It’s been HOT where I live. Really, bakingly hot. The kind of heat where you don’t want to turn on the oven for dinner, or even boil water. Lighting candles is out of the question. Despite the fact that some subtle flickering ambiance is nice, adding anything that says ‘heat’ is not happening. That’s why I love Playbulb’s new electronic candles, Candle S. Continue reading “New Playbulb Candle S; now rechargeable & brighter”
There are two types of people when it comes to lighting up the house for the holidays; the gung-ho Clark Griswold types, and those for whom the thought of climbing a ladder in the cold inspires dread.
If you’re in the latter camp, know there are easier ways to make your home festive thanks to technology.
Holiday Hack #1: Smart Plugs for Automation
Want to control your Christmas lights from another room, or even another city? Smart plugs like the WeMo Switch allow you to plug in virtually anything, from Christmas lights, to mobiles or animated figurines and turn it off an on with your smartphone or tablet. This works really well for tree lights in particular, since crawling under or behind the tree to pull out the plug is often a pain.
Smart plugs can also be used on automatic timers, coming on at dusk and turning off when you want.
Holiday Hack #2: App-connected string lights
MiPow, makers of Playbulb lights has come out with a smart connected string light for this holiday. These smart LED light strings give you smart functionality via a Bluetooth connection; you can turn them on or off with your smartphone, adjust colour to dozens of different subtler hues, you can set timers, or use a handful of special effects, all automatically. Best of all, these are for indoors or out.
With a kit like this you don’t even need a smart plug. Read my full review of String here.
Holiday Hack #3: Stick-up LED Lights go anywhere
Philips Hue String, Osram Lightify Flex and MiPow Playbulb Comet are just three great examples of lights you can stick anywhere for holiday decor. If you use removable 3M Command adhesive tabs, it makes moving them and removing the tape even easier.
Use these light strips on the inside of a window frame to show your neighbourhood your red, green or icy blue colours. Coil them into frosted glass vases for temporary colourful lamps, wrap them around large mirrors, or stick them under furniture for holiday ambiance.
Want to go to another level? Nanoleaf Aurora is a unique set of flat plastic panels that can be stuck pretty much anywhere; you can use them to create a holiday-themed wall decoration, and adjust the lights to flicker red and green or frosty blue and white.
Holiday Hack #4: Make a light-up Christmas Tree
Feeling creative? Why not use the Aurora to create a flat panel Christmas tree in a small space where a real tree is just not realistic? Simply arrange the triangular shaped panels in a tree shape, configure the panels to turn green (go for a gold on on top, reminiscent of a star!) and you’re holiday ready!
Read my review and all about the Nanoleaf Aurora here.
Table setting is an art, if you ask me. Matching dishes to napkins and selecting florals requires some level of flair which I struggle to achieve. That’s where I pull in smart lamps; I can turn the Mipow Sphere glass globe green to match my good china, or I can set the Philips Hue Go lamp to a cool snowy hue for a winter feast. The Go lamp also works well under the Christmas tree to give it some extra colour pop or by the fireplace.
Holiday Hack #6: Use coloured bulbs for decor
As I’ve written before, smart lights are an easy way to decorate your home for any occasion. Painting your room with light can warm up a room, cool it off, or give it a holiday theme with the touch of an app. Lights like Philips Hue smart bulbs can be set to holiday red or green easily, you can use LIFX’s ‘scenes’ to create a holiday glow, or employ a MiPow Playbulb to provide both a light show AND music from its built-in speaker!
Holiday Hack #6: Use the Internet of Things to automate … ANYTHING
If you haven’t experimented with IFTTT (If This Then That), you’re missing out. IFTTT uses apps and smart devices to create actions that happen automatically. I wrote about how you can use it to turn coloured smart lights blue when snow is in the forecast. But you can also use it for holiday fun. Need a quick lesson on how it all works? Click here.
If you own a smart doorbell and some smart lights you can use an IFTTT ‘recipe’ to play Christmas music on a Sonos speaker when the doorbell is pressed, and to set lights flashing green and red. Read more about how to do that, or to achieve the same effect with a motion sensor, via the Yonomi app here. You can also surf the IFTTT website for holiday light and sound recipes that have already been created and borrow one that suits you.
