Though expensive and difficult to install, a smart home just isn't complete without smart light switches.
Light strips are great, until they burn your house down (I'm kidding, sort of).
I personally tested the following:
|Light Strip Plus||Sylvania SMART+ Zigbee Starter Kit|
What you need to know
Light strips, when used tastefully, can really liven up the home by accentuating less noticeable areas like shelves, cabinets, pantries, and display cases with a warm glow. I love coming back to a perfectly lit home, with accent lighting to show off your prized collections (in my case, some vinyl records). Once automations are in place to set to the appropriate brightness, light strips can also become the gentle lighting to guide your unadjusted eyes through the house late at night. Just make sure not to overdo it and turn your home into a makeshift nightclub.
I would love to add light strips to every part of my house, but my budget is small and I’m limited to installing light strips near AC outlets. Light strips aren’t as portable as smart bulbs either—the provided adhesive is a one-time use, and it’s difficult splitting the strip into smaller pieces. To keep my light strip in one piece, I decided to install one whole strip on a big screen TV, like so.
My personal preference for bias lighting is a warm color temperature, like 2500K, but this Digital Trends article suggests daylight temperature of 6500K and a brightness level of 10% for your eyes to benefit from reduced eye strain. Another cool demonstration of bias lighting is to synchronize the light strip color with video using Hue Sync, though it only works with PCs connected to the TV.
To do a really clean, professional-looking job with under cabinet lighting, I would hire an electrician who can wire the lights to a nearby circuit, thereby saving the kitchen outlets for other appliances. DIY solutions require the use of several AC outlets or limit the placement and number of light strips that can be connected to one power inverter.
There are a plethora of cheaper wireless light strips on Amazon, but there is one theme they have in common: electrical fires. I wasn’t able to find a product with an adequate number of reviews AND a review that didn’t mention a fire. I concluded that the money saved was not worth the risk of fires caused by cheaper, possibly uncertified lighting and decided against purchasing the cheaper light strips.
Considerations before purchasing a light strip
- Light strip placement must be near an AC outlet.
- The length of light strip--do you need to cut the strip to fit?
- Cutting, splitting and extending Hue light strips will require accessories from Litcessory (Amazon seller).
What you get with a light strip
- Stylish lighting controlled by automations.
- Gentle lighting to use in the dark.
- Bias lighting for the TV or computer monitor.
- Affiliate link: Purchase the Philips Hue Light Strip Plus, Play Light Bar, or Osram Lightify strips on Amazon
- The Screenbloom app or Hue Sync app for Philips Hue
Philips Hue Light Strip Plus
If you are looking for professional-level lighting for your cabinets or TV, then the Philip Light Strip Plus is a good but expensive choice, though it is worth the extra money for safe and reliable smart lighting. Like with all Philips Hue products I’ve used, I’m happy with the quality light strips and the integration with basically all home automation hubs and voice assistants.
The fade effect is present on light strips and the transition looks beautiful on a TV. See the video below.
You only get one or two chances to properly mount the light strip using the included adhesive—it wears off after the first attempt and peels off quicker wrapping the strip around the TV. If you plan to test on multiple areas, use strong tape to temporarily hold the light strip in position until you’re ready to make a final decision on placement. The light strip is quite long at 80”, which is good for TVs, but not so good for kitchen lighting. The light strips aren’t meant to be cut, though accessories exist on Amazon light strips aren’t great as cabinet lighting as you will be voiding the warranty to cut the light strips to length.
Installation and Smart Home Integration
Connecting light strips to the Hue bridge is a simple process I won’t go into detail here. The bridge supports every home automation hub and voice assistant out there. I would guess that it is the most widely supported hub out there, and every aspect of Hue lights is controllable in each of the integrations.
If you’re looking for a way to turn on the light by touch, then I would suggest using the Philips Hue remote. It comes with a wall plate if you want to mount the remote like a light switch. You can even use a Logitech Harmony hub and remote to control the Hue light strip since there is a Hue integration for that.
Philips Hue Play Light Bar
The new Philips Hue Play Light Bar is a better choice for TV bias lighting as it is more portable but unfortunately costs even more than a light strip. All Philips Hue lighting products offer the same compatibility with SmartThings, Home Assistant and everything else out there, so I expect these to behave just as well.
Osram Sylvania Lightify
After having a good experience using Sylvania OSRAM bulbs, I bought the Sylvania light strips. However, the Amazon reviews are a little worrying—several reviewers noted their strips died after one year. Is it worth paying $40 for a potential one-year lifespan?
I bought two sets of light strips for $22 each, but I'm a little disappointed at the brightness level of these strips. The build quality is noticeably worse and the max brightness is a little weaker compared to Philips Hue lightstrips; I can't even tell if they are on in the daylight. I do like that the strip comes in three pieces, so I can line up the strips vertically or horizontally with an extension like this Kabenjee extension. I would use Philips Hue lightstrips on the TV, but using Lightify strips for a computer monitor, desk or shelf would work fine.
For the renters out there, smart bulbs are a useful (and the only) smart lighting option.
Not all lighting has to be smart and these solutions prove it.