Automatic home lighting: Smart Lighting Control Systems | Control4 Home Automation

Smart Home Lighting Automation and Control -Starter Guide

If you are thinking of automating the lighting in your home then this starter guide will hopefully help you understand your options and give an idea as to how much it will cost.

Eventually new homes and buildings with be built with smart lighting, but until then most homes will be retrofitted.

Smart Home Lighting Design Options

When developing smart home lighting there are several design options you can choose.

You can adopt current lighting control norms ; which is wall switches in fixed locations.

Alternatively you could go for a no switch option and have everything controlled via a smart phone, Alexa/Siri or even mobile switches that you can stick on a wall anywhere and move when needed.

Control Using Fixed Wall Switches as Per Today’s Norm

The main advantage of this design is that it is easily understood by visitors and by potentially new owners when selling the home.

This doesn’t mean that the switches can’t be smart switches but it does mean that there is a physical switch that turns a light on/off.

You can also control the lights using a mobile phone App,Alexa/Siri or by presence sensors etc.

No Switch Control Design Option

The advantage of this option is that you have no wall switches and hence no wiring to wall sockets.

Lights are controlled by a mobile phone App,Alexa/Siri or by presence sensors etc.

Mobile switches can be placed in rooms, but they might be confusing.

The big disadvantage is that it is unfamiliar to most and how do guests control lights that they need, and how would a potential home buyer react to such a design.

Lighting Control Options

These are the options for standard wired lighting currently controlled by a wall mounted switch as shown in the diagram below.


We can

  • Change the existing bulb for a Wireless enabled Light Bulb and Keep the existing switch.
  • Keep the existing bulb and switch but Insert a Wireless switch in line. This can be behind the switch or anywhere in the circuit between the bulb and switch.
  • Keep the existing bulb and change the existing switch to a Wireless enabled switch.
Bulbs with Wi-fi or Zigbee Embedded

Technology & Control

These Bulbs are equipped with Wi-Fi or ZigBee and can be controlled by a variety of devices e.g. Mobile App on Android and IOS or home automation system, Amazon echo, Google Home etc

Hub Required

Yes for ZigBee or Zwave , and no for Wi-Fi


  • Easy to install
  • No changes to existing wiring


  • Costly bulbs cost approx $8 -$20 but vary considerably.
  • May not work with dimmers.
  • May not work with all light fittings e.g. candle fittings.
  • You have to leave light switch on permanently.

Light Switch Types

There are two main types:

  • Hard wired switches that are wired as per normal switches but also have a wireless transmitter/receiver.
  • Wireless switches that don’t require mains wiring but send signals using some form of wireless. They are usually battery operated, and some can be attached to a wall using sticky pads as they are lightweight.
Wireless Technologies Involved

Most Home smart lighting devices use some form or Wireless. The most common being:

  • Wi-FI
  • ZigBee
  • Zwave
  • RF433Mhz
Using Hard Wired Switches With Wireless

These replace the existing hard wired switch. They are wired exactly the same as the existing switch and can be use just like the existing switch.

However because they have a built in wireless transmitter/receiver they can also be controlled remotely. A example is shown below:

Note that this is a UK switch and that it doesn’t require a neutral wire which is standard in the UK. If you are in the UK you should always check this.

The switch uses Zigbee and requires a hub to connect to the Internet and Tuya.

You need to pay special attention to this as although you can control these switches using node-red, homeassistant and other home automation systems the setup isn’t as easy as using the official application .

Therefore if you are non technical and want an easy solution you should always choose devices from the same brand.

These switches are an ideal drop in replacement for an existing switch even if the switch operates as a two way switch. For a new build I wouldn’t use this option as it involves additional wiring to the switch.


  • Easy to install in an existing installation
  • Makes a simple switch smart.
  • Gives local control even if the hub etc fail.


  • Not so easy to install in a new build and uses more cable and takes more time.
  • Requires the same cabling as standard wired circuit used today.
Wall Wireless Only Switches

These are wall mounted battery operated switches that also require a receiver in the switch line that does the actual switching.

Note: Kinetic switches are available that don’t require a battery.

An example is shown below:

Notice it uses a battery so no wiring is required. You can carry it around or stick it on the wall just like a normal switch.

The switch as it stands isn’t enough to turn the lights on and off. You need an in line switch to do this as shown in the diagram below:

These switches are usually Wi-Fi, Zigbee or Proprietary RF (433Mhz)

Some of these receivers use two wireless technologies as shown in the diagram below.

