How to control smart bulbs with your car

Stop worrying about whether your left your lights on at home and have your car turn them off for you.

Taylor Martin CNET Contributor
Taylor Martin has covered technology online for over six years. He has reviewed smartphones for Pocketnow and Android Authority and loves building stuff on his YouTube channel, MOD. He has a dangerous obsession with coffee and is afraid of free time.
Taylor Martin
2 min read

Admittedly, controlling your lights with your car sounds a bit ludicrous, if not completely useless. But it's entirely doable and there are actually several scenarios where it can be very useful.

You can set up a silent alarm to let your spouse know when to start dinner or that you're about to walk through the door. You can ensure you didn't leave any lights on as you get in your car to leave and that some lights are on when you return.

All that's required are some smart bulbs, an If This Then That (IFTTT) account and Automatic, which is sort of like a Fitbit for your car -- it plugs into the OBDII port, tracks your drives, and syncs the info to your phone.

Automating smart lights with your car

If you're already familiar with IFTTT, setting up recipes with Automatic and your smart bulbs of choice is a breeze. Even if you're new to the world of IFTTT, it's generally pretty user friendly and relatively easy to navigate and understand.

  • Start by logging into your IFTTT account. Activate the Automatic channel by clicking Channels in the upper right corner of the site. From there, you can search for Automatic, select the channel and click Connect. Login to your Automatic account and authorize the connection.
  • If you haven't already activated the channel for your smart bulbs, follow the same steps to activate the channel. Compatible smart bulbs are LIFX, Philips Hue, Stack Lighting and WeMo. Emberlight, which turns standard bulbs into smart bulbs, is also supported.
  • Once all the necessary channels are activated, create a new recipe and choose Automatic as the trigger channel. Choose Ignition turned on as the trigger.
  • For the action channel, choose the appropriate channel for your brand of smart bulbs. The LIFX channel is used for this example, so there may be differences in wording of actions or available options. Choose Turn lights off as the action.
  • Next, select which group of lights should be turned off and select a fade out duration, if applicable.
  • Click Create Action.

Alternatively, you can click here to quickly add this recipe to your IFTTT account.

Now whenever you start your car's engine, the lights in your house will turn off.

If your spouse is always home before you, you can also have the lights switch to a preset scene when the engine is turned off in a specific area, such as your driveway, or breathe a certain color when the engine is turned on in a set location.

If you don't have an Automatic device for your car, you can simulate the same effect with the Location channel on IFTTT. When you (and your phone) enter or exit an area, you can toggle your LIFX bulbs off and on.