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Do Smart Bulbs Use Electricity When They’re Off? How Efficient Are They?

Smart light bulbs

Do Smart Bulbs Use Electricity When They’re Off? How Efficient Are They?

Smart bulbs are slowly replacing the standard energy-efficient LEDs, which had previously taken the place of power-hungry incandescent bulbs. The smartness of the bulbs partly has to do with the different ways they can be remotely controlled, as well as the color options they offer.

One feature of concern when discussing smart bulbs is whether they consume energy when off and how that affects the overall energy bill. This article explores this issue, the different ways to improve energy efficiency using smart lights, and what to consider before buying one.

What Is a Smart Bulb?

A smart bulb is basically an LED with built-in technology that allows it to be controlled wirelessly through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or similar wireless networks. Different smart light bulbs use different communication methods. Some use Bluetooth alone, others depend on Wi-Fi, yet others are Zigbee and Z-Wave powered.

Controlling the bulbs might require using a central hub, especially where other smart devices or systems need to be connected to interact with each other. Examples of such technologies include Amazon Echo and Alexa. In such a case, the hub acts as a bridge between the smart bulbs and other communicating devices on the network.

Currently, there are smart bulbs for almost every home lighting need, from warm to neutral and cool colors, as well as all the colors of the rainbow.

Do Smart Bulbs Use Electricity When They Are Off?

Smart bulbs fall in the category of home electronics known as vampire appliances. Thus, they consume electricity even when turned off or in standby mode. While this might sound worrying, it is essential for a the bulbs to be truly smart. Here is how:

For you to control the light bulb, it is necessary for it to be able to receive communications from the network and other control devices at all times, even when off. To achieve this, it has to remain connected to the internet or Bluetooth network; the connection requires some power to maintain. As a result, the smart bulbs, by necessity, draw power when they are off, though in small amounts.

Some of the other vampire devices in the home include all remote-controlled devices, security systems, computers, microwaves, and water heaters.

The Efficiency of Smart Bulbs

How can smart bulbs be the most efficient home lighting option when they still consume energy when off? Also, not to mention that they cost more than 20 times the price of an incandescent bulb.

Let us explain how cost-effective smart bulbs are, using the Lightinginside Smart Candelabra bulbs sold on Amazon as an example. A pack of four smart bulbs costs $28, which is about $8 per piece. The bulbs use 6 watts to produce the same amount of light as a 60W incandescent or a 13W fluorescent bulb.

Our Pick
Smart Candelabra LED Bulbs, 60 Watt Equivalent, 6W 500lm, E12 LED Bulbs Work with Alexa and Google Home, 2700-6500K+RGB, APP Control, No Hub Required, Timer, Group Control, 2.4GHz WiFi Only, 4PCS
$35.97 ($8.99 / Count)
  • Compatible with Alexa and Google Home
  • 2.4Ghz WiFi connection and the Smart Life App needed to set up
  • Bulbs can be set to a schedule or timer
  • Choose from over 16 million colors
  • Can be synced to music
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/16/2024 01:47 pm GMT

Assuming an average use of 6 hours per day and taking the average electricity cost of California, which is among the highest in the country, of $0.27, here is a breakdown of the annual cost of energy for the three bulbs.

IncandescentFluorescent
Bulb price$0.50$2.00
Bulb wattage6013
Kilowatts0.060.013
kWh/month1.80.39
Cost per month0.490.105
Lifespan800 hours6,000 hours
Total Cost after 138 months83.7524.82
Smart LED
Bulb price$8
Bulb wattage6
Kilowatts0.0006
kWh/month0.18
Cost per month0.049
Lifespan25,000 hours
Total Cost after 138 months14.762

It is evident from the tables above that the smart bulb’s high upfront cost is compensated by its efficiency over time. Note that by the time the lifetime of one smart bulb elapses, in this case, after 138 months, the incandescent bulb would have been replaced 31 times and the fluorescent four times. Therefore, going by the cost of replacement alone, the smart bulb is still a more cost-effective option.