This video shows how to Install a wireless switch

Control Device

Most can be controlled by a Mobile App on Android and IOS or home automation system, Amazon echo, Google Home etc

RF switches doesn’t require use of phone/tablet and are ideal for the elderly and can comprise a Physical switch which can be carried around.

Hub Required

No with Wi-fi, Yes for Zibee and Zwave


  • Not restricted to lighting
  • Can be used to easily add another light switch in a more convenient location.
  • Works with all light fittings e.g. candle fittings


  • Receiver needs to be Installed.
  • Have to leave an existing light switch on permanently so that it can be controlled so not really suitable to replace an existing wired switch unless you change the wiring.
  • RF433Mhz wireless cannot be controlled via the home network and not considered smart but very useful in homes that don’t have Wi-fi and the Internet i.e usually for elderly.
  • Need to change battery

My Opinion

Wireless only switches are ideal for a new build or when carrying out extensive rewiring.

Because the switch doesn’t need wiring it can save a lot of money for installation, and also make the system very flexible as the switches are easily moved.

I would avoid those that also require mains power but don’t use a mains switch to the light.

Hard Wired Wireless switches are an ideal drop in replacement for an existing switch making it smart.

When using technologies like Zigbee they (wireless only and hard wired) can easily be reconfigured to work with other lights and appliances and to control multiple lights etc

Very low cost RF433 wireless in line switches are likely to become popular in non smart home installations especially for the elderly.

Because smart bulbs are expensive and bulbs are consumable items I don’t expect that they will  be as popular as smart switches and in line switches.

Important Considerations for UK

The UK uses a two wire lighting system.Some switches require a neural and so will not work in a two wire system.

This article- Understanding 2 and 3 wire lighting systems explains this very well

Home Lighting Automation Systems

The ability to turn on/off a light remotely or without wires isn’t automation.

Automation involves the automatic turning on/off of lights in response to certain events.

In order to do this you will require some form of home automation system.

You can build this yourself using node-red for example, but most will opt for a pre-designed system like homeassistant, Amazon echo, Google home etc.


  • Smart bulbs and sockets

Related Tutorials

  • DIY Smart Home Automation Using Node-Red and Raspberry Pi
  • Controlling Smart Home Devices
  • Smart Home Hubs,Gateways and Systems -Beginners Guide
  • Zigbee Networking Basics
  • Smart Home Simulator

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How to Automate Lights (Both Smart and Non-Smart)

Smart lights are one of the most useful smart home devices on the market today. They provide a wide variety of options to use to automate lights inside and outside of your home.

In this article, we’ll cover how to do this by using either actual smart bulb solutions, or by using other smart home devices to control your existing light bulbs.

Table of Contents

    Options to Automate Lights in Your Home

    You can control lights throughout your home with your smartphone in different ways. If you don’t want to replace every light bulb, you can just replace strategically located switches and plugs. Or, if you want more advanced features like colors or dimming, look into smart bulb options.

    Here are all of the options you have to choose from:

    • Replace wall switches with smart switches.
    • Plug smart plugs into existing outlets.
    • Replace existing light bulbs with smart bulbs.

    Each of these have pros and cons, and the options you choose can change the overall cost significantly if you don’t plan wisely.

    Smart System Compatibility

    When you start building your smart home, you’ll need to decide which smart home ecosystem you want to base your system on.  

    While the smart home industry isn’t quite the Wild West that it used to be, there isn’t one central device you can use to control all other devices. But there are a few common devices – called “smart home hubs” – that attempt to do so.

    • ZigBee: Connects to your smart devices via an IEEE 802.15.4 personal-area network.
    • Z-Wave: A mesh network that talks to smart devices via low-energy radio waves.
    • Lutron: Connects to Lutron smart lights via Clear Connect RF technology.
    • Philips: Uses ZigBee 802.15.4 network technology to connect to Philips smart bulbs.

    There are two areas of compatibility you need to consider: which light bulbs, switches, or plugs the hub will talk to, and what smart home controllers it’ll work with like Alexa, Apple HomeKit, or Google Home.

    Replace Wall Switches With Smart Switches

    If you want to automate all of the lights in each room with your smartphone, the best way to do this is by replacing your standard wall light switches with smart switches instead.

    There are a few varieties of these. If you want to install several of these switches in various rooms, you should choose some that are compatible with the ZigBee or Z-Wave smart hubs. A Lutron smart hub with Lutron switches is another option.

    GE Zigbee Smart Dimmer

    There aren’t a lot of Zigbee hub-compatible switches on the market, but it should be no surprise the GE offers one that works with Alexa. GE has been creating many smart home devices that continue to top most smart home review lists.

