If you’re keen on home automation but don’t want to take the leap into wiring devices the Belkin WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set offers a very simple way to add some smarts to your home illumination, but they’re not cheap.
Belkin’s had plenty of products under its WeMo banner previously, including many I’ve previously tested covering everything from power provision to lighting. Its previous lighting products focused on switches that require electrician-level skill and certification to install in Australia, but the LED Lighting Starter Set is a little different. Like the switches, it’s about automating lighting in your home or business, but the focus is a little different, as is the installation method.
Rather than act as switches that control ordinary light bulbs, the LED Lighting Starter set is comprised of three simple items. There’s two LED light bulbs and a small WeMo Link plug that plugs in just about anywhere in your house, although preferably in a central location in order to maximise reception. That’s because while the switches connect up to your home Wi-Fi connection, the Link does that and communicates with the bulbs via the ZigBee standard instead, and as such placing the Link plug out of the way would defeat the purpose of the whole LED Starter Set.
What the WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set does have going for it is simplicity. All you essentially need to do is plug in the Link into any available power point, plug the LED light bulbs in anywhere you’d want to use them, power them up and then detect them with the same WeMo app, available for iOS or Android, that’s used for detecting the existing range of WeMo devices. From there you can name each bulb, use a slider to change its dimming properties and set a timer for gradual powering down over time if you’re putting them in a bedroom where you’re going to fall asleep anyway.
I’ve made this comment with regards to WeMo previously, but the use of an app for control is both a blessing and a curse. Belkin’s WeMo app is nicely laid out compared to the slightly dodgy apps used for some other home automation applications, but it’s not without its quirks, chief amongst them sometimes completely losing switches or in this case bulbs. In my own testing across both iOS and Android I never quite reached an absolutely comfortable level of absolute control or lack thereof, but I’ve also been testing WeMo gear for long enough to know that things can change between updates of the app. Given the app does hook into your home Wi-Fi anyway, it would be nice if Belkin developed a genuine web interface to allow those controlling their bulbs another access method for when the app is being temperamental.
The bulbs themselves are bright white LEDs with a colour temperature of 3000K and an output brightness of 800 lumens. Like many LED bulbs there’s a very short warmup time when you first switch them on. The app slider for dimming works reasonably well, although in keeping with it slightly temperamental nature, I noticed it sometimes smoothly flowed luminance down as I adjusted the slider, while at other times it would jump around in a more staccato fashion between brightness levels. Unlike some competing smart lightbulbs, there’s no inbuilt facility to adjust to other colours than bright white.
There are some limitations to the Belkin WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set compared to other bulbs and even to Belkin’s own WeMo switches. They should work with IFTTT, but don’t just yet. Unlike the switches, there’s no wiring smarts, which means that while you can adjust them from any Internet connection, that won’t work if you’ve actually switched the bulb off at the wall, and there’s no error message to let you know this is the case. That’s a concern if you’ve set rules to create timed patterns for security reasons while you’re away, because the WeMo app will continue on as though nothing has happened at all.
Belkin rates the LED light bulbs with a 23 year life expectancy, which somewhat mitigates the asking price. In Australia, a Belkin WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set will set you back $169.95, while additional bulbs run to $49.95 each. That’s pretty pricey compared to a standard LED bulb, but these can do a bit more, and you only need one Link device to run up to 50 bulbs. If you’re keen on home automation but don’t want to take the leap into wiring devices they’re a very simple way to add some smarts to your home illumination, albeit at a price.