LED MVPs: These brainy bulbs make the cut
From app-enabled dimming to color-changing capabilities, these smart bulbs offer all sorts of features that standard LEDs don't.
Whether enabled by Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, or another protocol, smart LEDs bring new possibilities to home lighting. On the practical side, you can use app-connected bulbs to set usage-specific schedules. Over time, that could equal big savings on your energy bill.
Many of these LEDs also have color-changing properties, allowing you to adjust your bulb to any color of the rainbow, based on your mood or activity. Some are even compatible with IFTTT, giving you the chance to build your own home-automation recipes. Read on to find out if any these smart LED bulbs, while pricier than their standard LED counterparts, might actually add value to your home lighting routine.
Belkin WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set
The $130 Belkin WeMo LED Lighting Starter Kit, expected to hit stores soon, will include two LEDs and a WeMo Link Wi-Fi hub. Additional bulbs are expected to retail for $40 each and as many as 50 bulbs can be controlled using the WeMo app. These white-light-only LEDs can be turned on and off, dimmed, and scheduled remotely, and they will connect to Wi-Fi through the WeMo Link hub. Like many other Belkin WeMo products, these smart LEDs will be integrated with integrated with IFTTT for custom automation.
iLumi Color Tunable LED Smartbulbs
iLumi is a startup selling two different color-tunable LEDs. One is a small A21 bulb for $90, and the other is a large PAR30 bulb for $100. Unlike Belkin's Wi-Fi bulbs, the iLumi bulbs run on Bluetooth 4.0. That means that you won't have to worry about buying a special hub -- these bulbs connect directly to your phone. But you will be limited to a 100-foot range of operation, which makes true remote access impossible. iLumi bulbs do have white-light and color-changing options, in addition to your basic on, off, dimming, and scheduling functions.
Insteon LED Bulb
Insteon LEDs cost $30 each -- a very reasonable price compared to the smart LED competition. It also gets high marks on energy usage -- just 8W for an expected lifespan of 52,000 hours. But it falls short on the amount of light it generates. It puts out just 591 lumens and claims to be a 60W replacement bulb. Other brands average closer to 800 lumens for a 60W replacement LED, so Insteon's LED is a bit dull. Literally.
Lifx Multicolor Smart LED
Lifx is a Kickstarter success story. These 75W replacement bulbs put out 1,000 lumens and use 17W. In other words, this is one powerful bulb. It's also larger and a lot heavier than some other smart LEDs we've come across.
That's due in part to the Lifx bulbs' built-in Wi-Fi. So, while each bulb costs $99, there's no hub or additional setup required. Just screw it in, download the app, and you're ready to start controlling your lights. One major disadvantage, though, is its lack of app features. You can't set schedules or receive alerts. It also isn't compatible with IFTTT.
Philips Hue Connected Bulb starter pack
The Philips Hue Connected Bulb starter pack costs $200. This kit comes with three ZigBee-enabled LEDs and a hub. You have to have the hub to operate your Philips Hue bulbs, and the hub isn't sold separately, so this starter pack is a pricy necessity for operation. But it may well be worth it -- the app is intuitive, and the bulbs can switch from white light to an RGB color-changing bulb. In addition to basic app functionality, Philips Hue bulbs also work with IFTTT.
Philips Hue Lux LED
The Philips Hue Lux LED is the first white-light-only smart bulb from Philips. The $100 Hue Lux starter kit will include two LEDs and a hub, while individual bulbs will retail for $40 each. The starter kit and bulbs are expected in stores in the second half of 2014 and will offer the same functionality as the Philips Hue bulbs, minus any RGB color-changing capabilities. If you're interested in Hue color-changing and white-light-only bulbs, it might make sense to purchase the Lux's $100 starter kit to save some money on the hub up front.
Samsung Bluetooth-enabled Smart LED
Like iLumi, Samsung's recently announced smart LED will operate via Bluetooth 4.0. We don't have pricing info on this bulb yet, but expect it to land somewhere around the Philips Hue Lux's $40 mark. While similar to the Lux, this bulb also offers "color tuning," which means that you should be able to adjust the temperature of the white light from a warm orange-white to a cool blue-white. That way, it can mimic different types of incandescent lighting -- all controllable on Samsung's related app.
Tabu Lumen LED Color Smart Bulb
The Tabu Lumen LED Color Smart Bulb may not have the IFTTT integration of a Philips Hue color-changing LED, but it does boast a 30,000-hour lifespan. That's double what Philips Hue offers. The 400-lumen white light is compatible with a 40W incandescent, so it's not as bright as the Hue's 600 lumen bulbs. And at $70 a pop, these bulbs cost more per than Philips Hue. The good news is that you won't have to purchase a hub, since it runs on Bluetooth 4.0.
Tabu LuMini LED
The Tabu LuMini is the smaller cousin of the Tabu Lumen. This Bluetooth-enabled LED costs only $35 per bulb, but it's RGB-only, meaning it can't mimic that traditional incandescent bulb glow. That isn't exactly a drawback, though. The pint-size LuMini can be controlled on the Lumen app and does a great job transitioning from one color to the next on the app's color wheel -- a fun option for fans of affordable mood lighting.
Connected by TCP Wireless LED Lighting Kit
This $110 kit is one of the most affordable starter packs around. It comes with three LEDs and a hub. Individual bulbs only cost $17, and they put out 800 lumens -- that's a solid 60W replacement (more than Philips Hue, Tabu Lumen, or Insteon bulbs). As a white-light-only option, it has some competition, especially since it doesn't have IFTTT or any other advanced home-automation capabilities. But, it's a great option for basic remote access without all of the fancy extras.