Guide to Smart Outdoor Lighting in 2020
Smart lighting is one of the most common entry points for home automation but did you know you don’t need to keep it inside?
Indeed, some of the most effective smart lighting is expressly designed for outdoor use.
We recently took a look at Ring’s new range of smart lights after the company bought up LED specialist Mr Beams.
We’ll touch upon some of these devices today along with some other solid options if you want to smarten up lighting in your garden the easy way.
Before we look at some specifics, we’ll glimpse at these general areas so you’ve got the basics of outdoor lighting in place:
- Smart Outdoor Outlets
- Smart Outdoor Bulbs
- Smart Switches
- Replacing and Smartening Up Fixtures
Smart Outdoor Outlets
One of the simplest starting places with outdoor lighting is to make use of a smart outdoor outlet.
Also known as smart plugs or plug-in outlets, the names might vary, but the functionality remains the same.
All you need to do is plug any existing landscaping or outdoor lighting into this outlet and you’ll give it a jolt of intelligence.
Insteon Remote Control Plug-in On/Off Module, Outdoor
Insteon’s outdoor outlet comes NEMA 3R-certified against driving rain and even ice formation. This robust unit will remain operational in temperatures as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit while also able to withstand a sweltering 122 degrees Fahrenheit. This renders it a year-round outlet even in hostile climates.
Thanks to Insteon’s dual-band mesh network, you’ll get reliable comms with both wireless signals and the power line in your home offering a redundancy not found in other ecosystems.
If you want to introduce voice control, you’ll need to invest in the Insteon Home Hub. You’ll also need either an Alexa or Google Assistant device depending on your preferred digital assistant. If you’re a Siri fan, opt for the HomeKit-enabled hub instead.
In the absence of voice control, you’ll be able to take charge of any connected outdoor lighting in-app on your smart phone. The app is crisp and user-friendly even if you’re not the greatest tech-fiend.
With scheduling – assuming you have the hub mentioned above – you’ll be able to use your outdoor lighting as a form of security when you’re not at home. Set the lights to come on and off at randomized intervals and it will look like you’re in even if you’re on vacation.
Philips Outdoor Hue White Led Smart Bulb
Available in a pocket-friendly 2-pack for even higher value, the PAR-38 outdoor bulbs offer powerful and automated bright white light to welcome you home.
As with most smart lighting, you’ll require a gateway in the form of the Philips Hue Smart Hub to get the most from this bulb. This Zigbee-controlled hub lets you take charge of up to 50 smart lights in your ecosystem, ample for even sprawling connected homes.
Adding in the bridge allows you to (link) control your lights remotely, and the geofencing on your smartphone will activate them as you come home from work. You'll also be able to use your digital assistant of choice. Incorporating lighting and voice control makes a neat party trick as you bark out commands for your outdoor lighting as you chow down at your BBQ.
From welcoming you home to setting timers, this dimmable light will bathe your yard with a warm white light rated at 3000 Kelvin. Whether you want security lights or mood lighting for an evening on the decking, this waterproof bulb is tailor-made and highly versatile.
You can expect 25,000 hours of use from a single bulb, and a solid 3-year warranty.
A more complex route into smart lighting, have you considered smart switches?
If you're taking electrics outside, you need to make special provision. Luckily, there's an ever-swelling number of switches rated for all winds and weathers, this GE making a particularly excellent example.
GE Enbrighten Z-Wave Plus Outdoor Smart Switch
Completely weatherproof with the NEMA 3R rating to prove it, you’ll have no nagging concerns about water mixing with electricity thanks to GE.
You'll need a Z-Wave-certified hub. Since hubs are such a crucial element of home automation if you don't already have one, you should consider this an investment rather than an expense. This switch is compatible with all major players from Wink and SmartThings through to Harmony, Honeywell and much, much more.
The supplementary antenna boosts range while the device acts as a Z-Wave repeater to bolster your network further.
From landscape lighting to heaters and pool pumps, you’ll be able to take control of a single large load device to 270 volts or command a pair of 120-volt devices. You can achieve this in-app on your phone or using your favorite digital butler. GE offers both Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility assuming you have the requisite smart speaker.
