Use cases for color smart bulbs?

I recently bought some LIFX 1000 color smart bulbs. They’re bright, they’re beautiful, they make my toddler giggle.

But what should I actually do with them?

What are your uses for colored smart bulbs? Is there any meaningful case that couldn’t be satisfied with a smart switch and dumb bulb? And has anyone found a way to control the colors with a physical wall switch of some kind?

I use one on my step light. It turns purple when the wife arrives and blue for me. Nice to know the house picked us up and is unlocked and in home mode. Also did red and green around the house for xmas. IFTTT has recipes for weather alerts and stuff.

I was looking around for deals on the color changing bulbs a couple weeks back but now I forget what I was going to use it for. :sweat_smile:

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A lot of people use them as notification alerts.

Mail arrived? Turn the light blue

Left the door unlocked when you go to bed? Turn it red

Outside of use as notifications, they also are good for mood lighting or can be a nice accent light in a small lamp fixture.

Green and Red in your front light fixtures for Christmas works. Orange for Halloween.

Got a favorite sports team? Set the bulbs to their colors on game day.

Really smart switches are the way to go because once you shut power off to the smart bulb with a dumb switch, you can’t control the bulb anymore until that switch is flipped back on.

For lamps that aren’t tied to a wall switch, that’s perfectly fine as they don’t get turned off as often.

You mostly have to deal with guests who don’t know any better or the working in period where you have to get used to leaving that switch on despite how weird it seems.

I use it as a weather forecaster using this smartapp or set the mood when turn on “movie mode”.

The easiest way to put a color wheel on the wall is with an inexpensive Wi-Fi mobile phone. If you’re in the US, you can typically get these from Walmart for $20 or less.

A completely different approach is with a color cube. This would allow you to set up 5 scenes and an off. Quite popular in the community.

I turn the lights red if smoke is detected. All of my outside lights as well. Blue if water is leaking.

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I’m currently using a light strip behind our main TV as a notification mechanism.

  • Red: Toddler escaping his room (or exterior door open)
  • Three flashes of green: Toddler secure
  • Blue: It’s going to be really cold, drip a faucet in the bathroom with the poorly-insulated plumbing
  • White: Laundry’s done
  • Purple: Time to give the dog her flea/tick/heartworm meds

I tried to replace our porch lights with Hue bulbs to do something like this for Christmas (also, greenlight a vet), but it seems they’re incapable of producing the color green. I thought the newer generation was supposed to have fixed that issue.

What other brands of color bulbs are out there that work well with ST that have solid color gamuts?


Osram is releasing their RGBW bulb very soon in the US (seems to be available from already). They wouldn’t confirm the color gamut for me, but the UK users have said it produces nice greens. Might be worth a try.

The new Lifx bulb got good reviews for its colors. Not sure how well they work with ST.

Unfortunately they kept with Gamut B for the bulbs. A lot of complaints on the Hue forums about it. The non-bulb lights all use the wider A or C gamuts, like the lightstrips.

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I have 6 of the Lifx bulbs and they are working well. Wife loves them.

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My LIFX bulbs do a really solid green color. The CNET reviews below have good picture comparisons. They have another review with an extensive set of color comparison photos, but I couldn’t find it when I looked just now.

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Ahhh, yes. I’d seen your Circadian Daylight app around the forums – and even bookmarked it! – but forgotten about it. That looks really, really, really cool. I’m a huge fan of f.lux for my computer, and would love to outfit my whole home that way. Maybe I’ll buy some of the OSRAM Lightify bulbs and try it out.

I’m still unclear, though, on how to best control smart bulbs. I want the option to control any light in my home with either a physical switch or my phone at any time. Should I put auxiliary (non-load-bearing) smart switches on every light that is using smart bulbs? Of course, if I do that, then the next guy to buy my house is going to wonder why none of the lights work…

Is it possible to put load-bearing switches in that don’t actually cut the power to my smart bulbs? But that can be configured to do so if I put dumb bulbs in later?

This Circadian Daylight idea is the only really compelling smart bulb use case I’ve seen. The colored notifications are cool, but I can just as easily send phone notifications.

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Another nice one I use is Hyperion/Boblight for Hue. It’s not a SmartThings thing, but really neat. Check out this video, you’ll understand:


I know i’m coming in late, but we use the colored lights for notifications and often get the question of why don’t you just send a text?

Colored light notifications are persistent, unobtrusive, and universal.

