How to turn old floor lamps into high-tech smart lamps

By: Matt Grocoff , Contributing Writer
In: Home Improvement Tips, Green Renovations

In old homes, your lighting options may be relegated to floor lamps only if you've got limited wiring or no ceiling outlets. There are easy ways make these old lamps smart, though. It's now possible to make them dimmable and easy to control without needing to hire an electrician or doing any rewiring whatsoever.

In the past, floor lamps basically had two options - On or Off. You also only had one choice for brightness or color. When reading, watching TV, or entertaining it was tough to find just the right light to meet all your needs. It was always a compromise. But LED bulbs and smart controls are changing everything.

A plug-in dimmer switch

Virtually every major lighting manufacturer makes LED bulbs that are dimmable. Some can even change color, and others can be controlled from your smart phone or tablet. I'm a big fan of keeping it simple, but adaptable. Here's what I'd do:

  • Purchasing 1600 lumen dimmable LED bulbs. They use less than 20 watts at full brightness, but are the equivalent lumens of the old-school, energy-wasting 100 watt bulbs.
  • Get a dimmer control switch and use it. By dimming the lights, you get the best of both worlds -- very bright light for the rare instance need it, and dimmer light (which means less energy usage) for the majority of the time.
  • You can buy cheap dimmer switches that connect to each lamp, but then you have to run around to each lamp and adjust them, one-by-one. Instead, get a simple remote control plug in dimmer outlet. (Lutron sells the Caseta Wireless system for around $60 and can connect with an app on your smart phone.)
  • Add a couple of simple commands and have your lights turn on automatically when you come up the driveway. You can even program it to link to your door locks and enter an If This, Then That command and tell your lamps that IF your smart door lock detects someone trying to break-in, THEN turn on the lights! Not a bad security feature to help ease the mind of the paranoid homeowner.

To set up the plug in dimmer outlet simply do as the name states: plug it in to any outlet. Then plug up to two floor lamps into the controller. Caseta Wireless pairs with a Pico wireless remote switch which has four buttons: On / Off and + / - for making the light brighter or dimmer.

The remote can be placed anywhere with no wiring, but I suggest getting the optional Pico wall mount adapter. It simply screws into the wall and then you snap the remote into place. It will look like a conventional light switch and prevent house guests from freaking out trying to figure out all your smart lamps and save you some time looking for the remote in the couch cushions.