Smart sockets vs. smart bulbs

After visiting a mobility-challenged friend with Edge installed in her house for a week, I’m exploring getting it for mine. We had a fun evening playing “stump Alexa” with off the wall yet still reasonable questions and requests for obscure music.

While examining all the bits and bobs you can install I’ve noticed you can have a plug-in lamp with a smart socket or a smart bulb for about the same price. I like the features of a smart bulb, dimming for one (colors not so much), but I’m leery abut shelling out $20 for an item begging to be replaced. I’ve not had good luck with either CFL or LED bulbs lasting as long as claimed when I made the changeover – there seems to be a lot of infant mortality. One light has been changed three times in the past three years but it’s part of a constantly running fan-light and is probably getting vibrated to death.

So, if you’ve had both for a while, socket or bulb: Which one of these?

Replacement is not the major issue.

A smart switch is far better, because you can still use it manually. So Alexa and the manual control are controlling the SAME switch. Alexa knows what state a smart switch is in whether it has been switched on/off by Alexa or manually.

But a smart bulb is a second separate switch in series with the old manual switch. You need both to be on for the light to be on. If you turn off the manual switch, Alexa can’t turn your lights on; if the smart bulb is off, you can’t turn on the light manually.

Obviously, installing smart switches is a lot more work, but it’s worth it. Smart bulbs are a gimmick that really make little sense.

I beg to differ. I have about seven smart switches and two smart bulbs. While I agree that smart switches are better in general, the smart bulbs I use (TP-Link) are dimmable, while my switches (same brand) are not.

If I need to turn on a light at night and I don’t want to sear my retinas, I just say, “Alexa, turn the bedroom lamp to 5%.” It’s great. You can get the same effect by using a smart dimmable switch with a dumb-but-dimmable bulb, naturally, but sometimes the smart bulb alone is better.

Also, some switches require modern (or mostly modern) wiring, which some older houses don’t have. My last apartment was built in 1953, and it handled my switches fine. The place before was built in the early ‘20s, and switches weren’t an option there.

Overall, smart switches are better. But if you want easy dimming or have, uh, heirloom wiring, smart bulbs can save the day.

My thoughts, exactly, Edelweiss. The porch light, which has a switch, no socket, and would never need dimming, will definitely get a smart switch. OTOH, we have a couple IKEA torchiere floor lamps with a gooseneck reading/work light. They plug into the wall and have a double cord switch so the two can be turned on independently. They’re crying for a smart bulb so the top light switch can be left on and let Alexa control it while the reading lamp gets snapped on manually. The question I had was how reliable are smart bulbs’ longevity.

Regarding heirloom wiring, I pried apart the heatpump’s thermostat and found – not really to my surprise – no C-wire. Fortunately the thermostat is by far the most expensive upgrade so I have a while to mull the solution over. There’s a wall switch nearby so, assuming the neutral is routed through it, I’ll probably tap a 24v cube into it.

My problem with the smart bulb is they don’t get bright enough. It says 60w equivalent, but I call bull shit.

Before I switched, I only needed one lamp to light my living room. Now I need three.

I need a smart socket that allows me to control the voltage so I can control the brightness. Couldn’t find one last time I looked.

I have had these two things for about two years, with minor problems and no bulb burnouts.

I have three Philips Hue smart bulbs in one lamp, which is switched to a wall switch that we leave on all the time. The Hue bulbs require a Hue hub connected to your router. It interfaces with Alexa. If our router is out or there is a hiccup and Alexa can’t find the device, I can turn the switch off then back on and the lights come on. I can also control these bulbs with a phone app.

I have a WEMO smart wall switch for a ceiling fan that interfaces to Alexa. This week Alexa can’t find it. I still haven’t had time to troubleshoot it but it still works as a conventional switch in the meantime. It can also be controlled by a phone app.

Not my experience. Powering it off and back again will turn it on.

My problem with the smart socket is that WiFi will eventually change, necessitating the replacement of those obsolete switches, or running some WiFi adaptor. Hardwiring a switch is not ‘bad’ but usually is not as easy as replacing the bulb. Also electronics fail, and that means that the switch can also fail and is extra labor to change out, and in generally the light switch is pretty bulletproof design, not so sure about a smart switch. IMHO companies that design computer type of components tend to design to a lesser standard than those who manufacture mechanical devices when it comes to the mechanical operation parts.

A couple of things, a 60W IC bulb is not that much to light up a living room, Perhaps it was higher wattage? Or may have to do with the light ‘quality’ (temperature, CRI). The IC bulb is a really good full spectrum light with a warm light that we are also used to. LED’s and CF are all over the place that way. In the early days of CF’s they were really terrible that way. Yes I kind of did the same, put more bulbs in, and yes it was brighter, but the light quality was so poor that it was harder to see, I switched it back to IC and cried as it seemed so much better. Both CF’s and LED’s are not full spectrum, though most LED’s are better the CF. Additionally both CF’s and LED’s can be subject to flickering, again the cheaper ones have this issue more. But again flicker can make it harder to actually see. The solution I have found works best for me it to by a good name brand 3000K LED. 3000K is pretty much IC light bulb color, and the name brands usually have good filters to eliminate flicker and have pretty good spectrum. Any bulb that seems off I move for areas that it doesn’t matter so much.

