Brian Cooley/CNET

You probably have plenty of “smart” units round your residence: audio system, video doorbellssafety cameras, thermostats and extra. But have you considered taking these smarts exterior your residence? 

One of the final “dumb” issues in your smart residence is perhaps your out of doors lighting. If you desire a smart out of doors lighting system for your backyard, you possibly can cobble collectively an array of smart residence lighting merchandise from numerous makers or use merchandise from one model, resembling the Philips Hue out of doors line. But I like to recommend a special route: Upgrade the bulbs in your present out of doors fixtures to LED and use an out of doors plug adapter to make your backyard lights a part of your residence management tech. You will not get all the bells and whistles, however in the event you can reside with out nightclub colour scenes or built-in lightbulb audio system, you will like the outcomes of my low cost and easy improve.

Read: The greatest out of doors tech of 2021  

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The advantages of LED conversion

Retrofitting your present backyard lights with LED bulbs will ship 4 wins:

  • Power effectivity: LED bulbs use loads much less energy, that means you’ll be able to run many extra lights with your present transformer or get extra gentle from the present quantity. I do know few owners who do not want their backyard lights have been brighter. 
  • Durability: LED bulbs are identified for his or her robustness and it could be years earlier than you’ve got to hunker down in the filth once more to exchange a backyard bulb.
  • Ease of set up: Even although low voltage panorama lighting fixtures are fairly simple to exchange, you will not want to when upgrading your present ones to LED bulbs.
  • Low price: LED bulb upgrades are loads cheaper than shopping for all new backyard lighting fixtures.

You want to know a number of issues about LED bulbs earlier than you begin this improve. 

Bulb sort

The very first thing to decide is what sort of LED bulbs will match the sockets in your fixtures. Remove your present bulbs and examine the base: It will most probably be a bayonet, bipin or wedge.


Three frequent forms of low voltage backyard lighting bulbs.

Brian Cooley/CNET

Bipin bulbs are notably frequent and are available in all kinds of sizes that look nearly similar. The key differentiator is the spacing between the pins. A G4 bipin has 4mm spacing, a G5.3 has 5.3mm spacing, and so forth.


You’ll encounter plenty of bipin bulbs. They are sometimes identified by their “G” quantity, which displays the spacing of the pins, measured in millimeters. Shown are G4, G5.3, G6 and G8 bulbs in each LED (left) and halogen (proper) applied sciences.

Brian Cooley/CNET

Bulb brightness

We’re all used to expressing bulb brightness by wattage, however that is merely a misnomer baked in custom. Wattage tells you the way a lot energy a bulb makes use of, not how a lot gentle it places out, although the two are a minimum of directionally associated. 


We’re accustomed to gauging bulb brightness by wattage score, however that is an historic misnomer. LED bulbs present as a lot or extra gentle whereas consuming far much less wattage.

Brian Cooley/CNET

As you pull every incandescent bulb from your backyard lights, attempt to learn the wattage score printed on it. Then store for LED bulbs whose wattage is promised as equal. For instance, chances are you’ll discover {that a} 1.5-watt LED bulb guarantees to exchange an 11-watt incandescent bulb whereas delivering as a lot or extra gentle, a lot larger is LED’s effectivity. 


There isn’t any easy rule of thumb for changing incandescent wattage or LED wattage. You’ll have to belief the producer’s claims of watt equivalence or go by the extra correct lumens measurement of sunshine output.


That large effectivity distinction is why you’ll be able to add extra lights to your system with out working into limits of transformer output or wire run size once you convert your bulbs to LED.

Bulb colour

The colour temperature of a bulb, expressed in levels Kelvin (Okay), tells you if the bulb emits heat or cool white gentle. Generally something beneath 4,000K is a heat bulb, whereas something above 4,000K is a cool or bluish white. Which you select is a matter of style however wooden, crops and soil usually look greatest underneath heat gentle whereas cement, stucco or blue water areas could current higher underneath cool white illumination.

Make it ‘smart’

To make your present backyard lighting system smart, which often simply means managed by voice or an app, take away all programming from your energy transformer, change it to the “on” place manually and depart it that way. Then change the energy to it on and off with a wi-fi out of doors outlet adapter supported by your smart residence system, be it SmartThings, Apple, Alexa or Google.

Pro suggestions whilst you’re on the market 

  • Whenever you’ll be able to, mount lights in order that they shine down, not up, for darkish sky preservation and to restrict bleed into neighbors’ line of sight. 
  • Avoid utilizing LED lighting in an space your pet is continually uncovered to. Cats, canines and lots of different animals detect gentle flicker that people cannot detect. Use incandescent in these instances; see my video above for a way to that with 12 volts. 
  • Use 14 gauge wire in your low voltage system slightly than the cheaper, thinner 16 gauge, which introduces extra energy loss on lengthy cable runs.
  • Splice low voltage panorama wiring with weather-proof wire nuts which have a moisture-proof grease inside them to forestall splice corrosion in damp circumstances. Bonus factors for utilizing weather-proof crimp connectors which can be completed off with a warmth gun.
  • Don’t confuse this undertaking with putting in these low cost photo voltaic LED backyard lights. They usually have poor gentle output due to battery limitations and should be discarded if any half fails. They’re very cheap, however you will study why the first evening.

Want extra suggestions to spruce your yard and patio? 

First printed on July 10, 2019 at 10:53 a.m. ET. 

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