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How To Save Money With Smart Lights: The Ultimate Guide

Homeowner adjusting their smart light bulbs to save energy and save money.
PublishedJune 22, 2021
UpdatedMay 7, 2024
AuthorCory O'Brien HeadshotCory O'BrienSenior Director - Growth MarketingEditorRyan Barnett HeadshotRyan BarnettSVP, Policy & New Market Development
In this article
How Do Smart Lights Save Energy?
How Much Can You Save With Smart Lights?
How Do Smart Lights Use Power When They're Off?
Types Of Smart Lights
Smart Light Bulb Shapes
Popular Smart Light Brands
Control Smart Lights With Your Voice
How Do You Install Smart Lights?
How Do Smart Lights Work?
How Much Do Smart Lights Cost?
Wrapping Up

Smart lights are the most popular invention of the smart home era. In addition, smart lights are definitely the easiest entry point for people wanting to get started with smart home technology.

It's easy to see why people love smart lights and why they’re getting even more popular:

  • Smart lights provide a pleasant ambiance in the home.
  • You can control smart lighting remotely through an app, button, or virtual assistant.
  • Smart bulbs can drastically reduce energy use and save you money.

The appeal of smart lights extends beyond saving money and transforming living spaces. They're also better for the environment, as proven by the U.S. Department of Energy. According to their 2013 study, LEDs are considerably better for the environment than all other options, including the classic incandescent bulbs.

Quite frankly, smart home lights are the real deal for consumers and the planet. In this smart light buying guide, we'll tell you everything you need to know about the advantages of smart lights, talk about how smart lights work, and share how smart bulbs use less energy and save you money.

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How Do Smart Lights Save Energy?

The light-emitting diode (LED) is one of today's most energy-efficient light technologies available. Top-notch LED light bulbs are more enduring, last longer, and offer comparatively better lighting than CFL and incandescent bulbs.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy's projections, using LEDs could save up to a whopping 348 terawatt-hours (TWh) in energy usage compared to not using LEDs at all by 2027. To put that into perspective, 348 TWh is equivalent to total energy savings of more than $30 billion at current electricity rates.

Yet, smart bulbs go above and beyond the normal LED light bulb to enable additional features that can help you save even more money. We want to show you exactly how smart lights work so you can put these savings into effect in your home.

Smart Lights Use Less Electricity

When it comes to saving money on your home energy costs, every little bit helps. Cents add up to quarters, quarters add up to bucks, and before you know it, you've saved hundreds of dollars without much effort.

Different light technologies use different amounts of energy, and the current generation of LED light bulbs is approximately 75% more efficient than old-school incandescent light bulbs. Compare that to CFL light bulbs, which are only 25-30% more efficient than incandescent bulbs. In both scenarios, smart LEDs use less electricity and waste less energy as heat while providing the same light quality.

This is why more people are choosing to light up their homes with LED bulbs instead of old technology. No one wants to throw away even a single penny.

Smart Lights Last a Long Time

On average, a smart bulb lasts from anywhere between 15,000 and 50,000 hours, while a standard incandescent bulb's lifespan is only between 750 and 2,000 hours. Based upon average household usage of 3-4 hours a day, that means an LED bulb can last 15 to 25 years, while an incandescent bulb might only last about 1 year,

Not only would you be saving some good money on energy bills, but you’re also helping the planet by throwing away less waste.

Lighting Schedules Reduce Your Usage

By putting certain smart home lights on a schedule, you'll ensure that they're never left on when they don't need to be. This tip helps your smart lights save money and energy both in the short and long term.

By schedule, we mean creating regular programs for when and how your lights should be turned on and off. This specifically applies to outdoor lights (both security and decoration), as well as specific rooms of the home (like the bathroom) where lights seem to stay on at all times.

Simply connect them with Apple HomeKit, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, IFTTT, or another smart home system to build your schedule and start saving money on your lighting bills.

Turn Off the Lights When You Leave

How many times in a month do you forget to turn off the lights when you're going to work, the gym, or just leaving the house? Twice? A few times? All the time?

With CFLs or incandescent light bulbs, if you forget to hit the light switch as you leave, the lights stay on until you're back. That translates to wasted energy.

Smart home lights have changed the game. You can log into the smart home app on your smartphone to turn them off remotely. You can also program your smart home system to turn off all the lights in the house using geo-location technology - if all the connected phones are out of the house, the lights turn themselves off. This means you'll never leave lights on and waste electricity again.

