5 reasons to add Philips Hue bulbs to your smart home

Philips Hue

Philips Hue bulbs truly add the “smart” to “smart home”.

For the last few years I’ve been attempting to turn my home into a “smart home”. Some of the products I have added or tested have been great, while others have had constant issues or just didn’t live up to the hype. My latest addition, the Philips Hue connected LED bulb, blows every other “smart” thing out of the water. Here’s five reasons why.

Easy to setup

For my review Philips sent me the Hue White Ambiance A19 Starter Kit. This kit consists of two connected bulbs, a bridge and a remote. Hook the bridge up to your router via an Ethernet cable, screw the bulbs into the light fixtures you want them in, download the app and you’re up and running (seriously, the setup took about 10 minutes in total).

Works with everything

There is nothing more infuriating than not being able to control a “smart” device the way you want. One of the standout features of the Philips Hue bulbs is it can be controlled from almost everything. The Wink Relay works with it as does Amazon’s Echo device (still not available in Canada) and it’s compatible with Apple HomeKit (meaning you can tell Siri to turn lights on and off). It also works with Nest (lights turn on when thermostat is in “Away” mode and turn on if your smoke detector goes off) and can also be controlled via the Harmony Ultimate One remote.

Total control

Along with it working with everything I threw at it, the Hue app gives you total control of the bulbs. You can set routines for the bulbs to turn on and off, change the brightness level (“Dimmed” is great for watching Stranger Things on Netflix) and even change the colour (only if you have a colour Hue bulb). The supplied remote (which can also be mounted to the wall) can be programmed and both the Android and iOS app are easy to use. You can also control it via certain wearables, like the Apple Watch, and use the IFTTT app with it. There’s also third-party apps available that opens up the potential of Hue even further.

RELATED: Nest aims to make your home safer with new outdoor camera

Great bulb

My entire house has been updated to LED bulbs and the Philips Hue bulbs give off some of the best light out of the bunch. The White Ambiance bulbs range between 2000K and 6500K, giving you the ability to have warm or cold light depending on your mood. They’re 800 lumens, use only 10.5 watts and can last up to 25,000 hours (comparable to most LED bulbs these days). Because you can dim them via the bulb there is also no need for expensive dimmer switches, which sometimes cause LED bulbs to hum.

Expandable

Philips makes a range of Hue bulbs and up to 50 bulbs can run off of one bridge. I’ve already purchased extra bulbs for around my house and added some colour ones to the mix (having my lights outside turn orange for Halloween or red and green for Christmas is going to be awesome). There’s also Hue light strips available, which are perfect for under kitchen cabinets.

RELATED: Netatmo Weather Station review: Cool device; far from perfect

Final thoughts

The initial cost of adding Philips Hue bulbs is a bit shocking (the starter kit I was sent is about $129.99) but once you see the control they give you you’ll realize it’s well worth the investment. I honestly don’t know how I survived this long without them.

Are you a fan of Philips Hue bulbs? Use something similar? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

Netatmo Weather Station review: Cool device; far from perfect

Netatmo Weather Station

The Netatmo Weather Station is a cool “smart” device, but lacks a lot of features that would make it a must-have item.

The Netatmo Weather Station is the first personal home weather station I’ve used and from what I read beforehand, I expected a full featured connected home device. And while it has many great qualities, it lacks in a few critical areas. Here are my thoughts on the device after playing with it for a few weeks.

What is the Netatmo Weather Station?

The Netatmo Weather Station is a personal home weather station that connects via your Android or iOS device. The base kit consists of an indoor base station and an outdoor module that can detect heat, humidity, air pressure, air quality and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. The indoor base station can also monitor those things as well as noise levels. Accessories like a rain gauge and a wind gauge can be added to give a user more information.

BELOW: Watch as I unbox the Netatmo Weather Station and its accessories

Setting up the Netatmo Weather Station

The indoor base station plugs into a wall outlet to get power and needs to be somewhere close enough to the outside module. Once it’s booted, you use the app to connect it to your home Wi-Fi and set it up. The outdoor module requires AAA batteries and needs to be mounted in a location that it won’t get wet or be in direct sunlight. It needs to be positioned close enough to the indoor base station for the two to sync. Getting those working together was a fairly simple task.