    Install the GE Zigbee Smart dimmer in multiple rooms of your house and then connect them to any Zigbee compatible hub like SmartThings, Wink, or most smart hubs offered by major cable companies.

    The dimming feature only works with dimmable bulbs, but you can also use the switch to turn lights on or off as well. 

    Purchase GE Zigbee Smart Dimmer for $32 to $43 depending on style.

    GE Z-Wave Smart Dimmer

    GE also offers one of the best smart switches compatible with Z-Wave smart hubs like ADT hubs, Honeywell, Nexia, Vivint, and more. It also acts as an extender by extending the wireless signal from the Z-Wave hub. Meaning you can place switches throughout your house beyond the 150 foot distance limitation of the Z-Wave hub itself.

    The GE Z-Wave Smart Switch is compatible with both Alexa and Google Home. It works with any standard room lights by controlling them through the same wiring used by your original light switches.

    Purchase GE Z-Wave Smart Switch for $40. If you prefer a smart dimmer, then go with the GE Enbrighten Z-Wave Smart Dimmer for $35.

    Wi-Fi Smart Switches

    If you only have one or two rooms that you want to control, then you might consider just going with a Wi-Fi connected smart switch. These switches don’t require any smart hub. They instead connect directly to your Wi-Fi network so you can control them to your Wi-Fi connected smartphone.

    The following are 5 of the most popular Wi-Fi smart switches on the market.

    • WeMo 3-Way Light Switch ($45): Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit.
    • Leviton Decora Smart Switch ($45): Works with Alexa and Google Assistant.
    • C by GE 3-Way Smart Switch ($50): Compatible with Alexa and Google Home.
    • TP-Link Kasa Smart Light Switch ($20): Works with Alexa and Google Assistant.
    • iDevices Instinct Smart Light Switch ($100): Works with Alexa and includes sound and voice control.

    Replace Bulbs With Smart Bulbs

    If you only wish to turn your home lighting into smart home lighting, and aren’t interested in adding a family of different products, then dedicated smart home bulbs might be a better option.

    This is especially true if there are only one or two rooms you care about, so that the number of smart bulbs you need are limited. Another advantage of this approach is that you don’t have to do any electrical wiring work to automate lights. You just change out the light bulbs, and you’re done.

    Philips Hue Smart Bulb Starter Kit

    The Philips Hue starter kit (either colored or white lights) comes with the Philips Hue hub and a set of four bulbs. The bulbs communicate with the hub via Zigbee communication protocol. Plug the hub itself directly into the router and you can control all of the lights via a smartphone app. 

    By using the app you can set various color schemes, dim the lights, or even automate the lights to match movies or games that you’re watching on a television in the same room.

    As you expand the Philips Hue smart light system, you can install the bulbs into any room of the house. You can assign the lights to any room and control them all via the hub. You can also control the lights via Alexa or Google Home.

    Purchase the Philips Hue smart light starter kit for about $200.

    C by GE Smart Lights Starter Kit

    If you really don’t want to dish out a few hundred dollars to get started with smart lights in your home, GE offers an affordable solution with the C by GE smart lights starter kit. 

    This solution uses an innovative plug that you can use to control a lamp or any other device, and it also serves as a Wi-Fi bridge for controlling the light bulbs as well. Use Alexa or Google Home to control the bulbs and the plug. It even has integrated voice control as well.

    Buy the C by GE smart lights kit with 2 bulbs for $35 or 4 bulbs for $55. 

    Using Smart Plugs to Automate Lights

    One of the simplest ways to automate lights in your house is to just plug lamps in each room into a smart plug. Then use your phone to control all of those lamps from a single app.

    The following are the most popular smart plugs you can use to do this.

    • TP-Link Kasa ($23): Works with Wi-Fi, and no hub required. Works with Alexa and Google Home.
    • Belkin WeMo ($59): Connect to Wi-Fi and turn on or off with the WeMo app or using Alexa.
    • D-Link Outdoor Plug ($50): Control your outdoor lights or other devices with this 2 outlet outdoor smart plug. Works with Alexa or Google Home.
    • Amazon Smart Plug ($25): Affordable Amazon smart plug that works via Wi-Fi and integrates with your Alexa device. 

    Automate Lights Inside and Outside Your Home

    There are plenty of solutions for controlling nearly all lights around and inside your home using your smartphone or your smart home controllers like Alexa or Google Home. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune either.

    If you want to convert your entire home, you can do so more affordably by buying a hub and adding compatible smart bulbs over time. Or, you could simply use Wi-Fi enabled devices and change out your bulbs into smart bulbs just one room at a time.

    The option you choose just depends on how quickly you want to automate your home lighting and how much you’re willing to spend.

