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
The amazing thing about smart lighting is how versatile and flexible it is. Case in point; a couple new LED string lights that are thin, pliable and flexible so you can stick them up 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!
Holiday Hack #5: Use a wireless lamp in your table setting
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 apphere. You can also surf theIFTTT 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!
First we had fire, then electricity. Tesla, Faraday, and Franklin pioneered the technology behind electricity, and then Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb. The way we light our homes really hasn’t changed much since that auspicious day in 1879. The lightbulb is round, it screws into a fixture, which requires a tradesman to install; electricity is dangerous for the uneducated.
Forget the bulb, there’s a whole new way
But now, a Canadian company has really, actually, reinvented the way we light our homes. Nanoleaf, based in Toronto, has invented lightweight, flat plastic panels that fully illuminate, change colour, morph and swirl. They’re bright, responsive and fully configurable, both in terms of how you place the lights, and how you operate them. This lighting system is called Aurora, and yes, it’s deliberately named after the Northern Lights phenomenon known as Aurora Borealis. Continue reading “The Nanoleaf Aurora smart light is really amazing”→
On CTV Morning Live’s Tech Talk segment I told you to come here to enter for a chance to win a Nanoleaf Lighting Kit. ***THE CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED
The winner is Samantha van Gorp. Congratulations, Samantha!
Thanks for entering, and I’ll be drawing a winner within 3 days of contest closing. By entering this contest you agree you have read and accept the rules and are to abide by them.
Here’s how to enter:
–> Choose one of the following methods or websites below, you only need to enter once.
On this website:
Write a (nice) comment on this blog in the comments section below, or on the Nanoleaf Light blog article. Use the keyword I provided on TV.
OR On Twitter:
Follow me on Twitter, (so I’ll be able to DM you if you win! No DM, no win possible), then tweet me @erinLYYC to tell me how much you’d like to win the Nanoleaf Light Kit. **Use the keyword I provided on TV.
Copy this sample tweet if you like: “I saw @ErinLYYC on TV, and I want to win a @Nanoleaf Light Kit #(insert keyword here) #tech #YYC”
OR On Facebook:
Go to my Facebook Page, “Like” it, and write a short comment on the Ring Contest section. Per FB rules, you need to do both to be properly entered. **Use the keyword I provided on TV.
The Fine Print:
I’ll pick one winner at random from among all the social media and website entries! Only 1 entry per person please; duplicate entries will be discarded. Contest closes at 11:59pm MT tonight, September 8, 2015. Odds of winning depend on the number of entries received. Not valid in Quebec.
Winner will recieve a Nanoleaf Bloom bulb [charcoal black, arctic leaf, or arctic white], Nanoleaf Tee, and Nanoleaf tote bag and keychain, courtesy of Nanoleaf. Nanoleaf reserves the right to make modifications to this prize pack based on availability. ErinLYYC.com bears no responsibility for prizes not delivered, delayed or misdirected. Prize will be shipped direct to recipient by Nanoleaf.
I’ll get in touch with the winner via same somed/website platform by which they entered. Non-response within 48 hours, and I’ll redraw under same 48 hour timeframe until I get a winner.
Winner’s name will be posted to this website and social media after the drawing.
If for any reason the Internet portion of the Contest is not capable of running as planned, including infection by computer virus, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures or any other causes beyond the control of Company which corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper conduct of this Contest, Company reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify any individual who tampers with the entry process, and to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Contest. Prize may not be exactly as show in accompanying photographs.
By entering this contest you agree you have read and accept the rules and are to abide by them.
Every so often you come across a cool tech device that blows your mind, and makes you rethink what you thought about a gadget. In this case, it’s an everyday object that’s been re-imagined: the light bulb.
Since Edison’s day, light bulbs have been largely the same shape and structure: glass chambers with tiny wire filament inside, heated to glowing by an electrical current. While in modern days we’ve seen the introduction of compact fluorescents, and LED lights, the lowly light bulb has been largely the same, until now.
Enter Nanoleaf. The small startup, with a University of Toronto grad at its helm, began life on Kickstarter. Hoping to raise $30,000 the Nanoleaf team shot past their fundraising goal in 24 hours (2 hours, to be exact!), going on to get over $192,000 pledged to their goal of reinventing the light bulb. These can-do inventors are coming to Beakerhead, the art science and engineering festival in Calgary (September 16-20, 2015).
A whole new look: no rounded edges, no glass
So what did Nanoleaf do? For starters, they changed the shape of their light bulb from rounded, to dodecahedron — a sphere-like shape made from 12 flat plains.
“Our patented Laser-scoring process allows us to fold PCB just like a piece of origami, giving us the freedom to ‘think outside the bulb’ when designing Nanoleaf One,” explains Nanoleaf’s website.
Then they imbedded the Nanoleaf One with dozens of tiny LEDs, so much the better for being able to throw out of a ton of strong, clear and long lasting light.
“Heat robs LEDs of efficiency and longevity,” the website foes on to explain, “that’s why we use individual, tiny, pure copper heat sinks for each LED instead of the less efficient aluminum of competing bulbs. It costs more, but it’s just one of the many ways we achieve such high efficiency and long life.”
