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Smart bulbs or smart switches? Always a dilemma...

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Do you want to control your lights from your smartphone or with your voice? You have two main options: either to buy smart bulbs or smart switches. But if you think the choice between these two solutions is simple, it isn't at all. Both have particular characteristics. In this article, we'll explain how to decide which product to buy.

If you're on a lower budget, smart switches should probably be your first choice, since they're cheaper than smart bulbs, especially since a single switch can control more than one bulb, depending on how you set up your device.

Switches are budget-friendly

A smart switch can be purchased for about 20 dollars, while a Philips Hue Starter Kit (which includes two hot light bulbs) will cost you around 90 dollars. The Bridge Hue is the most expensive kit, but once you purchase it, you can buy smart bulbs for about 15 dollars each.

iotty smart light switcher
A smart switch is the best low-budget solution. / © Iotty

But if you're looking for more than just regular bulbs, you should be ready to pay a little more. Philips Hue White Ambiance bulbs can change their shade of white, and cost around 30 dollars. But if you want more, there are Hue White & Color bulbs, which are able to reproduce almost any color and cost around 60 dollars. 

Let's make a quick calculation: if you have three bulbs in your living room, replacing them all with smart ones will cost you over 100 dollars (if you choose Philips Hue). It would costs you around 20 to 40 dollars to replace your regular switch with a smart one (assuming that the switch controls all three lamps).

Smart bulbs allow you to create "scenes"

Smart switches are cheaper, but smart bulbs allow you to adjust the brightness and change the color of the light. At most, the "smarter" switches offer the option of dimming the light, but they don't come close to offering as much as the smart bulbs. With smart bulbs, you can turn the lights on at a predetermined brightness, or set one brighter than another and so on.

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Smart bulbs can take on different shades and colors. / © NextPit

With RGB bulbs, you can also change the color of the bulb. You can also make the color temperature of the white softer, so that it comes closer to daylight. With the Philips Hue apps, you'll be able to create fantastic effects and light shows that can add a touch of originality to your home.

Each bulb is compatible with smart switches

With smart switches, you don't need smart bulbs. You can use almost any bulb (even bulbs that aren't smart). So if you don't care about scenes and colors and are loyal to a particular kind of bulb, buying a smart switch is the right choice for you.

There is one thing, however, that you should keep in mind. If you want to use the smart switch to dim the lights, you need to make sure that you buy dimmable bulbs. Most high-end LED bulbs are dimmable, but you should always double check the product information.

Smart switches require craftsmanship

Unfortunately, smart switches aren't compatible with every home. Smart bulbs, on the other hand, can work anywhere using standard outlets. This is because most smart switches need to be wired correctly to a neutral cable.

smart light switcher
Most smart switches need to be wired manually. / © Amazon

In many houses that weren't built recently, you won't find neutral wires in light switch boxes, since they weren't introduced until the early 1970s. Most homeowners shouldn't worry, but if you're not 100% certain about your electrical system, it might be good to do a preliminary check. If your apartment doesn't have neutral wires, you'll save yourself some trouble if you choose smart bulbs.

There are some smart switches that don't need to be connected to neutral wires, but the options available are still very limited.

Smart bulbs offer more flexibility

We know that smart switches control the bulbs that they're connected to. But if you purchase smart bulbs, you'll be able to control whatever bulb you want, no matter what switch it's connected to. This is particularly useful if you have bulbs connected to your home's electrical system and other bulbs connected to a table lamp powered by an electrical outlet.

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Smart bulbs certainly offer more flexibility. / © NextPit

Furthermore, with the Philips Hue app, you can press a button to turn the bulb on or turn it off. You can also add widgets to your smartphone's homescreen to change the color of the light.

Both are compatible with voice assistants

Depending on which brand of switches or smart bulbs you purchase, both choices work with Amazon Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant

Among these three competitors, Siri can be a bit more restrictive, since you'll have to purchase a device that supports Apple's voice assistant. For the time being, there aren't that many of these devices available. So if your priority is to control the lights at home with your voice, you should pay close attention to what product you're buying, regardless of whether you're purchasing smart switches or smart bulbs.

What's the best choice for you? Do you prefer the low-budget solution of smart switches or are you ready to invest in a smart bulb starter kit?

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  • 1
    fanisp Apr 28, 2019 Link to comment

    Great artice. so with smart switches we can dim the lights as long as the bulbs are dimmers? correct? we don't need a dimmer smart switch?

  • 12
    harshatecordeon Dec 27, 2018 Link to comment

    I ll go with smart switches...

  • 49
    storm Dec 27, 2018 Link to comment

    I find both intensely gimmicky and a security nightmare.

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