Smart Bulbs With 5Ghz Wi-Fi Support (Are They Any Good?!)

New Wi-Fi standards are rolling out and this is revolutionizing smart devices across the board. One of the types of devices that is undergoing its biggest change is the humble smart light bulb. The growing popularity of 5GHz Wi-Fi networks is causing some problems for 2.4GHz-only smart bulbs.

Currently, there are very few smart bulb brands that make 2.4GHz bulbs. 5 GHz. Most smart bulbs are designed to connect with 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi due to its superior range and how common this frequency remains. However, if you’re only using 5GHz, there are ways to use a dual-band Wi-Fi range extender to connect your 2.4GHz bulbs to your 5GHz Wi-Fi network.

Your smart bulbs are some of the most important devices in your entire smart home ecosystem. Let’s solve these connection problems so you can keep the lights on!

Smart Bulb 101

Smart bulbs are arguably the devices that pushed smart technology into the mainstream. With the introduction of smart bulbs, you can now use your phone to not only turn your lights on and off, but also to change the color, set smart schedules, and even manage your lights when you’re on vacation.

No It’s no wonder that smart lighting is one of the first improvements people make when switching to smart technology in their homes. Smart bulbs are now being made by the biggest brands in home lighting and cover everything from RGB lighting to the soft warm white glows of standard indoor lighting.

These smart bulbs tend to work with one of three types of connections: Wi-Fi, ZigBee, or Bluetooth. Wi-Fi smart bulbs connect directly to the Internet, but use more bandwidth from your Wi-Fi network. ZigBee and Bluetooth bulbs connect via their own networks, freeing up your Wi-Fi signal, but each is flawed, too (Bluetooth is short-range, while ZigBee needs smart hubs to connect to the Internet).

There are many pros and cons to consider when choosing Wi-Fi or ZigBee and Bluetooth connections. One thing to keep in mind is that not all Wi-Fi networks are created equal. There are 2.4 GHz signals and 5 GHz signals, and the devices that can be connected to each may not be compatible with each other.

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The difference between 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi and 5 GHz

At the heart of the problem facing smart bulbs today is a change in Wi-Fi standards. For the last 5-10 years there has been a new Wi-Fi frequency in town and it has caused problems for people who have built this aspect of their smart lighting around their old 2.4GHz Wi-Fi signals. Here’s how these two types of Wi-Fi networks break down.

  • 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi networks are probably what you’re used to. 2.4 GHz networks offer slower maximum data transfer speeds, but longer ranges. 2.4 GHz signals are also much better at penetrating solid objects, such as the walls and floors of your home.
  • The 5 GHz frequency provides much faster speeds. You can transfer much more data with this frequency. However, 5 GHz has a significantly shorter maximum range and has a hard time getting through solid objects.

There are 5 GHz routers that offer improved signal ranges, but still struggles to get within range of 2.4GHz networks. What do these differences mean for smart bulbs? If you only have 5 Ghz available, can we connect 2.4 GHz devices to the 5 GHz network?

Related reading: Do any smart plugs work with Wi-Fi from 5 GHz?

Can 2.4 GHz bulbs work with 5 GHz Wi-Fi connections?

With no workarounds, smart bulbs that can only be connect with 2.4GHz connections cannot work on 5GHz Wi-Fi routers. These smart bulbs simply cannot connect to the frequency of the signal your 5GHz router sends.

However, you can use workarounds, such as a dual-band Wi-Fi range extender, to connect your 2.4GHz smart bulbs to your 5GHz router. While there is a bit more complexity to For your 2.4GHz bulbs to work on a 5GHz network, the advantage is that it’s still a Wi-Fi connection. The core technology we are working with is identical, a direct connection to the Internet, so we only have a frequency mismatch problem rather than a complete technological shift.

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Range extenders Dual-band devices act like a gate that lets 2.4GHz light bulbs through to the Internet so they can function normally. Smart bulbs typically use very little bandwidth, so you shouldn’t notice any drop in performance using that workaround.

The way this would work is for you to buy an access point/extender Wi-Fi network that supports both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. You then connect this to the 5 GHz connection that is available to you. This Wi-Fi hotspot will produce a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network (and also a 5GHz connection, but you can ignore that). You can then connect your smart bulb to this new 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network.

This workaround may work well, and as we said earlier, the core technology is the same.Basically, we just use the Wi-Fi hotspot as a “translator” from the primary 5GHz connection to a secondary 2.4GHz connection.

5GHz is bad for smart bulbs (and other technologies smart) ?

While 5GHz Wi-Fi networks offer more speed, they may actually offer more inconvenience for smart home devices. There are two main considerations we need to take into account when choosing which Wi-Fi frequency to use for our smart technology. At the end of the day, 5GHz might not be the best option for smart bulbs in general.

Wi-Fi networks that use 5GHz connections have the advantage of faster speeds, but trading shorter ranges and connections that are more easily broken by solid objects like walls. This is a big drawback for your smart bulbs.

Smart bulbs tend to be located both near and far from your Wi-Fi router. If you think about it, we have light bulbs in all of our houses, from the attic to the basement. 2.4 GHz signals are much better at reaching these places while still providing great signal strength for smart bulbs.

The 5 GHz option can be ideal for smart homes that use hubs or bridges to manage their lighting and other devices. You can park your bridge near your 5GHz router and enjoy the benefits of ultra-fast speeds and high data rates, while your bulbs connect via other communication protocols like ZigBee.

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In In short, smart home ecosystems that primarily use Wi-Fi devices might be better off sticking with 2.4GHz or dual-band Wi-Fi routers for most devices, while more dedicated smart home systems use bridges and hubs.

Related reading: Can Phillips Hue connect to Wi-Fi (5Ghz or 2.4Ghz)?

Are there 5GHz smart bulbs? ?

There are hardly any options when it comes to dual-band or 5GHz smart bulbs. The few smart bulbs you can find for sale that use this Wi-Fi frequency are currently only on the market from the UK, such as the eletriQ smart light bulb with orte dual-band Wi-Fi:

This means there is a limited range of comparable plugs for 5GHz smart bulbs.

There is good news for smart homes already on 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. Other smart technology has already transitioned to 5GHz compatibility. It may only be a matter of time before the makers of your favorite smart bulbs start releasing dual-band models, which means they support either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz Wi-Fi connections.

Alternatives to Wi-Fi smart bulbs

Wi-Fi isn’t the only option when it comes to smart bulbs. If you still want the convenience and utility of smart LED light bulbs, but don’t want to add more strain to your Wi-Fi network, you have options.

ZigBee and Bluetooth Smart Light Bulbs offer the Same functionality as Wi-Fi smart bulbs, but on its own signal frequency. This frees up your Wi-Fi network and still allows you to connect all of your lighting to your smart ecosystem.

One thing to keep in mind is that these types of smart bulbs require a central hub. This hub, often called a bridge, will connect to your Wi-Fi network allowing all of your ZigBee or Bluetooth lights to communicate with your apps and other smart technology.

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