Smart Home

How to Switch Lights On or Off With Your Phone on the Cheap

Bryan Wolfe 10-01-2017

For decades, most homeowners relied on low-cost incandescent light bulbs to illuminate their homes. In recent years, LED lighting has grown in popularity. More energy efficient and longer lasting than previous light bulbs, LED solutions are nonetheless much more expensive, as least initially. When those are smart lights, those costs rise even further.


In this article, you’ll learn about the many ways to control lights in your home with your phone. You’ll also see how each solution compares in terms of pricing.

What Is Smart Lighting?

Smart lighting solutions How to Set Up Smart Lights So They Don't Annoy Everyone Sometimes all you want is a smart bulb that does what it's suppose to do - turn on or off. Sometimes it can be downright difficult to get your smart light to work properly! Read More provide energy efficiency through the use of automated controls. These products typically make lighting adjustments based on occupancy, daylight availability or other conditions.

Philips Hue

When you think of smart lighting, Philips Hue might come to mind. First introduced in 2012, Philips Hue is a line of LED color-changing and white ambiance products created by Philips, including bulbs, light strips, lamps, and wall controllers.

philips hue white ambiance starter kit

Philips Hue lighting works wirelessly through iOS devices such as iPhone and iPad and uses the Zigbee lighting protocol to communicate. This specification is less expensive than other wireless personal area networks (WPANs), such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.


Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 60W Equivalent Smart Bulb Starter Kit (Compatible with Amazon Alexa Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant) Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 60W Equivalent Smart Bulb Starter Kit (Compatible with Amazon Alexa Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant) Buy Now On Amazon

To get started with Philips Hue, you must purchase a starter pack (UK), which contains a few light bulbs and a required bridge component. You can connect up to 50 devices to each Philips Hue bridge. If you wish to add more than 50 devices, you’ll need to purchase another bridge priced at around $60.

Cost Factors

Philips Hue starter packs range in price from $70 to $200, depending on the type of lights included in the package. Individual bulbs range in price from $15 to $50 each. Accessories such as light strips and lamps cost extra, sometimes as much as $100 per unit.

  • Pros: Easy setup, lights last for a long time.
  • Cons: Expensive depending on the number of lights you need.

Philips Hue Alternatives

In 2017, Philips Hue isn’t the only smart lighting solution in town Philips Hue Smart Bulb Alternatives to Save Money In this article, you’ll learn about some of the less expensive alternatives to Philips Hue and see how they compare. Read More . Companies such as LIFX and ilumi also offer smart lighting solutions Philips Hue Alternatives That Are Actually Worth It The Philips Hue system is leading the charge when it comes to smart lighting, but there are some worthy alternatives. We've picked three that all offer the same basic feature set and hackability. Read More . Some of these don’t even require a bridge to operate. Depending on your budget, it might be wise to look at these alternatives before making a decision.



For example, with LIFX smart light bulbs, you can choose from between millions of colors or a thousand shades of white. Best of all, LIFX’s set-up doesn’t require a hub, bridge, or extra hardware. Simply replace your existing bulbs and download the free LIFX app to get started.

These bulbs range in price considerably, from $30 for the LIFX White Range (CA) bulb to $60 for the all-in-one LIFX bulb (UK). For $80, you can purchase a LIFX+ bulb (CA), which helps to brighten your space, even in the dark using infrared.

Smart Switches

From an installation standpoint, there’s nothing easier than replacing your standard bulbs with smart bulbs in your home. However, if you’re willing to get out your toolbox and work with your home’s wiring, you can swap your existing light switches out for smart switches The 5 Best Wi-Fi Light Switches to Save You Time and Money Looking for a lighting solution to save money on your electric bill? Here are several great Wi-Fi light switches to consider. Read More and keep the bulbs you have. By adding a smart switch, you’ll be automating the on/off switch itself, and programming when it should turn on or off.


wemo switch

Smart switches, like smart bulbs, rely on a WPAN to operate. Typical solutions rely on either Wi-Fi or ZigBee. The former will work with your home’s current home network, while the latter requires a hub or control device.

The Belkin WeMo Light Switch is among the most popular on the market Installing Your WeMo Switch: A Step-by-Step Guide A smart plug or lightbulb are one thing -- you only need to plug those in and they work. But in the case of a smart light switch, you have to deal with electrical wiring. Read More . The Wi-Fi enabled device allows you to turn lights on and off from anywhere in the world using a mobile device (Android and iOS). The $50 Belkin WeMo Insight Switch is also a good choice and one that works with Amazon Alexa.

Cost Factors

There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to use smart switches to create a smart lighting solution in your home. Cost, of course, is perhaps the most important factor. Determining the initial costs can prove difficult, however, depending on your situation. You’ll need to decide how many lights to control with each switch and go from there.

  • Pros: Can keep existing lights and fixtures.
  • Cons: Requires installation, time-consuming.

Smart Plugs and Outlets

Another great DIY solution for smart lighting is to install smart plugs Which Smart Plug Is the Best One for You? Even if you aren't into the whole smart home automation trend, you really should get yourself a few smart plugs. They're one of the easiest smart home products to use. Read More or smart outlets around your house. These allow you to automate anything with a plug on it, or turn it on/off remotely using your mobile device. Plugs and outlets come in various forms with some featuring built-in dimming controls.

Lamps work well with smart plugs, of course. You can also benefit by using smart outlets with non-lighting products, such as small appliances, space heaters, or entertainment centers.


The $40 WeMo Switch Smart Plug (CA) is a nice choice that works with Amazon Alexa. So too is the $50 iDevices Wi-Fi Smart Plug, which works with Apple HomeKit, Android, and Amazon Alexa.

Cost Factors

Smart outlets offer plug-and-play simplicity, which makes them an ideal choice. They also provide maximum flexibility since they work with products that aren’t lights. The biggest issue once again comes down to price. You might find that buying smart bulbs remains the least expensive solution, depending on your situation.

Do you have your heart set on a smart plug or smart outlet solution? An excellent way to save some money is to use a plug splitter to multiply the device out to multiple lamps.

  • Pros: Simple setup, flexibility.
  • Cons: Possibly no cost savings.

The Best Solution

There’s a lot to consider when deciding to install smart lighting in your home. Cost is a big factor, of course. However, it isn’t the only determinant.

If your home has lots of irregular-sized light fixtures, you should consider a smart plug. Do you live in an older home and are concerned about its wiring? Installing smart bulbs throughout your home might be the wisest move. Like wall units? Add smart switches.

Still can’t decide? Using a combination of smart lights, smart switches, and smart plugs in your home isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Just make sure that all of your solutions will work on the same mobile device. That way, you can control all of your lights with the same device.

Image Credit: Svet_Feo via Shutterstock

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  1. Mark
    January 11, 2017 at 5:30 am

    While good information, was hoping to get details on some of the alternatives to WeMo.

    TP-Link HS200 is the switch while the HS100 provides the smart plug. (The app it uses, Kasa, seems to be getting good reviews.)

    Woods WiOn and there's options that use Z-Wave like from Leviton/GE/Linear.

    • Dushyant Ahuja
      January 12, 2017 at 9:12 pm

      For a more hands on DIY user, you can always use the Sonoff series of WiFi switches from itead. These can be programmed easily to work over MQTT and connect to something like openhab. Cost 6-9 USD.
      No brainer.

    • Dushyant Ahuja
      January 12, 2017 at 9:14 pm

      For the DIY user, you can always use the Sonoff series of WiFi switches from ITEAD. You can program them to work off openhab. Cost per switch $6-9.
      A bit of effort up front, but works well.