Building out a smart home doesn’t have to be expensive. There are a lot of solutions out there that we discuss, like Philips Hue, that can sometimes scare certain consumers away if they are worried about keeping within a budget. However, fret not, as there are plenty of affordable options that can get the job done as well.
In today’s focus, we are going to talk about smart LED strip lighting (or, LED tape), which is great for under cabinets, counters, bars–or inside crown molding, baseboards, and more. There is a lot you can with strip lights, and these examples only cover the inside of your home. What about the outside? Lighting entryways, gardens, gazebos, and so on.
Now, consider the option of adding these LED lights to your smart home setup so that they can be automated. Brands like Philips do offer quality options that can do all sorts of neat things, but you may not need all of that (that are they are a bit inflated price-wise). You can still automate your strip lighting without spending a fortune, while still having an endless amount of features you can integrate them with.
There are many generic options available via retail solutions like Amazon, where you can get 16 to 32 feet runs of smart strip lights for around $20-$40 each (comparing to something like Philips, where it would run $60-$100 each). You can go with solid temperatures (white/yellow) or full RGB control depending on your desired effect.
For this, we got our hands on a generic 32.8ft run of RGB smart strip lights by the company “Arzerlize”. It came in two reels of 16.4ft each, along with a smart module, AC plug break-out, Y-cable to split to both reels with, a reel of double-stick tape (extra), some adapters, and a remote. The module that goes in between the plug and the Y-cable acts as your remote IR receiver and the brain that makes everything smart (wifi inside). Altogether, a straightforward solution that costs less than $40 before tax.
The adapters allow you to split into two different directions with the lights using the Y-cable, or to combine it as one solid run using the small adapters. The strips can be cut to size if you’d like them to be shorter, or connected just as they are. The remaining LED strip (if cut) can be put to the side and re-used with other RGB kits of the same style of strip lights (they can be normal or smart since the strip itself is just a normal 4-pin RGB strip) with the proper adapters. So no need to toss excess amounts into the trash and waste anything. Instead, find a box to use as spare parts for LED strip lighting!
If you have experience working with LED strip lights, it’s a cinch and goes together quickly. The only extra step from normal lights is downloading the app, and adding the module to the “Smart Life” app once it’s been powered up.
From the app, you can interact with other devices that use Smart Life or set up scenes. It can also be integrated into other setups/solutions by use of things like Alexa, Google Assistant, or IFTTT. Which in the end, make this is a fantastic product!
For example, if you installed this running across your cabinets in your kitchen, and the kitchen main lights are also on a smart switch that works with Smart Life, IFTTT, Alexa or Google Assistant, then the light switch can be set up to turn both the lights it is connected to, on, as well as the LED strip light(s). Obviously, there are so many things you can do and it all depends (again) on the effect you are looking for.
Not all generic options use the Smart Life app. There are other multi-product/brand apps out there that are used within the generic market. Nearly all of these solutions coming from China (which is why they are so affordable). So when you are shopping around for smart LED lighting that isn’t marketed as working directly with external setups like Smartthings, Z-wave, or Zigbee, you want to make sure the app solution it does work with, will also support third-party options like Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT. That way everything can be bridged together somehow.
If you are worried about the fact that everything was designed by China and are concerned about letting the app have access to your network, you can always separate the network and then interact between the two networks using IFTTT. Most routers offer a “guest network/login” option where you can erect a second network with its own login that doesn’t have access to anything on the normal network (it would only have access to other devices connected to the guest network and the internet). Using IFTTT, you can then bridge the two together by using If-This-Then-That scenarios where you can get Alexa, Google Assistant, or another smart home bridge solution to respond (that is connected to the main network). The average consumer wouldn’t even bother with this, but the advanced users who might be concerned about these things will always find a fun option to make everything worth together if it bothered them.
We were able to get the strip lights we used to connect to the network within seconds. Everything else was configuring the Smart Life app. If you use Alexa, Google Assistant, or IFTTT, then you want to configure this in the Smart Life app’s settings so that these services can bridge together. Then, when you add the lights, Alexa or Google should see the lights, allowing you to control them with your voice. Make sure the name the lights within the app as something you will remember for when it comes to saying it out loud. For example, “Alexa, turn on the kitchen island lights”, or “Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights” if you have them connected to other lights within the kitchen and added to a group.
With IFTTT, you can do many other things, making that a story in itself. You can bridge them (as mentioned) to other hubs like Smartthings, or interact with other services both on or offline–like making the lights flash every time someone sends a tweet on Twitter than mentions your website or name (whatever makes your day).
So search Amazon for some fun generic options to make your projects more affordable, and get to designing your new lighting layout throughout your home (both inside, and out). Just make sure if you add lights outside, that they are “waterproof” models. You can find the LED lights we used to test things here.