I Learned the Hard Way So You Don’t Have To. (“A Quick and Easy Guide to Smart Lighting”)

I Learned the Hard Way So You Don’t Have To

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“A Quick and Easy Guide to Smart Lighting”

Just a heads up. I did exactly what I hate about blogs and wrote a piece for this that went on forever and ever, so I scrapped that, and I am writing it again to save you guys from falling asleep.

Smart Lighting Products I have tried

  • GE Link (With Wink Hub1)
  • Cree Connected (With Wink Hub1)
  • Leviton RF + 600W Switch (With Wink Hub 1)
  • Philips Hue (Light Strips, White and White Ambiance) (With Wink Hub1 and HomeKit)
  • Lutron Caseta – (With HomeKit)
  • Lifx Plus – (With Life App)

Quick Reviews

GE Link

With GE Link and Wink, I’m not sure where the problem was, but consistency was terrible. The bulbs would become un-paired for no apparent reason on a regular basis, and if someone (my wife) would turn the switch off, they were inoperable until the switch was turned back on.  Installation and initial pairing was pretty straight forward and didn’t take much time.

Cree Connected

This product was slightly more consistent with the wink hub than the GE Link bulbs were and were the same price.  I had the same issues, for the most part, with the GE Link bulbs. Again, installation and initial pairing was pretty straight forward and didn’t take much time.

Leviton Z-Wave Switch

This one was much more consistent. However, finding compatible bulbs posed a real problem and calling customer support was troubling. Leviton would blame the bulb manufacturers, and the bulb companies would blame Leviton. Around and around we went until I tried five different bulbs that would work correctly. To help control them, I enlisted the help of an Amazon Echo which again would cause some frustration due to “Alexa” not understanding me, etc.  Installation was a bit tricky and cumbersome, and the directions were written more for an electrician than a DIY like myself.

Philips Hue

These bulbs and strips were very consistent and fun to use with Wink and the Amazon Echo.  Once I switched over to home kit everything really boomed. Changing color and dimming was simple. “Hey Siri…” just worked. Installation was flawless, and pairing was easy with both the Wink Hub as well as with HomeKit.

Lutron Caseta

Hands down, this is the smartest of all the lighting solutions I have used thus far. It is the perfect transition into using smart lighting products because it allows anyone to use it like a normal dimmer switch. I was reminded by a pro, Ry Crist, who writes for CNET today just how stable they are. In fact, I pretty much forget I have them, which, in my opinion, are the best types of smart products to have. They blend in and are available if you need them both in app and right their on your wall. Visitors can use them with out changing any of their normal baked in behavior. When Mr. Ry Crist posted about them today I had to stop and think about if I have ever had a time they didn’t function correctly, and I cannot remember a single time in over six months they have failed me.

They may look minimalistic, but under the hood and through the Lutron app, you can customize and schedule these to perform nearly any way you can imagine, including a feature that randomizes lights turning on and off while you’re away to deter would be intruders.

Homekit works with ease. Just tell Siri to turn on/off or dim to a certain level, and just like that, your lights are set. Speaking of being set, you can have scenes configured in Homekit so you can say things like, “Good Morning, Siri,” or “I’m watching the game, Siri,” and the lights will dim, turn on, or turn off to your desired level.

Installation was the best part of all. It was so easy that I had 5 switches installed in about 45 minutes, and up until recently, no other product has had a three way solution that was as affordable and as easy to set up as this product.


I bought my 2 and only Lifx Bulbs for really only one reason, and that was for the infrared light it can blast for my back yard Arlo cameras. In doing so, I realized how truly great the product is. They are much brighter and put out much more vivid color than the Philips Hue Bulbs. One big snag, though. They have no Homekit support. Now, in all fairness, the company has promised support for Homekit for all of their 3rd gen and Plus bulbs. For now, they get a good not great review, but whenever they flip the switch to allow Homekit support, it’s going to be really difficult for me to not go out and buy more bulbs because of how beautiful they are.

Installation was incredibly easy and took almost no time.  The app is pretty powerful and can do some animations, scheduling features, and shoot out invisible light that can be seen by your night vision equipped security cameras.

Right vs. Wrong way to use smart lighting products

Let’s make this easy for you guys. This is a simple guide telling where to use each of these types of products. This won’t be the same for everyone, but you can limit your frustration by starting out this way and making changes to fit your needs as you go.

Use Smart Switches when:

  • it’s natural to want to reach for one.
  • you are controlling a fixture with multiple bulbs.
  • you are controlling multiple fixtures (i.e. recessed lighting).

Use Smart Bulbs or Strips when:

  • you want to accent with some color.
  • you want to control bedside lamps.
  • you want to control floor lamps.

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