Do Smart Lights Use More Electricity?

Smart lights effortlessly give you the power to change a space to suit your specific needs. But does doing so use more electricity? Read on to find out.

We humans have invented several impressive things in our time - microwaves, social media, the fork - but none has glowed with more innovation than the humble lightbulb.

Having been developed in the early 19th century and notably patented by Thomas Edison in 1879, lightbulbs effectively banished darkness at the flick of a switch and the whim of the operator. Bedtime no longer arrived when a candle or fire had burned away; instead, it could be delayed and delayed until the reader’s eyes began to drift sleepily from the page or the dinner party conversation had died away.

In short, electric lighting gave us control.

But the development of electric lighting didn’t stop with Edison and his contemporaries. Smart lights, the torchbearers of this technological evolution, enable users to transform a room's ambience with a simple command - whether that’s delivered by the tap of an app or through verbal communication - and seamlessly adapt to our modern lifestyles, tastes and preferences.

However, as we revel in their convenience and customizability, we are confronted by a simple question: Do smart lights use more electricity than their traditional forebears? By brightening our lives and making them both easier and more stylish through innovation, are we - in reality - making them financially more difficult through increased bills?

Like most things in life, the answer to this blog post’s question - do smart lights use more electricity - is complex. To answer it, we should first clarify exactly what we mean when we talk about smart lighting systems.

A quick recap: What are smart lights?

Smart lights are equipped with technology that allows the operator to control things like light colour and warmth, illumination timings, brightness and intensity from a device such as a smart speaker, mobile phone or purpose-built appliance. You might, for example, programme the lights in your home to come on when you are away on holiday - a security measure that gives an observer the impression of continued occupancy. Alternatively, you might simply dim the lights when watching a movie to add to the experience without ever leaving the comfort of your sofa.


That might sound quite straightforward - after all, technology accommodating both of these activities has existed for many years now (albeit requiring an amount of legwork that some may consider inconvenient) - but smart lighting and the integration of smart bulbs with the rest of the technology in your home and at your fingertips can seriously enhance your living experience. For example, you could link your lighting up with live weather data to ensure consistent illumination on rainy days, connect the lights to your chosen music streaming platform to enhance the party or - most sensibly of all - pair your smart lights with energy monitoring software to report on energy efficiency and automatically take measures to keep bills down without impacting on your experience.

Having mentioned the energy efficiency of lighting, it is time to answer this blog post’s fundamental question.

Do smart lights use more electricity?

This question is an understandable one. After all, a smart lighting system does more than its traditional counterpart, suggesting that it uses more energy too. To a certain extent, that assumption is correct; if your smart light relies on data sent by a secondary device (such as a hub or a smartphone app) and involves continuous communication for advanced features, there may be a slight increase in energy consumption compared to a basic, non-connected light bulb.
Then there’s the ‘vampire power’, the term used to describe the small amount of energy needed for your smart light to remain on standby, ready to receive an activation signal from your chosen control method.

Added up, you might think that’s quite a significant amount of additional energy, but before you rip up your plans to implement a smart lighting system, you should know that more often than not, a smart light still uses far less energy than a non-smart one. 

How is that possible? Two words: The bulb.

To elaborate, a smart system relies on LED lightbulbs for its illumination. These new bulbs are far better at converting electricity into light than their traditional incandescent counterparts, substantially reducing the energy necessary to do so. Illustrating that point, old-fashioned bulbs have been known to waste as much as 90% of their energy as heat (as anyone who has tried to change an incandescent light can testify!).

But - we hear you cry - what if you have a non-smart system with LED lights? Surely that will be more energy efficient than a smart system. Like-for-like, you would be right, but assuming you have a 10-watt LED bulb that is used for four hours per day. In a typical month, your energy consumption for this bulb would be 1.2 kilowatt-hours. A smart bulb, in addition to the existing calculation, might reasonably add on 0.78 kWh more per month when taking the standby requirement and the additional connectivity to other devices into account. If the price per kWh is 14 pence, the smart light is only going to cost you about 10 pence more per month.

But smart lighting systems have several key functions that can increase energy efficiency. One such function might be to create schedules for when the lights should be on or off. This ensures that lights are only active when needed, avoiding unnecessary energy usage. Another might be to implement motion detection - again reducing illumination when a space is unoccupied - or simple energy monitoring to help you to track your usage, identify patterns and make informed decisions to manually optimise your behaviour accordingly. 

Then there is the question of dimming. But does dimming a light really reduce electricity consumption?

Mythbusting: Does dimming a light reduce electricity consumption?

Yes. When you dim a light - whether that’s using a dimmer switch or smart controls - you are essentially reducing the flow of electricity to the lightbulb, resulting in a lower output of illumination.

It is, however, important to note that the correlation between light output and power consumption is not linear - dimming a light by 50% doesn’t mean a 50% reduction in electricity usage. In fact, the energy saved by dimming a bulb by 50% is likely to be far more than half. That’s why dimming your lights is one of the best things you can do to cut your lighting bills down.

The future trends of energy-efficient smart lights

It took 200 years to go from incandescent bulbs to smart LED light systems, but experts predict several important developments that will continue to make our illumination even brighter and cleaner. These might include things like:

  • Integrating artificial intelligence algorithms to analyse user behaviour;
  • Incorporating advanced sensors that can adjust lighting based on physical gestures or room occupancy;
  • Implementing light harvesting technology whereby a light relies upon its own source of energy rather than an external supply; and
  • Adapting the materials used to create light systems, reducing production emissions significantly. 

The additional electricity that a smart lighting system requires is minimal and can be negated through the use of intuitive functionality such as scheduling, dimming based on an occupant’s behaviour, and monitoring to identify reduction opportunities. If you would like to take your lighting solutions to a new level, making your living or commercial space more comfortable, productive and appealing, talk to our experienced specialists today.

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