Smart bulbs: 10 things to consider before buying

Choosing the right wifi connected bulbs Connected bulbs are the first purchase of any Alexian who has recently fallen into the impulse, but oh so enjoyable, gear of automating his or her home, big or small. It is a home automation product that seems simple, the acquisition of which is very often based on the price at first. And then, we realize that the first times, it is not always what we had imagined: theconnected bulb does not light enough, its color is not suitable ...

But rest assured, as a good complement to our tutorial " how to choose your connected bulbs ", here are the 10 things to consider for your first purchase, and even after!

1. Know the type of socket or base

It may seem silly, but there is no stupid questioning to not be left like a stupid person with a light bulb in one hand with its nice butt and a socket in the other, looking blissfully at these two gadgets that do not do not fit into each other ...

There are the screw caps. There are two main types for bulb bulbs (bulb head shaped bulbs, you see?):

  • E27 base : it is the star of the bases. The E stands for Edison and the 27 stands for its diameter in millimeters. In Canada, there is the E26. The two are generally compatible. We find E27 for powerful bulbs. These are the most common connected bulbs.
  • E14 base : This is the first runner-up. You understand that this is a 14mm Edison. These are generally bulbs with a lower power than the E27. More in fill light. They are more and more easily found online.
  • There are others, such as 40mm or 10mm, but not yet connected.

Then there are the bayonet caps. The two most often encountered are:

- Base B22 : They are recognizable by their two lugs on the sides which “clip” into the socket which has two L-shaped openings. Almost impossible to find before, there are more and more.
- GU10 base : these are also bayonet bulbs, but the pins are in fact pins located under the base, which will fit into comma-shaped slots at the bottom of the socket. These are spotlight bulbs. The G stands for “globular”, the U for “universal” and the 10 stands for the space between the pins in millimeters. They are connected, but remain quite expensive.

If you have other types of bulbs (GZ10, MR16,…), take a good look at the various sales sites, because they are much more difficult to find. And in some cases, impossible. You will therefore have to find an alternative (see our point 10).

2. The choice of lumens on connected bulbs

For the not so young among us, you may be used to measuring the power of a light bulb in Watts. With light bulbs connected, and LEDs in general, let it go. Rather, we must reason in luminous flux intensity which will be given to you by the lumens. The more lumens, the stronger it lights.

Even if the power in Watts is always given because it is mandatory, it is necessary to make comparisons between the brands because there will be differences. For example, we can find 7W bulbs giving 600 lm and others with 800 lm for the same power! You have 9W with 1000 lm and the other at 806 lm.


“The more lumens, the brighter it gets. " The Alexians

However, one thing is certain, the more lumens your bulb will develop, the more expensive it will be. Why ? It requires better materials, a more robust product. This also explains the price differences between brands, but not only.

3. A single bulb?

It may seem redundant to you with tip # 2 (yes, we are multilingual), but the choice of light intensity will depend on where you put the bulb and if it will be alone.

If you are looking to put 3 or 4 bulbs on a chandelier or ceiling light, is taking the ones with the most lumens the most appropriate? If you still set them at 50% because the 5500lm peeled off your retina and made the wallpaper whiten, you could have bought less powerful bulbs from the start. It would have been cheaper. The lumens will indeed add up (linearly, not logarithm), but it should still be taken into account that each bulb will tend to light in a given direction if they are in directional heads.

The spots are often low power (200 to 300 lm), you will need several. And that can quickly climb to the price level.

Another point to take into account is the location. If you want a bulb for a room, 800 lm may be quite sufficient. If you want one for a dining room or living room, you're going to have to count on 1100lm or more, or multiple lamps at 1000lm, which is best. In a kitchen, you need a lot more lumens as well. For example, a kitchen requires on average 1500 lm for 7m². A hallway will be less greedy than a living room or an extra lampshade.

The most important remaining the Lux, that is to say the lumens per m².

4. The color temperatures of the connected bulbs

Nothing to do with any invasive measure. The color temperature will only concern white light. It is expressed in Kelvin (K) and will give information on the color of the light. Why Kelvin? If you remember your physics class, this is the universal temperature magnitude. 0K equivalent to absolute zero (-273,15 ° C). When we heat a metal, it will take on certain colors as its temperature increases, passing from red to white. This color code is based on the appearance of the metal as a function of its temperature in Kelvin.

