A common saying of fathers of teenagers is “Can you please turn that light off?” it is not so much a question but an unheeded demand. I never thought I would end up lamenting lights being left on throughout the house. There have been a number of days (even during summer) when an empty house remained illuminated costing money and taking days off my life.
Over the last number of months I have considered home automation a solution to this minor issue. There is always the risk of spending pounds on an expensive solution to ultimately save pennies in the long term.
Saving Money via LED
The first thing to note is that most Homekit lighting comes in the form of low heat, low energy LED bulbs. I recently read an article that switching your home to LED lighting could save you around £200 per annum, which is approximately the initial set up costs to switch to LED in the first year.
The First Step to Philips Hue
Philips, the main Homekit lighting provider offer a number of Hue starter kits. I opted for a three bulb (colour and white) kit with the Philips Bridge (I will explain this later) costing just over £100. Philips claim the life of a bulb is approximately 25000 hours and with LED bulbs being using 80% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs this money should be recouped over time.
I should point out that there starter kit is particularly good value for money as I discovered the included colour bulbs cost around £50. Paying £50 for a bulb simply isn’t an affordable option so the remainder of my home lighting comes in the form of the standard white bulb that cost around £24 for a pair.
Philips Hue Setup
Philips Hue is more than just LED lighting, it’s a smart home system that is controllable from a range of voice control and mobile devices. For connectivity the Hue systems uses a dedicated bridge connected to your internet hub.
Setup was relatively straightforward, install the app, pair the bridge and locate the bulbs. The powered bridge offers three LED indicators, one for power, one for connectivity to your LAN and finally one for internet connectivity. On first boot both the bridge and the bulbs required firmware updates which were quick and easy to install.
Once set up I was able to easily pair the Hue bridge to my Homekit installation. Although the Hue app offers sophisticated control of the bulbs I was excited to find that I am able to control, dim and change the colour of a bulb straight from the Homekit application.
If want to have some fun with the bulbs check out the ‘Explore’ section of the Philips Hue app, teenagers with the coloured bulbs with love apps like Hue sync etc.
Adding additional bulbs is very straight forward and it appears that the bulbs act as a network for other bulbs as you get further from the Philips bridge. I currently have eight bulbs on my network without issue. Note, it takes a little bit of getting used to but the room light switch has to remain in the on position to control the lights.
Philips offer their own ‘away from home’ service with all the benefits of IFTTT support. If you use IFTTT it may be of interest that you can trigger your Hue lighting when someone presses your Ring doorbell. That said I have opted to stick with the Homekit option via the AppleTV as a home hub.
Homekit offers a range of options for automation. There are five homekit users on our system and I am able to ensure all lights are off when the last person leaves the house. Alternatively with remote access I have the ability to see exactly which light is on thanks to either the Homekit or Eve apps.
Low Heat LED Lights
In the first few days of usage I started to move the coloured bulbs between rooms and I was struck just how cool the bulb was even after being on for a few hours.
Hue on Eve
I love that fact that Homekit apps and devices don’t compete and rule each other out. I was surprised to open up the Eve app to find the bulbs listed and controllable. I will be looking at how Eve integrates with the lighting system in future posts but I already have a long list of possibilities.
I will be exploring the automation and control possibilities for the Philips Hue system in the upcoming weeks including trying to have Eve Degree trigger particular colours in event of dramatic changes in environment. I have two automations already set up using both the Eve Motion and Eve Button devices.
Once I was past the novelty factor of ‘hey Siri turn on the living lights‘ and ‘hey Siri dim the living room lights to 50%‘ there is a real practical advantage to the Hue system. Over the coming weeks I will adding a number of additional sensors to the setup and will look at time based automation, that said I have already seen a much more efficient use of lighting within the first week of use.