Do you have a Holiday hack or IFTTT recipe we should try? Post your ideas in comments below!
Philips has recently announced several new products and accessories in its smart lighting kit lineup called Hue.
I recently had a chance to test out some samples of these new lights and accessories. Regular readers, or viewers of the monthly CTV Tech Talk know I really like smart lighting for its versatility, colour changing abilities, ease-of-use, and low energy consumption. So anytime I have an opportunity to test new product, or see upgrades that have been made, I love to educate readers and viewers about what’s new, what they can expect, and if these gadgets work as they should in the home environment.
What’s new with Philips Hue
The new additions to the Philips Hue kit I tested included a motion sensor, LED adhesive strip lighting, and new more saturated coloured light bulbs. We’ll look at each piece of the kit, what makes it unique, different, or new and improved, and how well it works.
I should note right off the bat, that all of the accessories and lights in the Philips Hue kit require the use of the Philips Bridge to connect all the devices together, and to connect your smart phone via your Wi-Fi network. A great way to join the smart lighting club is to purchase a starter kit, which comes with three bulbs and a bridge.
You will also need to the Philips Hue app, or other third-party app to control your lights and get the most from them (More on those below). With the Philips app you’ll be able to set timers and alarms, control colour changing, set scenes or moods, and group certain lights together to turn on or off in sync.
Philips Hue Lightstrip plus is a flexible length of LED lighting. It will display both white or coloured light in just about any situation you could imagine. The light strip plus is completely bendable, so it can wrap around anything from a mirror frame, to a window, a headboard, or even your television.
For you feature geeks out there, the light strip plus emits 1600 lumens at 4200 Kelvin and uses AC power. Extensions to the kit are available but are sold separately.
I set up this light in a couple of ways. Though the light strip plus comes with an adhesive backing, I rigged up a temporary set up so I could move the lights from location to location in my home. I tested them under the kitchen cabinets, then underneath a sideboard in the dining room (there’s a photo at the top of the page). My final test was to wrap the light strip around our 50 inch TV in the media room.
The light strip is very versatile and easy to use with the Hue app. Though the app is not as intelligent or interesting as it could be, it works just great, allows you to use all the basic functions, and is very responsive. Several third-party apps add more fun and functionality to the Philips Hue kit, but the basic app works just fine.
I very much enjoyed having more available task lighting that I could place exactly where I needed it. I also really love the look of using it underneath a piece of furniture to create less harsh lighting in the room, and more of a soft ambient glow.
I’ve done some reading which suggests ambient light around or behind your TV can help combat eye strain. I decided to try to add the Philips Hue Lightstrip plus to the edge of my 50″media room TV. Though the set up was only temporary and didn’t look very attractive, it’s easy to get the idea of how this would look in a permanent installation.
While there are special apps that claim to be able to adjust the colour of your lights to the program or movie you are watching, the Phillips Hue app itself does not do this. So while you can adjust the general ambient colour or brightness, you can’t customize the experience; not without paying for an extra app. This is something I’d like to try down the road, but for this review, that’s kind of secondary.
Bottom line; this light strip works well, has good strong colour saturation, is very versatile, and if you rig up temporary adhesive (like a 3M command strip) you can move it as you need to.
Philips Hue Motion Sensor
The addition of a motion sensor was a big deal for Philips. The small 2-inch square motion detector is light and compact with an adhesive back. If you don’t want to install it permanently, you can tuck it nearly anywhere, from a counter, dresser, even on top of a painting or frame; wherever you need it to detect motion. The motion sensor is powered by two AA batteries, meaning it’s completely wire-free, and with regular use those batteries should keep the sensor powered for two to three years.
It won’t blind you at midnight
The motion sensor adds a lot more versatility and new functions to the Hue lighting lineup. More than just turning the lights on and off, this device gives you many new options. For example, using the Hue app you can set the lights to come on at different strengths or colours depending on the time of day or night; you can set a night light function, so if someone in the house wakes up in the middle of the night, and goes to the bathroom, the Philips Hue lights will turn on, but only dimly to light the way.
