While most smart lights allow you to control them from your phone, voice, or automation, not all smart light bulbs will be created equal. Here is another type of smart lights and which ones might be best for you.
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Smart bulbs come in many shapes and sizes, but they also connect differently depending on which bulbs you’re using. In most cases, smart bulbs can connect to the Internet in three different ways: using a proprietary hub, a direct Wi-Fi connection, or a third-party SmartHome hub via Z-Wave or ZigBee. Let’s take a look at each of them along with some guidelines.
Patented Hub Lamps
These are smart light sources that require a proprietary hub to work properly. For example, Philips Hue lights require a Philips Hue Bridge hub.
There are not many such smart lighting systems in the world, and although many smart lamp manufacturers offer their own hub for their lamps, this may not be necessary — sometimes you can use these lamps with other hubs. For example, Ikea’s Trakeri smart lights have their own Tradfri hub that you can purchase, but the bulbs themselves can easily be connected to a Philips Hue hub if you already have one.
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However, in many cases, using smart bulbs on another manufacturer’s hub can present some problems. Some features may not work properly, or the process of adding lamps to a hub can be a bit finicky. For example, Tradfri bulbs only work with a Hue hub if the bulb firmware is up to date, and the only way to update the firmware is to have a Tradfri hub.
In any case, if you want to go that route, Philips Hue is arguably the best and most popular hub-based smart lighting system, if not the best and most popular of all smart lighting systems. It might be a little more expensive, but you can get a starter kit that comes with some basic white bulbs for less than a hundred dollars.
If you only want a handful of smart bulbs in your home, a popular option is to buy smart bulbs that connect directly to your wireless network. The best part about these types of bulbs is that they don’t require a hub at all.
Instead, they install just like any other Wi-Fi based product: Install and use the app to connect it to a Wi-Fi network. From there it’s ready to go.
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As mentioned above though, using Wi-Fi bulbs is not the best option if you plan on having more than a few bulbs installed in your home. Once you start equipping every room with these bulbs, the Wi-Fi network can get a little congested and crowded, as each bulb acts like a Wi-Fi device that connects to your router.
There are quite a few great options out there when it comes to Wi-Fi bulbs, though, and our sister site Review Geek has a few recommendations, including bulbs from Eufy, Lifx, and TP-Link Kasa.
Z-Wave / ZigBee lamps
The last type of smart ball is one that can connect to any number of third-party SmartHome centers that use the Z-Wave and ZigBee wireless protocols.
Technically, Philips Hue and other hub-based smart lighting systems use ZigBee or Z-Wave, but in this case, we are referring to stand-alone lamps designed to connect to third-party hubs such as Wink, SmartThings, etc.
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These types of bulbs are great if you already have a SmartHome hub that you use for other things, as you won’t have to fiddle with even more nodes, or deal with the limitations of Wi-Fi-Z-Wave and ZigBee lower Power and wider than Wi-Fi.
When it comes to light bulbs like these, I’m a big fan of GoControl and they make all kinds of Z-Wave stuff, including smart bulbs. However, there are also GE Link, Sengled, and Aeotec, all of which offer decent smart bulbs that can be plugged into a SmartHome hub.