Hubs. Who needs 'em?
Not Feit, that's for sure. Last year, the manufacturer gave me an early look at its line of HomeBrite-branded smart LEDs that use a Bluetooth mesh network to sync up with your phone and with each other. That means you don't need a control hub plugged into your router in order to control the things.
The obvious limitation with Bluetooth bulbs is that you need to be within Bluetooth range (about 50 feet) in order to interact with the lights on your Android or iOS device. With some Bluetooth bulbs I've tested -- most notably, the C by GE Life and Sleep LEDs -- that also means that prescheduled lighting changes won't work when you aren't in range.
Fortunately, that isn't the case with Feit's bulbs. They're smart enough to remember your schedules even when you aren't home, and if you've got multiple bulbs, they'll stay synced while you're away, constantly pinging and re-pinging each other to help keep track of your settings.
Couple that with the fact that HomeBrite's lineup includes bulbs that don't commonly come with built-in radios (a candelabra LED and an outdoor-rated PAR38 floodlight, for instance), and you'll start to see the appeal of these lights. With HomeBrite's baseline bulbs selling for a relatively low $15 each, I think they might make sense for anyone looking for simple lighting smarts in a fixture or two. However, a lack of compatibility with third-party systems along with glitchy, imperfect performance in my tests has me stopping short of recommending them outright.
The HomeBrite lineup consists of five options:
- A common A-shaped bulb for $15
- A B10-shaped candelabra bulb for $19
- A BR30-shaped floodlight for $20
- A weather-rated PAR38-shaped outdoor floodlight for $30
- A recessed fixture retrofit kit for $35
I tested each one out in our lighting lab, where we use a spectrometer and an integrating sphere to measure things like brightness, color temperature, and the way heat build-up affects each bulb's performance.
The HomeBrite bulbs were a bit dim for my tastes, with the A-shaped bulb coming in at 672 lumens, well below the 800 or so that you'd expect from a common 60W incandescent. The candelabra bulb was on the dim side, too, with 277 lumens to its name -- slightly below average in the candelabra class, at least among 40W replacements.
The bulbs did an impressive job with heat management, though. All LEDs will see slight performance dips in the first hour or so of use as the bulbs heat up. Each of the HomeBrite bulbs saw less of a dip than average, with none of them ever dipping below 90 percent of their initial brightness. That's a very good result, and one that speaks well to Feit's hardware.