For example, there is a light in the entryway and a light in my housemate’s room that turn blue when I come through the front gate. I then turn them off again by voice once I’m in the house.

The blue light causes several things to happen.

One) my service dog (who can recognize a blue light) goes to the front door and waits by the window. He opens the door for me when I arrive.

  1. if the blue light hasn’t gone off after a few minutes, my housemate knows that I am stuck in the front yard and comes to help me (I’m in a wheelchair)

So why is this better than a text? Well, we found out from experience that when my housemate is playing video games he ignores text messages for quite a while. Or, he glances at it, goes back to playing, and forgets about it.

At the same time, the light going blue doesn’t interfere with his gameplay, so he can just keep playing while he waits to see if the light is going to go off again.

The universality feature is obvious: my dog is talented, but he doesn’t have a phone. :wink::dog: Any notification that would be useful for people in the house who either don’t have smart phones or are temporary visitors Will work better with a signal light than with a text system.

For things like the mail is here or the laundry is done, a lot of people find value in a persistent notification. They aren’t necessarily going to act on the notification immediately. The light serves as a reminder where a text message does not.

There are still many use cases where a text message is better than a light, particularly if you want to get notification when you yourself are out in the yard or in a different room or away from the house altogether.

But a light notification is better for other cases, particularly those that require persistence or universality (anyone in the room is aware of the notification).

And of course there are other use cases where people will prefer audio alerts. And somewhere they will use a combination of these methods. Just depends on the details of each problem that needs solving.

In our case, we had a text messaging system that just wasn’t working. Switching to a colored light solved the issue for that particular use case. :sunglasses::bulb:

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Another late answer, but this is one where things have changed since you first wrote.

See the following FAQ for how to combine switches with smart bulbs. The most significant change in just the last few months is The release of a couple of devices that are smart switch covers. They fit over your existing light switches. So you leave the existing switch there, powered on, so that the smart bulb is always powered on. But the switch cover has its own buttons that you can press for on and off. That gives you an intuitive wall switch, but your bulbs never lose power. And no rewiring required. There are also multiple other options discussed in the thread.

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I have a group of three Hue color bulbs. Is there an easy way that can make these guys go to dance party mode with flashing colors?

There are many different ways, but the big question is whether you want to be able to automate that light event from within SmartThings. And whether a slow color loop is OK or whether you want quicker transitions.

Creating a Light Event you could trigger automatically from SmartThings

If you want to do it so you can automate it from within SmartThings and you’re OK with slow transitions, you can just use the color loop “that” in the Hue IFTTT service/channel and it will work fine. That’s probably the easiest, it’s a common method for getting Hue bulbs to blink because of a SmartThings trigger, for example.

If you want to do it so you can automate it from within SmartThings but you want fancier transitions, create three or four or five Hue scenes in the official Hue app and then have core switch between those scenes.

(I know you’re familiar with Core, I’m just putting the FAQ link here for people who find this thread in the future.)

There are also some community created smart apps that can probably do it. Check the lighting list in the quick browse lists in the community – created wiki.

Options that don’t involve SmartThings

If you don’t care whether you have SmartThings involved, there are a lot of third-party apps for Hue that can create different effects. A lot of people like iconnecthue ($4.95, iOS only), which probably gives you the most granularity, especially if you look at their “animations.”

But there are a lot of much simpler Hue apps to consider as well. Including the ones which will set up the Hues to change in time to music like Hue Disco.

But if you use a third-party app, you probably won’t be able to connect it back into a SmartThings platform.

If you use just the effects in the official hue app, particularly scenes or color loop, then you’ll be able to automate those from the SmartThings side.

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I came up with a fun and practical use for an RGBW bulb in our house. We have a little guy that is a very early riser and always comes out to ask if it is okay to wake up. With day light savings and season changes, he’s always been confused if he can get up or not.

So I made him a “stop light” out of the lamp (that was never used before besides as decoration) on his book case. When the mode changes to Evening, I have the light (it’s a Lightify btw) turn on at a random color and 100% brightness. Then at 7pm, his bedtime, I have the light change to a deep red and set it to 40%. This stays on all night as his night light and if the light is red, he can only come out to use the bathroom and has to go back to sleep. In the morning (time varies between weekday and weekend) his light changes to yellow at 75%. This means he can only go to the bathroom, but he can play quietly in his room or get his tablet to watch a show. Later in the morning (when we are typically up and about) I have it turn green and set to 100% brightness. This means he is free to leave the room and do normal kid activities… like make sure mom and dad are in fact awake. lol