Netatmo Weather Station

The Netatmo Weather Station outdoor module mounted to my house.

Where I had issues was when connecting the rain gauge and wind gauge accessories. Both use AAA batteries and both need to be near the indoor base station as well. After a few hiccups, the rain gauge synced and I found a good spot to mount it where it could collect rain and still be in range. I fought with the wind gauge for about an hour and never got it to connect. I packed it up and never bothered trying it again as it was too frustrating.

Using the Netatmo Weather Station

Once the Netatmo Weather Station is set-up it pretty much runs itself. The app will notify you when CO2 levels are over 1,000 ppm or when there is a large amount of rain collected. You can of course load the app to check conditions whenever you want. The main indoor base station also lights up with different colours if CO2 levels are high.

What I liked about the Netatmo Weather Station

For the most part, the Netatmo Weather Station is a slick-looking “smart home” device that has a lot of information to offer. From the packaging to the slim design of the base station and outdoor module, it feels very much like an Apple product. I liked the fact the outdoor module and accessories took batteries and didn’t rely on house power. The app (I tested both the Android and iOS version) is well designed and I discovered having a super local forecast in my backyard really does make a difference. There’s also a nice weather map feature that shows other Netatmo Weather Station readings from around the world.

What I didn’t like about the Netatmo Weather Station

Besides not being able to get the wind gauge to work, I was irked that it and the rain gauge didn’t include a mounting bracket and that Netatmo sells the bracket as a separate accessory. I only had one bracket in my review kit, meaning that even if I got the wind gauge to work I would have had to decide on what accessory to use as I could only use one. This is a bit sneaky on Netatmo’s part in my opinion. Also, no matter how tight I had the bracket, the rain gauge tipped over a few times during heavy downpours making it seem like there was no rain at all.

Netatmo Weather Station

The Netatmo Weather Station rain gauge accessory mounted on my fence.

I was also disappointed with the lack of integration with other “smart home” devices, such as the Nest Learning Thermostat and Wink Relay. Both of these would make the Netatmo Weather Station a much more valuable tool for the connected home.

How the Netatmo Weather Station could be better

It would be great if the Netatmo Weather Station included a wall-mounted display panel as having to always load an app is a bit tiresome, especially when there’s a whole family involved. This could easily be solved if it could integrate with other devices better, such as the Wink Relay. I would also like the ability to have the Netatmo data sync with other weather apps. I also think that the wind gauge and rain gauge could be merged into one unit for space and cost savings.

Final thoughts

The Netatmo Weather Station is a cool “smart” device, but with the lack of a wall display and no integration with my other devices, it’s not an essential tool for my connected home and I won’t be running out to buy one anytime soon. It did open my eyes to the potential of having a personal weather station though and I do now want one.

The Netatmo Weather Station base package retails for $179.99. The rain gauge is an extra $79.99 and the wind gauge runs for $99.99 (the mounting bracket is $24.99). An additional indoor module is also available for $79.99. For more information, visit netatmo.com.

Do you use a Netatmo or other connected weather station at home? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

WeMo devices now work with the Nest thermostat

WeMo works with Nest

The WeMo line of connected switches and plugs now works with Google’s Nest thermostat.

Belkin announced Tuesday that its line of WeMo connected light switches and wall plugs now works with Google’s Nest thermostat.

WeMo users can control basic functions of the Nest thermostat via the latest version of the WeMo app (1.15) for both Android and iOS devices. This eliminates the need to switch between two apps in order to check or adjust the temperature of your home (you can also switch between heat and A/C, see the inside humidity and shut-off your furnace).

RELATED: A look at Belkin’s WeMo Switch (and who should be using it)

Rules can also be created now to turn off lights or devices connected to WeMo switches and plugs when the Nest is in “away” mode or to have lights or devices turn on when the Nest knows you’re home.

WeMo products that work with Nest include the WeMo Switch, WeMo Insight Switch, WeMo Light Switch and WeMo Maker.

