Home Automation- Part 2 Lighting

In my recent quest to automate my home I have discovered the growing lighting landscape.  There are primarily three types of lighting for home use;

1. Incandescent- the warm glow of a tungsten wire which has lit most residential homes since Edison invented it in 1879. The importing and manufacture of these bulbs has been prohibited in North America officially this year (2014).

2. Compact Flourecent bulbs- These Curly bulbs are filled with the same gasses used in office building tube lighting.  They are significantly more efficient, last longer and produce less heat.  The criticisms of these bulbs generally has been that they are ugly (non standard appearance) , and that they have mercury in them which will end up in landfills eventually.

3. Light Emitting Diodes (LED)- These bulbs have low heat, high light production in many wave lengths (colours) and are misers in terms of energy use.

There is a clear winner in the blub type here which is the LED. Although the first iterations of LED’s were low light (Lumans) and high cost the price is falling and the features they contain are numerous.  Home automation used to require experts installing controllers (a Brain) to interact with your switches throughout  your home.  New technologies have emerged making it possible for simplified installation of automated lighting systems which do not require In terms of automation there are two camps that have arrived in terms of lighting,

1. Those who produce and believe that control over lights should be placed in the bulb. Hue by phillips, and many other imitators such as LIFX.

2. Those who believe that the control over the lights should be in the switches themselves. Such as WeMo and the soon to be released Ube light switches.

The first option places control over your lights inside the bulb, and in most cases these bulbs are very expensive.  My home would require over 30 of them for our above ground living space alone.  There is another complication in that if someone turns off your light switch manually they will not react to the app control.  The Hue and LIFX both have the ability to not only change colour with app control but to also react to music and can programmed to turn on and off, true automation.

The switch solution such as WeMo and the soon to be released Ube light switches allow home owners to have true control over their lights with the use of an app.  They are also both able to be programmed and remotely controlled via their apps.  One difference between the WeMo and Ube is that the WeMo does not have a dimmer function which is an oversight in my books.  The WeMo also only operates in a two way switch so in my house which is filled with three way switches this will simply not work. I have read that WeMo is refreshing this device in the near future but I believe that they are playing catchup with Ube’s switch.  Another cool feature is the proposed pinch gesture to switch off all of your house lights which in a house filled with children who lack the ability to turn off lights is a big bonus, no more going downstairs to turn off the lights before bed, or searching behind closed doors for lights left on before I leave for work.  I also like the timer features which will simulate sunrise, sunset or other on off settings in a scheduled manor.

Although the price for each Ube switch is more than a controllable LED bulb it will ultimately be less expensive to use a few switches to control many bulbs throughout the house.  I will be replacing my bulbs with LED’s as they go out and will likely choose the least expensive 800 Luman bulbs that i can find and pair them with the Ube switches. The Current LED bulbs are available in several different types but it seems that the choice for me will be between natural (sunlight) or simulated incandescent colours or some that can do both on command. Right now I am sitting in a room with the familiar orange tungsten glow and I like it but like everyone in 1879 who liked oil lamps and candles LED’s with a sunlight spectrum may be the best.

I recently contacted Ube to ask about their deliver date for their new dimmer switch and they told me it would be and asked them if I could have one (some) to test in my home and then follow up with a blog post so fingers crossed.

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