Smart Lights That Change Color Temperature Based on Time of Day (A How-To Guide)

Smart lights are awesome, as many people can agree. The ability to control more than one light with just the mere touch of a button or voice command is extremely convenient in a variety of situations. 

They’re convenient, they can be festive, and can really help set the mood at home. Smart lighting can affect the mood so much so, that some people want to have their lights automatically adjust to the perfect lighting for every time of day. But is this possible? And if so, how?

What are Smart Lights?

Smart lights are one of the most popular and fun additions to the modern smart home. For many, it’s actually how they started their smart home to begin with!

Smart lights usually come in the form of LED bulbs, but some come in filament versions.

Smart LED bulb in dark pink
Smart LED bulb in purple

They also come in a variety of other options such as floor lamps, ceiling lights, as well as the extremely popular light strips

Light strips sitting properly flush to wall corner
Light strips

There is an almost indefinite variety of smart light brands that you can choose from. Some of the most popular are Philips Hue, LIFX, Innr, and Nanoleaf. Search through Amazon and you’ll find many more brands such as Sengled and GoSund, that offer similar products at lower prices.

Light strips are particularly famous for their decorative abilities and multi-use purposes. One brand, Nanoleaf, even makes lighting panels, giving you a very unique way to add a decorative flair to your home and its walls.

8x Hex Nanoleaf wall panels in a room
8x Hex Nanoleaf wall panels in a room

Smart lights are controlled wirelessly via a number of wireless communication protocols such as the ever-popular Wi-Fi, Zigbee, and even Bluetooth. Each brand of smart lights has its own app by which its settings can be changed and set in different ways to accommodate your needs.

Most smart lights can change to an almost infinite array of colors, giving you endless decorating options. If you happen to be using a smart home hub, these lights can even be incorporated into your smart home automations and routines. You can create routines for getting up in the morning, for when you get home from work, when you’re out on vacation, and for going to bed – all involving smart lights.

One thing that smart home users seek to do is have their smart lights change color temperature from cool to warm, at various times of the day, to mirror the lighting outside. How is this beneficial in your everyday life?

How Smart Lights Can Enhance the Time of Day

Smart lights are more than just a festive way to add decor to your home. The hue or color temperature of your lights as you go through the day can also have an effect on your everyday life.

Let’s say you’re just getting up in the morning, getting ready for work. Now, if you’re anything like me, mornings are rough! If your lighting is dim and soft, this may entice you to turn tail and head right back to bed. But if your lights are brighter (not too bright!), at a nice, cool white ‘temperature’ they may actually help you to wake up.

Smart LED bulb in standard light socket
Smart LED bulb in bright white

The proper lighting at the proper time of day can do wonders for the mood. During the day a cool white fosters a more alert and productive mood. As the day progresses, the light transitioning to a warmer white can help with relaxation as the day winds down (this is known as the Kelvin light temperature scale):

A Kelvin light scale showing warm and cool white with symbols
A Kelvin light scale showing warm and cool white with symbols

As another example, think of the late afternoon or evening. You come home from work, and soon, you’re getting ready to cook dinner. Sure, you want the lights bright enough to see what you’re doing, but you may also want them soft enough so that you can feel more relaxed. That, coupled with the right music, and you’ve got the perfect ‘recipe’ for cooking. 

If you want to take it a step further, there’s even evidence that color therapy or chromotherapy – the color of your lights affecting your mood, can be effective. Orange is supposedly great for studying, concentrating, and even relaxing. 

Smart Light with Orange Lighting
Smart LED Light with Orange Lighting

Dimming the lights in the kids’ rooms can even help them relax and get their minds and bodies ready for sleep. This can also work with rambunctious pets!

So there’s no doubt that lighting can play a big role in mood and enhancing the time of day. So how do you get your lights to do this?

How to Change Your Lights According to the Time of Day

Now that you know of the benefits a shift in color temperature can have on your day, you may be interested in trying it out. But how do you do this?

There are a few options, depending on your personal preference, as well as what smart lights and smart home hubs you may be using.

Smart Light Apps

Your smart lights’ respective apps often offer options for you to change the color temperature of your lights as the day progresses. They may also have Settings that allow you to create automations that do this.

GoSund SmartLights App Automations
GoSund SmartLights App Automations

For example, Philips Hue has Lab Formulas which gives you some options to achieve this. The Lab Formula section has a few formulas that can get your lights to shift color temperature at different intervals. 

One is the Sunset to Sunrise formula, and another is Time-based Light, just to name a couple. Both Hue formulas adjust the lighting to the time of day or according to how much light it senses so that you have optimal light for that particular time of day.

It’s to be noted, if you’re using Alexa and an Amazon Echo with ZigBee, instead of the Hue Bridge and Hue app to control your lights, this won’t be available to you in the Alexa app. Using the Hue Bridge and Hue app is the only way you can use the Hue lab formulas. You may also need additional equipment, such as Hue motion sensors, for the formulas to work properly, as they need to sense the lighting levels.

