8 Best Smart Home Lighting (2022): Decorative Panels, LED Strips, and Ambient Lamps

Shopping for smart lighting and installing it can be confusing, so we have some tips for you here. We also have a separate guide on how to use smart lighting to transform your kid’s bedroom.

Finding the ideal placement for your smart lighting will maximize its impact. Consider potential reflections, especially if you are installing them in a living room or office, as you don’t want your smart lights reflected on a TV or display. You always need to run a cable to a power outlet, so consider cable management to hide it as best you can. Plug the lighting in and connect it via the app before you install it. With panels, make your design first and ensure you are happy with it before you try to put it on your wall.

Most smart lighting panels and strips come with adhesive on the back. You must prepare them properly before you start stickering. It’s crucial to clean the wall before installation and follow the instructions to the letter to ensure it sticks and stays (if it says “press for 30 seconds,” do it). Make sure to shut your curious cat or dog in a different room while you install it!

Removing panels and strips may damage your walls. I have suffered cracked paintwork and divots in plaster when removing some smart lighting. Going slowly and applying heat with a hair dryer can help reduce the risk of damage, but the difficulty of this process is a solid reason to be careful with your installation.

The brightness of lighting is measured in lumens. A standard 60-watt light bulb, for example, puts out around 800 lumens. Because most decorative smart lighting is not designed to be the main light source, it is often quite limited in brightness, so keep this in mind.

RGB (red, green, blue) is standard and mixes those three to make other colors. RGBW includes a proper white alongside red, green, and blue, which offers greater flexibility and is important if you want high-quality white light. Color temperature is measured in Kelvins (K) and listed as a range (for example, 1200K–6500K). This range dictates how warm or cool your lighting can get. Perhaps counterintuitively, reds and oranges are at the lower end of the scale, and blues are at the higher end. The last thing to keep in mind is the Color Rendering Index (CRI), a score out of 100 indicating how effectively a light can mimic daylight. It impacts how the colors of lit objects appear. With low CRI scores, for example, reds can appear brown. A score of 80 or above will work fine for most situations.

Most smart lighting connects via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and is controlled by an app on your phone. You need a decent Wi-Fi signal or to be within Bluetooth range. While it might seem desirable for simplicity to have lighting connected directly to Wi-Fi or to use Bluetooth, there are advantages to systems with dedicated hubs. With Philips Hue, for example, lights are much faster to connect and react to commands using the Hue Hub than through Bluetooth in the app. Most smart lighting can be controlled by smart voice assistants, like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri, but ensure you check compatibility before you buy. You will likely want a smart speaker or smart display in the same room as your lighting.

Consider physical controls. Smart lighting must be plugged into power and on all the time to be responsive. If it is only app-controlled, it may be tough for kids in the home or visitors to turn the lights on or off. Many light strips and panels also come with a control unit with physical buttons and sometimes a button to cycle through colors or effects—this is worth looking for if you have kids in the home.

Check how many zones your smart lighting supports. Smart light strips at the cheap end of the market may only have a single zone, which means the entire strip can only render one color at a time. If you want multiple colors or animated effects, you want multiple zones (the more, the better).

For light strips, verify the length and measure it out in your space before you buy. Cheap light strips may lack protective coverings for the LEDs, which will impact longevity. If you want to cut a light strip to a specific length, make sure your preferred option allows for this, and be very careful to follow the instructions. Some light strips are also extendable, but always check before you buy.

There can be some privacy concerns with smart lighting. The ambient lights here that offer a reactive mode that changes the lights to the beat of the audio in your space have microphones for this function to work. It’s something to be aware of, though the companies claim they don’t record audio or send it anywhere, and that everything stays on device.

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