Want a smart home? Start with your lights

Here's why it's time to upgrade your lights now.

Sarah Mitroff Managing Editor
Sarah Mitroff is a Managing Editor for CNET, overseeing our health, fitness and wellness section. Throughout her career, she's written about mobile tech, consumer tech, business and startups for Wired, MacWorld, PCWorld, and VentureBeat.
Expertise Tech, Health, Lifestyle
Sarah Mitroff
3 min read

If you are just starting to dip your toe into upgrading your home to a smart home , the easiest place to start is with lighting.

Switching out a lightbulb requires so little time and effort, but can make a huge difference in how you interact with your home.

It's Lighting Week and we're exploring the different ways you can make your lighting smarter, from temporary changes to permanent upgrades. Even if you aren't ready to get smart lights just yet, these tips will help you make the most of the lights you already have.

Start with smart bulbs

Arguably the easiest way to upgrade your lighting is with smart bulbs. You can swap out the existing CFL or LED bulbs in your lamps and lighting fixtures with a Philips Hue, Lifx Mini, Eufy Lumos LED or many other models.

These smart bulbs allow you to control your lights with your phone or through Alexa or Google Assistant. Plus, you can schedule them to turn on at any time and dim them at will, even if you don't have a dimmer switch.

Looking for more reasons to buy? We've got five reasons why your next light bulbs should be smart bulbs.

Once you have them, here are the first 5 things you should do with them.

13 LED smart bulbs that are worth the cash

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Play with color-changing bulbs

When shopping for smart bulbs, you'll usually see two options; white only and color. Color bulbs usually cost a bit more, but they allow you to set your lights to any color of the rainbow.

This allows you to have a lot of fun with your lights. Out of the box, many models have light settings that mimic sunrise or sunset, and let you change the light from an energizing blueish white to a calming warm orange.

Beyond that, you can program your lights (often with the help of IFTTT, Alexa or Google Assistant) to change colors when your alarms go off or you get a new email. You can also make them slowly fade to darkness as you fall asleep or slowly illuminate at sunrise.

CNET's Ry Crist has five creative ways to use color-changing smart bulbs to get you started.

Try smart light switches

If you have a lot of lamps or recessed lighting, smart bulbs can quickly become expensive. The solution? Smart light switches.

These control all of the lights wired to one switch, allowing you to turn lights on and off on a schedule or with a smart assistant, without changing your existing light bulbs .

Before you take the plunge, read up on the five things you should think about when adding smart switches to your home.

Watch this: How to buy bright LED light bulbs that don't suck

Layer your lights

Lighting plays a huge role in the look and feel of your home. If you've decorated your space to your liking, but something still doesn't feel right, it's likely your lights that need attention.

Start with making sure you have layers of light in every room, from ambient to accent. Learn how you can become your own lighting designer by following these simple light layering rules.

Stay tuned all this week for everything you need to know about lighting.

What smart home gadget should you buy first?: Read this to find out.

Here's how to pick the right smart plug: Make the most out of the most underrated smart home gadget.