I have recently embarked on a new step of trying to upgrade the way we live into a “smart home”, in particular in terms of lighting.
In our home, we have a mix of energy saving bulbs and spotlights in groups of three. Most particularly in the bedroom and living room, we have two each of these small but powerful bulbs which effectively gives us the option to either have no lights or flood lights. Somewhat bored of the feeling of living on a Rugby field we decided to look at getting some floor lamps. It was not at all long before we made the decision to invest in some smart bulbs.
We did our research and compared options, and given that we are a both Apple users habitually decided to go with the Home Kit friendly Phillips hue system.
We started off with a starter kit, purchased from Amazon for £149.99, which came with three E27 bulbs and the Hue Bridge. The bridge is a device that plugs into the router in your home and connects all the bulbs wirelessly to your smart devices (in my case they are controlled by my phone, or by quick voice instructions to my Apple Watch). To go with the bulbs, which can be used with as far as I can tell any colour, including brilliant white we also purchased a relatively cheap pair of lamps, available from Amazon for £24.99 as a pair but they are actually Ikea products (called confusingly ‘NOT’). At the same time, an adaptor was also purchased at a cost of £6.08 to allow me to put the third E27 bulb into an E14 desk lamp which at the time was not getting a lot of use. Running Total: £181.04 plus one spare lamp.
We have set up the two-floor lights in opposite corners of the living room and the desk lamp on the desk and have been delighted with the result. As well as being brilliant in terms of controlling the level of light in a room, it is particularly fun to be able to control the colours used and match them to our activities, for example a really bright white for reading, just in the corner where my wife might be reading a book , or a slightly blue colour light while I am writing this post in the smaller hours of the day. The lights are controlled individually so you can adjust brightness and tone well enough with practice that two half of a decent sized room could be set up for completely different activities.
This served only to get us hooked on the system, so we moved on to order a Strip of LED’s (Hue Strip £64.99) and a floor or counter based light to colour one wall or corner (Iris £57.86). This brings the running total to £303.89 and now we are confident that see’s an end to it but what a HUEge difference it has made! The strip light, in particular, has been used to go behind our TV unit, providing a large amount of light across 200cm. The unit itself is only 180cm wide, so it has wrapped slightly around the one end which also faces a wall nicely. You can’t see the lights themselves but what you are left with is a glorious brightly coloured wall behind the unit, seeming to make the many objects on the shelves look like museum pieces. Of course, this two lights also connect to the Hue bridge so are as easy to control as the original there bulbs.
Averagely then we have spent around £60 per light, which is not especially cheap. However these lights are designed to last a long time and as well as being able to light up our home in much nicer fashion, we have also now switched to using almost entirely the LED bulbs which consume extremely low amounts of power, so while it might take a long time to recoup the cost per bulb (if that were important) I do consider that we are likely to see some savings now that the sports field lighting is not being used.
On balance I would definitely recommend the start kit as a good way to experiment with smart homes, as the lighting can instantly change a room and having so many colours at your disposal effectively means you can paint the walls any colour you like. Our daughter especially enjoys playing with the lights to mix colours on the wall (ok I admit, I find this fun too). There is also a huge range of Apps available from both Philips and third parties to help you get the most out of the Hue system, including the Hue Disco App which turns your phone into the microphone to listen to music playing, and then the bulbs sync up to put on a light show. You can tweak a few variables such as colour range and sharpness of the change, and then you are set!
If you do get a chance to try these out, I really think you should, or as I did before I purchased them, look at a few youtube videos of the different set ups available.