August 22, 2012
| by Rachel Cericola
Back in the day when you wanted automated lighting, you called in an installer. Now, it’s as simple as screwing in a light bulb—literally. Insteon has introduced a networked, dimmable light bulb known as the Insteon LED Bulb.
Networking isn’t the bulb’s only feature, though. According to Insteon, this bulb can shine with all of the power of a 60-watt bulb, but only uses 8 watts. So it’s also energy-efficient. And while I didn’t have time to check my electric bill to see if the one bulb that they sent to me made any sort of a difference, I can tell you that the thing was insanely bright.
Too bright? Well, thankfully, it’s dimmable. Let’s take a closer peek at exactly how to do that.
First, know that the product’s name is almost as simple as its operation. The idea is that you just screw in the bulb, and automated lighting will be available at your fingertips. Absolutely no tools are needed. However, you’re going to need a few things besides the actual bulb.
My demo kit arrived with the LED Bulb, a Mini Remote and the SmartLinc Hub (a module that plugs into a wall outlet). The remote and the SmartLinc Hub both provide the actual control over the bulb, with the latter adding in iOS or Android app options. Both are also sold separately, which means if you don’t opt for one of them, you basically have a $30 light bulb.
The remote was nice, allowing for simple functions as well as scenes. However, my advice is to go with the SmartLinc Hub. It throws in remote access, app control, and even has an outlet on the front so you can add another nearby light or appliance into the mix.
When installing the bulb and the SmartLinc Hub, it’s always best to start with the Quick Start Guide. Mine began with a few QR codes (barcodes printed in the guide that you scan with your smartphone) that, well… didn’t work. The codes should prompt the user to download the free Insteon app. However, the iOS version didn’t work on two different iPhones, with four different scanning apps. We glanced over to the Android app, and were instantly whisked to the Google Play store. Let me stress something: This is so nothing, but I wanted to mention it. Assuming it’s a glitch, I went for the old-fashioned route. I launched the App Store with one finger and searched for the Insteon app.
Once the app was loaded, it was time to install the SmartLinc Hub. This process could not be easier, since it basically involves finding an outlet near your WiFi router. That’s pretty much it. Plug in the Hub, connect it to an available Ethernet port on your router, and it’s ready to roll.
The app requires a user name and password. From there, my app instantly found the SmartLinc Hub, which I officially added with one finger. The app also provides the option to access the SmartLinc Hub outside of your home’s network, which is nice for turning the lights on and off when you’re out on the town or just out of town altogether. From there, add your house name and room, as well as any add-on Insteon cameras or thermostats.
Of course, you’re going to have to add the LED Bulb as well. Tap on the room you just added, click “Add Device/Scene,” and name it. Scroll down to “Linking,” tap to add the bulb, and you’ll have four minutes to complete the rest of the setup. That process involves turning the lamp on, unplugging it, replacing the bulb, and plugging it back in again. If all is well, the app will let you know. From there, save the results and you should be ready to rock.
Initially, I tried the LED Bulb on a ceiling fan, with poor results. That said, it was a ceiling fan with a dimmer. This bulb isn’t going to work with one of those because it messes with the Insteon signal. Frankly, do you really need a dimmer on top of a dimmer? The LED Bulb is for those looking to add those features to a regular ceiling fixture, another type of lamp or even outdoor lighting. Once I switched lamps, it was absolutely perfect.
The app is a fun little item to have, because it allows users to turn the bulb on and off, brighten or dim the bulb in increments, and set timers. The latter can be based on sunrise and sunset, as well as using specific times and days of the week. The controls are simple because lights are pretty simple. However, it’s insanely cool to be able to control them with an iPhone or other portable device.
Now, $130 (plus another $45 if you want the remote) may seem like a lot to automate one lamp, but it’s really not. In fact, it’s quite awesome. One SmartLinc Hub can control a houseful of lights, cameras and appliance modules (about 200 devices). If you go away a lot, you’ll appreciate being able to flip the lights on and off instead of having them run all day. If not, well the next time you bang your knees and toes coming into a dark, empty house, you can use that cash that you saved on Band-Aids. This is a fun little investment that will certainly pay off—maybe even on your electric bills.
Insteon LED Bulb $30
Insteon SmartLinc Central Controller (hub) $99
Insteon RemoteLinc2 $45
Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at www.rachelcericola.com.