LIFX LED Lightbulb Review
So I thought I’d take a break from the norm of Mutilating The Mortgage and instead do something a bit different. I recently bought one of these light bulbs and so decided to write up a bit of a review on the newly formed Australian product, the LIFX Wifi Enabled LED Light Bulb.
Now I know, I know. Here I am constantly telling you to kill that mortgage and commit ALL your after tax income to the task… but the truth is I also advocate spending money in order to help pay off the mortgage. Motivation as I’ve mentioned numerous times is one of the top key’s to long term mortgage mutilation. Whilst others throw out “top 10 tips and tricks” I push for a more advanced and (I think) adult form of action. A long term commitment of always paying down your loan. Don’t just sporadically splurge and pay $1,000 to your mortgage at tax time or when you get a bonus at work, that does basically nothing. Instead you should organise your life so that it’s as efficient as possible and commit all that extra cash to the mortgage week after week after week. It’s only then that you can take down the giant elephant that stands in the way of you being debt free by throwing $1,000, $2,000, $4,000+ at it every fortnight. That’s what really gets your mortgage paid off quickly.
So, as part of staying motivated and sticking to our goal of paying off our home as fast as possible we have set aside money that we use every now and then so we’re not just working/sleeping/eating 24/7 with zero fun. Travel is one of the key spending areas this money gets used but we also make maybe one or two small ($100-$300) purchases every year or so on something we’ve been eyeing off for a while. I normally have the rule of finding something, writing it down on a list then leaving it for a few months. If I still find myself wanting it after those few months and constantly checking in on it every now and then I’ll go to phase two which is trying to get it as cheap or free as possible. OCAU, eBay, GumTree, overseas stores, friends and family are all great avenues for this. The best benefit of buying second hand (aside from the cheaper initial price) is that if you find that having the item isn’t as great as you’d thought then you can always sell it again 3rd hand and not lose much of a profit. This also works for ongoing hobbies that might otherwise be very expensive. If after all that I’m still really keen on whatever the item is I’ll usually cut myself some slack, realise that I’m still being pound wise and not sweat so much over such a small comparable penny. This new light bulb made it through all that rigmarole and we’ve been running it in our bathroom for about a week now. Unfortunately it’s quite new so no one really sells it second hand just yet except on eBay where they’re MORE expensive than the Australian store sells them for!
The official site for LIFX is here with a fantastic video demonstration of the product below.
The light bulbs come in three types for now (links to each specs), the Bayonet, Edison Screw and GU10 Downlight models, all costing $129 AUD each (cheaper the more you buy, also see how to get 5% off below!). The main features though are:
- 17W At Full Brightness (Downlight is 12W)
- 1,000 Lumens (equivalent to a 75W halogen bulb)
- 16 Million Colour LED
- 40,000 hour Lifetime (27 years at 4hrs/day)
- Software Dimming
- Android and iPhone Apps
- 2 Year Warranty
One of the most important things for a product like this is that it’s seen quite often and is put all throughout your house, not to mention when it changes colours it draws even more attention to itself. So I consider it’s looks very important. The LIFX bulb is the “Apple” of the light bulb world. As you can see from the top image, it’s a gorgeous looking thing and when you compare it to the competition (below) there’s just no denying that it’s far, far better looking.
But hold on you might say, $129 for a SINGLE bulb? That’s not cheap! And sure enough I do agree but that’s if you’re comparing it to a traditional, lame ass halogen or CFL light bulb. This thing on the other hand is well worth the money I think.
For starters the hardware as I’ve said is top notch. It’s closet competitor, the Philips Hue, is a solid generation behind. The biggest glaring reason is that it requires a “hub” to work whereas the LIFX bulbs are all totally self-dependant. Philips doesn’t have too bad an idea in that you move the “smarts” to a hub and thus reduce the costs of the individual bulb but LIFX’s route allows them to develop the platform much further and given how long these light bulbs last (27 years!) I didn’t want to have to replace them all 2 years down the track due to “hardware constraints”. The LIFX bulbs are almost twice as bright (1,000 lumens vs 600 lumens) and contain three times the amount of LED’s. The LIFX bulbs can also combine colour AND white light to give you different shades of colours whereas the Hue bulbs just pump out pure red or white. Going further the Hue bulbs only dim in 5% increments plus the LIFX bulbs connect together in a full mesh network, which means even if you have a bulb that’s too far away to get good signal back to your wifi router, it will get its commands through the other closer LIFX bulbs. The other deal breaker for me is that the Hue bulbs apparently don’t sell in Bayonet form just yet and all our fixtures are Bayonet.