Another neat touch with this smart switch is the energy monitoring service. This allows you to keep tabs on consumption remotely in either watt-hours or kilowatt-hours.
Set up couldn't be more comfortable with S2 security; you can rest easy with no concerns about device hacking. If you're worried about the security risks with IoT devices, we looked at that recently right here.
Replacing and Smartening Up Fixtures
Before we push onto some more specific use cases for outdoor smart lighting, how about replacing a standard fixture with a multipurpose Philips Hue security light?
Philips Hue Ludere Outdoor Security Light
As before, you’ll need the Philips Hue Hub, but you'll get 2 PAR38 smart bulbs thrown in along with the synthetic polymer fixture. This is weatherproofed and finished in a subtle matte black.
These dusk to dawn light bulbs can brighten up your pathway, porch or patio with every imaginable shade of white along with a palette of 16 million colors. There’s no excuse at all for smart lighting to be complicated when Philips Hue has your back.
Installation, connection, and pairing is straightforward if you're in any way practically inclined. If you need to call in an electrician, it will be a quick and straightforward job so won't cost too much anyway. Philips recommends positioning the fixture no more than 30 feet from your home hub but what do you do if that doesn’t work for you? Well, this distance can be extended from one bulb to the next by 60 feet widening your options a treat.
For basic but effective smart lighting outdoors with all the ease of remote control, this cost-effective fixture is well worth popping on your shortlist.
5 Ways With Outdoor Lighting
Maybe you recently read our study of Ring smart lighting and you want to get a little more ambitious with your outdoor smart lights.
Aside from the pathlight, we’ve steered clear of Ring for no other reason than we broke down the entire range in the piece above. Today, we’ve got a handful of other options for your consideration if you fancy brightening up your garden while tightening up security.
We’ll kick off with a great smart outdoor floodlight.
1) Smart Floodlights
Smart floodlights are often overlooked as the first line of defense dissuading any intruders from attempting to gain access to your home.
After all, if someone with ill intent is skulking in the dark attempting to gain access, what do you think they’ll do when the whole garden is bathed in light? Hustle straight down the path and elsewhere if they’ve got any sense!
The smart outdoor floodlight vertical is glutted with models but we’ve chosen something slightly different today from the usual smart light suspects.
Hyperikon LED Security Floodlights
With these Hyperikon LED floodlights, all the smarts come baked in and you won’t be faced with a complex control system. To this end, this makes a fantastic security solution for an elderly relatives who want protection without complication.
Choose from a 2-head or 3-head fixture finished in either black or white.
Kicking out an intense 90-lumen light bright enough to scare off any would-be burglar, motion sensors come onboard. You’ll also enjoy dusk to dawn sensors giving you a belt-and-braces approach. Lights will be triggered in the event of either motion or declining ambient light levels.
Adjustability is superb. You’ll be able to rotate the cap through a full 360 degrees and also tweak the light head for further fine-tuning. The motion sensor has a 150-degree field of view and you can alter this to suit.
Control of the device takes place with a trio of simple dials for timing, brightness and perimeter. What you lose in terms of remote control.
IP65-rated for use outdoors in even hostile conditions. Dust-resistant, they’ll weather temperatures from -22 through 120 degrees Fahrenheit. These LEDs are covered by a class-leading 5-year warranty. You’ll also get responsive customer care around the clock in the event of anything going wrong.
2) Smart Porch Lights
With smart porch lights, you can prettify your entryway while also adding a layer of safety and security.
We’ve got a couple options for you on that front right now.
Philips Hue Inara Porch Light
Philips Hue has such a stranglehold on smart lighting; it's impossible not to throw in the Inara, a classic porch light packed with intelligence.
For voice control, you’ll want the hub we mentioned above along with a smart speaker packing your favorite digital assistant.
Set up geofencing in-app and the Inara will welcome you home when the GPS on your smartphone shows you're within striking distance.
They include a regular white bulb since you're unlikely to want a multi-colored array of light on the porch. This affords you fully 25,000 hours of energy-efficient use, so you don't need to worry about spiraling power bills.
If you want to build out lighting beyond the porch, you can add in extra lights at a range of up to 60 feet bringing whole-garden smart lighting within reach.