Motion detected instantly
The sensors have a great range, and can see about 100° in all directions. Indeed, I have the sensor in my dining room, with a direct line to a hallway about 18 feet away, and when I walk past, it’s still able to see me. The lights fade on in less than a second; there’s really no lag from detected motion to lights-up. I was actually quite impressed with the responsiveness.
While the Philips Hue kit is very easy to set up and use, if I had to find fault with one aspect of it up to now, it’s been that the light bulbs aren’t super colourful and aren’t as richly saturated as some other bulbs I’ve tried. (Namely Lifx and Osram WeMo).
That’s all changed now with the re-issue of new bulbs from the company. They look identical but it’s the guts inside that now produce deeper richer colours. I did notice that they do appear noticeably stronger and more saturated, allowing you to use them to decorate with light for holidays like Christmas, Halloween and Easter, or to just enjoy relaxing or invigorating colour scenes at home.
Philips has also added some new bulbs to the Hue line; the GU10, popular in Canada (for halogen fixtures) and the BR30 spot light.
I have lights… why do I need SMART lights?
It’s a fair question; why upgrade to (often more expensive) smart lights when you can get illumination the old fashioned way? To answer that question, I present, “5 COOL things you can do with Philips Hue lights.”
- Get your lights to flash when the doorbell rings. You’ll need a video or connected doorbell for this one, and the free IFTTT app. (What’s IFTTT? Read my explainer here) Using IFTTT, you create an ‘applet’ (formerly called a recipe) that tells your lights to flash when your doorbell, like the Ring Video Doorbell is pushed. In simplest terms, you allow IFTTT access to your doorbell and your Hue hub, and the app gets them to talk to eachother, even though they don’t normally work together.
- Get lights to change colour according to the weather. This is a feature I love. Use IFTTT again to get your local weather info to send alerts to your light bulbs. Have them come on bright orange when it’s going to be a scorcher, or turn blue for a snow day. Click here for my how-to.
- Turn on lights inside when motion is detected outside. Another applet function from our friends at IFTTT; use a dedicated connected motion detector, or camera like the on on the Ring doorbell, and then have it communicate with your lights. When it detects motion at your door, day or night, that action triggers the lights to turn on to make it seem as though someone is awake or at home. The applet can be found here.
- Sync a light show to music. If you have a connected speaker like Sonos, you can get it talking to your Hue lights. Get it to create you a light show that complements your music.
- Use a Hue go lamp to wake you with warm light: Not new, but also worth mentioning as part of the Philips Hue kit is the Hue Go lamp which I’ve written about previously; it’s actually the light I use to subtly wake me up at my 3am alarm time. Using the Philips Hue app, I have it set to slowly fade on about 15 minutes before my alarm goes off, to a soft sunrise pink-orange. By the time my alarm rings, the room is bathed in soft light for a gentle wakeup.
What would you do in your home with new smart lights and accessories? Let me know in comments below. The new Hue motion sensors sell for $39.95 (CDN or USD). The Light strip is $89, and the starter kit of bulbs is $179-$199. Check out the whole line here.What
Regular readers know how much I love smart lights. They give so much versatility to your home’s ambiance and colour. The Philips Hue line is a popular kit that allows you to easily get started with adding smart LED lighting, timers, colours and more to your house. Today, Philips has announced more smart functions are coming to its system, with the addition of a motion sensor for the Hue line.
Philips Hue line includes the Hue bulb starter kit, which can be placed into any regular light bulb socket, allowing lights to be controlled via a smartphone or tablet (or the wall switch). There’s also the Hue Go lamp which I’ve written about previously; it’s actually the light I use to subtly wake me up at my 3am alarm time.
Philips Hue preview; hands-free motion detection
The new Philips Hue motion sensors were demonstrated for me in a private, advance Skype call. The sensors work quickly, triggering the lights to come on in half a second in the live demonstrations I was shown. You can walk into a room, and instantly, any Philips connected lights will come on and allow you to see, without ever touching a switch, or digging for your smartphone.
