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Published on April 9th, 2020 | by Kyle Field

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Shelter-At-Home Project: DIY LED Lighting Upgrade

April 9th, 2020 by  


The coronavirus outbreak has forced many into an unplanned staycation at home for several weeks already and no end date is in sight. One can only spend so much time on Netflix, YouTube, Duolingo, and Khan Academy before looking for more exciting projects to tackle. Upgrading to LED light bulbs is one such upgrade that offers not only energy savings every month, but more control over the type of lighting being provided and a more pleasing aesthetic. Curious? Let’s jump in.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of LED bulbs: connected and traditional bulbs. Traditional LED bulbs aim to replicate the form factors, functions, and colors of traditional lights. It’s a plug and play option that makes upgrading to longer lasting, energy efficient LEDs a seamless process. Connected bulbs, on the other hand, seek to give owners remote control of the color, intensity, and more.

Philips makes an impressive array of bulbs for the home and was gracious enough to send over a range of its latest LED bulbs for us to play with in our new home. The company makes a range of LED light bulbs for residential applications, including smart bulbs with color and color temperature control, brightness controls, and even bulbs with the appearance of vintage filament bulbs that put out warm light.

Image courtesy: Signify

We dropped some of Signify’s Philips vintage style LED bulbs into some of our new fixtures and found the quality of light they put out to be extremely warm and inviting. These bulbs offer the look of old school filament bulbs, but with all the tech and efficiency of modern LED lights. When used with a dimmer, the bulbs start at a bright daylight color when at full power and warm up to an antique yellow at lower powers. The ability to dim the bulbs across the white – yellow spectrum allows them to be used during the day to put some extra light into a room, then with warmer light at lower power later in the night as the day winds down.

“Our new Philips Hue Filament bulbs combine modern technology with vintage design,” Jasper Vervoort, Business Leader Home Systems & Luminaires Philips Hue at Signify said. “You can instantly recreate the feel of your favorite bistro or simply add visual style to your room. It’s simple to control and personalize your lighting with just a tap of your smartphone or with a voice command.”

These small E26 bulbs put out the equivalent light of a 40 watt traditional bulb while consuming just 3.8 watts. That translates to some serious savings over the life of the bulb. Not only that, these bulbs last much longer than traditional incandescent bulbs with a 15,000 hour / 15-year life expectancy. That’s less bulbs to buy, and perhaps more importantly, a few less items on the weekend to do list.

Many of Signify’s filament-style LED bulbs can be dimmed from bright cool light down to a warm, rich light. Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

On the smarter end of the product line, we dropped some of Philips’ WiZ-enabled vintage bulbs into our stairwell fixture. WiZ is the next generation connected light bulb technology that does away with the hub that’s required for many other smart bulb installations, including Philips’ own Hue bulbs. Instead of a hub, WiZ bulbs connect directly to a smartphone app and offer all the same functionality.

Getting the lights connected to the app requires a 2.4GHz WiFi network, which can be a bit of a challenge in today’s largely 5GHz home networks. Hit up Google if you’re in doubt about the capabilities and flexibility of your own network. With our Google mesh WiFi system, I had to set up a guest network which defaults to 2.4GHz. It’s a workaround, but will help us tap into not just Philips WiZ-enabled bulbs, but the majority of smart home devices out there. A few clicks later and the bulbs were happily tied into WiZ and ready to be added to Google Home.

Two of Signify’s WiZ-enabled Philips Vintage LED filament-style bulbs. Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

Once connected, owners are able to control the color intensity of the bulb from a bright white down to a warm, yellowish light from the app. Granular control of brightness is helpful and adds meaningful flexibility to your home lighting system, though the commands take a bit of getting used to. More importantly than control of the lights from the app, WiZ-connected lights enable control with a simple voice command from Alexa or Google Assistant. With Google Assistant, for example, owners can control WiZ bulbs with commands like (from WiZ support):

  • OK Google, turn on the lights.
  • OK Google, turn off the lights in the bedroom.
  • OK Google, dim kitchen to 20%.
  • OK Google, set brightness of bedroom to 60%.
  • OK Google, make the kitchen blue (for full color bulbs).
  • OK Google, turn the desk lamp green (for full color bulbs).

The ease of setup and accessibility of the controls through Google Assistant made them a hit with everyone in the family. Voice control of lights around the home is convenient, but does require a change in habits as turning the physical light switch off renders the intelligence and connectivity of the bulbs ineffective. Just the same, it has been fun seeing everyone get on board with the new tech, exploring the possibilities with new commands every day.

More advanced users can even setup timers and schedules, tweaking color temperature, creating lighting “scenes” and more to their hearts content. In addition to these filament-style LED bulbs, Signify also offers a wide range of LED bulbs, from traditional drop in replacements to full color spectrum bulbs that can be tuned to set a specific mood or even hooked up to a home entertainment system to create a more immersive home theater experience.

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About the Author

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in BYD, SolarEdge, and Tesla.



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