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Smart Bulb v Smart Switch

19 August 2021 | Lightwave

Understanding smart lighting can be tricky. If you Google ‘Smart Lighting’ you’ll see a mix of light bulbs and light switches. Which one do you need? This blog will explain the difference between the options and point you in the right direction.

To put it simply, a smart light bulb replaces the ‘normal’ light bulb you already have. As long as you have the right lamp fitting (E27, GU10, etc.) it’s an easy swap. A smart light switch, however, requires you to interact with your electrical wiring, but again this should be a straight swap. 

 In both cases, once the device is in place you will need to download and install the relevant app and add the devices (depending on the system there may also be a hub device that connects to your internet). Using a smart light bulb will give you control of the light bulb whereas the smart light switch will provide control for the lighting circuit it has been wired to. This is the difference between dimming the bulb and being able to turn it off completely – this doesn’t seem significant, but you may think again when your electricity bill comes through!

Why use a smart light bulb?

If you’re not a confident DIY-er then smart light bulbs are a good option. The install couldn’t be simpler and often no hub is required. In a matter of minutes you can be dimming your light bulb up and down on your app or even your smart speaker. Changing the light bulb and not the switch also means you can spread your lighting control easily to lamps, helping to build your room’s lightscape. Some smart light bulbs even come with colour changing functionality, allowing you to match a colour to your mood.

As a starting point, the smart light bulb is a great way to enter the world of smart home. It allows you to try it out without much cost or effort. However, if you’re eager to dive into a more expansive and controlled home automation system, then smart switches may be the way to go.

Why use a smart light switch?

A smart light switch replaces your existing light switch. It provides a manual switch point but also control over the entire lighting circuit. Every smart light bulb user will tell you that they have, at least once, turned off the light at the switch, which cuts the power to the smart light bulb, meaning you cannot use it. If you have a 2, 3, or 4 gang light switch (gang refers to how many switches are on a panel), or even just a circuit that has multiple bulbs on it, this can be a much more cost effective way of making your lights smart. 

Admittedly, the install is more technical, you’ll need to isolate the power to the circuit and wire the device in place of your existing switch. You’ll also need to ensure that the light bulbs used with the smart switch are compatible, otherwise you may find the lights flicker, don’t fully switch off, or flash.

Fortunately, Lightwave have made the install easy and straightforward. The dimmers don’t need Earth or Neutral wires, so whatever the wiring you have Lightwave will work. Each device is designed to give you enough room to fit the dimmer to the wall. The Smart Series dimmers also have an ‘auto-calibrate’ function at power up, which detects what voltage your light bulbs can handle and ensures they will work as required. As long as the light bulb is dimmable (not all LEDs are) the set up will be easy.

With smart light switches in place, you can broaden your control beyond simply one light at a time. A user with multiple Lightwave dimmers fitted can create lighting scenes, timers, group control, and internal ‘if-this-then-that’ actions. For example, you can create a scene where if you press the ‘on’ button on the dimmer for the hallway you can have it also switch on the lights in the kitchen and utility room for convenience when bringing in the weekly shop. Perhaps set the bedroom switch to turn off all the lights in the house (it’s bedtime), or add a delay to give you time to settle down and get into bed. The options are endless: it’s up to you to choose what suits your home.

Why are smart sockets also a viable option?

To expand the integration further, adding smart sockets to the system gives you extra control over more devices. These allow you to add lamps, TV’s, speakers, hi-fi’s, etc. Why not add the TV and surround sound to the ‘movie night’ lighting scene you’ve created? Lightwave smart sockets add a few useful features like energy monitoring for appliances, notifications in case something of value gets unplugged while you’re out of the house, and for peace of mind, you can check to make sure the hair straighteners haven’t been left on!

Plug and Play options provide you an easy starting point if you’re just dipping your toes into smart home, but smart switches are the best option for a more expansive system that becomes part of the fabric of your home.

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