“The Philips Hue motion sensor not only provides hands-free control but also helps deliver peace of mind. You can be guided safely throughout your home at night with lighting,” said Sridhar Kumaraswamy, Business Leader, Home Systems, Philips Lighting. “Plus, you no longer have to remind the kids to turn off the lights when leaving a room. The reliable detection the motion sensor provides when you exit supports this and also helps you be more energy efficient.”
Sensors know if it’s 2am; light adjusts accordingly
Cleverly, these motion detectors also have a daylight sensor, which will adjust the level of light so that if you get up at 2am for a crying baby or to pee, the lights will only come on at a low level so you’re not getting blinded. Now that’s putting thought into your design.
Philips Hue motion sensors are battery powered; no cords!
The detectors are individually battery powered so you can stick them anywhere; wall mount them, leave them on a table, or tuck them on a shelf, or the top of the frame of a painting; you’ve got versatility. With two AA batteries, Philips tells me in our call that the sensors will last about two to three years with ‘average use’ of a few times per day. The sensors are also said to have a great range, and can see about 100° in all directions. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to test these out for myself later in the fall when the sensors become available.
Of course, what colour the lights come on, when, and how is all infinitely customizeable via the Hue app.
Philips enhances colour saturation in Hue line, adds new bulbs
Philips has also re-engineered its Hue line lights to have richer colours than before. Where it was sometimes hard to achieve rich, true saturation, in the newest generation of lights, Philips tells me it’s now been able to achieve far better colour. I hope to be able to compare the new colours (using the old bulbs/lights) in tests later this year.
Philips has also added new bulbs to the line; the GU10, popular in Canada (hallogen fixtures) and the BR30 spot light.
The new Hue motion sensors sell for $39.95 (CDN or USD) and will become available in October 2016.
Want a great, easy way to jazz up your garden, yard, or walkway? Check out my installation and review of the Osram Lightify GardenSpot Mini outdoor lighting kit.
Watch my 3 minute video!
I’ve been looking for an easy under-counter lighting solution that can brighten up my dark kitchen, without requiring a degree in electrical engineering. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the Osram Lightify Flex system was to install. Even better is the option to control the lights using my iPhone, and being able to change their colours!
There’s a full review coming soon, meantime, check out my video showing what’s in the kit, how to install it, and what it can do for you.
If you have any feedback on the Lightify line, I’d love to hear it. Add your comments below.
Our homes are getting smarter every year; dishwashers can now figure out what’s wrong, and assist in getting it fixed. Refrigerators can tell you when you’re low on butter or creamer. Now light bulbs are getting smart too!
LED light bulbs (most of today’s ‘smart’ bulbs are LED) are becoming more common because they’re extraordinarily energy efficient; many bulbs can last 30,000 or even 40,000 hours. That’s up to 23 years! That’s good because while smart light bulbs and LEDs will cost you more in the short term, in the long term they’ll mean fewer replacements are needed, and you’ll have a smaller energy bill too.
Smart light bulbs are becoming more popular, because adding connectivity allows you to do things like turn them off or on whenever you want, whether you’re home, or while away. You can even use geo-locating to have light bulbs switch on when you arrive home, or at work, and shut off when you leave. Smart bulbs can be set to slowly come on at your bedside, giving you a gentle wake-up, or slowly softening to black to help you drift off to sleep. Those are just the practical uses; many of these ‘smart’ bulbs also come with fun options too, like colour, which can give the room a nice ambiance for entertaining, or relaxing. Smart bulbs can also give you the option of supplying brighter task or work lighting when you need it, or mimicking a candlelit table when you don’t! Plus, there are holiday applications. I used my LIFX test bulbs to create a bright orange glow in the window on Halloween to give my jack o’lantern some extra kick. At Christmas, I coupled two bulbs together by the Christmas tree in red and green. And at Valentine’s it will make a nice soft warm peachy glow for a romantic dinner. Smart bulbs have a multitude of uses!
