I've never understood why anyone would want/need smart lightbulbs, but at $2 each the deal was too tempting to ignore an opportunity to try out the technology.
Back in the day of tungsten bulbs, we consumers had a single choice: how bright? 150W was bright, 15W was dim, 60W was normal. Sometimes, for fun, we'd buy ones coated with paint, like yellow or red.
Then the environmentalist lobby insisted glass bulbs filled with inert nitrogen gas were inefficient and needed to be replaced to save the planet. We were told to switch to "efficient" compact fluorescent devices (CFD), even if they were contaminated with mercury and were filled with unrecyclable electronics.
Switching all the bulbs in my house to CFDs, I found no difference in the monthly electrical bill. Light bulbs sip electricity in a home, compared with the big consumers, like fridges and baseboard heaters. I found switching to an energy-efficient refrigerator the only thing to made a significant dent in lowering my home's electrical bill.
Halogen Bulbs To the Rescue!
Then there was that awful period when halogen bulbs were the hot thing. They were so hot they could start fires, and used multiple more times Watts than the now-disparaged tungsten bulbs. But they were happily promoted as providing a brighter, whiter light in a smaller package, bit of a joke given that the lamps were no smaller.
One popular application was floor-standing torchieres, which bounced light off the ceiling, thereby banishing many a living room into a dimly-lit cavern.
LED Bulbs To the Rescue!
Now we are in the era of the light emitting diode (LED). This was a technology that made sense, once Nobel-prize winner Shuji Nakamura invented the bright blue LED, permitting pure-white LEDs that run on little power. I found that if I replaced my tungsten Christmas lights with them, they would pay for themselves in 2.5 years of December-long use.
The downside is the proliferation of options with LED bulbs:
- Colors measured in inscrutable temperatures, ranging from 2000K (very warm, brownish) to 6000K (very cold, bluish), instead of names like "red." I recommend 2700K or 3000K, which mimic the temperature of tungsten bulbs. Daylight is 55ooK, which is the temperature of the sun.
- Dimmable or not dimmable
- Brightness measured in inscrutable lumens, instead of Watts
- They contains arsenic and a plethora of unrecyclable electronics
(A member of my family accidently broke an LED bulb. Inside, there is a colored dome over the actual LED. The manufacturer switches in different colored domes to sell a single bulb at different "temperatures", and different thicknesses of domes to sell the same production of bulb at different brightnesses.)
So now I have to read the fine print on boxes to make sure I am buying 27ooK, dimmable bulbs at equivalent of 60W in whatever-that-is lumens. And the print is even finer on the bulbs themselves, usually blurred during the manufacturing process.
Smart Bulbs To the Rescue!
The smart bulb handles all these options in a single product. It changes temperature color, according to your command. It dims. It turns on and off remotely. It even gets slowly dimmer over time for a pleasant falling asleep experience.
But no ordinary person will stand for implementing the technology required to do this. Here is what it takes:
- Replace a regular bulb with a smart bulb in a lamp.
- Turn on the lamp.
- Go to your phone.
- Download the app for the bulb.
- Create a new account with user name and password.
- Confirm your registration thru email.
- Connect the app to your home's WiFi.
- Turn on Bluetooth.
- Turn on location detection.
- Create a new bulb profile in the app: enter a name for it.
- Choose a location where it is in your house. This is so that you can tell smart bulbs apart, when your home has more than one of them.
- Scan the QR code from the leaflet. If the package comes with more two bulbs, you have a 50% chance of scanning the incorrect code. (The same code number is on the base of the bulb that you had to earlier screw into the lamp to power it up.)
- After a while, the app will connect with the bulb (hopefully).
Now you can control the bulb, changing its temperature color, its brightness, and turning it on and off. The app for the bulbs I bought comes with a dozen presets, like flashing the bulb and setting it to maximum intensity (full brightness at 6000K).
The next morning, I came into my office, turned on my desk lamp, and it sulked with a dim, brownish light. The smart bulb was being smart. I unscrewed it, and replaced it with the previous unsmart LED bulb.
I really don't get the point to smart bulbs, and I am guessing most other consumers feel the same way, given the "slow moving item" label given by Home Depot. There is one thing I want a light bulb to do:
1. Turn on and off.
That I can do with the wall switch. In a few places, I also want it to:
2. Be dimmable.
That I can do with a wall switch.
Not that I am a Luddite. I have a thermostat that I can control with my phone, which I find very handy to turn on the heat or air conditioning before returning home from a trip.