Do you want a smart home?


Last week I talked about masked/anonymous/disposable email services. Well, DuckDuckGo just recently opened its masked email beta to everyone so you can easily create as many anonymous/disposable email addresses as you want or need. It’s an email forwarding service that strips out “trackers” among other things, making the email you receive more secure and protective of your privacy. I’m using it and I encourage everyone else to do so as well. Read more at

The last paragraph of the article tells you how to sign up. When you generate a new address, it’s yours and you can start using it immediately so copy it and paste it wherever you need it. If you generate it from the email generation page ( it will remain visible on that page until you generate a new one.

Now, on to this week’s topic.

What is a “smart home?” There are many definitions with varying levels of technical sophistication. I prefer to keep it simple: a smart home is any place that includes some level of automation. So, by my definition, if you have a furnace in your home with a thermostat that automatically fires your furnace when the temperature goes below a certain level, you have a smart home. Simplistic, I know, but I prefer that to an overly involved definition.

What are some other things you can do to add automation to your home and why would you want to? Remember The Clapper ( Yes, it’s still available. See your favorite retailer. Well, technology has upgraded things and now you can get a “smart outlet” and a “smart light bulb,” both of which can connect with your virtual assistant (e.g. Siri, Akexa, Google) so you can control them with your voice, via their app, or via a “smart home controller” app.

OK, I threw a lot at you in that last paragraph. Let me break it down a bit more. First, smart lights. There are many on the market. All of them that I’m aware of are LEDs which means they consume much less power than the older incandescent bulbs and last much longer. An LED that’s a 100-watt equivalent will use only 10-25 watts. Now, stay with me here because I’ve got to give you some technical terms that are used with LEDs so you can buy with knowledge and understanding.

Since LEDs use much less power than standard light bulbs, they tend to be rated in “lumens” (which is a measure of light output) rather than watts. Most sources will quote that a 100-watt incandescent bulb produces between 1,500 and 1,600 lumens, but real world measurements show that on average they produce a little under 1400 lumens. I seem to get about as much illumination out of a 75-watt equivalent LED that supposedly produces only 1,100 to 1,125 lumens. What does this mean to you? Don’t be afraid to try a 75-watt LED. They’re easier to find and a bit cheaper.

Next is color. Some of the LEDs produce light of a fixed color. You may be used to seeing terms like “daylight” or “warm white.” These terms are actually shorthand for “color temperature” ( measured in degrees Kelvin. Warm white corresponds roughly to 2700K, daylight to 5000K. The article I linked to shows correspondence between color temperature and environment. Some smart LEDs light up at a given temperature while others allow you to change the temperature and even the color (red, blue, green, etc).

Last thing, I promise. Base. A standard light bulb socket is known as an E26 base. There are other bases and other shapes but if you’re looking to replace a standard light bulb in the lamp on your end table, an E26 base is what you need.

Now that you have that info, what do I use and recommend? I have several LIFX bulbs like Yes, they’re kinda pricey but they work, out of the box, with all the smart assistants and their app works well for setup and such. They allow you to fully adjust the color output, choosing a color (red, green, etc) or a temperature (2700K for warm white, etc). I tend to stay away from the colors and just go with white color temperatures. I change the temperature as the day goes on starting with a bright white of about 4500K in the morning to wake me up and ending with a warm white of about 2700K at night to watch TV. And if we’re watching something that is fairly dark on the TV, I can turn down the brightness of the LED. All of which I can do with the LIFX app or via my smart assistant using a command like “set color temp to 2700K” or, even better, using a custom command I’ve set up in my assistant like “set dark TV” or “set morning light.”

Other choices? I encourage you to pay attention to the lumen output of any LED. If you want to replace a 60-watt incandescent then 800 lumens is fine. But if you’re replacing a 75- or 100-watt bulb, I recommend at least a 100-lumen smart light. Sengled makes a 1,500-lumen (100-watt equivalent) multicolor bulb that connects directly to WiFi in a four-pack that’s currently $50 –

More common are smart LED bulbs that need a hub — they connect with the hub and the hub connects to your WiFi. Ikea has an 100-lumen smart bulb that can change color temperature but not color for $13 ) and the gateway ( is $40, which can control up to 64 LED bulbs. Once installed, it works with Siri, Alexa and Google Home. Philips Hue and GE also make gateway-controlled smart LEDs.

That’s it for this week. Note that my intent with these columns is to spark your curiosity, give you enough information to get started, and arm you with the necessary keywords (or buzzwords) so you’ll understand the basics and are equipped to search for more detailed information.

Email me with questions, comments, suggestions, requests for future columns, whatever at and don’t forget that I maintain links to the original columns with live, clickable links to all the references at or It should be updated shortly after this column appears online. My links tell me that I’m getting some international readers — France, Belgium and Germany among other countries. If you’re an international reader, drop me a quick note and say hi!

Tony Sumrall, a Hillsboro native whose parents ran the former Highland Lanes bowling alley, is a maker with both leadership and technical skills. He’s been in the computing arena since his graduation from Miami University with a bachelor’s degree in systems analysis, working for and with companies ranging in size from five to hundreds of thousands of employees. He holds five patents and lives and thrives in Silicon Valley which feeds his love for all things tech.

Ton Sumrall Contributing columnist Sumrall Contributing columnist

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