LIFX Light Bulbs and IFTTT

I am living with 6 LIFX light bulbs in my home – and I just love the way this allows me to redecorate my working and living space to my whim, both with simple and complex, dynamic lighting schemes. In fact, with these lights, I can’t see myself ever wanting to paint my walls with any particular color scheme again. It’s just no longer necessary – and now seems far too static and inflexible a way to make my home attractive.

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I’ve had my fair share of teething problems with the bulbs – at one point, after lengthy email exchanges with LIFX tech support, I returned the entire batch for a new replacement set, after a seemingly endless series of problems with lights falling into and out of being unrecognised by the LIFX app. But to their credit, with the newer bulbs, and more recently with the migration of  LIFX to the cloud, the system is now working really nicely – almost glitch free.

In fact it is this migration to the cloud which has finally allowed the bulbs to achieve some of the amazing potential that they have to make life more fun and more beautiful. Amazing things were promised, but not delivered by previous incarnations of the LIFX apps, which could only perform simplistic local control functions. These were fine for setting up a lighting scheme manually, or showing off the bulbs via a brief light show, but simply didn’t allow any significant form of automation.

This is how my lighting system is set up

  • Hallway – 2 lights (Door, Hall)
  • Living Room – 2 lights (Behind TV, Couch Lamp)
  • Office – 2 lights (Desk A, Desk B)

I have three “scenes” that I can set manually via the LIFX app on my phone

  • Evening – Living Room lights switched to semi-dimmed warm (orange) glow (and all other lights switched to off) – this creates a warm,relaxed atmosphere
  • Work – Office lights switched to bright cool (blue) glow – this helps concentration and aids clear seeing of detail
  • Arriving Home – Hallway lights switch to semi-dimmed warm (orange) glow – this is helpful when coming home, especially at night, if the lights are off when I come in

So these formed the backbone of the system, and covered 8o% of my lighting needs – the remaining 20% of finer adjustments came by controlling bulbs individually, or just occasionally by selecting some of the special effects offered by the app – one my favourites being a dynamic northerns lights type display, which unfortunately seems to have dropped out of the latest version of the app. However, there is still plenty of scope for playing and fun with the effects provided, and realistically, this is more of a show-off feature than something I’d want to use on a regular basis.

But the pièce de résistance comes via the ability to add automation via IFTTT‘s LIFX Channel. So now I have added the following “recipes”:

Turn on lights at sunset

When the Weather channel notifies me that it is my local sunset time (trigger), the LIFX channel fades in my Office lights.

Purpose – This is designed to help me maintain good light when I am sitting at my desk, without needing to manually activate the lights.

Cons – If I am not at home, or not sitting at my desk, these lights come on anyway. In order to counter this, I need to take note of the iOS notification that I receive when the sunset trigger occurs, and then manually switch off the lights.

Turn off lights at sunrise

When the Weather channel notifies me that it is my local sunrise time (trigger), the LIFX channel fades out all my lights (if any happen to be on).

Purpose – This is designed to avoid leaving the lights on unnecessarily, if I happen to have gotten up early and switched on the Office lights manually before starting work. Without this, I often find later that the lights are still on despite having sun streaming through the window.

Cons – No major cons to this one. Perhaps if there is heavy cloud cover, then I wouldn’t want to lights to go right off, but it is easy enough for me to make a manual adjustment if I see the lights dimming themselves and want them brighter.

 

Turn on lights when I get close to Home

When the iOSLocation channel notifies me that I have entered the area around my home (trigger), the LIFX channel fades in my Hallway lights.

Purpose – This is designed to ensure that lights are on when I open the door, so I don’t have to fumble around in the dark, and use my phone to switch on the lights.

Cons – Unfortunately the IFTTT system doesn’t allow me to combine this trigger with a daylight/nighttime condition, so if it is still daylight, then I don’t actually need lights on as there is already sufficient daylight in the hallway, and in this case I have to switch them off manually after I get home. Another, more subtle, issue is that just occasionally (once in a few days), this trigger gets activated even though I haven’t actually left home. My best guess is that this is due to occasional inaccurate GPS readings which, momentarily, locate me far enough from my true home location so as to trigger the re-entry event once the accuracy improves again. It might be possible to reduce the likelihood of this happening by choosing a larger radius for the trigger area – I’ll experiment with this further over time.

 

Note that a common factor in the cons of these automation methods is the lack of ability to combine triggers. After all, it seems a fairly basic need to have your lights to come on automatically only once it is already dark. As the IFTTT system does not allow you to combine triggers from different channels, it seems that the only way to achieve this would be for LIFX to make an addition to their own IFTTT channel by adding an extra trigger condition i.e. whether or not it is currently daytime or night-time at your given location. I will be bringing this post to their attention. If you agree with me on this one – and it does seem to be a crucial issue for allowing LIFX bulbs to achieve more of their true potential – then please let them know you want this too: Submit request to LIFX

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