Do Smart Bulbs Use Up Electricity Even When They’re Off?

Smart bulbs are super convenient, and can save you money compared to traditional bulbs. One question, though, is whether they still use electricity even when the lights are turned off.

Why Would This Be a Concern?

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LED bulbs in general can be a fantastic energy saver, since they don’t require a lot of electricity compared to other types of lights. Smart bulbs especially can be a big saver, since you can set them up to turn off automatically if you forget, or you’re not around.

However, smart bulbs are still technically “on” even when they’re not emitting any light. The reason for this is that they have to maintain communication with your home’s Wi-Fi (or with a hub over Zigbee or Z-Wave). That way, they’re ready at a moment’s notice whenever you decide to turn the lights on remotely. So, smart bulbs are still using up some electricity even when the light is technically turned off.

You Shouldn’t Be Worried

With all that said, it’s completely valid to wonder just how much electricity smart bulbs still use when they’re sitting dormant, and how much it’s costing you. We did a little bit of experimenting to find out, but spoiler alert: it’s really not that much electricity at all, depending on which smart bulbs you use.

Using my trusty Kill A Watt electricity usage monitor, I tested a Philips Hue White smart bulb (which uses Zigbee), a Eufy Lumos Wi-Fi smart bulb, and a GoControl Z-Wave smart bulb to see how much electricity each type of bulb pulled even when I had the light turned off. Here’s what I found.

Philips Hue White Bulb

With the Philips Hue bulb, the wattage display on the Kill A Watt unit steadily hovered between 0.0 watts and 0.3 watts—it uses up so little electricity that the Kill A Watt was barely registering anything at all, but it was still registering something.

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But for the sake of data and doing some math, let’s average it out and say that the bulb pulls 0.15 watts of power when it’s on “standby.” To figure out how much that’s costing you on your electric bill, we first need to convert that wattage into kilowatt-hours (kWh).

Long story short, it would take roughly 6,600 hours before a Hue bulb uses up 1 kWh of power in standby mode (or 9.17 months). Depending on where you live, the cost for a single kWh of power differs, but for me it costs 15 cents. Therefore, a Hue bulb in standby mode costs around 1.6 cents per month—at least in my area.

Eufy Lumos Wi-Fi Bulb

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The Eufy Lumos bulb uses straight up Wi-Fi to connect to your network, rather than using a hub like Zigbee or Z-Wave. The Kill A Watt displayed a constant reading of 0.5 watts for the Eufy bulb—not much more than the Hue bulb

With those numbers, it would take 2,000 hours before the Eufy smart bulb uses up 1 kWh of power in standby mode (or 2.78 months). So using the $0.15/kWh figure, the average Wi-Fi bulb in standby mode costs roughly 5.4 cents per month.

GoControl Z-Wave Bulb

The GoControl bulb (which uses Z-Wave instead of Zigbee) was a strange one, as the Kill A Watt was all over the place. It read anywhere between 0.6 watts and 4.8 watts at any given time. However, it was definitely using up way more power than the other two bulbs.

To get a better idea of how much power this bulb was using, I measured the kWh usage in real time and waited a few days. Granted, I could’ve done this for the other two bulbs I tested, but they use so little power that the measurement on the Kill A Watt changing from just 0.01 to 0.02 would take a couple days or more. On this GoControl bulb, it only takes a few hours, allowing me to monitor it more closely and accurately.

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In any case, after about 72 hours, the bulb used up around 0.12 kWh of power (1.66 watts on average at any given time), which equates to 600 hours of usage before the bulb would use up 1 kWh of power in standby mode (or 3.7 weeks). Therefore, based on the same $0.15/kWh cost, the average Z-Wave bulb in standby mode costs roughly 17.9 cents per month.

I’m not sure exactly why this Z-Wave bulb uses so much more electricity in standby mode, but it’s likely because the bulb is acting as a repeater in the Z-Wave mesh network and relaying signals from a ton of other Z-Wave devices in my house back to my Wink smarthome hub. Of course, Zigbee does the same thing, but there are a lot fewer Hue bulbs in my house than Z-Wave devices. So keep this in mind if you plan on using Z-Wave bulbs in your setup.

Of course, these cost figures are all dependent on how much you pay for electricity in your area and what your smarthome setup is like in your house. However, the main point is that there’s really no need to worry about your smart bulbs taking over your electricity bill, especially even the power used by the bulb I measured as the most expensive pales in comparison to how much power your lights pull when they’re actually turned on.

The Overall Cost of Using Smart Bulbs

At full brightness, a Philips Hue White bulb uses 9.3 watts of power at 840 lumens, the GoControl bulb 8.5 watts at 750 lumens, and the Eufy Lumos bulb 8.7 watts at 800 lumens.

With that in mind, let’s say that you have your lights on for 8 hours every day. For the Philips Hue White bulb, this means you’re looking at paying $0.35 per month to operate one bulb, with only a single penny of that being used for standby mode. So only 2.86% of the monthly cost of a Hue bulb is from when the bulb is in standby.

With the GoControl Z-Wave bulb, it would cost $0.43 per month, with $0.12 of that being for standby mode, or 27.9% of the monthly cost.

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As for a typical Wi-Fi smart bulb such as the Eufy Lumos, you’re actually looking at the same monthly operating cost as the Hue bulb (even though it uses slightly more power in standby mode), thanks to the lower wattage from fewer lumens. However, in this case, 11.43% of the monthly cost (or $0.04) is from standby mode.

Keep in mind, this is the cost for operating a single smart bulb, so you need to multiply that cost by however many smart bulbs you have in your house. In my case, I have nine Hue bulbs sprawled across my residence, which means I’m spending around $3.15 per month to operate these lights, with 9 cents of that being used for standby mode. Obviously, not every single one of my smart bulbs is on for 8 hours every day, so the actual cost is probably a bit lower.

However, this paints a picture of how little electricity your smart bulbs use and how little you pay to use them over the years. So even if they do use up electricity even when the light isn’t on, the cost is extremely negligible.

Craig Lloyd writes about smarthome for How-To Geek, and is an aspiring handyman who loves tinkering with anything and everything around the house. He's also a mediocre gamer, aviation geek, baseball fan, motorcyclist, and proud introvert.