Sunrise alarm clocks are a great way to wake up in the morning, but commercial sunrise simulators are ridiculously expensive. Read on as we show you how to turn your smart bulb starter kit into a sunrise simulator (and enjoy the benefits of smart bulbs at the same time).

Why should I do this?

Waking up to the sun naturally streaming in the windows and flooding the room with bright light is certainly much more pleasant than waking up to an alarm clock. Unfortunately, depending on when you wake up, you may have to get up well before the sun rises.

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There are commercial solutions on the market, but they are mostly expensive, bulky, finicky, and underpowered. Most sunrise alarm clocks are about as bright as a 60-watt light bulb, usually in some kind of large light-diffusing container (most of these alarm clocks look like plastic moons or large white cylinders) and cost between $70 and $200. It really doesn’t make sense to buy a dedicated and expensive sunrise alarm clock when a smart bulb starter kit costs the same price (or even less) than a dedicated sunrise alarm clock.

What I need?

To follow our guide, you will need one of the following smart bulb kits:

  • Belkin WeMo Lighting Starter Kit (~$50)
  • Philips Hue Starter Kit (~$70)
  • GE Link Starter Kit (~$50)

In terms of light output, they are nearly the same in every way (indeed, the difference between the two is very small, at half a watt of wattage here or there and/or a slightly different shade of warm white).

They do differ in control hardware/software, so we recommend both reading our full reviews (link above) and checking out the next section of the tutorial where we will show you how the sunrise simulation software works.

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If you own (or plan to buy) a Wink hub, please follow the GE Link instructions below as both Link and Wink use identical control software (Link is just a tube version of the full Wink hub). While the GE Link Starter Kit is very cheap (and a great way to get started with smart bulbs in general), it’s not the best solution for a dawn alarm. So be sure to read the entire tutorial before making any purchases.

For the purposes of this guide, we assume that you have already set up your lamps and that your smart lamp system is up and running. If you have one of the aforementioned suites and haven’t fully set it up yet, follow the links above to see both our suite overview and the installation routine.

The following setup guides are presented in the order we recommend the sets based on their usefulness as sunrise alarms and not necessarily because they are the cheapest or superior general purpose smart bulb system.

Philips Hue setup

While the Philips Hue lighting system is the most expensive smart bulb lighting system in our review, you get what you pay for. The quality of the lamps, the bridge that links them to your network, and the software are really good.

To create an alarm with Hue Light, start by opening the Hue app on your phone and tap Routines at the bottom.

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Select Wake Up.

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Click on the round plus button in the lower right corner of the screen.

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First, give the alarm a custom name if you like.

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Then swipe up and down through the numbers to select the time you want to wake up. Keep in mind that this will be the time when the lights will be at full brightness once they have finished fading, so adjust this time accordingly.

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Below, select the days of the week on which you want to set the alarm.

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Then click «Fade in». You can choose 10, 20 or 30 minutes, which is the amount of time it takes for your lamps to fade from dim to full brightness. So if you set this to 10 minutes and set the time to 6am, the light will first turn on and start to fade out at 5:50am.

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If you have this set, go back by clicking on the back arrow in the upper left corner, and then click «Where?». Check the box next to the room you want to turn on and activate for the alarm. Once selected, press the back arrow.

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Below «Where?» You can click «All Lights» to select the specific lights you want or don’t want to use by checking or unchecking the boxes. By default, all lights in this room will be used.

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Go back and click «Save» in the top right corner of the screen.

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Your alarm will appear at the top, where you can tap the toggle switch to the right to turn it off or turn it on manually at any time. You can create more than one alarm by clicking on the round plus button and repeating the previous steps.

Setting up Belkin WeMo

While the Belkin WeMo smart light system isn’t the best smart light system we’ve reviewed to date, it has some really solid options when used as a sunrise alarm. Also, if you’re buying a smart bulb system that doubles as a sunrise alarm, then that’s the best value for dollars spent on utility.

To create a simulated sunrise alarm on a Belkin system, open the management application and tap the Rules menu item in the bottom navigation bar. Select By Time, Sunrise/Sunset. Select the light bulbs you want to activate in the morning. Set the time and then set the lamp brightness to full with a fade of 30 minutes. Save your changes and you’re done.

Setting up GE Link / Wink

A Wink smart lighting system can be very economical (you can get a GE Link hub and bulbs for a fraction of the cost of other smart bulb systems) and the software can be quite good overall, but for this application it’s pretty terrible.

In fact, the only reason we included the Wink Smart Lighting System in this review was to: 1) warn new buyers not to buy it if their goal is to set a good sunrise-simulating alarm clock, and 2) show existing owners how to set up bypass.

The main disadvantage of the Wink Control app is that it doesn’t have a fade in/out feature. You can’t set the bulbs to turn on at X time and slowly fade out over Y minutes, which is the heart of any sunrise alarm clock.

The workaround, and we’ll admit it’s a pretty cool workaround, is to create a sequence of alarms that cause a routine fade. For example, if you want a light to turn on at 5:00 AM and stay on until it reaches 100% brightness at 5:30 AM, you need to create a series of signals that slowly increase brightness: for example, 10% brightness at 5 : 00:00 with percentage increments at 5:10, 5:20, and 5:30 (or even smaller time increments if you have the patience for that).

It’s imperfect and annoying to set up, but if you already have money invested in a Wink system and smart bulbs, it’s better than buying a secondary system that doubles as an alarm clock.


With a small investment (less than buying a dedicated alarm clock), you can have not only a smart light bulb system for your bedroom, but a fully functional sunrise alarm clock that will help you get out of bed even on the darkest days of the year.

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