Thus, a warm white light will have a temperature of 2500 to 3000K, so it will pull towards the red / orange. Then beyond 5000K, we will have cold white, drawing towards the blue and at more than 6500K, it is daylight. And between 3 and 4000K, we have a more neutral white.

There are monochromatic lamps that will only give you a single temperature of white. They are cheaper than the others because they require fewer components (a single chip) and some do not even have a dimmer.

So be careful, if you buy this type of bulb, at the advertised temperature. Because if a warm light (therefore a little subdued) is perfect for a room, it can be a problem for a kitchen. In addition, the light intensity will be lower.

5. Monochromatic or multicolored

Another question to ask yourself, do you want a monochromatic or multicolored bulb ? Most of the E27, E15 or B22 on the market are multicolored. This means that they will give you a choice of 16 million colors. A multicolored bulb has 3 chips: red, green and blue. Each will vary in intensity to be able to achieve the desired colors. For white, it is a blue chip covered with phosphorus that will come into action. So take a good look at the time of your purchase if the white is also variable in temperature, this is not always the case for multicolored lamps, even if it is rare.

Have the possibility to change color can be an advantage if you want to have a special atmosphere at specific times: in front of the TV, fiesta evening, romantic evening, ... But ultimately, is it really necessary for a kitchen or a bathroom? Monochromatic smart bulbs are generally less expensive than multicolored, although that tends to be less true.

Beware, however, of inexpensive 16 million color bulbs. The quality of the colors and the product are often very bad.

This will translate differently:

  • Colors that are bland, without any depth or brilliance,
  • A drastic drop in brightness in color mode,
  • Overlapping colors, like a green which tends to yellow and a purple which is blue, or even sometimes non-existent because of a faulty chip,
  • Du flickering or fluttering: i.e. a light which gives the impression of fluctuating and which ultimately tires the eyes
  • A buzzing or sizzling light bulb, in operation.
  • A bulb that remains a little fluorescent even when turned off.

Remember that we are not rich enough to buy the first prices. Changing and replacing them is costing us too much.

6. What is IRC?

The IRC, or color rendering index, is a quantity without unit informing you about the capacity of the bulb to faithfully reproduce the color of the illuminated objects. A CRI of 100 corresponds to daylight, therefore to the natural color of the objects.

Less than 70 : impression of having gray colors.

Between 70 and 80 : the rendering is average and it is not interesting to buy this type of product.

Between 80 and 90 : we are on a color rendering deemed good and which will allow visual comfort. Most LEDs on the market have a CRI> 80. The closer it is to 90, the better.

More from 90 : we are very good color rendering, but this is not found for the general public.

7. The shape of the bulb

As much to be frank enough, LED bulbs are generally quite ugly, as the name suggests. But anyway, they are mostly hidden from the eyes of men to allow them to see (it's beautiful not?). So design is secondary. In general, the bulb is small, opaque plastic and the body is white composite about ¾ of the height.

However, if you want beautiful bulbs, there are several kinds:

  • Filament-type connected bulbs: the filaments are in fact microchips put in sheaths which will give this retro impression. These are bulbs with only one white light (one type of chip) and with a fixed temperature. They are more expensive than other LED bulbs.

Test and review TP Link KL50: a connected bulb retro style "filament" compatible Alexa Echo

  • Connected bulbs with unusual shapes: it's a bit rare to find, but there are a few. Do not expect works of art, but rather lamps with a slightly more worked body like the Yeelight or the Philips Hue and their flattened tulip bulb.