Pair With Other Devices

You can pair your smart bulbs with hardware switches, sensors, phones, and other accessories for increased control and more frugal use.

For example, you can add special wireless smart switches that control the lights from different parts of the home that didn't originally have a wired switch.

You can use paired sensors to automate smart lights. With those sensors, your lights can do things like turn on when somebody walks into a room, touches a cabinet, or opens a door. Most smart bulb manufacturers sell motion sensors with their products, including the top-rated Philips Hue Motion Sensor.

In addition, you can use color-changing lights to create alerts based on other smart home sensors. Popular options include programming your bulbs to turn blue if there's a water leak or red if someone leaves an exterior door unlocked.

Track Your Energy Usage

Many smart home devices, smart bulbs included, keep track of how much energy they use. This allows you to review usage data to see how much electricity you are actually using, which can reveal ways you can use less energy.

See how much you can save by going solar with Palmetto

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How Much Can You Save With Smart Lights?

The actual amount of smart light savings depends on various factors like the electricity rate per kilowatt-hour you pay and what bulbs are being replaced.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: An average LED bulb adds about $1 to your energy bills every year compared to the $7 added by a comparable incandescent bulb. Thus, smart light savings can equal about $6 per year over an old-fashioned bulb.

According to ENERGY STAR, an average American house contains more than 40 sockets for light bulbs, which means that home could save up to $240 per year using smart lighting. Yes, you might have to make an upfront investment by buying all new bulbs, but if you do the math across several years of energy consumption, you stand to save a lot more with smart lights.

How Do Smart Lights Use Power When They're Off?

The short answer to that question is, “Yes, they do.” However, it’s important to understand the context.

Smart lights are “vampire devices”, which means they use electricity even when they're turned off or in standby mode. The reasoning is simple: In order to be turned on with your smartphone or any other smart device, the lightbulb still needs to be connected to Bluetooth or the internet. It takes electricity to maintain that constant connection so you can turn on the lights whenever you need them.

However, the amount of power a smart light uses in standby mode is very small and is offset by the bulb's other benefits. A typical smart bulb only uses a few cents a month when turned off or in standby mode. It would take a long time for the power used by your smart bulbs to become dollars.

Types Of Smart Lights

Smart home technology has evolved rapidly over the past few years. Today, a wide variety of energy saver light bulbs exist to suit many different users.

You can get bulbs with warm, neutral, and cool light color temperatures. You can also purchase bulbs that can be any color of the rainbow or any color on the daylight spectrum. The choices are endless.

Smart Lights Bulbs Vs. Smart Switches Vs. Smart Plugs

When it comes to smart lighting, you have three main options from which to choose. Each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks.

  • Smart Bulbs: Using actual bulbs is ideal if you want to control them individually or want to tweak the color of your home's lighting. Smart bulbs come in different sizes and shapes, so you're sure to find one for almost any fixture or lamp, whether outdoors or indoors. Compared to switches and plugs, bulbs give you the most benefits.
  • Smart Switches: When you want to control light bulbs operated by a light switch, smart switches are another option. They're particularly useful for switches that control several lightbulbs at the same time. However, while they offer benefits like timing and scheduling, they typically don't do color changes. Thus, compared to the other options, switches have more features than smart plugs, but less than bulbs.
  • Smart Plugs: Smart plugs convert ordinary appliances in your home into "smart" ones. They do this by allowing you to control the power supply to the appliance through an app on your smartphone. To create a smart lamp, you can add a smart plug to any ordinary electrical outlet in your home and then plug in your favorite mood lighting. In terms of features, plugs only provide basic on/off control and energy tracking, the fewest of the three smart lighting options.

Smart Light Bulb Shapes

When it comes to lightbulbs, smart or not, people envision the classic “inverted pear” shape . It’s what most of us grew up using and what many of us still use today. But just like many other rapidly growing forms of home technology, energy saving light bulbs have evolved to come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

A Series (A15, A19, A21, & A25): A-shaped bulbs (the “inverted pear” shape) are the standard for most home settings with A19 being the most common.

BR Series (BR20, BR30, BR40): BR simply stands for “bulged reflector”. These bulbs have a bulbous shape and tend to be shorter than the A-type. If you need wide-angled lighting in your home - for instance above the kitchen surface or in the hallway - we recommend the BR30.

E12: This type of bulb is known for its candelabra-style shape, making it perfect for your more ornate light fixtures in formal dining rooms.

