We quite like systems like Philips HUE, IKEA Trådfri and OSRAM Lightify. They’re easy to use and easy to buy, making colour changing LED mood lighting a mainstream high street purchase along with the cat food and potatoes. We like the way they interface to voice-activated devices such as Amazon Alexa. We also like the quality of the hardware; solid, good quality lamps compared to the sea of Chinese tat that fills the online world.
However, there are some drawbacks. The 30m line-of-sight range is often an issue in modern houses that have lots of steel and metallised insulation, even given that Zigbee devices re-transmit the signal. We’ve often had to add extra redundant lights to an install just to extend the range. And secondly, is the limited scope and relatively high cost of the companion lights offered.
For instance, there are no high-power in-ground lights, compact floor lights, plinth lights etc. And what about all those expensive RGBW garden lights you already have?
You won’t find these on the HUE counter at John Lewis
The solution is surprisingly simple and doesn’t involve bribing that annoying IT guy with an evening out with your younger sister. As Zigbee is an open source standard, all you need do is buy a Zigbee interface. This will connect seamlessly to your HUE or Lightify and can be configured as a single channel dimmer, a CCT colour-tunable white light, an RGB or RGBW light. This can be both enlightening (literally) and money-saving.
For instance, a 2m HUE RGB LED strip kit is around £60. For this, you get a reasonable spec LED strip with 30 LEDs/m and all the associated hardware. Expanding this to 5m takes the cost to over £110. Using a third party interface drops the 5m kit to around £70, with top spec strip.
Take the pool installation above. There just isn’t an IP rated super quality miniature floor light in the HUE range, but with a 12v Zigbee interface this just wasn’t a problem. The customer specified his preferred fitting and the installer coupled it to the HUE system seamlessly.
So, if you’re considering an off-the shelf system like HUE, just make sure it’s Zigbee compliant (most are), and buy with confidence. You can interface it to anything.