My blog posts are like buses. You wait years for one to come along, and then two arrive at once. The only problem is that they are four years late.
In part 1 of this series, I wrote about getting started with Zigbee lighting, in the form of Philips Hue. Unfortunately, although it’s widely supported, Hue can be expensive so I quickly started to add compatible devices to my network. Here’s what I found.
Whilst I use white lights in communal areas, I have some coloured lamps in some of the bedrooms and in the home offices. I also have one on the landing outside my office, which can be linked to my Teams presence information to show if I’m busy, using Isaac Levin (@isaacrlevin)’s PresenceLight solution).
Rather than shelling out £50 for a coloured Philips Hue bulb, I used Innr smart bulbs (both B22 and GU10 formats). These are also Zigbee-based but are not Apple HomeKit certified. That means that they work with the Hue app, but not natively in iOS. I decided that I can live without that (even more so since I switched to Android).
Low cost GU10s
I mentioned in my first post that I have some low-voltage MR16 bulbs in the house, for which I can’t find Zigbee replacements. Newer parts of the house (like the loft extension) have mains voltage GU10 fittings. For these, I used inexpensive IKEA Trådfri bulbs.
At the time, getting Trådfri working with Hue was a bit hit and miss but newer firmware seemed to improve this. The IKEA website even states that the Trådfri products can be used with Hue:
“Do the IKEA smart lighting products work with the Philips Hue Bridge?
Yes, you can use the IKEA smart lighting products together with the Philips Hue Bridge.
How do I connect my IKEA smart lighting products to a Philips Hue Bridge?
If the software version of your IKEA smart lighting products is 1.2.x or later, you can connect them directly to a Philips Hue Bridge. Simply follow these steps: – First, make sure that the light sources that you want to connect have an updated software version (1.2.x or later).
– Keep the light sources close to the Philips Hue Bridge.
– Search for new devices with the Philips Hue app.
– Do a factory reset of the light sources by toggling the main switch six times.
[…] If the software version of your products is not 1.2.x or later, you need to update it by using a TRÅDFRI gateway and the IKEA Home smart app.”IKEA Smart Lighting product support
A few things I found:
- Trådfri bulbs do seem to need to be physically close to the Hue Bridge in order to pair (as noted above).
- Some early firmware versions didn’t work so well with non-IKEA gateways (as noted above). I’ve had no real issues with my 2017 Week 44/46 and 2018 week 01 bulbs. You can find the version number on the packaging before purchase. According to the Hue software, these are all running software version 1.2.214.
- I couldn’t make IKEA Trådfri accessories (switches, etc.) work with the bulbs whilst the bulbs were paired with Hue. Your mileage may vary. I returned my Trådfri gateway to the store.
- Sometimes, the Trådfri bulbs will stop responding (remain on or off, regardless of control). This can usually be fixed by removing them from their fitting and then reconnecting them (basically rebooting the bulb). Later firmware may help.
One side effect of the mixed system is that the Philips Hue software can only update its own equipment. It recognises the other equipment and will even tell me the software versions but updates would need the corresponding Innr or IKEA gateways and apps to be used. That’s a cost and level of complexity that I decided to manage without.
I mentioned that my cheaper bulbs are not compatible with Apple HomeKit, but I’ve had no problems working with Amazon Alexa via the Philips Hue skill. In truth, my home automation is a rats nest of Samsung SmartThings, TP-Link Kasa, SmartLife, Apple HomeKit and Amazon Alexa. I really need to look at sorting that out (maybe with Home Assistant). Watch out for a future blog post… hopefully it won’t be four years in the making).
My experience with Zigbee smart bulbs from a variety of manufacturers has largely been positive. I still occasionally ask Alexa to turn on a light and find it doesn’t work because someone has switched off the circuit but that’s what us IT folks refer to as a “layer 8 problem” or an issue with the “wetware”. Whilst mixing manufacturers may present some challenges with updates, a Hue hub at the centre of a mixed network seems to work pretty well for me. After all, the likelihood of someone hacking my unpatched IKEA lightbulbs seems pretty minimal…