Noon Smart Lighting Starter Kit review: Smart light system that uses your regular bulbs
Lighting is one of the smart home market's first and broadest categories. It's also one of the first areas of the home most people aim to smarten, and smart light bulbs have come a long way in giving us light at the tap of a button or the sound of your voice. What if you don't want to replace every bulb with its smart counterpart?
The Noon Smart Lighting System, a new startup in smart lighting, is here to help with a $400 starter kit that replaces your existing light switches, recognizes the light bulbs you already have and creates custom lighting scenes you can control via switch, app or voice commands.
The catch? It's too expensive, and it isn't compatible with nearly as many smart home products as Lutron's more affordable Caseta line of switches.
What exactly is the Noon Smart Lighting System?
The Noon Smart Lighting System system takes existing light fixtures and bulbs and identifies them to create what's termed a "layered light experience." Layered light is a technique in lighting design that dims or brightens each light in a room to create a certain ambience.
The Noon Smart Lighting System is made to orchestrate three types of lighting: ambient, task and accent. Ambient lighting includes things like overhead lights, which often provide the majority of a room's light. Task lighting refers to items like lamps or under-cabinet lights used for illuminating a workspace or specific area. Accent lighting is a more decorative type, like wall sconces or lamps that aren't task-related. Noon says it uses machine learning and algorithms to recognize the type of bulbs you have in your home by detecting the amount of power going to each bulb. The system is compatible with dimmable and non-dimmable bulbs, incandescent bulbs, LEDs, CFLs, fluorescent bulbs and ELV (electronic low voltage) or MLV (magnetic low voltage) fixtures.
The Noon Smart Lighting System is built around a "room director" switch, which wirelessly controls every other switch in the room, also known as "extension switches". A room director must be installed in each room the Noon Smart Lighting System is controlling. The room director has a futuristic, but familiar shape with a glass, OLED touchscreen display. The room director detects movement and lights up when you walk by, displaying the current light scene. Swipe up or down on the room director's touchscreen to change scenes. Clicking the bottom of the room director turns all the lights in a room on or off.
Extension switches control individual light fixtures. These are meant to replace all the switches in your room. Extension switches communicate wirelessly with the room director to coordinate each light. You can also control individual lights from these switches by turning them on or off or using the switch's small bars to dim lights up or down. The Noon Smart Lighting System can function as either a single-pole or a multi-way switch. If you're using the switches in a multi-way configuration, Noon supports up to four switches per circuit. You'll need to replace each switch with an extension switch.
Noon does have its limitations. It isn't compatible with switch-controlled power outlets, fans, light fixtures with built-in fans, appliances or any other non-lighting product. Most of that isn't a large concern, but there are several rooms in my house in which the ceiling fan and its three or four lightbulbs are the main source of light. Noon won't work for that.
Before purchasing the Noon Smart Lighting System system, you'll need to be sure your wiring includes the required neutral and ground wires. This may rule out some older homes, unless you're willing to update your existing wiring. The Noon Smart Lighting System is 120V compatible and not intended for use with 240V circuits.
Installing the Noon Smart Lighting System's switches and panels isn't too tricky, but if you aren't comfortable doing any electrical work, the Noon Smart Lighting System partners with InstallerNet's team of trained professionals to get you up and running. I'm no electrician, and I successfully installed a room director switch in the CNET Smart Home easily with the use of Noon Home's step-by-step video tutorial. The starter kit also includes an instruction booklet. Here is Noon's official recommendation, taken from those instructions:
"If you've installed light switches before and are comfortable with high voltage wiring, installing a Noon switch is easy. If not, we highly recommend hiring a professional installer."
For installation, you'll need a screwdriver, voltage detector and wire strippers, along with the items included in the Noon Lighting System starter kit. As with any electrical work, always be sure the power is off at the circuit breaker before touching any wiring. The Noon Lighting System provides labels to identify each wire, and I recommended you label before detaching any wires from their original switch. From there, follow the instructions provided to wire your new switches.
The Noon Smart Lighting System puts some thoughtful provisions into the installation process. The kit comes with a handy sheet for protecting your wall, and the switches simply clip into the wall plate. While you're working with the wiring behind the switches, you can also hang an uninstalled switch from the wall plate by an outer clip system. This allows you a free hand that would otherwise be busy holding the switch while you attach the wires.
Once every wire is securely connected and the switches clipped in place, turn the circuit breaker back on for the lights in your room. Check for a good connection by pressing the Noon switches to turn the lights on and off. If that doesn't work, you'll need to do some troubleshooting.
The Noon app
The Noon Smart Lighting System comes with the Noon app for Android or iOS phones. That's where you'll pair your room director with your current lights, as well as create rooms and scenes. Pairing the CNET Smart Home lights was an entertaining experience. Noon pulsed each bulb type individually to reference those bulbs as I paired and named them in the app. During this portion of setup, you'll also group lights together to create rooms and scenes. The app is pleasantly simple and intuitive about what to do next.
When the Noon Smart Lighting System is finished recognizing each bulb, it automatically creates three layered light scenes. You'll get Bright, Everyday and Relax scenes. You can also create your own. I added a TV scene to dim the lights just right for watching a movie. The Noon Smart Lighting System works with Amazon Alexa voice commands, and Alexa was quick to discover my new scenes. I was able to ask Alexa to turn on scenes in each room with no noticeable lag. I'm hoping Siri and Google Assistant compatibility are close behind.
The Noon Smart Lighting System also includes convenient features like Night Light and Vacation Mode. Night Light detects motion during a set window of time and turns on low level lighting. Pass by a switch on your way to the kitchen late at night, and lights will glow just enough to keep you from stepping on Lego bricks or knocking over a lamp. Vacation mode learns your everyday use of the lighting system and activates scenes to mimic your normal patterns when you're out of town.
Is it worth it?
Overall, the entire system looks nice, works well with Alexa voice commands and got me genuinely interested in how lighting design could improve my home. However, the Noon Smart Lighting System is not cheap. The Starter Kit costs $400. Just one additional room director costs $200 and additional extension switches are $100 each. Granted, the system is designed to take the place of hiring a lighting designer to customize your home, which typically costs between $75 and $150 per hour. Noon Home admits the system is most effective in an open concept floor plan, where you'd only need one room director switch.
Still, it feels like a luxury item that doesn't do nearly as much as Lutron's Caseta line of switches that cost less and integrate with Nest, SmartThings and the Google Assistant. Yes, Noon Home's product looks better and yes, you'll get the feel of custom lighting design for your home, something Lutron doesn't aim to do. In that way, the two are a little incomparable.
If lighting design is your top priority in smart lighting, the Noon Smart Lighting System is really the only DIY, yet professionally engineered option out there. For me, it's just not there yet in terms of smart home integration and cost effectiveness. For more integrations at a lower price point, Lutron is still the clear winner.