Know the difference between smart bulbs and smart plugs.

You’re here because you’re interested to get your hands on your first smart home product. Either that or you’ve just stumbled upon the world of smart home automation. And you’re wondering, what’s the difference between smart bulbs and smart plugs. Which one to go for? Today I will attempt to enlighten you.

 

Smart Plug

What is it. How does it work.

A smart plug is a device that comes in between the power outlet and your home appliance (i.e. lamp). What you essentially do is attach your appliance to the smart plug, and put the smart plug into your power outlet. You then configure the smart plug to connect to your home WiFi network. Once connected, you then download an app to your phone. With the app, you can power on/off your appliance through the smart plug. And because its on the network, you also have the ability to control it while away from home as long as you have an Internet connection.

Pictured is the TP-LINK HS100.

One important thing to note about smart plugs is how it operates. For it to work, the appliance that you connect to the smart plug has to have a physical on/off switch. And the physical switch has to always be in an ‘On’ position. If it was in an ‘Off’ position, there’s no way for the smart plug to control the appliance since the appliance is completely off.

Make sure to leave it in an ‘On’ position.
What brands are out there

There are only a handful of options out there; Elgato Eve Energy (iOS only), Belkin Wemo and TP-Link HS100 series. Of which the TP-Link brand can be readily purchased in Malaysia. The Belkin Wemo and Elgato Eve Energy aren’t available in Malaysia but if you’re outside (i.e. US or UK) you have a better chance of purchasing one.

Why you should consider

Smart plugs can be considered the most basic of basic smart home product. If you’re cautiously taking your first steps in making your home smarter, the smart plug is a good option. With the straightforward feature of turning on/off it’s surely not to overwhelm any first time users.

 

Smart Bulb

What is it. How does it work.

A smart bulb is a bulb with the ability to connect to your WiFi network. It comes in two forms;
Hub and stand alone. With the hub structure, the bulb connects to a hub via a wireless protocol (Zigbee or Zeewave) and the hub connects to your WiFi network. One example using this method is Philips Hue. So essentially, the app on your phone communicates with the hub and the hub fires the instructions to the bulbs connected to the hub. For stand alone bulbs, the WiFi component is built directly into the bulb itself so no hub is needed. All you have to do is unscrew the old bulb and screw the smart bulb in. With the respective app, add your bulb to your home network and you’re good to go. That’s it. Examples of this design are LIFX, TP-Link and Xiaomi Yeelight bulbs.

Step1: Remove the standard bulb from the socket.
Step2: Screw in the smart bulb.

As with smart plugs, the same caveat applies to smart bulbs. For it to work, the switch to which the bulb is tied to has to be in an ‘On’ position. Also as with smart plugs, you can control smart bulbs outside your home as long as you have Internet connection.

What brands are out there

There are plenty of options to choose from; Philips Hue, LIFX, TP-Link, and Xiaomi to name a few. All can be purchased online (Lazada, 11Street, Amazon, Gearbest).

Why you should consider

One advantage smart bulbs have over smart plugs is variety. It comes in many flavours; Standard white, tunable white and colour. What this means is for example, with colour bulbs, you can set any colour at any brightness of your choice. You definitely can’t do this with smart plugs. Why would you want to change a bulb’s colour you ask? For many different reasons. For example, with a tunable white bulb, you could set the colour temperature to daylight (blueish tone) when you work. And change the temperature to warm (orange tone) when you want to relax.

 

So which one?

I hope you got a better understanding on the difference between smart bulbs and smart plugs after reading this short article. In terms of choosing one or the other, its up to you. If you want the simplest form of a smart home product without the bells and whistles, go for a smart plug. Once you are more comfortable, you can move on to smart bulbs. Or if you’re more adventurous like me, start with a smart bulb. Those extra features won’t hurt. Either way both options are winners because your home is already smarter.

 
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