Effect of Vampire Usage

The standby power usage of smart bulbs is very low, though the rate varies with brand. For instance, the Philips Hue bulb has about 0.3 watts, but this can go up to above 2 watts for some brands.

Phillips Hue Hub Optional
Philips Hue White 2-Pack A19 LED Smart Bulb, Bluetooth & Zigbee compatible (Hue Hub Optional), Works with Alexa & Google Assistant – A Certified for Humans Device
$29.97 ($14.98 / Count)
  • 60W base lumen
  • 22 years or 25,000 lifetime hours
  • Connect Philips Hue Bluetooth smart bulbs using Alexa or Google Assistant
  • Create timers and lighting routines
  • Download the free Phillips Hue Bluetooth app to connect
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/16/2024 01:52 pm GMT

Even when averaged at 1.5 watts, a smart bulb’s total monthly phantom load consumption would only be 1.08 kWh, which would cost about $0.29 in California. The consumption only becomes of significant concern when you have more than 10 smart bulbs in your home, in which case, the cost of vampire load might rise to $3 per month.

Other Ways Smart Bulbs Help Save Energy

A key benefit of having smart bulbs in the home is that there are many ways you can ensure they use the least amount of energy. Here are 4 ways the bulbs allow you to save energy in your home.

Scheduling Your Lighting

When using smart home automation systems such as Google Home, IFTTT, Apple HomeKit, and Amazon Alexa, you can schedule the lights. This ensures that only the required lights are on at a given time. It applies mostly to corridors and outdoor lighting, as well as bathroom lighting, where most people opt to keep the lights on all the time. It saves some cents on light bills.

Turn off Lights Remotely

It is common to forget to shut off the lights when leaving the house. Luckily, with the smart bulbs, you can simply log in to the network and turn off all forgotten lights using your smartphone. However, this would not be an option if you had the normal light bulbs; they will remain on until you return home.

The remote control feature is also helpful if you need to turn on certain lights remotely, such as security or study room lights. This is especially useful when you want to indicate someone is home when no one is.

Pairing With Other Devices

Another way to save energy using these bulbs is to pair them with other control devices, such as smart switches and sensors. The switch would turn the lights on and off at a specific time, while the sensors would automatically turn them on when specific conditions are met.

For example, most smart bulb manufacturers offer motion sensors, which, when paired with the bulb, would turn it on when someone enters a room, opens a door, or touches a specific item, such as a cabinet.

You can also pair the bulbs with alarm systems. For example, the bulb may light blue when there is an open tap of running water or red when a specific door is unlocked.

Tracking Your Energy

Finally, smart bulbs have an inbuilt energy-tracking mechanism like other smart home devices. With this, it makes it possible to track your energy usage and alter patterns that need improvement.

Other Smart Lighting Options

As noted above, in a smart home lighting system, smart light bulbs are often complemented by two other optional smart devices.

Smart Switches

A smart switch controls several light bulbs at the same time. Their main advantage over smart bulbs is that they allow the scheduling of home lighting. They also work with both standard and smart bulbs. However, they cannot change the color of the lights.

Smart Plugs

A smart plug allows you to control the power supplied to an appliance from your smartphone. Smart plugs can be added to any ordinary appliance and then connected to mood lighting. This allows you to adjust the light depending on whether the appliance is running or not. Unlike the smart switch, it only provides on/off control and energy tracking.

Buying a Smart Bulb

Now that it is clear that smart bulbs are the way to go, how do you choose the right one? Here are some factors to consider when shopping for one.

Your Needs

What do you need the bulb for? Do you need it just for its basic power-saving features, such as low wattage and long life, or do you need it for its color options? The person who needs the bulb for just scheduling lighting time will certainly have different considerations than someone who needs to control home lighting while at the workplace.

Compatible Devices

Buy a bulb that works with your current smart home ecosystem. For example, if you have the Apple HomeKit, go for a smart bulb that is compatible with iOS. If you do not have a preinstalled system, go for an option that will help you achieve your current needs and allow for the future addition of other devices.