On this week’s CTV Morning Live Tech Talk segment (Watch it here), we looked at three types of Smart light bulbs:
Drift and Sense bulbs by Saffron $29/BULB – DRIFT-LIGHT.COM
I’ve been testing these lights recently. The Drift bulb doesn’t have any wifi ability, but it is smart. A simple click of the switch, and it operates like a regular bulb. Two clicks of the switch on your lamp or wall and the Drift bulb will flash back at you, indicating it’s set. In this mode it will slowly fade out over 37 minutes, the period of time of the average sunset. What this does is tune your body to the fact that it’s night time and sleep is near. I found it quite soothing, and felt after a few days of use that it did give me a feeling of being ready to sleep by the time the bulb went out. The company says these bulbs will increase your body’s natural production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, helping you get into a restful state naturally.
If you give the Drift bulb three clicks, it will fade out over the same time frame, but keep a bit of light as a night light, making it great for kids’ rooms.
The Sense bulbs by Saffron are slightly different. They are able to detect ambient light, and will turn on when it gets dark, meaning you can leave your porch light or interior switch on, but not waste energy all day long with the bulb burning away in daylight.
These bulbs are plastic cased, making them nearly break-proof
LIFX Smart Bulbs $99/BULB – LIFX.CO
These bulbs are some of my favourites; they’re easy to use, programmable, and give you a great array of colour options, from warm white, to cool blues, and specialty colours all over the spectrum.
The bulbs connect to your home’s wifi network, and then are manipulated using an app. There’s no hub to fuss with; all the hardware is in the bulb. Now, for that reason, the bulbs are large and may not fit in some fixtures, but in my in-home testing, they fit easily in a living room lamp, and in an overhead fixture in the dining room.
You simply screw in the bulbs, and turn them on. Using the app, connect to wifi and set up the bulbs. Then, the app becomes a remote control for your lights; allowing you to control one at a time, or multiple bulbs all at once. You can dim or brighten the bulbs, or change colour options. Basic white light can be warmed or cooled, depending on the type or colour of light you prefer; my personal preference is for warm white-ish pink light in the house. I find it soothing. If you lose wifi, the bulbs still work, reverting to the last setting you used. That’s one other think I liked about the LIFX bulbs; when you switch them off, and then on again, they’ll still be set to the colour you last used, whereas some other bulbs (Philips Hue, below), resets itself each time you shut it off. You can select an infinite number of colours, both strong and subtle, and the app allows you to dim them too. You can also use the app to build your own favourite colour combinations, and it remembers them for you. And if for some reason the bulbs are reset, they’ll still function as regular white-light LED bulbs.
Take note that these bulbs are not for outdoor use.
One other point worth mentioning; I had some difficulty getting one of the bulbs to connect to my home’s wifi. I got great customer service help from a patient person at LIFX, who was able to walk me through some troubleshooting, and help me update the bulb’s firmware online. I can always forgive a glitch if the customer service help that’s available is rock solid.
Philips Hue Bulbs $99/STARTER KIT – MEETHUE.COM
Philips Hue are another wifi enabled bulb, but these differ in that they require a hub, or what Philips calls its “bridge”, to function. The bridge must be physically connected to your home’s router via an included Ethernet cable, which I found to be an annoying extra step (and something else taking up space on my desk). That said, the use of the bridge appears to allow Philips to make their smart bulbs smaller than the LIFX version.
The Hue kit was easy enough to set up; once the bridge is plugged in, you use the app to set up the system, and then to control your bulbs. I liked the simplicity of the Philips app, which has 2 pages of shortcuts to give you lighting profiles like candle light, ‘underwater’ and ‘hammock’ to name just a few. The Hue, too, will allow you to use an infinite number of colours, in both warm and cool light. Philips also has an online portal which will allow you to access your bulbs from any computer, anywhere. Want to make it look like you’re home? Switch the lights on or off or program them as you wish. No need for those outdated timer boxes.
I’ve been absolutely loving having smart bulbs in my home, primarily because I use them to create relaxing atmospheres, to make the room seem warmer on cold nights, or to create a flattering candlelit glow. Most of them are easy to set up, and even easier to use. I recommend getting your feet wet with one bulb first to see how you like it.