Ok, so 2018 is here and I’ve decided to become ‘Smart’.Not smart in the intellectual sense, I mean ‘Smart’ as in ‘connected’.
I’ve just moved into a new place and with it comes an opportunity to sync up everything to my phone – my heating, my doorbell, my music and more. In theory in 12 months time I’ll take the last of the milk out of the fridge and an hour later Sainsbury’s will be knocking on my door with a fresh carton, well thats the plan anyway.
But first things first. As it’s a brand new year and on the first day God said “Let there be light”, I thought the first ‘Smart’ thing to get fixed up would be the lighting in the new house.
You may or may not know, but there are lots of different smart lighting systems out there and everyone from IKEA to Phillips has their own smart lightbulb range. Some are good, some are cheap, most come with their own little quirks and complications, some will work with others with things like Google Home, and Amazon Alexa so you can control them with your voice and some won’t.
I did some research and decided to go with smart bulbs made by LIFX. What appealed to me about the LIFX bulbs was that unlike many systems they don’t need any kind of receiver or little box to connect together, which is great as virtually every plug in my house has some kind of adaptor or thing in it. To use up another socket for something that just controls the lights seems a bit excessive, especially if I decide to invest in a Google Home hub in the future.
LIFX lightbulbs are available in all the standard size fittings and can work just like a regular bulb (i.e. you can switch them on or off) but if you connect them up to your wi-fi network and download the free App you can add a whole new layer of functionality to them.
Initially when I tried them at my old place I had a problem getting them connected as for some reason we had two routers connected. I’ve also heard that you might run into some (fixable) issues if you are using Wi-Fi range extenders too. However if your Wi-Fi is of a standard persuasion setting up each bulb with the App and your Wi-Fi is really easy and bulbs can be grouped (i.e. if you have 4 downlighters together) and controlled individually too.
On & Off
The LIFX App is very intuitive and with every light or group you can schedule them to come on or off, EG if you come home at 6pm or set them to come on at specific times every morning. On these cold dark Winter mornings I’ve scheduled the LIFX bulbs to come on really gradually over 30 mins like a natural sunrise. It wakes me up gently just as nature intended and it works so well I actually don’t need to use my alarm clock anymore. No piercing sirens and I feel much more relaxed and calmer. It’s definitely a nicer way to start the day and I was surprised in the positive difference it makes.
If you’re on holiday you can switch them on or off at will to replicates someone being inside. In addition to scheduling you can also create moods, so through an evening you can gradually dim the lights and/or change the colours too.
I haven’t had a party yet, but with a few of these LIFX bulbs combined with some light squares and flexible strips of lights you could create a really cool atmosphere that transformed your living room into a modern day disco Studio 54 style at a touch of a button. All you would need is a couple of security personnel at your front door and a velvet rope around the IKEA sofa bed.
LIFX bulbs work with Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Nest, IFTTT, Samsung Smartthings, Amazon Echo and tons more. For kids there is an App called Campfire that can add interactivity to stories and change the lights depending on keywords in the book. I’ve not tried it yet, but I can see the potential could be great fun. I noticed a spooky house atmosphere mode that makes the lights go all flickery that would be great to use on your partner if you were watching a really scary movie!
Another big link up with LIFX bulbs is IFTTT (If this, then that). It’s a place where you can find an ever expanding Universe of Apps, some useful, some completely pointless, EG I can I can make the lights flash Yellow and Green in the (currently unlikely) event of Norwich scoring a goal on a Saturday or flash Red when I get an email invoice from my hosting company. Some are just novelties, but others have the potential to make life simpler and dare I say it, a bit of fun. After all, isn’t that what technology is all supposed to be about?
I have a LIFX mini (Day & Dusk) this bulb produces a really nice (800 lumens 9w / 60W equivalent) white light and can be adjusted to more warm yellow and oranges too (currently £29.99). It can be dimmed from 1 to 100% and has a screw fitting (E27). I also have a colour LIFX mini that can be set to any of MILLIONS of colours (currently £39.99). Finally I have a more powerful LED smart light 1100 lumens (11w / 75 equivalent) bulb that is perfect for the main light in the lounge (currently £53.99).
Yes, LIFX bulbs are more expensive than usual bulbs and some of the other smart bulbs out there, but when you realise they will last for 25,000 hours or approx 4 hours a day for 20 years then they do start to feel like a good investment. They also have an A+ energy rating so are cheap to run too. I’m completely addicted to them and my next step is to buy some of the downlighters for the kitchen. Then I can really start to get ‘Smart’!
For more info visit www.lifx.com