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.

Cinch! – the solar-powered pop-up tent you’re going to want

Cinch! tent

If you thought a tent couldn’t be exciting, you haven’t met the Cinch! yet.

UPDATE: The Cinch! Kickstarter is now live.

A pop-up tent that can be setup in seconds, has solar power capabilities, LED lights and is fully waterproof? Meet the Cinch!

Unlike any other tent on the market, creator Jake Jackson launched the Cinch! in 2009 for a small group of festival-goers because he wanted a tent campers could trust. He has expanded production each year since and now has a customer base around the world, including in Canada.

RELATED: Charge your smartphone with a solar patio umbrella

“I’ve been a keen camper for nearly 30 years, and I’ve never found an all-round tent that’s perfect for my needs and those of my friends in the camping community,” Jackson said in a media release. “It often seems that essentials like convenience and comfort, or quality and price, are mutually-exclusive in the tent market. I don’t think we should compromise on those basic ingredients, and I want to give my fellow campers a product they can really trust.”

Other features of the latest Cinch! incarnation include tent pegs with LED lights, reflective guylines, flexible fibreglass poles, an extendable canopy (which increases living space by 75 per cent), two entrances and loads of storage. A 13,000 mAh solar power bank that can charge a smartphone up to six times and a heat reflector are optional items that can be added.

Cinch! solar bank

A 13,000 mAh solar power bank that can charge a smartphone up to six times is an option that can be added to the Cinch! tent.

Available in two, three and four person models, Jackson claims the four person Cinch! is the largest tent in its class. He says it can be setup in seconds and taken down and packed into a disc-shaped rucksack in under a minute. It also only weighs 19 lbs, making it a great option for portaging.

RELATED: 5 tips for portaging with kids

In order to make the latest version of the Cinch! a reality, Jackson is turning to Kickstarter.

“I’m using Kickstarter for two main reasons,” Jackson said in the release. “Firstly to keep costs as low as possible for my customers – so they don’t have to pick up the bill for things like borrowing capital. But more immediately, to test the water and see if there’s an appetite for it – so I need to reach as many camping fanatics as possible during the Kickstarter campaign!”

If you’re as interested in the Cinch! as I am, you can make a pledge on Kickstarter beginning next week now. If the campaign raises the £20,000 (roughly CDN$35,000) Jackson needs by Thursday, Sept. 8, the Cinch! will immediately go into production and ship in early 2017 (in time for next year’s camping season).

For more information on the Cinch! and to find out details of the Kickstarter campaign, visit cinchpopuptents.co.uk.

Are you excited for the Cinch! tent? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

New saveONenergy coupons available for 2016

saveONenergy

The 2016 saveONenergy coupons are here.

Residents in Ontario, Canada looking to make their homes more energy-efficient in 2016 can save some money with the help of new saveONenergy coupons.

The coupons, available to download and print from saveonenergy.ca, lower the cost of ENERGY STAR certified LED and CFL bulbs and fixtures, as well as select weatherstripping, motion sensors and dimmers, outdoor timers, advanced power bars, clotheslines and more.

Participating retailers include Canadian Tire, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, RONA and Home Hardware (a full list of participating retailers can be found at saveonenergy.ca).

The coupons range in value from $2 for foam and V-strip weatherstripping to $30 for a programmable baseboard thermostat multipack (3 or more). The best value comes from the coupons for ENERGY STAR certified LED bulbs, which offer $3 off general LED bulbs and $5 off specialty LED bulbs.

A list of all the coupons and values offered are below:

  • ENERGY STAR certified general LEDs ($3 coupon)
  • ENERGY STAR certified specialty LEDs ($5 coupon)
  • ENERGY STAR certified LED Multipack ($8 coupon)
  • ENERGY STAR certified specialty CFLs ($3 coupon for single or double packs, $5 coupon for multipacks of 3 or more)
  • ENERGY STAR certified light fixtures ($8 coupon for lights with 1 or 2 sockets, $15 coupon for lights with 3 or more sockets)
  • ENERGY STAR certified ceiling fans ($10 coupon)
  • Lighting control products ($3 coupon for single packs, $6 coupon for multipacks of 2 or more)
  • Weatherstripping ($2 coupon for foam or V-strip, $3 coupon for door frame kits)
  • Electric water heater blanket ($4 coupon)
  • Heavy duty outdoor timers ($4 coupon)
  • Advanced power bars ($4 coupon)
  • Clotheslines ($10 coupon)
  • Baseboard programmable thermostats ($10 coupon for packs of 1 or 2, $30 coupon for multipacks of 3 or more)

Unlike previous years, there are no coupons for pipe insulation offered this time around.

The coupons are valid until Dec. 31, 2016.

For more details on the saveONenergy program and to print your coupons, visit saveonenergy.ca.

Are you more inclined to purchase energy-efficient items when incentives like coupons are offered? Share your thoughts in the comments below.