    Lighting in the “Smart House”: system, devices, scenarios, reviews

    Development of a lighting control system in the “Smart House” is one of the stages of a project to automate a residential building or apartment. The principle of changing parameters is different from the usual switching on / off of lighting fixtures. The user has the possibility of remote control, programming of certain scenarios.


    Architecture of the lighting system

    The advantage of organizing lighting control in the Smart Home is the ability to create a complex based on existing devices. To do this, control modules are connected to light sources. Data transfer is carried out using various protocols – KNX, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee. The choice is influenced by the possibility of connecting control devices to the mains and the architecture of the lighting control system in the building.

    Stages of project creation.

    1. Analysis of existing light sources located indoors and in the local area.
    2. Addition of new lighting fixtures.
    3. Selection of sensors depending on the functionality – movement, light intensity, with several functions.
    4. Management development. Scheme of connecting actuators to controllers, monitors, switches, switches and dimmers.
    5. Possibility of remote access for control via tablet, smartphone.
    6. Creation of several instrument operation scenarios, development of new or integration of ready-made solutions.

    The latter is an important design step. Developing a script for a specific action or event simplifies lighting control in the Smart Home. It is important to make the system as simple and user-friendly as possible. To do this, you can use standard applications or create a unique software package.

    Tip: In most cases, it is possible to use standard lighting automation solutions in a building or apartment. Any project can be tailored to specific user requirements, budget and price


    Equipment of the complex

    The next stage of project development is the choice of equipment. It is divided into lighting sources, controllers (servers), sensors and actuators. You can pick up a ready-made complex from one manufacturer, which will facilitate setup. The alternative is to make a prefabricated lighting control system in the Smart Home, based on the budget.

    List of mandatory equipment:

    • Light sources. These can be standard incandescent, xenon or halogen models. You can use LED lights or strips. The latter is a convenient option for forming backlight, subdued light.
    • Sensors. Mandatory – a model that reacts to movement. It sends a signal to the actuator to activate the lamp. Additionally, you can install a light intensity sensor to automatically turn on street lights, activate lamas when a person appears in the room.
    • Control devices. These are controllers, switches or separate servers. They process information from executive modules (sensors) and send signals to change the parameters of lighting fixtures. So you can manage the complex automatically.

    To complete the lighting system of a smart home, switches, switches and dimmers are selected separately. In addition to functionality, appearance is taken into account. It must correspond to the finished design project. Types of switches – touch panel, mechanical or combined.

    Tip: switches and switches can perform several functions – controlling lights, shutters, blinds. Requirement – select programmed models.

    Control options

    The possibility of the complex depends on the selected control system. You can set up remote access to all Smart Home rooms via a remote control or touch panel network. The screens display the current state of the devices – activity, intensity. The external equipment of the “Smart Home” is controlled separately

    Automatic switching on or off

    It can be performed according to several schemes – activation from motion sensors, degree of illumination, time of day. For implementation, it is necessary to select actuators. These can be motion sensors, lighting, programmable timers. Configuration occurs through a common interface or is performed for each network separately. A person can help the complex by manually changing the parameters.

    How the automatic lighting works:

    • Response to motion sensor activation. They are installed at the gate in the yard, in critical areas of the local area. The system is convenient for automatically turning on the light in corridors, garages, utility rooms.
    • Switching on at a certain time. It is configured manually, the parameters are selected by the user. A convenient option for the street light of the “Smart Home” system, complements the “imitation of presence” program.
    • Activation for a specific event. For example – the inclusion of multiroom, voice signals. In this area, the possibilities of the complex are great. It all depends on the functionality of the selected equipment and user requirements.

    It is important that the setting of Smart Home lighting control is done by users through the interfaces or functionality of individual models. Changing parameters should be easy.

    Tip: When setting up street lighting, it is recommended to set a timer for the fixture. If there has been no movement for a certain time, the street lamp will turn off automatically.

    Brightness control

    This is a convenient alternative to multiple lighting zones – main and auxiliary. The control of the brightness of the “Smart Home” lighting is carried out manually or automatically. In the first case, dimmers are used – special switches that control the intensity. When automatic mode is activated, control occurs through controllers, switches.

    Required for dimming:

    • Special fixtures, models with this feature. It is not charming to tie them to the Smart Home system, they can work autonomously, including remotely.
    • Dimmers. An analogue of switches, but with the function of changing the power supplied to the lighting device. Convenient option for manual control.
    • Automatic complex. It consists of an executing device and a light intensity sensor. If the level drops or rises above the set values, an action is taken.

