Smart Switch or Smart Bulbs?

It is a tough decision to make, should you just replace your existing bulbs with smart bulbs, or just change the light switch.  If you’re asking yourself if you should get a Smart Switch or Smart Bulbs then this post give you an idea of what I should have considered before buying these home automation accessories for my home.

Smart Switch

Koogeek Light Switch

Depending on the country you’re in, the first thing you have to consider is Load or Voltage. Being in Malaysia I have to use the higher 220-240 Volt accessories. In the US, you would have to use the 110 Volt ones.

Be aware of this if you’re buying the accessory from the internet as sometimes I do see online stores here selling 110 Volt light switches.  For your safety please consult your electrician first.

The second major consideration is if you have Neutral Wires in your home. Neutral wires are required to supply power the the accessory for it to be on standby to turn the lights (or fans) on or off. The neutral like provides these accessories the needed juice.  This means it’s always on.  Again, please consult your electrician.

Source : Koogeek

The third consideration is on the number of lights that the switch will control. Do you want it in a “gang” of 2, 3, or just 1? A 3 gang light switch will control 3 lighting points individually.  This means you buy 1 Smart Switch, and this can control many bulbs.

Fourth consideration, do you want it as a ‘normal’ on/off switch, or as a dimmer?  I can’t seem to find normal switches anymore from the brand I use, which is Koogeek.  However, lately they only have their dimmer version in online stores.  Most countries are now more environmentally friendly and reduced the sales or even ban filament bulbs and shifted the focus on LED light bulbs.

Most entry level LED bulbs cannot be dimmed and if you fix these bulbs to a dimmer switch they will start to flicker when dimmed.  The work around this is to ensure that when you turn a device on, you turn it on at max, 100% intensity, and to turn it off, at 0% intensity. It’s not ideal, but definitely the best option at the moment.

This being said there is a void that manufacturers should fill : UK spec 220-240 volt, HomeKit ready, Non-Dimmer, 1 / 2 / 3 gang, hub-less, Smart Light Switches. Please make them!

In a nutshell:

Pros :

  • Cost effective. 1 switch to control multiple bulbs, cheaper than buying multiple smart bulbs
  • The accessory manages it all.  You don’t need a separate physical controller to manage the functions if you don’t have your iOS device with you.

Cons :

  • You need an electrician to do it for you.  The need for a neutral line and electrical understanding is a must.
  • Not many manufacturers out there making these, so not too sure about warranties and replacements too.

Smart Bulbs

There are many Smart Bulb manufacturers out there.  In this post I’m only going to focus on Philips Hue as it’s readily available to me.

If you want to stay away from the need to call for an electrician and just have a simple plug and play option, smart bulbs are the way to go.  It’s as easy as unscrewing the old dated bulb, screwing in the new Philips Hue bulb, connecting it to the Hue Hub to your Home App, and Bobs your uncle.

Setting up the Hue Hub to your Home App is easy and a 1 time thing to do.  In terms of technicalities this would be the only challenge but I don’t think it’s tough to do.

Source : Philips

Taking this route also gives you other features like managing lights at different parts of your room, like how car’s separate climate control works.  You can have brighter lights near seating areas, and dimmer ones near the TV.  Bonus feature is that you can also choose to have different colors to fit the mood of the moment.

 

Both HomeKit bulb, and light switch

However, the pain of having smart bulbs are covered in my previous article.  If you’re not the only person living in the space, you will most likely need Philips Dimmer Switch / Controllers near the actual physical switch.  You don’t want family members/friends/visitors to turn off the main power for the lights, because till will render your smart lights….. dumb…. and powerless.

Pros :

  • Control.  You have lots of control over the intensity and color of the bulbs.  Great way to make the home cozy.
  • Installation is a breeze.  If you know how to change a light bulb, you can do this yourself.

Cons :

  • Expensive.  The more light sources you have, the more you need.  And it escalates quickly too when you go from room to room.
  • May need a Hub.  Philips Hue requires a hub for all of their accessories to connect to.  This also means you need an additional network port to connect to your router and power source for the Hub.
  • Needs a switch.  Yes, believe it or not, not everyone has access to your home automation.  This means that you need to spend more on dimmer switches to control the lights from visitors or family.

If you ask me which is better, I would say that it clearly depends on what you want to achieve.  Leaving out the cool color effects, and also the cost, I would go for a Smart Switch.  Me being a person who likes effects and mood lighting I would go for the Smart Bulbs.  It would have helped if I know this earlier as now I’m stuck with some Light Switches which I want to add Hue bulbs to…