Our homes are getting smarter; whether it’s a dishwasher that can self-diagnose problems, or small appliances that turn themselves off, or washing machines that can sense how full the machine is or how dirty the clothes are, or thermostats that learn our habits and adjust themselves accordingly, every year we’re gaining the ability to do more. Once a novelty, smart light bulbs are popping up everywhere.
I tested a pair by LIFX, a US company that got its start on Kickstarter. LIFX is a wifi enabled, multi-color, energy efficient LED light bulb that you can control with your smartphone. But why would you need to use your smartphone for a light bulb? Well, wifi connectivity allow you to use your phone as a remote control, dimming or brightening light from where you sit, or even adjusting colour and hue.
The bulbs arrive with just a tiny basic instruction booklet in a nice heavyweight box. All you need to do is download their free app and click on it to begin the set up process. While they required minimal set up (just screw them in and turn them on) I did have some difficulty initially getting them started out of the box, since neither would connect to the app. I hit google and the company’s website for solutions and found each bulb has a tiny reset button on it. I simply flipped the switch, and the bulbs connected almost instantly. Once they were installed, the fun began.
The lights have a wide array of colors and brightnesses. For the basic ‘white’ light most of us use every day, there’s a host of variations; on your smart phone there’s a dial which allows you to control whether you want a cool bluish light, or a warmer pinkish yellow light. In the house, in rooms like the bedroom and living room, I prefer a warm soft glow. Cold light to me, i.e. blue reminds me too much of the harsh fluorescent lights of the workplace, so I avoid it wherever possible. On each of the variations of the white setting, you also have the ability to brighten or dim the bulb from your smart phone. It’s very easy to control, and the color wheel setup in the app makes it easy to see what you’re getting or what else is available to change it to.
I wasn’t certain I’d be using the colored bulbs settings, after all, who needs a red light bulb in their lamp? As it turns out, I did find several great uses for the various colors. On Halloween night, I dialed up a bright orange light in one of our lamps and set it in the front window. It was an instant signal to trick or treating children to come to our house for a candy bounty. Similarly, at Christmas time, I could definitely see using red or green settings in a lamp to create a festive atmosphere.
Now that Halloween is over, I find myself setting up a lavender color or warm orange or yellow, just to warm up the house as winter weather sets in. In the summer, I could see a cool blue or green giving off a nice refreshing vibe, on a hot summer night. I also really like the fact that there’s not just your standard red-orange-yellow-green-blue-purple range of colours; there is every shade and tone in between so you can find a colour that perfectly suits you and your moods. So as far as colours go, I actually did find I used them frequently, which is not what I was expecting.
LIFX bulbs also work with a product I love and recently reviewed, the Nest thermostat. As soon as your Nest switches itself into Away mode, LIFX can make it look as if someone’s home by automatically turning on and off your lights throughout the house. A feature LIFX says it’s adding with an app update is the ability to set timers for the bulb that will allow you to dim yourself to sleep, or wake up to a gently brightening light in the morning.
While these are likely not bulbs that will replace each and every light bulb in your home, in a few key fixtures such as lamps, or dining room lighting, they are perfect to give you variety and atmosphere. In the bedroom, or children’s rooms, they will also provide a nice ambiance, or a little more fun for kids.
LIFX says their bulbs are designed to last 40,000 hours, which if used at 4 hours per day is 27 years. That’s a good thing, because the bulbs are not cheap. Whereas traditional bulbs, or even compact fluorescents can be had for a dollar apiece or less, the LIFX cost $99 from the company’s web store.
I’ll be demonstrating these on an upcoming Tech Talk TV segment on CTV. Watch for updates!