Energy-efficient LED light bulbs are rapidly replacing their energy-inefficient incandescent cousins, helped in no small part by government regulations. The growing market is attracting new players and driving down prices. Today, LED pioneer Cree, Inc. added a line of connected LED bulbs to its existing LED offering. The bulbs can be controlled—turned on, off, and dimmed—via a smartphone or tablet and any ZigBee controller, including the $50 Wink Hub.
As with GE’s recent introduction of its Link LED lightbulbs, Cree’s dimmable bulbs will be equivalent to 60-watt incandescent bulb and will be dimmable. And like GE’s bulbs, Cree’s will be available at Home Depot’s online store at first, and then at the company’s brick-and-mortar stores. Cree was unable to provide specific availability dates, but the company says they’ll sell for $14.97 each (the same price as GE’s Link bulbs).
“Early LED bulbs looked freakish,” said Cree VP of product strategy Mike Watson in an interview yesterday. “They were mushrooms, cheese graters—they looked anything but like a light bulb. Cree started out 27 years ago in the semiconductor industry. We decided to make an LED light bulb for the consumer market in March 2013. We replicated the tungsten filament in an incandescent bulb, but with LEDs, to provide that same omni-directional light.”
As with GE’s Link bulbs, Cree’s will be soft white only (specifically, 815 lumens at a color temperature of 2700K). “We don’t believe in [colored] mood lighting, or having lights flash in time with the rap song you’re listening to,” said Watson. “The idea of light changing according to the song you’re listening to isn’t going to drive the growth of the connected-home market. By no means am I against colored lighting or these other features. They’re fun and they show the art of what’s possible. But I get more excited about the prospect of your smoke or carbon-monoxide detector triggering your lights to blink and off, warning you of danger. That provides real value to the consumer.”
Why this matters: LED light bulbs are considerably more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs, which you’ll need to replace as soon as they wear out anyway.
And spending $15 for a smart light bulb that can be dimmed and turned on and off with your smartphone or tablet (via a $50 hub) is a whole lot cheaper than swapping out the switch or dimmer in your wall for a connected model that costs $50 to $75. The one down side, of course, is that you’ll need your smartphone or tablet to control the lights, versus reaching for the switch on the wall.
Michael is TechHive's lead editor, with 30+ years of experience covering the tech industry, focusing on the smart home, home audio, and home theater. He built his own smart home in 2007 and used it as a real-world test lab for product reviews. Following a relocation to the Pacific Northwest, he is now converting his new home, an 1890 Victorian bungalow, into a modern smart home.