None. HomeBrite’s smart LED lightbulbs setup with the flip of a switch, install of an app and pleasantly don’t need an additional hub for you to control them.
I have to admit that I wasn’t too interested in automating my home until I purchased my first HomeBrite LED bulb from Home Depot for $14.95. My lack of motivation was primarily the cost of entry and the fragmented nature of protocols from the ubiquitous Wi-fi and Bluetooth to the unfamiliar ZigBee, Insteon and ZWave. The more I looked into the idea, the more complicated and expensive it became. Every manufacturer has their own app to control their smart devices from light bulbs, door locks and egg containers to garage doors and security cameras. Then I found an app called Wink, as well as a website called IFTTT and I saw the world of home automation in all its powerful possibilities and convenience for the first time, but even better, everything I needed to start dabbling now had a small startup cost of $14.95 thanks to Feit Electric’s HomeBrite LED Smart light bulb.
Feit Electric (@feitElectricInc) isn’t a newcomer to the light bulb industry. They have been around since 1978 and chances are if you unscrew a light bulb in your house you’re going to find their name on it. HomeBrite, is their new venture. They describe it as “a Bluetooth Smart Mesh LED Lighting System offering consumers an exciting new way to personalize and control home lighting, from the palm of their hand.” Products include: dimmable LED bulbs, high-CRI Enhance LED bulbs, LED retrofit kits, and Linear LED Tube offerings.
How it works and How I used it
Unscrew your old light bulb then screw in the HomeBrite LED bulb. Through either the Apple’s App Store or Google’s Marketplace, download the HomeBrite app and once installed you’re ready to flip the switch and power-on. The HomeBrite LED bulb with flicker once. This indicates that it is working and available in the Mesh network, which is basically a LAN (local area network) of connected nodes. Thankfully, you don’t need an understanding of networks to use your light bulbs. All you need to know is how to flip on a light switch and use an app.
The app, self-titled “homebrite”, will automatically scan the Mesh network and add any new bulbs it finds during startup before displaying a list of your bulbs. At first they will be named “Bulb1, Bulb2, etc” but you can easily rename them to something that makes sense to you. I have one named “Bedroom – Dresser”, as well as two others named “Living Room – Fireplace” and “Living Room – Chair”.
The list view will display a lightbulb icon so you can quickly recognize the bulb type, as well as a slider where you can adjust the bulb’s brightness and a power-icon. I found that the more bulbs you connected the more valuable this view became versus the apps default wheel view. The default wheel view fills the enter screen with a lovely dashed circle representing the bulbs brightness. It easier to adjust this feature and wiping the screen to the right and left toggles between all the bulbs but as you can imagine the more bulbs you have makes this view less attractive from usability perspective. Sometimes it’s just faster to pick from a list or group.
After I got my third bulb I set up some groups. The first group of bulbs was for the living room. Through HomeBrite’s group settings I added “Living Room – Fireplace” and “Living Room – Chair” to a group titled “Living Room”. The advantage to doing is that I can now control all the bulbs in the “Living Room” at the same time. If the mood strikes, I can quickly dim all the lights in the room with the slide of a finger. Putting bulbs in a group doesn’t mean that I can’t control them individually either. If am I reading on the couch and the “Living Room – Fireplace” bulb is distracting from the fire then I can easily view the list of bulbs and tap the power-icon to turn one in the group off. By turning it off outside the group settings I won’t then change the group setting for that bulb.
My favorite features of the HomeBrite app, however, are scheduling and setting timers. You can can schedule an individual bulb or a group of bulbs. I use this feature to control the “Bedroom – Dresser” bulb to automatically come on at 6:25 AM. On these darker winter mornings, it makes it a lot easier to wake up in a bright room. I also have the same bulb scheduled to come on at 5:03 PM so when I get home the bedroom isn’t dark. The only big downside that I found with scheduling is that you can’t control the brightness, so your bulbs will come back on at the previous brightness level last set.
Sometimes, if you know you’re heading to bed or leaving a room early and just don’t want the lights left on, you can override the schedule by selecting the individual bulb from the wheel view and turning on a timer. It’s easy and amazing how often I use this feature. Since it’s a one-off action, the timer settings do not effect any room or bulb schedules or scenes. Scenes simply modify a groups setting.
Unfortunately, one other downside is that these Bluetooth bulbs do not connect to the Internet. If they did, you could set a savvy schedule through IFTTT so when you arrive home (at a specific GPS location) the “Living Room” group of bulbs will turn on. Although, Bluetooth can interface with Wi-Fi networks and maybe through a HomeBrite firmware update, Wink or Smart Things Hub this one day could be possible. Until then we are stuck in a more or less static schedule realm, which is still cool and I don’t have to remember to turn my living room lights off before I call it night and go to bed.
But, what happens if the person controlling the lights with their phone isn’t home? You can still turn the bulbs on and off like a normal light. However each time the bulb is turned back on at the switch it will blink once. this could get annoying which is why I avoided installing the bulbs in locations where on/off frequency was high. You can also create an account through the HomeBrite app and save your apps settings to the “cloud” and then someone else can install the app on their phone and using the same login could also control the bulbs as well as configurations. It’s not an ideal solution but it works.
The app works well but has some bugs and room for improvement. One bug is that the bulb’s state is not always accurately represented. This is more obvious when viewing a group of bulbs than viewing the individual list of bulbs. Another bug is sometimes the app won’t discover the Mesh network and require your phone’s Bluetooth to be turned on and off. These bugs are certainly are not deal breakers in my opinion and as HomeBrite’s smart-product line grows I am sure we will see the app mature not only in design and user experience but also reliability.
- Easy Bluetooth setup.
- No account needed for basic use.
- LED bulbs will last 25,000 hours. That’s more than 22-years based upon the average use of 3-hours per day.
- Easy sharing with other family members if settings are synced with HomeBrite account.
- UI/UX of app doesn’t support Retina screens.
- Schedules don’t support dimming.
- Syncing settings back to your account is not automatic.
- Only can control through a Bluetooth Mesh network where your phone needs to be in the same area in order to control.
- No HomeKit integration
What it could do better
Again, the bulb itself is perfect. The app, however, could use some smarter UI/UX design.
Buy or Not buy?
Definitely buy; maybe even 3 or 4.