The 10 Best Smart Light Bulbs
A Brief History Of The Smart Light Bulb
While Joseph Swan and, most famously, Thomas Edison are widely credited with inventing the incandescent bulb, there were at least 22 others who "invented" it first.
Edison's design, however, was the first to burn bright enough and with enough energy efficiency to make it economically viable. That energy efficiency was thanks in large part to Edison's other creations, including a generator and an electrical distribution system.
Swan demonstrated the lighting possibilities of carbonized paper filaments in 1850, but these experiments failed to yield a sustainable or efficient source of light. It wasn't until 1879 that Swan, with the assistance of vacuum pump expert Charles Stearn, was able to demonstrate a working lamp. However this lamp required too much current to sell commercially, and only lasted about 40 hours.
In the early 1880s, after devising a method to extend the life of his bulb, Swan installed a series of them in his home. Swan's Gateshead, England house became the first ever to be lit by electric lightbulbs, as well as the first to be powered by hydroelectricity.
Edison dedicated himself to researching a commercial incandescent lamp in 1878, filing a patent for "Improvement in Electric Lights." Edison's first successful test lasted 13.5 hours, and in late 1879 he secured a patent for an electric lamp using carbon filament connected to "platina contact wires."
Among Edison's most important early discoveries was that carbonized bamboo filament could extend the life of his lamps to more than 1,200 hours — a lifespan far longer than earlier lamps could manage. The first of these bulbs was installed in the steam ship Columbia in 1880.
Soon after Swan successfully sued Edison based on the similarity of their inventions, and the pair merged their companies in England, creating the Edison and Swan Electric Company.
By 1885, as many as 300,000 lamps were sold in the United States alone.
In Hungary, the next great leap in light bulb technology came at the hands of Sandor Just and Franjo Hanaman, who invented the tungsten filament lamp, which burned brighter and longer than its predecessors. This improvement was a boon for the bulb business, and by 1914 sales eclipsed 88 million in America. Sales continued to grow as the tungsten bulb proved itself in the 20s and 30s, and in 1945, sales of lamps reached 795 million in the United States — that's 5 lamps for every American that year.
In the early 1960s, a technology debuted that, many decades later, would eventually replace the tungsten lamp. The light-emitting diode lamp is comprised of a number of miniature lights that are similar to incandescent lamps, but without the filament and the associated heat. Illumination is achieved by the movement of electrons in a semiconductor material, requiring significantly less electricity than tungsten bulbs. Early demonstrations of the technology were dim and red-hued, but by 1994, a bright blue LED was developed by the Nichia Corporation in Japan. Soon after the white LED arrived, and the world took note.
In 2007, the United States Department of Energy challenged the industry to develop an energy efficient replacement for the incandescent lamp. This competition ended in August 2011 when the Philips LED lamp took first prize.
Smart lighting started with computer connected outlets in the early and mid 1990s, and continued with the popularization of motion sensors and household dimmers. Philips released its first smart light bulb in October 2012. This technology depends on the light bulbs creating their own small wireless network using the Zigbee personal area network protocol. This network interacts with a smart hub that connects directly to a Wi-Fi router in the home.
Other smart bulb manufacturers have installed Bluetooth radios in the bulbs themselves, eliminating the need for a network bridge. Both technologies interface with smart devices, like phones and tablets, but Wi-Fi-enabled bulbs are more likely to be accessible away from the home network.
Modern LED-based smart bulbs can last as long as 15,000 hours, using about 80 percent less power than traditional incandescent bulbs.
The Basics Of Lighting
There are three fundamental types of lighting: task, general, and accent.
Task lighting typically involves concentrated, purposeful lighting for use in activities like surgery, reading, or construction.
General lighting is intended to illuminate an area for use by people. This includes street lamps, desk lamps, recessed household lights, and many others.
Accent lighting is decorative, and used to complement structures, landscaping, furniture, or other objects like art or plants.
As incandescent light bulbs are phased out, consumers must learn a new measurement: the lumen. Incandescent bulbs were rated based on their wattage — the more energy they used, the brighter they burned. But modern LEDs are marketed based on their brightness, because they produce more light with significantly less energy. A lumen is a measure of brightness, and most bulbs sold today include packaging with this measurement alongside a rough incandescent wattage equivalent.
Lighting And Your Health
Too much or too little light can seriously affect your health.
Over-illumination can lead to headache, stress, and increased blood pressure. The UV rays in some fluorescent lights are blamed for causing certain eye diseases.
When possible, it is advisable to use natural lighting, as well as lamps that reproduce natural light frequencies, like many smart bulbs. A study of 23 surgical patients conducted from 1972 to 1981 concluded that patients who received more natural light required less recovery time.
Lighting also affects human psychology. Intensely bright light can inspire more intense emotions, according to a study published in 2014. Professor Alison Jing Xu learned that on especially bright days, individuals prone to depression became more depressed. However, in dim light she learned people are more likely to make rational decisions.