Outdoor lighting isn’t crazy – it can save you from tripping over a dark lane (again) or having to fumble for the right touch. It improves home security and can even light up a party. Intelligent exterior lighting takes it to another level by adding automation, remote control, and other practical features. We spent a month testing smart light bulbs, sconces, lights, and smart outdoor projectors and found the best options for each outdoor scenario.
The only smart outdoor bulb we’ve tested with a built-in motion sensor, the Sengled Smart PAR38 projector-style LED bulb can light an entrance or backyard when you need it, not when you don’t not. It requires a Zigbee hub, but it also works directly with an Amazon Echo Plus. The motion sensor is particularly useful if you want an outdoor bulb for security reasons, and you can adjust its settings so that it does not fire too frequently or at the wrong time.
Who is it for: If you have an outdoor projector, this PAR38 bulb with integrated motion sensor makes it easy to switch to intelligent lighting. Smart bulbs instantly transform any light fixture that uses traditional bulbs into smart light that you can remotely control, set on a schedule, or set in vacation mode to have the light turn on and off at random times (which gives the impression that you are at home even when you are on the other side of the world) If you activate its motion sensor, you can receive notifications on your phone when the mail arrives, when the pizza delivery man is at your door or when stray cats roam your yard. Smart outdoor bulbs also offer peace of mind, ensuring that you never stumble in the dark or have to search for your key in the keyhole (although you can just get a smart lock, of course). All smart bulbs can work outside, but smart outdoor bulbs are designed to tolerate humidity, so if you don’t have a fully waterproof fixture, a smart outdoor bulb works better.
Why it’s great: all of the smart outdoor light bulbs we tested let you turn them on and off using app controls, voice commands, and even in-app programs. However, the Sengled Smart PAR38 LED bulb was the only one we found that also included a configurable motion sensor, which could be triggered from a distance of 40 feet.
The Sengled PAR38 works with any existing standard E26 device that does not have a motion sensor already connected. Like most smart outdoor lighting fixtures, it requires a small smart hub that you need to connect to your home router and plug into the wall. This hub uses Zigbee wirelessly, which creates a strong mesh network connecting all Zigbee devices and does not interfere with your Wi-Fi. In addition to the Sengled hub, a number of dedicated hubs (such as the Samsung SmartThings hub or Amazon Echo Plus and Echo Show) also work with this bulb.
We found the Sengled bulb to be the easiest to use bulbs we tested. And although it loses some minor functionality when you use it with a third-party hub (for example, you need to set a routine to disarm the motion sensor rather than pressing a button built into the app), we have found that he always responded quickly to voice commands from Amazon Echo Plus, as well as to iOS and Android applications. The activation and deactivation commands, dimming and a preview of the most recent motion trigger are perfectly present on the home page of the Sengled Home app (although the interface may vary if you use a different hub and its application). The Sengled app also allows you to adjust the sensitivity of the motion sensor so that it can only turn on when it is dark, for example, or when it is just weak. The application also has adjustable parameters for the duration for which a light must remain on, between one and five minutes after detecting a movement. And you can create up to 15 lighting programs, each with its own custom dimming levels: my husband used to turn on the front lighting to go to work at 4:00 a.m., and he tended to stay on most of the day, but with the Sengled bulb installed, it turns on and off automatically every morning of the week.
We want the Sengled PAR38 and its concentrator to integrate with a wider range of other smart home devices and that you can adjust the color, but by replacing a traditional light bulb it does the job very well – and so it does it for a lot less than the other bulbs on our list. You can buy three Sengled outdoor bulbs for less than the price of a single LIFX bulb, or two Sengled bulbs for just over a Philips Hue bulb.
Faults but not market disruptions: the Sengled PAR38 bulb is the only bulb we have tested that does not work with the Apple HomeKit smart home platform. If you are using HomeKit, we have two recommendations which are also very eff
- Flexible Set Up: Pair the bulb directly to a compatible hub, like Sengled Smart Hub, SmartThings and Alexa devices with built in hubs
- Built In motion sensor: Light automatically illuminates for 90 seconds when motion is detected within 30 feet. Wide-angle detection senses movement within 100 degree field of vision
- Integrated daylight sensor: Light will not turn on during the day unless directed to via the Sengled Home app (iOS/Android)
- Voice Control: Works with Alexa and Google Assistant devices for complete voice control. Connection to a compatible hub required
- Easy installation: Simply twist into a standard fixture with an E26 socket. Outdoor rated and weatherproof, the PAR38 is suitable for wet environment