Do Smart Bulbs Use Electricity When Off?

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey

Deciding whether or not to upgrade your lighting to smart lighting is a big decision. There is, of course, the initial investment. At $30 or $40 a bulb, switching your entire home over to smart bulbs is no small price to pay. But the benefits are numerous.

In the end, these smart LED bulbs could actually save you significant money since they last so long and use less energy than regular bulbs. But is it true that these smart bulbs actually use electricity even when they are turned off?

Smart bulbs use electricity even when turned off. In order for them to listen for a command, they cannot be completely off. Instead, they are in a sleep mode of sorts.

They are “vampire devices,” which is a brand of smart electronics that never completely turn off. Due to their low energy use overall, they still use much less electricity than normal bulbs in the long run.

As you weigh the pros, cons and overall costs of installing smart bulbs, the energy costs should be on the top of your list. Sure, the lights are very pricey to purchase., but as with many long-lasting electronics, it is the energy usage that ends up helping or hurting you in the long run.

So, as you explore to see how much smart bulbs cost over time, you need to understand how they work and if they use electricity even when turned off (and how much).

What Makes A Smart Bulb Smart And Energy Efficient

In order to understand why smart bulbs require a bit of electricity even when turned off, you need to understand how they work. Smart bulbs are not like regular bulbs. Sure, sometimes they might perform the same function, but they also do so more than regular bulbs, and all while using less energy.

Smart Bulbs Are Connected To The Internet

The main difference between a regular bulb — and even a modern LED bulb — and a smart bulb is the connection. Not only are smart bulbs connected to electricity, but they also connect to your Wi-Wi and Bluetooth. This mechanism is what allows it to communicate with your other smart technology, rather than only functioning using switches.

Smart Bulbs Have Lots Of Extra Features

Smart bulbs also have lots of bells and whistles hidden beneath that small bulb. Many smart lights can change color (turning many different colors on command), and they can dim and brighten accordingly. This allows you to really mix things up inside and outside your home without constantly fussing with the bulbs.

Smart Lights Respond To Your Voice And Smartphone

Arguably the best thing about smart bulbs is that you can operate them using your smartphone, and sometimes using only your voice. Smart bulbs are connected to your Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi, which means they can follow commands from a voice command app or through an app on your phone. You can choose to not lift a finger when turning on and adjusting lights. This makes them a critical part of turning your home into a smart home.

It also allows you to program them in great detail, and from anywhere in the world. Using lights only when you need them, and adjusting them from anywhere, allows you to save a lot on your light bill.

New Generation Lights Use Less Electricity

In general, newer bulb designs use less electricity. So, it makes sense that this revolutionary light type is also incredibly energy efficient. They are also LED lights, which generally tend to use significantly less energy than a regular bulb.

Why Smart Bulbs Use Electricity Even When Turned Off

You might wonder why, if smart bulbs are so smart, they still use energy when they are turned off. After all, that doesn’t sound very smart. But there is actually a perfectly logical reason for this.

Smart bulbs cannot shut off completely because if they did, they would not stay connected. Just like your phone can’t receive a phone call when it is turned off, a smart bulb can’t receive a command unless it is turned on. The good news is, just like other smart devices (like Alexa for example), the smart bulbs go to “sleep” when not in use.

So yes, a smart bulb uses some electricity when it is off, but since the device isn’t using much power or giving off light, it uses less electricity than when it is on. In fact, it is a very small fraction, since the bulb is resting in standby mode.

This means that while a smart bulb does indeed use electricity when it is turned off, it uses very little. So little that you are unlikely to notice it on your electric bill. In fact, on average, a smart bulb only costs a few cents per month when it is turned off.

What It Means To Call Smart Bulbs “Vampire Devices”

Smart bulbs belong to a category of electronics called “vampire devices.” You may have heard this description thrown around before. It is important to understand what it means, as it gives you a better understanding of smart devices, and why they are always technically “on.”

A vampire device uses power even when it is not in use. Believe it or not, there are all sorts of these devices in your home. They can range from cell phone charges to coffee makers, blenders and everything in between. Technically, smart bulbs belong in this category.

While smart bulbs are vampire devices, they don’t rack up your electric bill when they are turned off. In general, each smart bulb uses just a few extra cents per month when it is in the off position. So long term, even if you have several smart bulbs in your home, you are looking at just one or two dollars per year.

This is not exactly breaking the bank. Therefore, this small usage should not deter you if you are interested in smart bulbs.

Four Ways Smart Bulbs Still End Up Saving You Money

1. You Control Them From Anywhere

One major way smart bulbs save you money is that you control them from anywhere. Not only is this a major convenience, but it also saves you on your bill. It allows you to easily shut off lights when they are not in use. It also allows for some advanced timers to ensure you never have lights on when you don’t need them.

2. Modern LED Saves Money

Today’s technology not only allows us convenience, it can also help save money. Modern LED lights are significantly more efficient than regular bulbs. Smart lights also do not run as hot as regular light bulbs. For these reasons, they simply use significantly less energy. So, while you pay the $30 or $40 up front, consider how long the bulbs last, and how much you could save long term.

3. More Control Options

Another perk to smart lights that makes them even more energy efficient than other LED lights is their various lighting options. For example, your current LED light may sometimes be a bit brighter than needed. With smart lights, you can adjust brightness and even color. This allows you to have perfect lighting for every mood. It always ensures you aren’t using more energy than you need.

4. It Uses Less Heat

An additional reason why smart lights are great and energy efficient is their temperature. Smart lights tend to run at much lower and controlled temperatures than a typical light bulb. This means less electricity is used. It also tends to be a safer option. So, this is another aspect to consider when deciding whether smart bulbs using electricity while turned off is that big of a deal to you.

Smart Bulbs Versus Regular Bulbs For Energy Efficiency

Now that you know smart bulbs use energy when turned off, you might wonder if they are even energy saving at all. The answer is, yes, they are absolutely more energy efficient than your typical light bulb. On average, a smart bulb is 30 to 40 percent more energy efficient than a typical incandescent light bulb.

Additionally, you need to think about longevity. Smart bulbs last significantly longer than regular bulbs. In fact, smart bulbs last up to 25 times longer than regular bulbs. So sure, they cost a lot more at first, but those cheap bulbs add up as you constantly replace them. In general, smart bulbs are much more efficient in many ways, especially in energy savings and in longevity.

Wrapping Up If Smart Bulbs Use Electricity When Off

Smart bulbs, while highly effective and energy efficient, do indeed use some electricity when they are turned off. Smart bulbs never turn completely off, but rather enter a sleep mode of sorts. This allows them to be ready for any commands or instructions from your smart device.

The good news is, this energy usage is quite small. In fact, the average smart bulb only uses a few cents of energy per month when turned off.

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Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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