Home Automation

INSTEON Announces First Networked, Dimmable Light Bulb

INSTEON Announces First Networked, Dimmable Light BulbOver a year ago at Google I/O, Lighting Science announced the @ Home networked lightbulb that could be controlled from your Android phone. On the eve of Google I/O 2012, we’re left wondering what happened to that. Well, recently, the world’s first dimmable, networked light bulb went on sale at smarthome.com for $29.99 (pretty much the going price for an LED light bulb), but it’s not Lighting Science bringing it to you, and it’s not powered by Android. Instead, it’s Smarthome’s own INSTEON that has introduced this light bulb as part of its INSTEON home control product line.

SmartLabs introduced INSTEON nearly ten years ago as an affordable and simple-to-use home control solution for DIYers and professional installers alike. While not as prevalent or well supported by third-party manufacturers as alternative protocols like Z-wave or Zigbee, INSTEON offers a growing line of home automation products that are generally less expensive (and more stylish) than its competitors. But the competition’s lead in this difficult market is significant, and INSTEON has been challenged to keep up with the product lines and adoption of its competitors’ products. This new bulb could provide INSTEON with some much-needed visibility and adoption increase.

According to the specs on smarthome.com, the 8W LED bulb provides the equivalent light output of a 60W incandescent bulb, offering fully dimmable remote control through INSTEON’s dual-band wired and wireless mesh network. The bulb can replace any typical incandescent, compact fluorescent, or halogen bulb, fitting into a standard light bulb socket. It is designed for indoor use only.

Though it requires no additional home control device to function (i.e., the “lamp module” is built right into the bulb), you will need an INSTEON controller or home control software to take advantage of this bulb’s unique capabilities. Ultimately, you can dim this bulb to 256 different brightness levels, set how long it takes to dim on and off, and even control the bulb from your smartphone or tablet.

Curiously, neither smarthome.com nor the INSTEON press release mention anything about the LED bulb’s color temperature—an issue that has plagued early LED bulbs on the market. Consumers generally prefer warmer color tones for home living spaces, and most LED bulbs have failed to deliver in that critical area. The U.S. Department of Energy has established voluntary labeling standards for manufacturers to provide comparable light information on LED bulbs, but Smarthome has not provided this information on its web site or in the bulb’s owner’s manual. In fact, none of the information that this information label would provide is available to consumers except the actual wattage of the bulb. What smarthome.com does advise is that the bulb may emit a “barely noticeable” buzzing noise that may be more apparent when using multiple bulbs.

INSTEON Announces First Networked, Dimmable Light Bulb

INSTEON’s dimmable smart bulb is expected to ship at the end of July, and it’s available for pre-order now at smarthome.com. We’ll certainly be testing this bulb when it becomes available, and we’re cautiously optimistic. At $29.99, the price is in line with other residential LED bulbs, but the lack of information about color and light output could make this more of a novelty product than one that will gain wide acceptance in homes from families and spouses.

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About the author

Richard Gunther

Richard is a product experience consultant with a life-long interest in consumer electronics. He has been immersed in smart home tech for decades now and hosts The DMZ's home automation podcast, Home: On and co-hosts Entertainment 2.0 with Josh Pollard. Richard looks at products through an experience lens, always seeking the right mix of utility and delight.