I used smart switches in my house. I started installing it before smart bulbs were a thing, and using smart bulbs limits you to a few lower wattage equivalent types of edison bulbs, not say the fluorescent light in your kitchen or the landscape lights out front. My house used greenfield so I was able to pull neutrals into switch locations that did not have them.

Previously my father wired dimmers to the wall outlets. When I replaced then with smart switches I made it safe by recplacing the outets with Lutron dimming outlets. You wire a special plug to your lamps with a notch in front, and the outlet has protrusion that will reject any other plug, say from a a vacuum cleaner. They’re not cheap and now out of production I think. To be technically be code compliant they have to be used with Lutron dimmers, but they are safe with any brand of dimmer. Another way to do this would be to have an on/off switch in the wall (although they’re technically listed for permanently connected loads) and that controlling dimmable plug in modules for the lamps.

2700-2800K is incandescent color, 3000K is more like a halogen lamp (at full brightness of course). I’d use 3000K in hallways, bathrooms, and kitchens, and 2700-2800K in bedrooms, living rooms, and dining rooms.

I have a particular use case for a smart bulb that is useful. When all you care about is being able to turn it off.

I have a bulb in a hallway that gets left on at night all the time by kids. It’s out a door and the switch is probably 30 feet from my bed. If I see it’s on (quite easy with the cracks in my door), it’s quite handy to be able to turn it off with my phone without disturbing my spouse.

Granted a smart switch would be better, but the bulb is an easier install.

Blame the marketing types, and that no one enforces the misleading “equivalent” labels on the LED bulb packages.

The measurement you really should be looking at is “lumens”. A (new) 60 watt standard incandescent light will put out around 800 lumens, 75 watt 1100 lumens, and 100 watt 1600 lumens. When you get a LED light that states 800 lumens, you will find it is as bright as the 60 watt incandescent it replaces.

I am constantly amazed by the “Blinding light” advertisements for flashlights, then find they only output 200 lumens (equivalent of a 25 watt incandescent). Check those lumens!

Maybe, but also a lack of quality control and/or independent verification. There’s LEDs out there that don’t meet their own specs (especially Chinese sellers on eBay and Amazon), purporting to be, for instance, 10 watts, but only actually reaching 7 or 8. That’s really going to cut your lumens.

Luckily, I pulled a couple of the switch locations apart before committing to anything and found that in my 50s-era house, the electrician didn’t route the neutral through the box. :mad:

Also luckily, this week CostCo had Feit dimmable, multi-white selection, color-changing smart bulbs in a two-pack for $16, less per bulb than non-dimmable, one color bulbs are elsewhere. I bought several packs and have installed them. The different shades of white are nice, but I think the colors will be an unused feature. The yellow, in particular, is less than convincing. The reading lights in the bedroom are mini-spots with a smaller-than-Edison base on them so they got a Gosund smart socket.

I ordered a refurbished Echo Dot so it wasn’t available for immediate shipping; it’s due today. Meantime I’ve installed Alexa on the phone, been busy naming all of the lights and figuring out how to get them recognized by Alexa, and boning up on what else it can do besides turning the lights on. This next week will be interesting.

There are smart switches that don’t need a neutral line, such as the Lutron Caseta or various Z-Wave compatible switches. They work by using a small resistor to create a voltage difference between the two hot wires, enough to power a simple controller. You have to have a central device hub, though, to control them remotely. They can’t tap enough power for a WiFi controller. There are other smart bulb systems, like Philips Hue, that come with secondary remote controls that supplement the existing wall switches. You can also commit to mostly using smartphone or voice control, but that tends to be difficult if you live with other people.

Smart bulbs: dimmable but the are usually under 90 CRI. Easy to install.

Smart plugs: you can control a lamp with several bulbs in it The plugs are cheap and can be easily replaced. Can use 90 plus CRI bulbs. But no dimming.

Smart switch : all the disadvantages of smart plugs but hardwired into the wall and will inevitably need replacing.

I think smart bulbs are going to be the clear long term winner. Hands down. Only drawback of present models is they are 10-20 bucks each and you can get a smart plug for that. Also they have worse CRI for now though that will probably also change.

Either way these things are a modestly expensive luxury. If having to replace a $10 lightbulb every 5-10 years impacts your budget just use the old way. (Or use the smart bulbs only where needed)

Also another problem with current tech is these bulbs are using an internet server, usually one by the bulb manufacturer and a second for Alex or Google. So if the internet is down or either server is down you are sorta left in the dark. Though you usually can toggle the switch to them manually or smart plugs have a small button on them to turn the lights on.

While Alexa needs an internet connection to work, if I’m interpreting what I’m reading with the bulb instructions correctly they only need a Wi-Fi connection. Therefore, if my local network is up but the ISP is down, I can still use my smartphone to control the lights, same as I’m doing right now while waiting for the Echo Dot to arrive.*

Of course, if the power is off rendering my Wi-Fi network useless, I’m helpless to control the lights. :wink:

*The delivery yesterday didn’t happen. Amazon is now estimating Wednesday r Thursday.

Well this is unlikely. I suggest you unplug your modem and see if the app keeps working. I bet it won’t. It is possible for the bulb manufacturer to support local lan fallback but I bet they didn’t…