhere, remotely, as well as operate individual lights or groups, sync them with other smart products, dim or highlight for a specific setting, and automate lighting to fit your schedule.
PRICE: The Ge Link light bulbs range from $15 each to $50 starter kits (which includes the Zigbee-compatible Wink hub that plugs into outlets)
AVAILABILITY: Available now from the select retailers such as The Home Depot.
Originating on Kickstarter, LIFX is an LED light bulb that can be controlled using a smartphone app - but over your Wi-Fi network, rather than using your phone's Bluetooth. From an Android or iOS app, you can turn your LIFX lights on or off, adjust brightness, change the colour, and even create a light show to go with your music.
And like many of the smart light solutions available, LIFX offers a wake-up feature. It lets you wake up naturally each morning with automatically increasing light, hopefully improving the quality of your sleep. Alternatively, you can also drift off with slowly dimming lights.
Although a single LIFX is a bit pricey, it can last up to 27 years. Other technical aspects in 17W at full brightness, a 130-degree beam angle, 1,017 lumens, and colour options that include pearl white and gunmetal grey.
PRICE: Light bulbs range from $99 each to $910 10-pack kits.
AVAILABILITY: Available now from LIFX's website.
The Lumen Smart Bulb combines the practical utility of a standard LED bulb with multi-coloured lights. And everything can be controlled easily from a smartphone app. The Lumen Smartbulb uses Bluetooth, so you won't need to fork out for that Wi-Fi hub either. The bulb itself consumes one-sixth the power of a 40W bulb while delivering comparable light.
You can adjust the brightness and colour (16 million options) using an app. You can also use Lumen to flash in time with music, when you receive a call, or to rouse you gently from a nap. This control works on multiple bulbs.
Other features include a call alert mode, in which the light can notify you of an incoming call, synchronization with your music, and proximity. The latter allows the light to know whenever (and wherever) you are nearby.
PRICE: Light bulbs start at $45.
AVAILABILITY: Available now from Amazon.com and other worldwide retailers.