Making the switch: do smart bulbs make good home lighting automation systems?

Once you’ve sat down to watch Netflix, your motivation to get back up and turn the lights off goes down. Your lazy-side will thank your automation-side if you can turn off the lights with your smartphone from the comfort of your recliner.

But once you’re hungry for some popcorn, opening up your app to turn on and off the lights might not seem as convenient. Suddenly, the task of simply flicking a switch is turned into a multi-step process.


This is why home lighting automation systems should always be operable from a wall switch, too.

But not all smart bulbs are created equal; even with their heftier price tags, some smart bulbs really aren’t that smart.

So which ones pass the wall switch test?

Philips Hue

Philips Hue smart web-enabled home lighting system is a multi-colored, energy-saving LED home lighting system. While there are tons of cool, unique features—from creating colors from an image to creating light effects that correspond to video content—turning off the lights from a switch will turn off access from the app and the bulbs’ previous settings won’t be remembered when turned on. These bulbs also aren’t suitable for use with wall dimmers.

For an extra $60, you can stick the Hue Tap next to your light switch to toggle the lights with one of its four buttons. Switches aside, you can’t just connect your the bulbs and your phone either. A Hue bridge is required.


LIFX is similar to the Hue but no bridge is required to control from your phone. On the downside, it’s less energy-efficient than the Hue with 18 W consumption at 100% brightness.

Turning off the light with a switch will cause you to lose access from the LIFX app, but unlike the Hue, the bulbs will resume their pervious settings when turned back on. Just don’t try to control LIFX home lighting automation systems with a wall switch dimmer.



When it comes to controlling with switches, Insteon has you covered. They offer their own switches to control the bulbs wirelessly, and a regular switch can also be used. While a regular wall dimmer won’t work, Insteon offers its own wall dimmers that can be used with its smart bulb.

If you want to control from a smart device, you need an Insteon Hub, while its only color options are shades of white only.


Another smart light bulb limited to shades of white is RoboSmart, which is Bluetooth-enabled so no bridge or hub is required to operate from your iPhone (Android and Windows smartphones are not supported).

RoboSmart can be operated with wall switches but not dimmers.


An alternate solution is to forgo smart bulbs altogether when setting up home lighting automation systems.

We set up a Linear lighting control system using regular incandescent light bulbs, smart dimmer wall switches, and the Wink hub.

While wiring a wall switch isn’t easy, we found this as the most practical solution to limit the need to fish out our phones to only when it’s convenient.

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