Then they decided to eschew glass altogether, and cut those flat plains from computer circuit board, aka Printed Circuit Board, or PCB. PCBs are made from something called “FR-4”. It’s a woven glass fabric with epoxy resin and other materials like plastic and copper sheets.
So why reinvent the light bulb? Nanoleaf’s Sunny Han says, “In the beginning, the three co-founders Gimmy, Christian and Tom got together to create a solar product as a solution to relieving the global energy crisis. They wanted to add an energy efficient light bulb to go with the device. However, after searching the market, they couldn’t find any LED bulbs that were as energy efficient as they had hoped for. The more they looked into it, the more they realized just how big of an impact greener lighting could have on global energy consumption, so they decided to challenge the industry and create something better.”
“The world’s most energy efficient” bulbs, and they can back that up
Nanoleaf calls its bulbs “the world’s most energy efficient” and declares their bulbs will save you about $300 over its lifetime in energy cost alone.
So how do they back that up? Nanoleaf’s Han says “Lighting Facts – a program run by the U.S. Department of Energy to regulate industry standards – has certified our light bulbs as the most energy efficient in the world. With the Bloom’s efficacy levels reaching 120 lumens per watt, our bulbs are the most energy efficient out of over 33,000 other LED lights listed in their database.”
Nanoleaf says its bulbs are 87% more energy efficient than a regular incandescent, and will last 27 years, meaning you may never need to change the bulbs in your home, for as long as you live there! At about $30 a pop, they’re right in line with the price point of other high-efficiency bulbs.
Dimmable bulbs without the dimmer switch
With the invention of the Nanoleaf Bloom, the company set another benchmark: creating a dimmable light bulb that doesn’t need a dimmer switch. Instead by clicking the switch on whatever fixture you have it in on and off, you gain the control to dim the bulb to whatever level you choose. That’s a lot of versatility in your home.
Nanoleaf is brighter than bright: but why?
The bulbs themselves are super bright, almost too bright, but thankfully they can be easily dimmed from any switch. They’d be great in a workplace, workshop, garage or basement, because they’ll give you what feels like twice as much light as any other bulb. Why is that? Han tells me, “the Nanoleaf Bloom is indeed a 75W equivalent. It appears to be brighter because there is no diffuser being used. Most bulbs are made with frosted white glass, which ends up causing the light to appear less bright. Since we place the LED chips right on the exterior of the bulb, the result is a very bright light. The shape of the bulb also gives it true omni-directional lighting, something that the LED industry has struggled to achieve.”
The Nanoleaf bulbs are simple to use; if you can screw in a light bulb, you can up the efficiency in your home. Getting the hang of the dimming function might take a bit; you need to start with the bulb on, then do a quick on/off cycle and wait until the bulb has lowered to the level you like, then you turn it off and on again to set that level.
Nanoleaf has big news to share
The Nanoleaf folks shared with me that they have a new connected product coming out – a starter pack that will come with a smart bulb and hub, similar to bulbs you’ve read about here, like Philips Hue, LIFX, and WeMo/Osram. Want more general info on what a smart bulb can do for you? Check out my blog post.
“The smart home space is growing every day, but most of the new products out there only focus on the ability to control your lights wirelessly. Nanoleaf’s introduction into the connected space will keep in line with our focus on energy efficiency and offer convenient connectivity, but is one-of-a-kind with its unique dodecahedron design. We want to make products that will create meaningful experiences for people – something that they will remember and take with them wherever they go.”
Advice for inventors?
It’s no small feat, inventing something truly new, but plenty of people with amazing ideas never get past having a doodle and a dream. What advice does the Nanoleaf team have for other inventors out there who may have an idea for something great?
“The best advice would be to just go out there and do it!” says Han. “The longer you wait, the more you stall and the less likely it will happen. Our CEO, Gimmy Chu, says that he’s glad he didn’t know everything he knows now. Otherwise he would’ve been more hesitant to take that initial plunge. Having a great idea is a good starting point but you need to be ready for a lot of hard work, late nights and bumps in the road.”
See NanoLeaf at Beakerhead
You can see Nanoleaf in action.. for free, as part of Beakerhead’s Temporary Gallery of Lasting Impressions. Check Beakerhead’s website for info.
Its doors were locked for years, but thanks to Strategic Group, Calgary’s historic Barron Building is coming back to life as an engineering backdrop for contemporary art. During Beakerhead, it will be a sublime stage for SoleNoid, a western Canadian premiere by German artist, Peter William Holden, and Nanoleaf, an illuminated installation by internationally renowned Calgary-based artists Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett, made of Nanoleaf light bulbs that can last up to 40 years. Nanoleaf is a Beakerhead for a Better World project, presented in partnership with Trico Charitable Foundation.
Get more info or order a Nanoleaf bulb from their website.
Erin is a Calgary-based tech writer, TV producer, gadget ninja and wanna-be geek. Follow her on Twitter @ErinLYYCor check out and Like her Facebook news page.