Smart lights are damn pretty to set up in the house. The trouble is, they’re an expensive addition. So, while the aesthetics might almost make the price worth it, what you really need to know is how they can level-up your life. In order to make you feel less guilty about dropping a hundred or so dollars on some lights, here are some hacks to give your smart lights a practical use too.
In the aftermath of Amazon Prime Day deals, one of the weirder insights we gathered from Lifehacker readers was that aside from your affinity for Coca Cola multipacks, you were pretty big on smart lighting. Because apparently everyone owns a Philips Hue smart lighting system now, we've decided to figure out how to get the best out of the most expensive light bulb you'll ever purchase.Read more
While most smart lights come with an app, its functions are usually a bit limited. This is where If This Then That (IFTTT), a free web-based service, comes in to truly up your smart light game. With IFTTT, you can automate and schedule your lights to do certain actions to make things more convenient, not just aesthetically beautiful.
To connect to IFTTT, you need to download the app and then follow the prompts until your network of smart lights is connected.
We used some bulbs supplied by LIFX, but with more companies leaning in to the smart light trend, you’ll be able to choose from a bunch of options (though, it seems only LIFX and Philips Hue have IFTTT support).
Without further ado, here are some tips to impress guests with your boujie lights in style.
Turn lights on when you arrive
The thing with smart lights (and if you don’t have a motion detector hooked up) is that to turn the lights on, you’ll need to enter the app once you reach your home’s Wi-Fi zone. This is a huge pain when you’re fumbling for keys with shopping or gym bags in your hands.
I know this an issue for me personally when I arrive home from work on a pitch-black winter’s evening. In complete darkness, I drop all my junk on the couch, find my phone, fire up the app and then switch the lights on. But there’s a smarter way.
Open the IFTTT app and find the widget (‘Turn on the lights when you arrive home‘) and connect to it. You’ll need to keep your location settings on so once you enter your home’s area, the lights will slowly turn on and you won’t enter a home of darkness.
Wake up lights
While waking up in the morning will never be fun for me, there’s a way to make it a bit more… peaceful?
If you’re a heavy sleeper or don’t have light-blocking curtains, this might not be a solution for you but you can schedule the lights to help wake you up in the morning. The IFTTT widget, aptly called ‘Wake up gently by having your LIFX lights fade on every morning‘, does exactly what it says it does. It fades your lights on over a 30-minute period and can be customised to change times depending on the day of the week so you’re not waking up at 6am on a weekend morning.
Blink lights when your Uber arrives
One of the more niche hacks on the list is an Uber-related alert. If you’ve experienced the stress of ordering your Uber, closing the app and then suddenly realising they’re about to arrive, you might want to consider this handy widget.
It might be self-explanatory but once you connect ‘Blink your LIFX lights when your Uber is arriving‘, the lights will alert you when the driver is arriving.
Get your lights to remind you how much time you’re wasting
Do you ever find yourself losing hours while sitting on the couch binge-watching content each night? You can set a widget to ‘breathe’ every time the hour passes as a physical reminder of the time you spend on the couch. The widget is handily called ‘Breathe the hour‘.
Make it look like you’re home
Some people would prefer to leave lights on when they’re not home to make it look like they’re still home. A widget, ‘Turn on my LIFX lights when I enter an area, only after 8pm‘, can turn lights on during each evening once you enter a specific area. You can customise it to choose which area if you’re on holidays or set it as your friend’s or partner’s place.
Turn lights off when you leave
One frustrating thing about smart lights is you usually can’t control them once you leave your home’s Wi-Fi zone. I’ve definitely considered playing tricks on someone in my apartment while I was on the bus but was sadly (and rightfully) disallowed due to not being within the zone. (LIFX allows you to control your lights outside of your home using the cloud but you’ll need to set it up first.)
While that’s a good thing, it’s not so great when you accidentally leave the lights on and can’t find a way to turn them off. Like all useful things, there’s an IFTTT for that.
The ‘Turn off the lights when you leave home‘ widget needs your GPS location to know when you’ve left the home but it’ll slowly turn any smart lights off.