Smart bulbs, dumb light switches. Add the two together, and you get one of the most common headaches in today's connected home. Someone leaves the switch off, your bulbs lose power -- and suddenly your fancy automations and wireless controls won't work.
Utah-based lighting manufacturer Illumra thinks it has a solution -- at least for folks who use. It's a wireless smart switch that pairs with those Hue bulbs for easy controls at the wall. And when I say wireless, that's exactly what I mean -- each switch powers itself whenever you press a button. That means no wiring it in, and no batteries to worry about.
It's the same basic pitch and approach as the excellentwireless remote (and it uses the same energy harvesting tech from EnOcean, a name worth keeping an eye on). What the Illumra adds in is the ability to fit into the same spot as any dumb light switch you'd like it to replace.
The asking price for each Illumra switch is $50, which isn't cheap, given what you probably already spent on your bulbs. You should also know that more switches like it Apple HomeKit to automate your smart home, because -- as long as you've got that HomeKit-compatible Hue Bridge plugged into your router -- Illumra's switches can control your HomeKit gadgets, too.. Still, as easy as these things are to install, setup and use, Hue users sick of worrying about their dumb light switches really ought to consider buying in. That's doubly true if you use
All of that adds up to an intriguing option for smart lighting nerds like myself. In fact, Illumra's switch might just be my favorite smart home product of the year.
Design and installation
Aside from the split, dual-rocker design that gives you four buttons to work with on each switch, Illumra didn't get too "gadgety" with these things. Currently available in white or black, they're fairly inconspicuous -- no indicator lights, no touch controls or built-in sensors sticking out, no artsy flourishes. And, if you really want as traditional a design as possible, you can replace that dual-rocker with a single, paddle-style switch.
They aren't just designed to blend in, but to fit in, as well -- specifically into your light switch's existing gang box. To install one, you'll shut the power off at the breaker, remove your old light switch with a screwdriver, join the wires that were connected to it with a wire nut to close the circuit, then pop the new switch over top and screw it into place. Snapping the screwless base plate that comes with the switch over top completes the look. Each switch also comes with a separate mounting base that you can screw or stick to the wall wherever you like, no gang box needed.
Want to see a play-by-play of that install process, complete with pictures and videos? Check my tweets.
Once you've got your Illumra switch where you want it, you'll need to pair it with the Philips Hue Bridge that's plugged into your router. Doing so is a cinch. Just go to the accessory settings in the Philips Hue app, tell it you want to add a "Friends of Hue" switch, then follow the on-screen instructions.