New Reasons to Change Light Bulbs (part 2)
PHILIPS HUE For $200, you get a box with three flat-top bulbs and a round plastic transmitter, which plugs into your network router. At that point, you can control both the brightness and colors of these lights using an iPhone or Android phone app, either in your home or from across the Internet, manually or on a schedule.
Mark Lennihan/Associated Press
It offers icons for predefined combinations like Sunset (all three bulbs are orange) and Deep Sea (each bulb is a different underwaterish color). You can also create your own color schemes — by choosing a photo whose tones you want reproduced. You can dim any bulb, or turn them all off at once from your phone. (Additional bulbs, up to 500, are $60 each.)
Philips gets credit for doing something fresh with LED technology; the white color is pure and bright; and it’s a blast to show them off for visitors. Still, alas, the novelty wears off fairly quickly.
INSTEON This kit ($130 for the transmitter, $30 for each 60-watt-equivalent bulb) is a lot like Philips’s, except that there’s no color-changing; you just use the phone app to control the white lights, individually or en masse. Impressively, each bulb consumes only 8 watts. You can expand the system up to 1,000 bulbs, if you’re insane.
Unfortunately, the prerelease version I tested was a disaster. Setup was a headache. You had to sign up for an account. The instructions referred to buttons that didn’t exist. You had to “pair” each bulb with the transmitter individually. Once paired, the bulbs frequently fell off the network entirely. Bleah.
GREENWAVE SOLUTION This control-your-LED-lights kit doesn’t change colors, but you get four bulbs, not three, in the $200 kit. You get both a network transmitter and a remote control that requires neither network nor smartphone. Up to 500 bulbs (a reasonable $20 each) can respond. Setting up remote control over the Internet is easy.
The app is elegant and powerful. It has presets like Home, Away and Night, which turns off all lights in the house with one tap. You can also program your own schedules, light-bulb groups and dimming levels.
Unfortunately, these are only “40-watt” bulbs. Worse, each has a weird cap on its dome; in other words, light comes out only in a band around the equator of each bulb. They’re not omnidirectional.
The bottom line: Choose the Cree bulbs for their superior design and low price, Philips Hue to startle houseguests, or the GreenWave system for remote control of all the lights in your house.
By setting new brightness-per-watt standards that the 135-year-old incandescent technology can’t meet, the federal government has already effectively banned incandescent bulbs.
LED bulbs last decades, save electricity, don’t shatter, don’t burn you, save hundreds of dollars, and now offer plummeting prices and blossoming features. What’s not to like? You’d have to be a pretty dim bulb not to realize that LED light is the future.
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