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Will Smart Bulbs Work Outside? (Most Likely, BUT…!)

I’m often asked if the average smart bulb works outside. Whether you have a regular light bulb or a smart light bulb, it’s a good idea to make sure it will work safely out in the elements.

Will smart bulb work outside

Yes, your smart bulb will work outside all-year-round, as long as the smart bulb you’re using is covered and shielded from the rain, snow, etc. I suggest you use an LED bulb in a well protected lighting fixture that isn’t more than 100 ft away from your router or smart hub.


What to consider when using a smart bulb outside

There are a handful of things you should consider when deciding whether or not to use your smart light bulb outside:

  1. The type of outdoor lighting fixture you’re using
  2. The type of light bulb you have
  3. The climate/environment you’re in
  4. The distance the bulb will be from your smart hub or WiFi

Let’s review each in a bit more detail.


Type of outdoor lighting fixture

This is one of the most important considerations when deciding whether or not to use a smart bulb outside.

A lot of outdoor wall lights, post lights, hanging lanterns etc., will provide your bulb with coverage. In fact, the majority of outdoor lighting fixtures provide at least some amount of shelter from the weather.

But more specifically, you’ll want to find a light fixture that protects your bulb from contact with rain and snow. Water is the real enemy here.

Type of outdoor lighting fixture

If your fixture leaves your bulb exposed and you suspect that it will eventually get wet at some point, I would think about looking for a weatherproof smart bulb.

Otherwise, a standard smart bulb should be just fine.


Type of smart light bulb

As you know, there are several different kinds of light bulbs: Incandescent, Halogen, Light-Emitting Diode (LED), Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL), Xenon, etc. 

And not all of these work well outdoors.

Luckily, almost all smart light bulbs are Light-Emitting Diodes (or LEDs), and LEDs can be used both indoors and outdoors.

The Philips Hue smart LED bulb is a great option. You can check the price here.


Climate smart light bulb is in

It’s one thing to make sure that your smart bulb is protected from the weather, but what about protection from the cold?

Unless your outdoor lighting fixture is in an enclosed, heated area (like a closed-off deck), your bulb is most likely going to have to withstand cold temperatures.

The good news is that smart LED bulbs generally withstand the cold very well. In most climates, cold weather won’t be an issue for your smart bulb.

If you live in a more extreme climate, and the cold is something you’re really worried about, manufacturers will publish the operating temperature of your bulb on the packaging.

You can check this temperature range before purchasing. As a point of reference, most smart light bulbs have the following operating temp range: -4°F to 104°F / -20°C to 40°C.

But again, I’ve found this range to be extremely conservative. For example, Philips Hue White LED smart bulbs operate just fine outdoors at -23°F (-30°C). Now that’s cold.

And Philips advertises these as indoor bulbs only!


Distance smart bulb is from smart hub or WiFi

Another key consideration when using a smart bulb outdoors, is how far your bulb’s smart protocol can reach. What’s the strength of its signal?

Most smart bulbs are controlled by one of the following protocols:

  1. WiFi (no hub required)
  2. Z Wave (hub required)
  3. Zigbee (hub required)

And each of these protocols have a different working range:

ProtocolRange
WiFiLine of sight: 92 meters (300 ft)
Indoors: 46 meters (100 ft)
Z WaveLine of sight: 100+ meters (328+ ft)
Indoors: 9 meters (30 ft)
ZigbeeLine of sight: 300+ meters (984+ ft)
Indoors: 75-100 meters (246-328 ft)

“Line of sight” means what’s the maximum, unobstructed distance your smart bulb can be from your hub or WiFi router and still work.

“Indoors” means what’s the maximum, obstructed distance your smart bulb can be from your hub or WiFi router and still work.

These numbers will vary from home to home based on different building materials used and layouts, but the list above gives you a pretty good sense of how far you can place your bulb from its source.

In some cases, the range of these protocols can be extended by adding more products. In doing so, the mesh network becomes stronger. The signal is able to jump from device to device until it reaches the device being used.

Of course the added products will all have to be running the same protocol in order to achieve this range extension effect.

(Visit my post, Z Wave vs. Zigbee if you’re interested in learning more about the differences between these protocols.)


Conclusion

So, will smart light bulbs work outside?

In my experience, absolutely.

Since almost all smart bulbs are LEDs, and LEDs can be used both indoors and outdoors, you shouldn’t worry about having your smart light bulb outside.

Just make sure that your outdoor lighting fixture provides the bulb with adequate cover from rain and snow and that the protocol your smart bulb uses has the necessary range to reach your device.

What’s your experience with smart bulbs outside? Have you run into any issues?