The proliferation of smart phones in the market place has opened up a whole new world of ways to make your day-to-day life easier. Manufacturers of locks, garage door openers, lighting controls and thermostats have taken notice. There are door locks that unlock when you walk up to the door, garage door openers that you can operate remotely, light switches that you can dim with a touch of a button and thermostats that adjust the temperature in your home according to your schedule. Some of these devices operate using features already built into your smart phone.
Does this sound like science fiction? It’s not. All of the above not only exist as stand-alone devices, but are readily available in the market place. You may even have some in your home right now. If you don’t have any now and want to add smart devices, not only are they cool, they can save you considerable time and money. But aren’t all of those automatic devices expensive? The affordability of the devices just might surprise you. The four-part series of articles continues here, with Remote Control Lighting, Smart Lighting and Wireless Wall Switches.
Now, what if you could simply push a button on a remote or on your smart phone to turn the lights on or off? You are in luck, we have the technology and it is available for far less than you might think.
Remote Control Lighting
How many times have you been all set to watch a movie and then realized you had to get back up to turn the lights down? You need to create the right experience, right? What about turning the lights on to get up for a bathroom break half way through a movie? Are you uncomfortable coming home to a dark house? We have all been there. Now, what if you could simply push a button on a remote or on your smart phone to turn the lights on or off? You are in luck, we have the technology and it is available for far less than you might think.
Remote Control plug-in Switches
Can you plug a lamp in to the wall? Then you can install a remote control for those lamps. Yep, it’s that easy. To set remote control switches up, simply unplug your lamp, plug the switch in to the outlet you just vacated, then plug the lamp into the switch. Next, simply pair the switch to the remote and your lights are remote controlled! These switches also work great for Christmas tree lights or decorations.
You can buy a 5 pack of switches with two remote controls for $35.00 on Amazon (Etekcity ZAP 5LX). One button on the remote turns the switch on and another one turns it off. The remotes that come with the 5 pack of switches each have 5 pairs of buttons – one pair for each switch. That means you can control up to 5 devices with a single remote. If you only need a single switch, you can buy that kit for $19.98 (Etekcity ZAP 3L). In between is a 3 switch kit for $25.99 (Etekcity ZAP 3F).
Home Depot and Lowe's
There are other manufacturers that make similar switches. A three pack of switches with remote control will set you back $19.97 at Home Depot (Model #RC015*3). Lowe's has a similar deal for $4.99 (Model #HLRC23PK).
Can you change a light bulb? Then you can step into the world of smart LED lighting. Smart LED lamps screw into the same receptacle as traditional light bulbs but, in addition to the wall switch, they are also controlled by a wireless gateway. The gateway connects to your smart phone or tablet through your router and an app. While as easy as can be, this solution is more expensive than the remote controlled switches above.
Philips has changed the lighting game with the introduction of its Hue wireless LED lighting kits. A 3 lamp starter kit from Best Buy will set you back $199.99 (Model #426353). The kit includes a gateway device and 3 lamps. Additional lamps are available for $59.99 (Model #426361). Not only can the Hue LED lamps be dimmed, but you can also control the color temperature of the lamps. For example, I prefer a stark white light in the kitchen area. That corresponds to a 5000K color temperature. I prefer a softer light in the living room, so I would program lamps there for a 3000K or 3500K temperature. The lamps can also be programmed to turn on, or off at a certain time each day so you never need to worry about coming home to a dark house. The Hue system is controlled by an app on your smart phone or tablet. Hue lamps can also be preprogrammed for different lighting “scenes”. The scenes can be different color configurations and/or different dimming levels. Philips sells a Hue Tap, which is a controller that you can preprogram with up to three different scenes. The Hue Tap sells for $59.55 (Model #452524).
Another player in the smart LED lighting is TCP. A two lamp starter kit only costs $79.97 at Home Depot (Model #CCG2LD11). The starter kit comes with two 60W equivalent lamps and a gateway that connects to your router. A 4 zone remote control costs $19.99 (Model #601RCW). The remote control is a great alternative if you want a controller in the house other than your smart phone or tablet. The upside of the TCP system is the cost, the downside is that the lamps are not color tunable. That means you need to buy the color of lamp you want. If you want a different color temperature, you get to buy another lamp. The good news here is that the lamps are not terrifically expensive at only $18.97 (Model #CAS11LCDL). The TCP gateway can control up to 250 lamps, which means that you can easily expand if you so desire.
Wireless Wall Switches
Taking a step up in complexity, we come to wireless wall switches. These switches replace the on-off wall switches you currently have in your home. To install one of these switches, first turn the circuit off at the breaker box. Next remove the switch surround plate, then the switch itself. Once the wires have been disconnected from the existing switch, reverse the process to install the wireless wall switch.
Lutron Maestro wall switches install in place of your existing wall switches and even work the same way, when you use them manually. The Lutron switches have the added dimension of letting you operate them remotely with the Pico remote. The Pico remote is about the same size as an oversize wall switch and fits inside a designer opening wall plate. This allows you to mount the remote on the wall in place of another wall switch, if you so desire. A dimmer switch and Pico remote package retails for $130.00ea MSRP (MRF2-600MTHW-WH) and can be found for less online. Be sure to use dimming-capable lamps with the Maestro switch.
Smart Home makes a remote control wall switch as well. The Insteon wall switch retails for $49.99 (Model #2477D). The switch does require a remote control which is sold separately. A four scene mini remote will set you back an additional $44.99 (Model #2342-232). The remote can control up to four switches. Both the Lutron switch and the Smart Home switch can be integrated into a whole home control system, but for the purposes of this article we have limited ourselves to stand-alone applications.
The home entertainment experience encompasses more than simply watching a nice flat screen with an accompanying sound system. Creating the right atmosphere can be as important as the components involved. It is no secret that dimming the lights helps to do just that. Not getting up from the couch just adds convenience to the equation. The security of remote control lighting with the ability to turn the lights on from your car, with a smart phone app, is self explanatory. The ease of doing either of these things, without needing to set up a whole home control system, is revolutionary. The low prices presented above are just added bonus points!
You've just read part three of a four part series.
Part Three – Smart Lighting
About Brian Hill
Brian Hill is a home theater enthusiast who has an extensive background in sales. His interests include music & movies, F1 & NASCAR auto racing, hot rods (he has a '56 Nomad) and hockey — Go Sharks!
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