Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Smart Light Bulbs - What a Bright Idea!

"Why doesn't anyone buy me light bulbs?"

This is an actual whining lament from my husband on Christmas night after all of his presents were opened. Sure, he got some really good stuff, but no one had bought him the light bulbs that were on his wish list. A short time later, almost as a joke, I bought him one of these bulbs for his birthday. Much to my delight it was the first gift he "played" with, and I think one of his favorites.

No Ordinary Light Bulb

Of course the light bulbs in question aren't just any old standard bulb. These are Philips Hue smart bulbs! They are extraordinary and worth the extra money, especially for the tech nerd on your list. They have special features, and of course, can be controlled with a smart phone. This is why they are so magical:

·         LED – As near as I can tell, LED means that they are high efficiency so they cost less in electricity over time than the older style bulbs. LED light bulb also says to me, "not dangerous like those curly bulbs if they break, and they don't make annoying high pitched noises when they are on." (I have annoyingly good hearing so this is important to me.) LED also means that it isn't fluorescent so it is less likely to cause migraines. (You know what I mean, fellow migraine sufferers.)
·         Long Lasting – Again, because it is an LED bulb it will last a very long time. They say 15 years or 15,000 hours. Some sites suggest even longer, but these numbers are a good minimum to expect. The initial investment doesn't seem as bad when you add up how much money you spend on replacement bulbs in that amount of time. (Or so my husband convinced me.)
·         Colors! – With the Hue light bulbs you don't just get a plain old yellow or white light. You get every color on the spectrum. This is the fun part. Changing the color theme of the bulbs in a room is how my husband likes to "decorate" for different seasons or events. We had two of these bulbs in the living room (now three thanks to the birthday present) so he could change them to red and green for Christmas, blue and white for Hanukkah, or any other colors to match the theme of the day. (Think favorite sports teams etc.)
·         Themes and Dimming – There are some premade themes available which indicate which light is best for reading, energizing, relaxing etc. It is perfect for an analytical perfectionist like my husband. He loves having things "just right" for every situation. The dimming is a great way to compromise for a couple where one likes the lights on and the other partner likes them off. You can even create and save your own themes.
·         Technology Controlled – This is his favorite part, and probably the reason every guy loves these light bulbs so much. He can control them from anywhere with his phone or iPad. As long as the switch is in the "on" position he can turn the lights on and off, change the colors, and even set up a schedule.
o   Text Your Bulbs? - He even figured out some way to basically send the light bulbs a text message to tell them to do something. So now when I am home and I don't answer my phone (who leaves a ringer on anyway?) he can flash the lights at me until I look and see I missed a call. He loves playing with the lights this way.
o   Don't get out of Bed – I think sometimes he leaves the living room lights on just so he can get all snuggly in bed and then say, "Oops I left the lights on" and then hit the "All Off" button in his light bulb app to turn off all the lights in the house. I'll admit that this has come in handy many times.
o   Lights at Home while You are Away – Even if we have already left home he can make sure we turned all the lights off. I wish we could say the same for all the appliances. And if we go on vacation he loves to turn the lights on and off sometimes so it looks like we are still at home. They can even be set to turn on when you get home by detecting the proximity of your cell phone.
o   Color Match – We haven't used this feature much, but you can match the light bulb color to pictures you have. The example the company uses is a picture of a sunset. You can match different bulbs in the same room to different colors in the photograph you have in order to recreate the sunset experience. This is one of those features that guys love to talk about even if they never use it.
o   Music and Other Extras – You can even set up the bulbs to flash or change color according to the music that is playing. You or your special guy can have your very own dance party. They can also flash on and off or slowly rotate through all the colors. These are some of the features that make it a toy and not just a light bulb.
o   Third Party Apps – There is an app that comes with it to control the light bulbs, but since the company decided to make their material available other people have come up with their own apps to control these lights. Some are simply easier to use, while others add features that control the light bulbs in whole new ways. My techy husband loves the idea of continued development.

Why HUE Over Other Brands?

We first came across the idea for a smart light bulb on Kickstarter. (It is a pretty cool idea development website if you've never heard of it before.) Someone was asking for money to develop and market their smart bulb idea. It seemed like a great idea right from the start.

My husband of course did meticulous research before he bought anything. He decided to go with the Philips brand because an established company would provide support and continued improvements if anything did go wrong with this very new idea. He also liked the potential for third party apps mentioned above. These bulbs were also slightly less expensive.

How They Work and What You Need to Buy

The light bulbs connect through a "bridge" device that connects to a wireless internet router. If you have wireless internet in your house, you will be able to use these bulbs.
If you don't already have any of these bulbs you will need a starter pack, like this one. It comes with a bridge that will connect all the light bulbs to your control devices. One bridge can control up to fifty light bulbs so if they are just for your home one is probably sufficient, meaning you only have to buy one pack with a bridge and then just individual light bulbs from then on. The starter packs also come with three bulbs to get you addicted.

The light bulbs fit in standard light fixtures so you don't have to buy any new ones. We have some in ceiling fan lights and some in standing lamps.

Hue was designed specifically to work with Apple products, but there are apps available to make them work with Android and other platforms (certain Kindle devices can even control them.) If your special guy has an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or other iOS device that is relatively new then he should have no problems. There is a list here if you scroll down and look under "Specifications" in case you want to double check before you buy anything.

Another important note is that even if you aren’t as tech savvy as your man, or you don't like the idea of using your phone to control the lights (a switch is good enough!) then you can still turn the lights on and off using the same light switch as before. They have a standard looking light color that turns on automatically when you use the wall switch.

Appropriate Gift Occasions

This is a fantastic gift for any guy who loves the latest technology. If he hasn't heard of them before he might raise an eyebrow when he opens his present and it is a box of light bulbs, but pretty soon you'll be scolding him like a child playing with the lights. He will love them and will want to show them off to all of his friends.

·         Birthdays – The box isn't very big to open, which is always a little disappointing when you spend a decent amount of money on something you want it to be bigger for them to open. But, he will use them every single day, and enjoy them the whole time.
·         Wedding – It is hard to find things to put on a wedding registry or to buy someone as a wedding gift that isn't specifically geared towards the woman. This is something both the bride and groom will love, but it leans towards being for the man.
·         Baby – I think the slow color changing feature and the dimming feature make these bulbs great for a baby's room. We put them on our baby registry, much to the delight of my husband. Like most guys, he gets more involved and enthusiastic if he can find a way to incorporate technology.
·         Anniversaries & Romantic Holidays – Valentine's Day and anniversaries are easy for guys; they can just buy flowers, chocolate, a stuffed animal etc. Everything is geared towards buying for girls. But what is the girl supposed to get the guy? If he already has all the watches he could ever need (if he doesn't, check out this Pebble smart watch) then it can be a tough decision. These light bulbs are a fun gift that he will really enjoy. They are practical but sweet because they are different and unique.
·         A Gift You Can Keep Giving – The initial starter pack is around $200 which includes three light bulbs. After that you can keep buying him single bulbs for various occasions until the whole house is replaced. He will feel like the king in control of every aspect of his domain.

These light bulbs are a great gift for any guy who loves technology including: husbands, boyfriends (whether you live together or not), dads, brothers, and good friends. They will thank you every time they turn the lights on and off, and now that they are grown up they can play with the lights all they want.

Other Options

The links above are for normal light bulbs. If you prefer directional bulbs, you can click here for the starter pack or here for an individual directional bulb. Directional light bulbs are nice for kitchens or desk lamps where the light should be focused on one area instead of spreading out to the sides.