So you’ve just grabbed an Alexa or Google home and want to expand your control. Lighting is one of the best and easiest things to automate. Here’s our easy guide to getting started.
What is smart lighting?
Regular bulbs are controlled by a switch in your house, smart lights usually connect via Wifi to your home, they then link to your Alexa or other intelligent systems.You then control them through voice, your phone, or with programmed rules and timers. Aside from smart on/off, they also can be set to any color or brightness level you like.
There are a variety of smart lights around, and all are based on the same principles, so the hardest part is finding the right lamp for the right situation at the right price.
These are things you should have a basic understanding of before you look for Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant lights.
What is the difference between RGB, RBGW, and RGBWW?
Each letter represents a color
- W=Pure White (like an office fluoro tube)
- WW=Warm White (like an incandescent bulb)
When placed together they describe the function of the light or controller.
- RGB is usually a single chip with 3 LEDs that give you full color.
- RGBW/WW has the same RGB but also has a 4th channel for white LEDs. This means you can have a bright regular bulb and a full-color bulb in one unit.
Smart bulbs usually come in RGB, RGBW, and RGBWW
When buying a lamp you can choose RGB, RGBW or RGBWW, this cannot be changed once you buy it as the W and WW are actually a different colored LED chip. There are also a few models that have both W and WW LEDs.
Smart Controllers come in RGB and RGBW/WW
With a controller you are just buying the part that controls the lights, you need to buy the light strip separately. Controllers are only labeled as RGB or RGBW/WW because when you buy the LED strip for the controller, you can decide if you want White or Warm White LEDs.
Do I need W or WW?
RGB LED’s can produce all colors and are enough for decorative or accent lighting. If you are using the lights as a primary room lighting source, having a single LED dedicated to white means you can have a brighter total output, so you can enjoy the functions of RGB colors while also having a powerful white light output. You can also use the RGB LEDs to slightly tint the white output.
You could use RGB as the main room light, but the brightness is less than a dedicated W/WW LED. Usually, the cost of a WW setup is cheaper than buying extra RGB bulbs to make the same level of brightness.
As for deciding between white or warm white, it is more a preference. We recommend warm white for lounges and bedrooms as it is more relaxing, and pure white for the kitchen and garage.
When should I just get RGB?
Straight RGB is great for under the bed, behind the tv, cabinet lighting and so many other background lighting applications.
Installing LED bulbs
These are easy just swap them out. All you need to do is make sure the bulb will work with your smart home system and that they will fit your existing light socket.
Installing an LED Controller+striplight
These give you the freedom to design your lighting precisely the way you want, you can stick them around, on top, under or even inside things. They are more complex and require 3 key parts.
This is what runs your lights, you need one for each place you want separate control. The main consideration here is secondary control, some have remotes and color wheels. Getting a controller with these physical controls means you still have “dumb” control over your lights, suitable for backup, and also for your wife.
These come in various lengths and just like bulbs you need to choose the color option. If you are running a strip more than 5M, the brightness will start to fade due to voltage drop. You need to make separate power wires to each 5M segment, and this will keep the brightness uniform.
The LED power supply
Unlike bulbs that just screw in, strips run on DC, so they also require a power supply. Once you know the total wattage of your setup, you can find a power supply to match.
How do I calculate the total wattage of a strip light setup?
Check the specifications of your controller for the max rating. Most controllers can handle about 144W. This max means you can connect up to 144W of led strip lights.
You could buy a 144W supply, but in many setups, you might not actually be using this amount of power.
- Calculate the wattage you require by adding up all the strips that will be connected to the controller, that will give your total W.
- Check your controller can handle that Wattage.
- Calculate power supply W by taking your total W and adding 20%.
- You can then find a power supply to match this W requirement.
Why add an extra 20% to the power supply?
If your strips are 120W and you connect a 120W power supply, it is at 100% load and will get hot. This can be dangerous and also lead to the supply failing prematurely.
Use a 144W + powersupply for a safe and long term 120W striplight setup
-Strip light = 120W
– Power supply = 120 X 1.2 = 144W
That extra provision keeps the supply from overloading and also runs cooler.
How many watts do I need?
LED’s are much more efficient than regular bulbs. For bulbs, you still want the highest wattage you can afford, as it means a brighter max output. Any bulb or strip will be bright enough for background lighting, but if you are kitting out your whole home including your standard lights, grab a few different wattage bulbs and also a strip, to actually experiment how bright your rooms will be.
Connect it all to your Alexa/Google assistant.
An Alexa, Google Home or other hubs will not just magically connect to your bulbs, there is a small setup process. Most lights will come with instructions, the standard steps are
- Download the App for the smart light
- Use the App to connect the bulb or controller to your home Wifi
- Search for the device on your smart home hub then connect to it
- Use the smart home to control your lights
For most lights, once connected you can still use the original app in combination with the Alexa/Google Home Hub.
We are just beginning to appreciate the benefits of a connected home, once setup your lights can be controlled in many ways.
- Turn on when you come home/leave
- Fade on in the morning to wake you up
- Flash to indicate a message or email alert
- Change color to indicate the weather, humidity or temperature level
- Fade lounge lights off when you play a movie and then turn them back on when the movie is paused or finished
Make your home lights smart today by grabbing some of our bargain smart light accessories.
Top Smarthome Connected Lighting
These bulbs and controllers will connect easily to your Alexa, Echo, Google Home, OpenHab, Nest or other Smarthome system.