Shape

Light bulbs come in different shapes and sizes, meaning you will have a variety of options to choose from. For example, the smart Candelabra bulb analyzed in the example above is oval, like a burning candle. Bulbs of such shapes are E12 series and are suitable for formal dining rooms. Others are the A series and the BR series. However, you should understand the differences before buying.

Color

How many colors do you need? Two-color bulbs are okay if all you need is scheduled lighting, but there are bulbs that offer millions of color choices. Your need will determine your choice.

Mode of Control

How do you want to control smart light bulbs in your home? A common option is the use of smartphones, which means you need a bulb that uses Wi-Fi. As for Bluetooth bulbs, you can only control them within 50 feet. Fortunately, most smart light bulbs support both technologies. However, if you plan to use voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant, consider purchasing a hub.

Brand

There are many brands out there selling smart bulbs. Thus, be keen to choose one that provides the features you need and is within your budget. Whichever brand you choose, ensure you understand the devices they pair with.

Extra Cool Smart Bulb Features

  • smart bulbs can coordinate with smart TVs to change light levels and colors based on the actions on the television.
  • They can use the GPS location of your phone to automatically turn on lights when you enter or leave a room.
  • They can help you sleep better as they fade out slowly when you go to bed and fade up when it is time to wake up.

Limitations of Smart Bulbs

Smart bulbs have two key limitations. The first limitation is that they tend to go off when the controlling network is down. For example, if the internet is not working, such as during a storm, the smart bulb, like all Wi-Fi-dependent devices in the home, will go out.

The second limitation is that they are one of the devices taking up the bandwidth of your home internet. Therefore, it might increase your internet cost, slow it down, or both.

  1. Smart Candelabra LED Bulbs, 60 Watt Equivalent, 6W 500lm, E12 LED Bulbs Work with Alexa and Google Home, 2700-6500K+RGB, APP Control, No Hub Required, Timer, Group Control, 2.4GHz WiFi Only, 4PCS
    $35.97 ($8.99 / Count)
    • Compatible with Alexa and Google Home
    • 2.4Ghz WiFi connection and the Smart Life App needed to set up
    • Bulbs can be set to a schedule or timer
    • Choose from over 16 million colors
    • Can be synced to music
    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/16/2024 01:47 pm GMT
  2. Philips Hue White 2-Pack A19 LED Smart Bulb, Bluetooth & Zigbee compatible (Hue Hub Optional), Works with Alexa & Google Assistant – A Certified for Humans Device
    $29.97 ($14.98 / Count)
    • 60W base lumen
    • 22 years or 25,000 lifetime hours
    • Connect Philips Hue Bluetooth smart bulbs using Alexa or Google Assistant
    • Create timers and lighting routines
    • Download the free Phillips Hue Bluetooth app to connect
    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/16/2024 01:52 pm GMT

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is the best smart bulb?

The answer depends on your needs and the devices currently in your smart home ecosystem. Nonetheless, the Phillips Hue bulb is one of the most popular smart bulbs in the market. However some require that you purchase a bridge, also known as a hub. Not all smart bulbs brands require that.

Are vampire devices cost-effective?

If you have a few of them, then yes. This is because the amount of energy they leech is insignificant. However, if you have several smart devices in your home, the cost of vampire loads can accumulate to uneconomical levels over the years.

Do smart bulbs save money?

They do, but only in the long run, as they consume about 100 times less power than incandescent bulbs. However, if you have many smart bulbs, say 20 plus, the cost of overhead loads might be high.

Do smart bulbs use electricity when off in all cases?

Yes. The bulbs have to remain connected to detect incoming communication requiring them to turn on. The only way to avoid this is to turn off the switch or plug, powering them.

How much do smart lights cost?

The cost of smart bulbs currently ranges between $10 to $50 a piece, but they cost less if bought in packs. The price also depends on the bulb’s features, the quality of light, and the types of devices it can pair up with.

Do smart bulbs work well with dimmer switches?

Smart bulbs come with their in-built dimming mechanisms, and when connected to a fixture controlled by a dimmer switch, the two controls clash, causing the bulb to flicker. The best practice is to avoid using a dimmer switch, as the bulb already has the functionality.

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