    All described control schemes can be used when designing Smart Home lighting. This makes it possible to unify the system, make it as automatic and easy to use as possible.

    Tip: some models of motion detectors are equipped with light intensity meters. This makes it possible to use one device to perform several tasks.

    Lighting Scenarios

    This is a series of smart home lighting control actions that are triggered automatically or manually. The difference from the above schemes lies in the performance of several sequential operations. Scenarios are configured by the user, ready-made solutions can be applied.

    Lighting scenario examples:

    • Turn off/on with one button. Used when leaving home or upon arrival. It is enough to press one button or activate the scenario through the application to turn on additional outdoor lighting, appliances inside the house.
    • Switching with multi-room, audio-video streams. An example is a decrease in intensity, brightness when turning on a home theater.
    • Scenarios for various situations. You can program comfortable lighting for parties, family dinners, holidays.

    The ability to create lighting scenarios for the “Smart Home” is available in all control complexes. It is important to connect devices to the system, check their functional features. This is done at the design stage.

    Peculiarities of outdoor lighting

    When creating the outdoor lighting control of the “Smart Home”, the area of ​​the adjacent territory, the required illumination intensity, and weather conditions are taken into account. It is important that the devices are adapted for outdoor installation. They must have additional protection against moisture, long service life, anti-vandal properties.

    Things to consider when designing a Smart Home lighting control system for the local area:

    • Location of devices. They should illuminate important areas of the territory – paths, driveways, areas at the gate, garage, entrance group.
    • Remote control option. To do this, you can use standard remote controls or applications for smartphones, tablets.
    • Automatic activation from motion sensors during intercom activation.

    Part of the outdoor lighting system can be made autonomous. This is handy when there is a power outage. To do this, you need to install a generator (diesel, gasoline), which will turn on automatically and provide a normal view of the local area.

    Remote Control Applications

    Standard applications can be used to control Smart Home lighting. This is convenient for self-creation of the system. The Mi Home application from Xiaomi is best adapted to work with equipment from various manufacturers. It can be integrated into networks with devices from Philips or IKEA. For this, a standard gateway is used to transfer information.

    Rubetek or Hue Sync is also often used. The latter is designed specifically for the implementation of smart light technology. It is important that the application supports IFTTT scripting.

    Automation of lighting in the “Smart Home” –

    Control via the Internet

    “Smart” lighting devices outwardly similar to conventional ones, but significantly differ in the principle of operation. Each lamp, floor lamp and even light bulb is connected to the Internet and controlled remotely. You can control it through a special panel that is mounted on the wall, as well as using a tablet computer, mobile application or remote control.

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    Color temperature

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    Sensors are connected to the system along with lighting devices. For example, a motion sensor that turns on the light as soon as a person enters the room, or a light level sensor that adjusts the brightness of light bulbs depending on sunlight. Sensors can be anything: temperature, humidity, volume or sound level. They provide the system with information on the basis of which the lighting can be adjusted.

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    Lighting automation is relevant for those who design and sell smart home technology, and those who strive to live in comfort and do not mind saving money:


    value in the eyes of customers, offers unusual technology, earns more


    Owner of apartment

    pays less for electricity, does not look for a switch in the dark, creates personalized lighting


    The owner or tenant of an office

    saves 30-70% on electricity according to Rusbase estimates

    Night Light

    turns on at night when moving, gently illuminates the room and does not irritate the eyes. If the owner got up in the middle of the night to drink water, he would not rest his little finger on the door frame, and his wife would not wake up from a bright light. The scenario is also relevant if one family member needs to go to work when the rest are sleeping.

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    Switching off lights when leaving the house

    Convenient if you don’t want to walk around the apartment in street shoes and check if the lights are turned off everywhere. The easiest way is to install one switch at the entrance – pressing it turns off all the lights at once. More complex ways: use a mobile application or connect the script to a home alarm.

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    Dimming fixtures in unused rooms

    This is savings without having to constantly turn the lights on and off. For example, a person is watching football, and the light in the living room is at full power, while in the kitchen it is only at 10%. When a person goes to the kitchen for chips, the light turns on at 100%, and the room goes down to 10%. It seems that this is a penny savings, but the system fully pays off in a year.

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    Universal sensors in lamps

    Monitor what is happening in the house: human presence, temperature, humidity, gas leakage, air pollution. The information is transferred to a mobile application, which immediately sends a notification to the owner if something is wrong, which means that you can save even more on security and property insurance.

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    In addition to changing the color of the glow and brightness, they can distribute Wi-Fi, play music, and scent the room. No need to buy different household appliances, allocate space for them and connect the power.

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