For the schedules to work properly, it’s important that the physical wall switch for the particular lights you want to control, stay on.  If not, the light won’t get the message, so to speak. Then, when you do turn your light switch on, your lights may come on, but at their regular brightness – not what’s specified in the app or schedule.

Lutron Aurora could potentially help here, if you use ZigBee-based lights such as Philips Hue. These smart switches keep the power to your smart light on, even when they have been physically turned off. As a result, the routines or lab formulas you setup should still work in this mode.

Smart Home Automations

Another way to get your lights to change according to the time of day is through smart home automations. Smart home hubs such as Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Samsung Smart Things give you the ability to have multiple smart home devices, including your lights, work together. With this in mind, you can create automations, or routines, that get your devices to do what you want them to at specified times, or from a trigger word.

For example, you can create routines or automations that have your lights dim, brighten, or even change color at different times.

In the Alexa app, for example, you can set routines that get the lights to change their brightness every 3 hours, allowing for a gentle progression throughout the day

Alexa app sample lights routine
Alexa app sample lights routine

The only downside to this method is that you’ll have to create multiple routines for different times of the day. Each routine can only have one trigger so, for example,  you’ll need to create one routine for noon, another for 3 pm, another for 5 pm, etc. This can get annoying at first. However, once it’s set up things should run smoothly. 

Another option available in the Alexa app is Ramp Brightness, as well as Sunset lights in suggested Routines. With Ramp brightness, you can get your smart lights to brighten to your specified brightness over a set period of time.

Alexa app Ramp brightness
Alexa app Ramp brightness

In terms of Sunset lights, this turns on the lights you want when the sun sets. This is based on region and uses local settings for the approximate time of sunset.

Alexa App with Sunset Routine available
Alexa App with Sunset Routine available

As with the smart light app, it’s important that the switch that powers your lights stays on. This allows the app and routines to effectively control the power and what your light does.


Now smart home automations and timers work great most of the time – but what happens when things don’t go as planned?

For starters, in order for automations to work properly, you’ll need to make sure the lights are on at the switch. If they’re off, they won’t be able to react to any routines you’ve set up. Sometimes when you turn the light back on, it might change to where it needs to be, but this doesn’t always happen. Some lights will just return to the last light color and brightness – some don’t.

Hue and LIFX in particular, have introduced a feature that can help in this regard, in the event of any power loss:

Screenshot of the Philips Hue mobile app, showing the power-on behavior setting for a bulb. Options are "Philips Hue Default", "Power loss recovery" or "Custom".
Hue’s power-on behavior for a smart bulb.

It’s a feature that allows your lights to come back on at the color temperature they were at before the power was disrupted – or at a level of brightness and color that you specify.

Both LIFX and Philips Hue’s power loss recovery option allows your lights to come back on at the brightness and color they were before they lost power. Philips Hue, however, goes a step further. It allows you to customize the brightness and color your lights come back on. This is convenient if power returns at 3 am and you don’t want the lights to wake up the whole house!

Sunrise to Sunset

Smart home lights are easily one of the most popular devices in many smart homes. The lighting in our homes can affect mood, so having them change according to the time of day to promote alertness – or relaxation, is a great feature to have. 

Fortunately, smart light apps and smart home automations help make this possible, giving you another way to enjoy your lights.

About Yvette Griffith

Yvette is a freelance writer who also happens to be a smart home enthusiast! She owns several smart home gadgets like strip lights, smart bulbs, cameras, and more! With a knack for troubleshooting device issues, she’s been the go-to for family and friends for all kinds of tech-related issues - dating back to VCR’s!

Here on Smart Home Point, she shares her knowledge with the world in hopes it’ll help you create and maintain your smart home.

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4 thoughts on “Smart Lights That Change Color Temperature Based on Time of Day (A How-To Guide)”

  1. Does this mean you’ll have to have the lights on all day? Or can you set it up so the light can be (smart)switched off and whenever it’s switched on it will shine at the right level/color specified for that time of day?

    • Good question, this is one of the issues with smart bulbs generally. If they are physically switched off, they won’t be able to receive the command that sets their color temperature to the right color (for that time of day). So in this case, there will always be a time lag (between switching the bulb on, and the command going out to set the right color temperature).

      Philips Hue do offer some ‘power loss recovery’ options (allowing you to set what happens to the bulb when you power them on), and this feature is more useful than other smart bulbs, but they also don’t allow you to configure this for different times of day.

      In short, this is a bit of a gray area right now.

  2. Are there any color-changing lights that don’t use an app? I’m envisioning having something like a programmable thermostat, but for my ceiling lights.

    • I see loads of “color lights with a remote” in stores near me, and online listings for such products too. So they are not smart lights (i.e. you cannot use an app or voice control), but the remote allows you to control them.

      They might be the best bet for you, depending on your use case.


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