Smart lights, especially bulbs, lamps and lightstrips are pretty-straight forward to setup, the thinking part comes when you look to group and automate your lights. But don’t worry we’ll take you though the most common steps and make sure you know what you’re in for.
We’ll be covering steps to install bulbs, lamps and lightstrips. It doesn’t matter if they connect via WIFI/Bluetooth or via a Hub (Zigbee/Z-Wave) we will guide you through it all.
After this we look at how you can group, set scenes, automate and schedule your lights.
Installing Smart Light Bulbs, Lamps or Lightstrips
If you’ve ever had to replace a light bulb, you’re going to ace this part – so let’s get started.
Grab these first
- Smart lights (bulbs, lamps, etc)
- Your phone and the smart lighting app
- Don’t know the name of the app? Most companies will include a QR code or name of the app to use in the box. Or simply search for the product name in the App Store (E.g. Philips Hue, LIFX, Sengled, Ikea, and so on)
- WIFI Password (only if you plan to use WIFI)
Note: We’re using photos from our installation of Philips Hue lights, Hub and Bluetooth.
Smart Bulb Initial Steps
- Make sure the power is turned off before proceeding to install the light bulbs
- If you have a hub, install that now as well – by plugging it into your WIFI router
- Once installed, turn the light switch on and download the app to your phone
- The app is REQUIRED to setup, group and automate your lights
- Launch the app on your phone and you’ll be prompted with “1 new Hue Bridge Found”
- You’ll then be prompted to click the button on the Hub to pair, that’s it
- At this stage you can pair your Hub to a smart assistant such as Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri for voice commands
- Adding the bulbs, this part is pretty easy – just click Add light and hit “Search”, it’ll find and connect all your lights automatically
- Click on each light found and give it a more unique name
If you’ve purchased some accessories like motion sensors, install and turn them on before going into the app and clicking
Bulbs that connect straight to WIFI tend to be more fiddly to install and maintain, you will run into issues if you change your WIFI password so just a heads up.
- Open the app on your phone and click “Add Light”
- It’ll prompt you to navigate to your WIFI settings and connect directly to the light
- The WIFI network name will be something like “LIFX_…” for example if using LIFX bulbs
- Once connected follow the prompts (light will blink) before you go back into the app
- Follow the steps to connect your light to the WIFI network
- Lastly click on the bulb to change the name to something more recognisable
While WIFI tends to be simpler in the sense you don’t need any extra equipment, offers similar features to a hub such as “away mode”.
When possible we recommend you switch over to lights that connect via a hub, something like Philips Hue, IKEA or even Sengled for more features, tighter integration, access to accessories, won’t slow down your WIFI and easier setup.
- Make sure the Bluetooth is turn on in your phone settings
- Open the app on your phone and click on “add lights”
- The app will search and comeback with a list of lights it’s found
- It’s at this stage that you’ll need to click on each one, and dim it so you can see which light you’re working with, as the names are quite generic when setting up
That’s it, there’s some limitations with Bluetooth connected lights, for instance – you won’t be able to control more than 10 lights (normally), can’t control them remotely when out the house or too far away from them.
Again we’d recommend looking to get a hub when possible.
Setting up Groups, Zones and Smart Light Scenes
Installing smart lights isn’t that hard and to be fair, either is grouping or automating them – this hardest part is trying to figure out what you’d like them to do.
Lets go over each part.
Grouping and Zoning
Grouping your lights allows your to control multiple lights with a single click, helpful when you don’t want to turn off each light in your home individually. With zoning, you get even more control over lights in a particular group. We go over an example right after the below steps on how to setup groups and zones.
- Open the app and go to settings, find “Rooms & Zones”
- Select “Create New” or if you’ve previously created a group click the existing group
- Now you’ll be presented with the room, which you can add / remove lights as well as rename and change the icon
Grouping vs Zoning Example
Say you’ve setup a group of lights in your kitchen, now you’re entertaining family so you have the lights dimmed a bit, but what if they’re too dark for you to cook properly? Well you can create a zone, and what this will do is allow you to say select lights located over the oven, and turn the brightness up on just those lights.
There’s no “right” way to group your lights, it’s complete up to you. Another example, maybe you have a large lounge room, so you only want half the lights turned on when reading a book on the couch. This is where setting up groups and zones really comes in handy.
That’s it for grouping. As we said the hardest part is figuring out what lights you want to group together, which if you’re keep it simple on a room by room basis – will be quite easy.
Scenes are great for quickly changing the mood in a room without having to manually adjust brightness and colour each time. A lot of apps will allow you to configure up-to 4 scenes per room, which is plenty for most people.
- Open the app and click on “New Scene”
- Select the room this scene will apply to
- Change the colour and adjust the brightness, you can change all lights or modify individual lights
- Click “Save”
Now when you tap on that scene, it’ll change the lights to match your configuration. Have one bedroom scene for morning with more energetic light and one at night to help you sleep.
Automating and Scheduling your Smart Lights
Having lights the turn on and off at set times is great for anyone that has say a morning routine. With automation you can set your lights to slowly turn on in the morning, before your alarm to wake you up more gently.
- Open your app and click on “Routines”
- Select one of the options, for example “Wake Up”
- Now you can setup which lights turn on (select a room or individual lights) and at what time
Pretty simple, but powerful feature for having a home that’s more automated. Pre-COVID we had our lights wake us up then turn off around the time we left for work.
This is a great quality of life improvement that allowed us to have enough light in the morning to get ready, but we didn’t have to think about turning them off – it just happened automatically.
As you can probably tell, we’re a big fan of using hubs due to the many, many benefits they have over WIFI and Bluetooth alternatives.
We can’t tell you what to buy and to be honest if you’re reading this guide you may have already sunk some money it say WIFI lights – which if you can return them and look for hub connected lights.
Head over to our complete guide on smart lighting, if you’d like to learn more including top recommendations.