March 24, 2018

Getting Technology Right: Light Bulbs

Philips Hue starter packLike many people living in the modern world, I enjoy the benefits of technology. At least, I enjoy them until the particular technology does not work like it is supposed to. At that point, I join in the chorus of complaints. Here's a brief and completely off-topic post about one area where I've found little to complain about when it comes to technology: light bulbs.

It does not seem like it was that long ago that I replaced all the incandescent light bulbs in my home with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. Of course, it was several years ago. Although they were initially much more expensive than incandescent bulbs, prices came down, they lasted much longer, and they helped to reduce electricity costs. The only real drawbacks (aside from the environmental impact of the chemicals they use to make them) I found was that they look strange and are a bit slow to warm up. I was never crazy about using them in open fixtures or in rooms where they were frequently turned on and off without getting a chance to warm up.

Although CFL bulbs are still available and much less expensive than LED bulbs, it is clear that LED bulbs are superior in many ways. They last even longer, use even less electricity, require no warm-up time, and look better. As my CFL bulbs die, I've been replacing them with inexpensive LED bulbs. I consider them a significant step up, mostly because they look fine in open fixtures and turn on at full brightness instantly without the CFL warm-up period.

I have not yet tried any of the so-called "smart" or "connected" LED bulbs like those available in the Philips Hue line, but I really want to. They are far more expensive than I'd like, but I do like the idea of being able to change color temperature on the white ambiance bulbs, change color on the color ambiance bulbs, and program all of them in various ways. They can be set to turn on and off automatically at various times, controlled with one's smartphone, and even connected to IFTTT. I think it would be especially nice to set them up so that the color temperature of the white bulbs changed from warm to cool depending on the time of day.

If I decide to try them at some point, I'd probably pick up a starter kit with the white ambiance bulbs first (the starter kit contains the bridge that is needed to connect the bulbs to one's wi-fi network. I'd probably then pick up some of the cheaper white bulbs that do not change color temperature to use in places where I don't need this added capability. And then I might decide to splurge on a couple of the bulbs that can change colors try to do some interesting mood lighting. Of course, paying nearly $50/each for these color change bulbs would not be easy considering it is hard to imagine that I'd continue using them once the gimmick wore off.

In any case, it seems to me that light bulbs are a decent example of where they've gotten technology right and left me with little room to complain. Now if only the companies designing smartphones could do the same!