Lighting has come a long way in recent years, with LEDs helping save the planet from old school energy-guzzling globes. They can be much more than like-for-like replacements though, with the age of the smart home doing amazing things with the way you can bring light to your world.
STACK is here to help you take your home’s lighting from dunce to dux with the skinny on where smart lighting is at.
If you’re wondering just what on earth we’re on about, at its simplest, smart lighting refers to sources of light that can be controlled remotely, adding convenience – and personal expression – to how you light your surroundings. This may be via a mobile phone app, remote control, automation, or even just telling your home exactly what you want to happen. Yes, it’s wild future tech just like in The Jetsons (but without the cool flying cars… yet).
OK, BUT WHY WOULD I WANT IT?
Have you ever arrived home in the dark, arms laden with groceries, fumbled for a light switch and dropped everything? Imagine being able to simply tell your home to turn the lights on for you? Well, you can.
That’s just one simple, practical scenario. Essentially, smart lighting offers new levels of control, without complication. You could use sensors to trigger a sequence of lighting as you approach, turn lights on and off at random intervals while away to deter would-be burglars, and on the more fun side of the ledger the opportunities for making an at-home cinema experience are pretty much limited only by your imagination.
Then there’s the environmental – and economic – impact. With their low thirst for electricity yet brilliantly bright performance, replacing all of your old school lights with shiny new smart LEDs could pay for itself sooner than you might think. Plus, with lifespans that run into decades rather than months, they’ll probably outlive some of us!
THE RIGHT LIGHT
How do you pick the lights that are the best fit for you? Working out what you’d like to do with your lighting is a great place to start and activating all the smart features is great fun, and, more importantly, very easy to do. You’ll find examples over the following pages that will help you on your way. We also delve into more advanced setups – if you want to go all in, there are options to smarten up your lighting that range from the super practical to the super impractical (but all sorts of fun!)
SETTING IT UP
If you’ve ever changed a light bulb then you’re ready to go with all of the basic smart lighting options – just make sure that you have the right fitting and away you go, as they fit the same way. Many of the other smart lighting sources, such as LED strips, all come with clear instructions and are easy to install – even your nan could do it. Depending on what you’ve opted for, you then just need to connect them to your home network, with all the relevant apps offering step-by-step guidance designed to make the process as quick and easy as possible.
HUE, LIGHT UP MY LIFE!
When it comes to a one-stop spot for smart lighting, Philips Hue certainly has a lot to offer. From a comprehensive range of replacement bulbs to lighting solutions for absolutely every room in the house – even products especially made for the bathroom – there’s something suitable for everyone. There’s even a range of Hue products designed to withstand the elements outdoors – hey, why limit the fun to indoors?!
The heart of the Philips Hue ecosystem is the Hue Bridge V2.0. Available on its own, or in a handy Starter Kit that also features three bulbs, it’s an inconspicuous white box that you connect to both a power outlet and your internet router. Once connected you can add up to 50 Philips Hue products to your set-up, and have the Bridge act as their central brain via a handy, easy to navigate app on Android or iOS. It’s all fully compatible with Google Assistant, Alexa and Apple HomeKit, too.
YOU’VE GOT SURROUND SOUND, NOW GET SURROUND LIGHT!
If you’re at all like us, you’ll love sitting in the middle of a ring of speakers, cranking the volume on the receiver and feeling right in the middle of your favourite movies as sound swirls all around. Philips Hue has introduced a similar experience involving light, and it all starts with the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box.
With most modern equipment supporting the HDMI standard for video and audio delivery, the Hue HDMI Sync Box acts as an intermediary between your output – be it from a Blu-ray player, streaming box, games console or something else – and what’s input into your television. Up to four devices can be connected, ready to fill your room with light.
It’s no random light, either. The Hue HDMI Sync Box processes the signal that it’s receiving in real time, and matches it to the light that it outputs. You could install a Hue Gradient Light Strip – available in 55”, 65” and 75” sizes, with handy attachment channels included – on the back of your television and watch the vision expand in all directions, or it also works a treat with Hue Play Smart Light Bars. Install a pair of the latter, one left, one right, and it’s akin to having stereo vision.
HEY, HUE BLUE!
If you don’t wish to commit to a full-on Hue Bridge setup, Philips also have a broad range of Bluetooth-enabled Hue devices from bulbs to light strips. Best of all, if you expand to a Hue Bridge down the track, they’re fully compatible, and some offer extra features – such as the ability to turn them off and on remotely.
NEW OLD SCHOOL
If you miss that classic filament look to your light globes – or want a naked bulb to deliver a bit of vintage style to a room – then Philips Hue has you covered with their Filament Bulb. Old school looks with new school LED tech, it’s available in B22 and E27 fittings, and operates via Hue Bridge or Bluetooth.
LIFX IS FOR LIVING
Whether you’re after simple, practical lighting solutions or want to have a bit of fun brightening up your living spaces, LIFX are sure to have something to suit, from LED bulbs to strips and beyond.
All LIFX solutions are Wi-Fi enabled, so they connect directly to an app on your phone, which in turn can be connected to your chosen home ecosystem – all without any form of required hub.
When it comes to colours, LIFX claim that their RGB solutions are capable of pumping out over one billion of them. One billion!
BEAM US UP!
The LIFX Beam is a versatile strip lighting system that allows you to create various highlights within your home. The starter kit comes with six 30cm Beam bars and one corner control block, plus power supply, allowing you to get creative with various setups that harness the ten programmable colour zones in each bar. Use Beam to frame a piece of wall art, illuminate your gaming rig or, as we did, install it along your bedhead – set to white it makes an excellent reading light, and it can be dimmed or changed to more subtle colours, too.
If you want a plain white light, LIFX has it. If you want colour, they’ve got that too. There are even clever “Day & Dusk” bulbs that tailor the brightness, colour and temperature of your lights to match your day. Various sizes are available, from Mini for smaller applications such as lamps, to full-size replacements for those electricity-guzzling old school globes. You can even replace downlights with smart options for added home lighting control.
THE FUTURE’S SO BRIGHT…
Keep an eye out for the new range of LIFX Clean bulbs, with all the features you’d expect from a colour smart bulb, but with added health protection. Safe for humans, pets and plants – but not for bacteria – they can be used for anything from close range gremmie protection for your pocket contents to ceiling fitting for added microorganism zapping in kitchens or bathrooms.
TURNING OVER A NEW NANOLEAF
If you feel like getting decorative with your smart lighting, then Nanoleaf’s range could be a very good place for you to start.
They create a range of variously shaped lighting tiles that are fully smart home compatible, with newcomers to the family just arriving.
Beyond acting as fabulous feature lighting, via their app control you can program your Nanoleaf Shapes for touch recognition, or even to react to sound that it “hears” – great for parties! The Nanoleaf app has some cool interactive examples to play around with, from simple Simon like affairs to an intriguing variation on Pac-Man.
BIZARRE LIGHT TRIANGLE
Having launched their range of Hexagons earlier in the year, Nanoleaf are adding some variety to their snap-together Shapes empire with the release of Triangles. Set to be available in standard size and mini, they interface completely with any Hexagons that you may have set up via their proprietary Connect+ system, allowing a whole new world of creative shape-making to open up. From feature wall to more subtle lighting solutions, these new Shapes allow your imagination to get a top workout.