Of course, new technology often means new fashions. The vintage-looking Edison-style bulbs are the newest kid on the block, and their exposed filaments and intricate designs place aesthetics front-and-center.

Light strips are another new smart light option, and can bring smart bulb benefits to

Popular Smart Light Brands

When you think about the best smart lights, the first brand that likely comes to mind is Philip Hue, which comes in many distinctive variations. However, there are many other brands out there vying for your attention, including:

  • Lutron
  • Sengled
  • Wyze Bulb
  • Ring Solar
  • Ikea
  • Fibaro
  • Kasa Smart
  • Eufy
  • Nanoleaf
  • Sylvania
  • Insteon
  • LIFX
  • Aoetec

Whichever of these best smart light bulbs you choose, we recommend that you buy everything from one brand so it all works together effectively and through the same app. This will be simpler than managing several apps at the same time.

Control Smart Lights With Your Voice

When you connect smart lights to a virtual assistant, whether on your smartphone or through various smart speakers, your lights listen to your voice commands. Just tell them what to do, and they'll do it!

All the major smart home assistants work with smart light bulbs and voice controls, including:

  • Apple Siri
  • Google Assistant
  • Amazon Alexa
  • Microsoft Cortana

With these virtual assistants, voice-activated lights are no longer a thing of the future. Use simple commands like turn lights on and off, dim/brighten the lights, change the color, and so much more. All you have to do is ask! Some assistants even offer a helpful “Wake Up” feature to get you going in the morning.

How Do You Install Smart Lights?

For bulbs, it's as simple as taking out the old bulb and putting in the new one. Just don’t forget to install the correct app to connect the bulb to your preferred network.

With plugs, you just insert the smart plug into an outlet and then connect your device into the smart plug. After you install the app to control and monitor the plug, you're ready to go!

Smart switches can be a bit difficult to install if you aren’t a home improvement regular. You have to remove your old switch to add the new one, which means dealing with the electrical wiring of your home. We recommend you get any smart switches installed by a professional.

Also we advise that you do not install smart bulbs on a traditional dimmer switch. Because the dimmer limits the amount of power the bulb receives, the smart communication method might not work without the necessary power.

How Do Smart Lights Work?

While all smart lights use wireless transmissions to receive and send their signals, different light bulbs use different communication methods to accomplish this purpose.

Some use Bluetooth radios to connect directly with your smartphone. Others use built-in Wi-Fi radios to connect directly with your internet router. To control smart lights from any location in your home, you may need a central hub to seamlessly communicate between all devices. Opting for a Wi-Fi hub allows your smart light bulbs to communicate with your home’s internet more effectively.

In addition to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, many smart light bulbs use smart-home-specific communication technologies like Z-Wave and Zigbee. In this case, you’ll need a central hub to act as a translator between your home’s internet and the smart light bulbs so they can communicate with each other. For example, Philips Hue Lights use Zigbee as the communication technology for their bulbs, so you need their Philips Hue Bridge hub to connect the bulbs to your internet and let your network speak that language.

How Much Do Smart Lights Cost?

Despite what you might have heard about smart lighting in the past, costs are coming down. In today’s market, a good smart bulb starts around $10. The price goes up depending on the number of features, the types of smart home devices it can connect with, and the quality of light it produces. For instance, if you want a bulb that can turn the light any color, you may have to spend $40 or more for a high-end model.

Wrapping Up

If there's one true takeaway from this article, it’s that a smart light saves money by reducing your energy consumption. Better still, this lighting technology works wonders for the environment, while also improving the comfort and convenience of your home. We all want to spend less money, use clean energy, and safeguard our planet. Smart light bulbs are just another step on your quest to make smart financial decisions and make the earth a better place.

At Palmetto, we have an endless passion for all things sustainable, and smart lights are one of them. With the Palmetto App you can track your smart light energy savings by day, by week, or month. Featuring an intuitive dashboard that provides energy production and consumption tracking, our app makes it easy to track your savings goals and boost your energy-saving results.

See what solar can do for you:

My electric bill is $290/mo
About the AuthorCory O'Brien HeadshotCory O'BrienSenior Director - Growth Marketing

Cory brings over 8 years of solar expertise to Palmetto, and enjoys sharing that knowledge with others looking to improve their carbon footprint. A dog lover residing in Asheville, NC with his wife, Cory graduated from UCSB. If you run into him, ask him about the company he founded to rate and review beer!

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