How to add smart lighting to your home

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How many tech journalists does it take to screw in a smart lightbulb? At least four: one to do the work (me) while the others give expert opinions, star ratings, and race each other to be the first to publish their opinion. Seriously, setting up smart lightbulbs and outlets are tasks that one person can easily accomplish in less than an hour.

The pay-off is big. I now can control the room’s lights and tune their color as well as turn a space heater on and off right from my phone or even with voice commands thanks to an Echo or Google Home smart speaker or display. It has made my life just a little easier.

I’ll take you through picking the right smart devices, setting them up and controlling the gear. The good news is that you won’t need any tools or require any special knowledge to do the job. You will need the smart devices and a phone or tablet to connect to, configure, and control the devices.

Let’s get started.

Picking the right smart home gear

c by ge smart bulbs GE Lighting

GE Lighting’s smart bulbs are now marketed under the Cync brand, although you’ll still find lots of product marketed under the old C by GE mark.

The first, and one of the most important steps, is to select and purchase the right smart home devices. There are dozens of different products that range from familiar names like Belkin, Philips, and Leviton, to a flood of no-name brands. My advice is to pick a brand you know and avoid the names you’ve never seen before or can’t pronounce. That way, if something doesn’t go to plan, at least you’ll have their tech support for fall back on.

I chose GE Lighting’s C by GE Full Color Smart Bulbs and Indoor Smart Plug because they’re easy to set up and provide a lot of control. The bulbs ended up in a ceiling fixture, while the outlet was for controlling an auxiliary heater in a room my children play in (in the summer, I might plug in an oscillating fan). A dimming smart plug can control a lamp, but don’t use that type with small appliances.

There’s a name game going on here because the C by GE brand is now known as Cync, but you’ll find a lot of GE Lighting product still on the market in boxes with the old name. Either way, the pair of lightbulbs and outlet arrived in separate boxes, but Amazon offers them together for about $60.

smart bulb outlet Brian Nadel / IDG

Some smart plugs, such as this one, are designed just to switch loads on and off. Others can also dim the lights in a fixture plugged into them. GE Lighting offers both types.

Happily, the bulbs use LED elements that lower the electricity usage compared to traditional incandescent bulbs, and they can also can last through up to 20,000 hours of use. That means it’s likely they will last nearly seven years even if used eight hours a day.

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