Smart bulbs are a futuristic new lighting solution that enables the users to control the lights, create dynamic colour displays, set light schedules, and control brightness all from their phones. They have become very popular recently due to the huge increase in popularity of home offices and also the increase in time that people have spent in their rooms due to the lockdown. They are both practical and fun in equal measure, but how reliable are they under poor Wi-Fi conditions. Will it all go black if the Wi-Fi drops too low? 

Do Smart Bulbs Work Without Wi-Fi?

1. Wi-Fi Bulbs 

Wifi bulbs are certainly the most common form of smart bulb that you can get your hands on today. They are the simplest and most common-sense answer for a smart lighting system because most smart hubs today operate using Wi-Fi and it seems logical to keep the connectivity uniform. But is that really the best solution? In many cases, it may not be wise to put all of your eggs in one basket. 

If Wi-Fi does for some reason cut-out, you will find yourself without any communication to these bulbs, as a reasonable connection is the only way to communicate with them. So although they are excellent and very responsive when you have a signal, they aren’t the most dependable, if, for example, you live in an area with patchy Wi-Fi. 

2. Bluetooth Bulbs 

There are different types of smart bulbs to consider for this question and the first that we will look at is the Bluetooth bulb. This type of bulb sounds simple enough, but things can be a little more complicated. Usually, it is connected directly to the phone or tablet via Bluetooth, as you would expect and in this instance, yes the bulb and the app will communicate without a Wi-Fi connection and you can make any changes to your settings even in a Wi-Fi-free area. 

However, there are Bluetooth bulbs that are connectable to a Wi-Fi hub, such as the Philips Hue Bluetooth Smart Bulb. Here, the bulb may be connected to a larger lighting set-up, which is Wi-Fi only. In this instance, the bulb may be able to be set using the default Bluetooth app, but you won’t be able to configure the settings stored on your hub. This can cause a haywire situation with your lighting display. 

3. Wi-Fi Hub Bulbs 

As I mentioned earlier, Wi-Fi hub Bluetooth bulbs are a slightly different set-up than Bluetooth bulbs, as they are connected to the router directly and do rely to some extent on a Wi-Fi signal. Smart hubs are designed to help synchronize your bulbs and your setup should continue to be grouped as they were set, but can’t be altered. However your hub will not know the time without Wi-Fi, and so the scheduling feature will likely stop working. 

Depending on the bulb type, this can have a varying degree of impact on the user. If, for example, each of your bulbs is a pure Wi-Fi bulb, the hub will not help you get through to your bulbs and you will even lose most function of the hub, as mentioned. If your bulbs are all Bluetooth bulbs, you can still control them individually as normal - separate from the hub. The hub itself will be as useless as it was with the Wi-Fi bulbs. 

4. Zigbee 

Zigbee is a specialised communication network designed to allow devices to communicate to each other without the use of either the Wi-Fi network or the Bluetooth network. This offers your home a new allocation of bandwidth in case your set-up is crowding the radio wave space. As well as this the signal has a greater range and so can reach the corner of that room that your Bluetooth may have struggled with. 

Zigbee is used most often in smart hubs and is present in the Amazon Echo and Hive hub. This technology works independently of Wi-Fi in the same manner that Bluetooth does and in many ways is a turnkey solution to the scaling issues of IoT. 

As we want more of these things that communicate via radio signals, we need more radio infrastructure to support it, and the beauty of this design is that each of these devices is a node of the infrastructure that supports the “mesh network” of Zigbee. In this manner, similarly to Bluetooth bulbs, these devices will be able to communicate without Wi-Fi. 

5. Z-Wave Hub Bulbs

This technology comes in bulbs and hubs, but, you will always need to match the connectivity of your bulb with your hub, so you won’t run into a pure zigbee bulb in a pure Wi-Fi hub. However, you could find yourself with a Wi-Fi and zigbee bulb in a pure Wi-Fi hub that you couldn’t communicate to. So for this reason, the Zigbee network will only get you out of trouble if you have a Zigbee bulb and Zigbee hub. 


To conclude, Wi-Fi is not the ‘bee’ all and end all of connectivity, and the bluetooth and zigbee smart bulbs and hubs are just as viable a means of getting your devices to coordinate with each other than Wi-Fi. When it comes to a Wi-Fi shortage these other types of connection obviously come into their own. 

With smart bulbs leading the way for smart homes, it may become important for some to backup the operation of these devices in case your Wi-Fi does go down and you lose your favorite toys for a little while.