Aside from comparing it to other (closely priced LED bulbs) the high price is still quite worth it when you look at it in a different perspective. Most people see light bulbs as “throw away” replaceable items like glad wrap or a drink bottle in which case they NEED to be cheap ($1, $5 etc). However that’s not what the LIFX bulbs are. These don’t explode after 1-2 years worth of use like halogen bulbs do. They’re not meant for a short life span, they’re in your house to stay for 27+ years. They’re there to make it look and feel nicer as well as add automation and colour to your life. They should be instead thought of like an oven, dishwasher or solar panel level purchase. You don’t expect your washing machine to cost $20 because you know it should last 10-20+ years and never break down. You know if you spend $50 on one then you’ll just be spending another $50 year after year when it breaks down again and again. As seen in this new, “appliance” light (no pun intended I swear!) the LIFX bulbs are quite a good deal.
For most people, even with CFL’s, they will save you money every year. Although they quote them as being 17W, this is at their max, 1,000 lumen brightness in full white which is REALLLLLY freakin bright. I’m more than happy rocking around with it at about 25% brightness (~7W) and that’s when I want to see and do things. If I want to relax with a nice shower in a dim lit, blue bathroom it goes down to about 1-5% brightness and on blue (<4.5W). These power levels are lower than typical halogens (evil things!) by far and lower than most CFL’s meaning they’ll cost you less to run which is a big plus here in Australia seeing as power prices aren’t going anywhere but up. They also instantly make any light a dimmable light with 1% increments from 0% to 100% in any colour or white/warm light. That fact alone could cost you hundreds of extra dollars installing special dimming switches and modules for traditional CFL or Halogen lights.
Obviously you can also control them from multiple sources, multiple tablets, phones and OS’s through their app. There are even Windows applications people have built so you can control them through that and their very open SDK that’s available. This means you can turn everything off in the house while you’re in bed or sitting on the couch. Next is their “Scenes” ability. This is a feature in the app that basically remembers whatever setup you’ve got going at the time and allows you to quickly name and recall it later on. Want the 3 lights up the front to be 50% white and the back three to be 25% white? Easily done. Want all your 6 lights in the main room to go to a sunset orange at 25% brightness for a relaxing night’s dinner? Piece of cake. Want your bedroom to strobe like crazy so you can…. you get the picture! Although a seemingly simple feature, this really becomes powerful with multiple lights all over the house and greatly adds to the overall usability of the system. Unless you have those same six lights all on individual dimmable switches ($$$!) you can’t replicate this feature and even then, it’d be a PITA adjusting all those nobs all the time.
Further adding to their value is the immanent release of their LIFX Cloud platform. Whilst there’s no specific date just yet, official Tweets have it being around 1 month away with the iPhone app already allowing sign ups. The new cloud integration features will allow users to remotely control the lights from the Internet (currently you need to be on the same Wifi network as the bulbs), allows for IFTTT integration (a brilliant service), triggered events like flashing blue for a new Tweet or slowly dimming up to 50% brightness over a 10 minute period before your alarm goes off and much more. Combining these features with IFTTT for example it’s easy to turn off all connected lights when you exit your home “area” as tracked by your mobile, not just handy but potentially saving you more money. I’m also thinking of setting one up outside under the car port so that as we drive up our driveway, the bulb automatically dims on to welcome us. Going even further into the integration they can communicate with Next Protect devices and make all the globes turn red if it detects a fire or CO2. Basically the permutations are endless and extremely configurable to however your life is.
These great light bulbs have even more features I haven’t mentioned like their “Pastels” mode which is very relaxing as well as slightly more gimmicky things like their Music Mode. All in all though after using them for a week they seem to be well worth the upfront cost when you see them for what they really are, a house hold appliance purchase meant to last decades not a cheap throw away crappy light bulb.
Turn the light off, take out the old bulb and put in the new one. Turn the light switch on and download their app. Pretty simple
Their application (Android and iPhone) is constantly getting updates with the next one due to be released once the LIFX Cloud goes live. Only having an Android phone I’ve only been able to test that app but it’s smooth and does exactly what you’d expect it to. About the only small surprise is that unlike traditional bulbs that just have on and off, the LIFX bulbs have on and off from the switch on the wall as well as a standby on/off that you can do from the app. Obviously if you turn it off at the wall the bulb powers down and is no longer accessible from the app but you can always just use the wall switch to turn it on/off like a normal bulb and then occasionally access the app when you need to do more advanced stuff like change colour or dim it.
