When you think of lighting up your home, it's only natural to think about all those lighting fixtures you have inside your home. You want to fill them up with smart lightbulbs, and we support your decision.
But what about the outside? Youâve got some garden space to play with â maybe a porch, maybe a nice back yard suited for warm summer nights â and you want to give it a little luminous loving. What do you do?
When it comes to lighting up the outside, you've got smart options to play with too. But where do you start? Luckily for you, we've got this here guide.
Smart outdoor lightbulbs: Things to consider
Lightbulbs are lightbulbs; just plug 'em in and flip a switch, right? Wrong. You've fallen at the first hurdle. There are a number of things you need to keep in mind when buying lightbulbs. Things we regularly gloss over.
For the most part, LED lightbulbs take care of most of these problems indoors. They're built to withstand most indoor conditions, they sap very little energy and they last a long, long time. Going outside, however, is a different ballgame.
The first thing you need to think about is the weather in your area. Does it get cold? Does it get rainy? Are there thunderstorms and humidity? Or do you get a dry, hot summer where you can bake an egg on the sidewalk? Take a good, hard serious look at the worst your climate can bring in a year.
Here's the good news: The vast majority â if not all â of smart bulbs are LEDs. They're generally built pretty well; there's a reason why every car manufacturer has turned to them for headlights. They work pretty well in the cold too â unlike fluorescent bulbs, which can flicker when it's too cold.
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But LED bulbs can only take so much heat. That's a little strange, considering LED bulbs don't use a lot of energy, but it's true. The circuitry in an LED bulb is often packed into one area underneath the bulb. This circuitry is very sensitive to heat and humidity, so if it gets too hot the circuits could overheat and damage the bulb.
The damage could reverse one of the biggest advantages of LED bulbs: lifespan. So if you want to keep your bulbs healthy, you should avoid putting them in hot areas. If your climate is moderate, where it gets cold once in a while but doesn't get too hot or humid, you may get away with using an LED bulb outdoors.
Several manufacturers explicitly state whether their bulbs are suited for outdoor use. Hive, for instance, says its bulbs are only for indoor use. Sengled says its basic bulbs are only made to withstand 10 to 95% humidity in non-condensed environments, which make them a bad idea for both the outdoors and bathrooms. They're also not waterproof, which brings us to our next point.
Your bulbs need to be weatherproof to withstand the worst mother nature can throw at them. This means snow, ice, storms and more. Some manufacturers, like Philips and Lifx, make bulbs specifically built for the outdoors. The big benefit here is that they're tested and proved to work outside, and are fully weatherproof. They're also typically flood lights, blasting their light onto as wide an area as possible.
Philips Hue PAR38
Philips makes a smart lightbulb for any occasion, so it's no surprise to see it take on the outdoors with its PAR38 floodlight. This fully waterproof bulb can work in temperatures from -20 to 45 degrees celsius. It also hits a colour temperature of 3,000K, which means you're getting a really bright white light here.
The standout features of Philips effort, however, is what you can do with this light. You can set your lights to automatically turn on when you arrive home and turn off when you leave home by switching to Home or Away mode in the companion app. You can also turn on geolocation so that it uses your phone's location to know whether you're in or out.
There are also schedules that you can run your lights by, in addition to being able to control them with companion apps, Alexa, Google Assistant and HomeKit. If one isn't enough, Philips also has a two pack available for $49.99.
The Lifx BR30 can give you a colour temperature of up to 9,000K, and at 1,100 lumens you'll have plenty of light outdoors. It is for use outside, but it's also not exactly waterproof, so if you live in an area that rains a lot â like the Pacific Northwest â you might be in trouble.
However, you can place it in a covered light space, like a gazebo or patio, and you'll be completely fine. This isn't a bulb you can screw into some random fixture on the side of your house, but it'll do for most situations you encounter.
You're also getting the full suite of Lifx features. You can use the companion app to set schedules. It also doesn't require a hub, like the Philips Hue does, so you won't need to worry about setting that up. You can simply plug it in, set it up and you're good to go. It also works with Google Assistant, Alexa, HomeKit and Cortana.
There's also a plus version that comes with a night vision mode that'll illuminate things for your security camera (and only your security camera). That version is a little more expensive, but in the UK it's the only version available.
If you're looking for full protection from nature's wrath, Ilumi's outdoor bulb is the one you want to go for. It's got a full IP64 rating, which means it's built to withstand splashes of water like rain.
It's also built to be weatherproof and withstand things like thunderstorms, snow and even rogue sprinklers. Plus there's a UV coating on the bulb to protect it from particularly sunny days.
You're getting 1,000 lumens here, and you're also getting over 16 million colours. There's no hub or Wi-Fi in use either. Instead, Ilumi uses a Bluetooth mesh network that can connect up to 50 bulbs together. However, that means you're only getting Alexa support. And to use that, you need to make sure your phone's Ilumi app is constantly running in the background.
Still, you're getting some neat smart features. Vacation mode will turn your lights on and off at random to make it seem like you're still at home, while music sync will sync your lights to your smartphone's music for outdoor parties.
If you're looking for a more no-frills smart bulb experience, Sylvania's Smart+ line has a solid outdoor bulb you can look at. You're getting a solid 1,050 lumens here but you're also only getting soft white colours.
The bulb is powered by Zigbee, so if you've got any compatible Zigbee hub you'll be able to easily connect it and get going. This is particularly a good fit for Echo Plus users, as that is a Zigbee hub and the Smart+ has Alexa support. It's also got Google Assistant support, but you'll need to go and get a hub to use it.
Once you do have the hub, the big smart features you're going to get are turning your lights on, off or dimming them. As for weather proofing, Sylvania says it's "wet rated for outdoor use" and can be used anywhere in the outdoors.