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Light the way home

It's been a long day at work. It's late, and you're tired. You pull up in front of a dark house, make your way to the door, and fumble around with your keys in the dim light, dropping them on the doormat as you try and unlock the door. You raise a fist and curse the night sky -- surely there must be a better way!

Well, there is, and there's really no need to be so dramatic about it. With the right smart lights and a little help from the free online automation service IFTTT, you can program your home lighting to turn on automatically the instant you arrive home. Scroll on through to see how it's done.

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The right lights

First things first: You're going to need some IFTTT-compatible smart lights. For my money, the ones that work the best with IFTTT come from Lifx, so that's what I'll use for this walkthrough. 

There are lots of other options, too -- I'll run through some of the best alternatives at the end of this gallery.

Published:Caption:Photo:Ry Crist/CNET

Get the IFTTT app

Once you've got some IFTTT-compatible smart lights that are ready for automation, go ahead and download the free IFTTT app to your Android or iOS device. Open it up and create an account, then tap the little "plus" icon on the homescreen to create your location-based automation. IFTTT calls these automations "applets."

IFTTT stands for "If This, Then That," so to create your applet, you'll need a "this" and a "that." Tap the little plus sign next to "this" to get started.

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Create your location-based trigger

IFTTT will show you a long list of supported devices and services that can trigger your applet. Search for "Location," then select "You enter an area" as the trigger.

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Use the map

IFTTT lets you pick an exact spot on the map -- whenever your phone enters that area, your applet will run. Go ahead and center the area on your home, and consider zooming out just a little bit to give your phone's GPS some wiggle room.

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Halfway there

That's it for the "this" part of the equation -- now for the "that."

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Set your lights

Go ahead and search for whatever IFTTT-compatible lights your home uses. In my case, we're going with Lifx. 

Once we've selected the Lifx channel, we'll select "turn lights on" as the action that happens whenever the applet is triggered.

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Customize accordingly

The nice thing about the Lifx channel on IFTTT is that it gives you a lot of room to specify exactly what you want your lights to do. I'm going to set them to turn on at a pretty normal setting, but if you wanted them to come on to a specific color or brightness setting, you could do that too.

Once that's all set, tap "Finish" to finalize your applet. If you want, you can toggle that little slider to make it so your phone gets a notification whenever the applet runs. Either way, there you go -- no more cursing the darkness!

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An alternative bulb

I promised I'd run through some other smart lighting options that work with IFTTT, so let's start with TP-Link. 

Like Lifx, these Wi-Fi smart bulbs don't require a hub, and they work with Alexa and the Google Assistant, too.

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The same goes for the Wiz LED -- it works with IFTTT, supports voice controls, and needs no hub.

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It's not just bulbs -- you can use IFTTT's location triggers to toggle your color-changing Nanoleaf LED panels, too.


Lutron Caseta switches

Smart switches are fair game, too. My favorites: these Lutron Caseta smart switches. They require a Lutron Hub plugged into your router, but they're a very solid pick for smart lighting.

Published:Caption:Photo:Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Belkin WeMo Dimmer

Another decent smart switch option: the Belkin WeMo Dimmer, which doesn't need a hub at all.

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Belkin WeMo Mini

If you just want a lamp in the window to turn on as you pull up, then plug it into Belkin's WeMo Mini Smart Plug, which only costs about $30 and works perfectly with IFTTT.

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Philips Hue White Starter Kit

Oh, and if you're wondering why I haven't mentioned the ultrapopular, IFTTT-compatible line of Philips Hue smart lights yet, it's because they actually don't need IFTTT to turn on automatically when you get home. 

Location-based lighting triggers like those are a native feature in the Hue app, which you can read more about here.

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