Also of note is that the LIFX bulbs each run their own mini OS and as such, receive firmware updates every now and then that’s released by LIFX. They’ve just released a new firmware update (v1.5) which you can get from here: http://updates.lifx.co. It is a bit weird but you have to download an application to your computer in order to update the bulb’s firmware. Apparently there is a (long) but legitimate reason they’ve had to do this and can’t just have it done by magic but the good news is the firmware updates aren’t too frequent. One other thing is with these updates, they can take quite a while (upwards of 30 minutes per bulb) as they purposefully upload the data in very small amounts so as not to overload the bulb. It is a very easy update process though, download their software, install it, click “start” and go have some water while it does it’s thing. And hey, who doesn’t like getting free new software features for their stuff!?
Best Use Cases So Far
Probably the best use case (seeing as we have the one bulb in the bathroom) has been having a nice relaxing shower with a dim, blue or purple light. It really does change the entire room depending on the brightness and colour going from relaxed blue to super bright, hot pink. It’s great to be able to change the type of white light too sometimes when you’re looking in the mirror or when DW is putting on makeup. The extra lumens don’t go astray either as it’s far brighter than our previous CFL bulbs.
The fact that it’s at instant full brightness is a nice change from using the CFL bulb all the time and given that we don’t have any light shades or decorations around out light fitting it does look nicer and produce a much more even light so we don’t get weird light patterns on the ceiling compared to the CFL’s. I have also moved it to the bedroom for a day or so and it was obvious that it was quite handy there too as it’s much nicer getting ready for bed in a dimmer light so that you can fall asleep quicker. It will be interesting to test the “alarm feature” once it’s released as we both usually wake up for work before the Sun’s up so it’d be a bit less jarring to wake up to a low warm orange light than just pitch black.
The other excellent use of them, especially in the bathroom is the low level blue/purple light for the mornings. When you first wake up the last thing you want is a super bright white light smashing into your eyes. Having it come on at 5% blue means it eases you into the light just a bit. It also helps make it easier for me when DW has to get up earlier and I’m still asleep!
Obviously this is a pretty positive review. There are some very minor things to gripe on about this light bulb but it also has so many benefits that it far outweighs them IMO. The price is quite high, especially if you’re replacing every light bulb in your house at once. Our house (relatively small) has 11 spots to fill, that’s one 10 pack and one more single, which is $1,126 + $123 = $1,249. Not a irrelevant expense! However as I said above, make sure you look at this as an appliance purchase and not a regular light bulb that you just chuck in the bin after a year of it stealing 75W/hour of your electricity. I think we will also be upgrading each light bulb as it blows over the years too which spreads the expenses out a bit more. I’m a big fan of buying the best we can the first time around so that we get a great quality product that is good value and lasts decades, all while we thoroughly enjoy using it. This is something that’s better for your wallet over the long term, better for the environment and more pleasing when you use the product. Note that I do include “value” there too, we don’t just buy the most expensive thing, we buy the best value thing that is top quality. There’s a big difference.
All that being said these are still more aimed at the “tech” minded people, which are always growing in number. Your grandma and grandpa likely aren’t going to know what the hell is going on when you tell them to “update the firmware on their light bulb“. For those of us that don’t mind dealing with the added bits and pieces that always comes with digital life they’re a fantastic long term piece of tech that will make your next party more awesome, your mornings more relaxed and your showers more fun.
You can buy LIFX bulbs from the LIFX Store and because you’re awesome (as well as LIFX) I’m happy to offer everyone a 5% discount on them. Full disclosure, if you buy a bulb using the below “ambassador” link I will get a small kick back from them for it, at the same time though you get a 5% discount as well as supporting an Australian company that’s making an awesome, awesome product. With the 5% discount they are:
- $123 for 1 ($123/unit)
- $470 for the 4 pack ($117.50/unit)
- $1,126 for the 10 pack ($112.60/unit)
They come in Bayonet, Edison Screw (black or white) and black Downlight models. To get the 5% discount click the image below or here and then use the promo coupon “AMBASSADOR5OFF” in the final step of checkout.