8. The type of internet connectivity

So that they can be piloted from anywhere with your smartphone or voice, your bulbs must be connected to the Internet. From there, two main possibilities:

  • The Wi-Fi bulb: it is the most popular and cheapest connectivity. The bulbs connect to your box using the 2,4 GHz band only. Be careful, during installation, to connect to this frequency if your box is both 2,4 and 5 GHz. Very easy to connect, however, you have to realize that your network will quickly become saturated. You may therefore be led to invest in Mesh Wi-Fi Routers or Wi-Fi mesh network to try to regain available speed.
  • The ZigBee bulb: it is a particular type of network that will require a dedicated Hub. This bridge will connect to your Wi-Fi network and it is on this Hub that you will connect the bulbs. The advantage is that this will greatly de-saturate your Wi-Fi because a bridge allows the connection of around forty devices. However, this type of connectivity requires the purchase of a bridge and not all ZigBee bulbs are compatible with all bridges. The most famous and renowned brand is Philips Hue. There are other Philips Hue compatible brands like Gledopto… If you have a Echo Show 2, Echo Plus or Echo Studio, there is a built-in ZigBee bridge compatible with Hue. Note, however, that these bulbs are more expensive than Wi-Fi bulbs to purchase.

You also have other options besides basic connectivity. Bulbs can be both ZigBee and also controllable via Bluetooth, such as news Philips Hue Bluetooth.

Others are connected in ZigBee and controllable with a radio frequency remote control like the Gledopto E27 bulbs and the Philips Hue.

In Wi-Fi, some brands, such as LSC Smart Connect and Smart Remote, also offer control by radio frequency remote control. Again, this is an additional cost, but once you have tasted it ... You can also choose to control your LED bulbs in Z-Wave.

9. The application to control it

There are two things to consider: the versatility of the app and what it lets you do.
Regarding versatility, the goal is to avoid having 3 or 4 applications to control the bulbs in your home.

Most Wi-Fi bulbs are controllable with Smart Life or Tuya, the Swiss Army knife of the connected home. This avoids creating several accounts and ultimately mixing up names, products ... or simply managing too many applications. Another point, there is no problem of recognition of the luminaires under Smart Life or Tuya with Alexa. Skill Smart Life has indeed been available for a long time and relatively stable compared to the skills and applications Yeelight, Ewilink ...

ZigBee bulbs will be compatible with the application of the manufacturer of the Hub used (Philips, Lightify, Tradfi ... or Alexa). The possibilities offered by these applications, in particular Hue, are much more advanced than that of applications for Wi-Fi bulbs. The only limit will be your imagination. They become very interesting when you have many connected bulbs that you want to control in a particular way, for example synchronizing the lighting to your home theater ...

In any case, for a brand you do not know, make sure that the application is available and that the Skill is also present on the French store in order to use it with Alexa.

10. Are smart bulbs the best solution?

Hey yes, isn't there an alternative to your installation? In some cases, a smart bulb won't be a good choice, or at least not the best. For example, you need a very bright bulb, but it doesn't exist online. Or, you have a ceiling light with 4 or 5 sports, which can quickly become expensive. There is also the case where the type of base of your bulbs does not exist in connection (MR16,…). Don't worry, there are solutions.

Two, in particular:

  • A connected switch: if you can't have bulbs connected, then connect your switch. There are now switches without neutral which come to replace your current switch. There are some that connect to Wi-Fi and others to ZigBee, with or without capacitor. Zemismart for example offers both types. As with light bulbs, take a good look at the app and / or Hub to use. On the other hand, no color management and no variation in brightness possible
  • A connected switch: the switch is a box that will be housed in a ceiling light or in a double ceiling in order to open or close the electrical circuit and therefore turn your bulbs on or off. The most famous brand is SONOFF but you also have other brands like Meross, Zemismart… There again, they exist in Wi-Fi and in ZigBee. The installation is pretty straightforward. Again, no color management but for some, the variation in brightness is possible.

And There you go ! Through these 10 points of attention, you realize that choosing connected bulbs, in addition to being a bright idea, is not that simple. Often, we buy the first bulb by default, because we do not know what to take in the end. Thanks to this non-exhaustive list of tips, you will choose with a discerning eye! In any case, if the sales information is not clear or not complete (lumens, color, the fact that the bulb is dimmable, etc. are missing), do not take the risk of buying.
Did i choose Alexa or did she choose me? Let's say that as a beta tester, it's a bit of both! And I do not regret having met our favorite assistant nor this adventure undertaken with Alexien Modo. Technophile, self-taught and loving popularization, I try to make our common passion easy to access!