For those interested in “smart home” technology this news has been a long time coming. Having all your connected devices able to talk to each other makes for a seamless connected home experience that requires a lot less effort and energy to run.

How to introduce your WeMo to your Nest

To get WeMo devices talking with Nest you must have the latest version of the WeMo app (1.15) installed and your WeMo devices and Nest must be setup on your home network and working.

From the WeMo app click the “more” (or gear) button and then press the “connect to Nest” button. Follow the steps to finish setting up the WeMo-Nest introduction.

Once your Nest is synced you’ll be able to see it and control it from within the WeMo app.

Are you excited that WeMo and Nest now work together? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

3 ‘smart’ home devices to get excited for in 2016

Smart Home 2016

2016 looks promising for “smart” home devices.

I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to “smart home” devices. I like to be able to control and monitor every system of my house from wherever I am. If I end up staying out late I know I can turn on or off lights or adjust the thermostat via my cellphone. If a friend needs to borrow a tool from the garage, I can open it for them remotely and ensure it is closed after. These devices also help make my home safer and I like having peace of mind that if carbon monoxide is detected my furnace will automatically be turned off or if I leave my front door unlocked I’ll be alerted and can lock it from the road.

There’s now a “smart” device available for every room of the house it seems. I recently reviewed a connected Crock-Pot that Belkin makes. There’s a Bluetooth frying pan on the market and a toilet you can control via your smartphone. With many more of these devices coming in 2016, here’s three that have me excited.

Ooma Telo

It’s been a long time since I’ve had the need or wanted a landline at home. As my children get older though (and my wife breaks iPhones faster than Apple releases them) it’s one of those things I have been considering again for safety reasons and the Ooma Telo has piqued my interest.

The Ooma Telo is a VoIP device (meaning it uses your Internet connection to make calls) and has a very low monthly service fee for basic service in Canada. Besides having great rates for international and U.S. calling, the “smart” aspect of it comes into play as it works with the Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Protect. It will automatically forward your home number to your mobile number when it detects you are away and will alert you if the Nest Protect senses smoke or carbon monoxide. It will also send a message to your cellphone if someone at home has called 911.

The call quality and standard features, such as voicemail and a smartphone app, are also supposed to be excellent.

For more information on the Ooma Telo, visit ooma.com.

dbell Wi-Fi Smart Video Doorbell

Just as “smart” locks were all the rage a couple of years ago, 2016 is shaping up to be the year of the “smart” doorbell. There are many options on the market (the Skybell and August Doorbell are two of the more popular ones) but the one I’m most excited for is the dbell Wi-Fi smart video doorbell.

Based out of Oakville, Ontario, dbell has made a low-cost video doorbell that will alert you via an app on your iOS or Android device when someone is at your door. You can communicate live with people remotely (even if they don’t ring the doorbell their motion will be enough to alert you they are at the door) and you can even have it unlock specific door locks. The dbell can also be used to give you a live view so you can monitor the front of your house whenever you wish. Oh, and it can also connect to your existing doorbell chime or an optional wireless chime so that it works as a regular doorbell.

dbell Wi-Fi video doorbell

The dbell comes in three different colours.

Rumour has it there’s a big update coming from dbell this year to add even more functionality to the device.

For more information on the dbell Wi-Fi smart video doorbell, visit dbell.ca.

Ecovent

Being able to control the temperature of each room of your house not only creates a more comfortable environment for the whole family but it’s also more economical. The Ecovent gives you this capability.

The Ecovent replaces the floor, ceiling or wall register in a room and along with a “smart sensor” wall plug can detect the temperature. Using a smartphone app you will then be able to control the Ecovent to set the desired temperature of that room. The Ecovent will then open or close to allow more or less air into the room to get to the set temperature.

The Ecovent works with a Nest or Sensi thermostat. Unfortunately the cost of outfitting an entire house is currently in the thousands but the price should come down as the device is marketed wider in 2016.

For more info on the Ecovent, visit ecoventsystems.com.

What “smart” home devices are you looking forward to in 2016? Share your thoughts in the comments below.