Vgogfly Outdoor Bug Porch Lights
Do you find bugs and mosquitoes congregating on your porch when you fancy sitting there and reading a good book for an hour?
If so, Vgogfly addresses this issue head-on with these innovative bug porch lights.
The bulbs come in amber or daylight versions to suit, and you can choose from a 2-pack or 3-pack.
Designed to stay off during the day and come on automatically at night, this is smart light automation done the easy way without lifting a finger.
You’ll get an unbeatable warranty with a full 12 months during which you can claim a refund if you’re not happy and a further year of coverage from that point.
Rated for outdoor use and with the onboard dawn to dusk sensor completely eliminating the need for user input, kiss goodbye to those irritating bugs and amp up security for just a few bucks.
3) Smart Path Lighting
Depending on the configuration of your garden, maybe you want some lighting up and down the path?
Ring Smart Lighting Battery Powered Pathlight
Wire-free installation is a cinch, and you can be up and running in minutes with basic control.
If you fancy automating things further and building out that fabled Ring of Security, you’ll need the Ring Bridge. You can buy this separately or bundled with path lights for better value.
Motion detection triggers an 80-lumen light to help you from car to house without stumbling in the dark. This path light also performs a valuable security feature by eliminating dark areas for anyone to loiter with ill intent.
As long as you have the hub in place, you’ll be able to add in other Ring products like the video doorbell. You can also add in multiple other lights from the new Ring smart lighting range for a complete outdoor solution.
Alexa-enabled, you’ll need an Echo device if you fancy adding voice control to the mix.
4) Smart Spotlights
Spotlights are highly versatile when used outdoors to brighten up the yard. Once again, it’s Philips Hue to the rescue…
Philips Hue Lily White and Color Ambiance Outdoor Smart Spotlight Base Kit
There’s a base kit available but, if you act quickly, there’s also a bundle including a free hub.
These LEDs give you white light along with the 16 million color palette Philips is famous for bringing to smart lighting. It's impossible to ask for more choice than that.
Installation is plug-and-play simplicity. The most time-consuming element will be connecting the light to your home hub, but this should only take a few minutes.
You’ll get all the smarts you’ve come to expect from Philips Hue lighting with welcome home lighting, timing and scheduling along with the ability to switch up the colors at whim.
Compatibility is impressive with all main ecosystems placing nicely.
Entirely weatherproof and with LED bulbs rated for 25,000 hours of use, you can’t go wrong with this comprehensive base kit giving you all you need for a refined burst of outdoor smart lighting.
5) Creative Smart Lighting
With all main bases covered, perhaps you'd like to inject a little fun into your outdoor smart lighting, whether for a party or when you have friends over.
We'll round out with a couple of fun choices to get that party started.
Fule Outdoor LED String Lights
These outdoor string lights from Fule come with 24 hanging sockets you can drape wherever you see fit, from trees and bushes to fencing or decking. You'll get 27 bulbs thrown in giving you three spares straight off the bat.
All you’ll need for remote control or voice control is the free app with no call whatsoever for a hub. This makes the Fule perfect if you don’t want to get too ambitious with automation and you’re operating on a limited budget.
Weatherproofed and boasting an IP44 waterproof rating, you can rest easy with these lights in place even if the heavens suddenly open.
LED bulbs give you up to 25,000 hours of use without sacrificing brightness.
A 45-day no-questions refund policy along with a 2-year warranty gives you complete peace of mind.
Dulees LED Strip Lights
These Dulles strip lights are perfect for a children's' party.
You’ll get 33 feet of thin and colored LED strips including everything you need down to the IR controller so you can tweak things from a distance.
While the choice of 12 colors can't hold a candle to the millions delivered by Philips Hue, you'll get four modes including flash and fade, smooth and strobe, to liven up your outdoor space.
Installation is as easy as taping the lights in place to just about any smooth surface with the self-adhesive thrown in. You can also cut the strips with some marks laid out to guide you. All you’ll need then is some connectors.
Rated IP67 waterproof, you can enjoy these great outdoor strip lights year round whatever the weather.
You should now see that smart outdoor lighting comes in many shapes and sizes, and there's something for all budgets.
Whether you're a home automation whizz or you're just starting, we’ve tried to include something for everyone today so get creative and start smartening up your garden in time for summer.