Light strips are great, until they burn your house down (I'm kidding, sort of).
Not all lighting has to be smart and these solutions prove it.
Dawn-to-dusk Light Bulbs
Philips Dawn-to-Dusk Light bulb
Dawn-to-dusk light bulbs like this Philips Light bulb work great as porch lights and don’t require a home automation hub. In my experience, the lights were on when I checked at sunset and off during the daytime. Light bulbs with built-in motion sensors, like the Sengled PAR38 with Motion Sensor may work better if you only need the light to turn on when someone is present. Just make sure the rather large bulb
(PAR38) will fit in your light fixture.
Further promoting the case for regular bulbs, some smart bulbs are not meant to be installed outside due to temperature limits, but these dawn-to-dusk bulbs work just fine outdoors.
Vacancy Sensor Switches
Lutron Maestro Vacancy Sensor Switches
For the low traffic areas such as the garage, guest bathroom, and closet, I opted for Lutron Maestro Vacancy Sensor Switches, which are simple to install, affordable, and reliable. Because I like them so much, I always examine homes to see where these switches can be installed. Lutron has been making these switches for decades–I’ve even seen some Maestro switches in older homes and they continue to function like new. There is little reason to purchase a motion sensor and smart bulb ($40-60) if a $20 vacancy switch can achieve the same effect.
The built-in motion sensor is very responsive and turns on the lights faster than any home automated lighting setup. Even in the darkness at 30 feet away, the switch can detect motion. Sensitivity and time length are adjustable, to suit bathrooms and closets that don’t need a high sensitivity. I have not once experienced a time when the bathroom lights turned off while I was showering.
If you plan to use this in your home, pay attention to the location of the light switch, which is also where the motion sensor is. I couldn’t install this switch in the garage in one house because the light switch in another room! Also, be aware that there are two versions of the switch: one has a max wattage of 150W and is meant for replacing single-pole switches only. If you plan to replace a 3-way switch or power a series of lights that add up to more than 150W, then you will need the more expensive version.
Installation and Smart Home Installation
Installation (for single-pole switches) is as easy as installing a regular light switch—connect the two black wires (doesn’t matter which) and ground to the existing wiring and you’re done. A neutral isn’t required and you don’t have to identify the load and line (hot) wires. The switch size is as small as a regular switch, which makes for the easiest install.
Though expensive and difficult to install, a smart home just isn't complete without smart light switches.
For the renters out there, smart bulbs are a useful (and the only) smart lighting option.