As one of the most popular smart home device types and a common first step in adopting home automation, smart lighting can be a fun and helpful addition to your home. While many home automation enthusiasts start with the convenience of being able to ask your Alexa or Google Assistant to turn the lights on or off, we quickly realize lighting is a prime candidate for being automated! What follows are five essential lighting automations that we frequently see in the home automation communities – but we'd love to hear what automations you use! Share your lighting rules in the comments below!
Sunset and Sunrise Lighting
Our most fundamental circadian rhythm (nih.gov) is driven by changes in light and dark, so it only make sense to consider adapting our lighting to the natural world around us.
There are a few variations to this category, so pick what works best for you – or adapt to your particular needs!
- Automatically dim interior lights on 30 minutes before sunset
- Schedule lights to turn off if they're still on at a certain time
- Run your landscape lighting for the first part of the night – or until sunrise
- Slowly dim bedside lighting to help wake you (or the kids!) in the morning
SharpTools Rule Engine makes it easy to setup Sunset and Sunrise automations with helpful Timer Triggers. These adapt with the changing time of sunset and sunrise in your location and can optionally include an offset to do things like start dimming the lights 30 minutes before sunrise.
There's a few popular approaches that fall into the 'Night Light' category. Whether you like to leave your kid's closet dimmed on all night or you want a light to gently dim on as you get up in the middle of the night, there's an automation for you!
When we had our first baby, I quickly came to realize what people meant about not getting any sleep with a newborn! In order to avoid my wife and I waking each other as we woke up to take care of the baby at night, I setup a small strip of color LED lights under our bed with motion sensors below each side of the bed. If we stepped out of the bed, the automation automatically dimmed the lights to a low red color. (Back to the circadian rhythm item from above, red light doesn't impact your circadian clock (cdc.gov), so it's great for use in night time situations!)
This automation worked great for our needs and we later repurposed the RGB Light strip as fun lighting in my son's room as he grew older!
Motion / Door Lighting
Building on the previous example, motion lighting is a great category of its own! Most smart home hubs provide at least some way of triggering a light to turn on/off whenever motion is detected or a door is opened. If your smart home hub supports running these automations locally, these kind of basic automations are a great fit as timing is everything with motion lighting. (Check out or Popular Smart Home Hubs Compared article for more insights)
And if you need more control over the lighting or want to adjust the lighting and other actions based on multiple conditions, the SharpTools.io Rule Engine has you covered!
Another popular lighting automation is vacation lighting - or simulated lighting when you are otherwise not home. The idea is that your lighting can continue to turn on and off as if you were home so a would-be criminal couldn't easily identify your house as being an easy target while you are away.
If you've already setup sunset/sunrise lighting and perhaps have other time-based lighting controlling the lights, that may be enough for you. Some people prefer to take this a step further and further simulate lights being turned on/off during normal 'home' hours as if they are walking between rooms. Using time triggers is certainly a reasonable way of achieving this, but there are other approaches like using Amazon Alexa's free 'Guard' feature which can learn your schedules and use AI to simulate it when you're not home.
Similar to the Motion Lighting category, another popular category of automations is 'welcome home' lighting. This includes things like having lights turn on/off based on your presence, or your home / garage lighting adjusting as the door opens, or more bespoke things like adjusting your drive way lighting along with your work schedule or presence.
For example, during the winter hours, my driveway is quite dark and it can be difficult to back the car up the driveway – especially where it narrows. I setup a simple automation that turns the lights on around sunset and they automatically turn back off with another automation later in the evening. But if you don't want the lights on quite that long or you'd prefer them to adjust with your changing schedule, you could setup rules based on your geolocation, outdoor motion sensors, your garage door opening, or some other factors or conditions!
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, I'd love to hear what automations you've been using in your home – whether they're lighting automations or something else, let me know in the comments below!