Light bulbs George Jetson never dreamed of

Matthew Grocoff

December 11, 2012

By: Matthew Grocoff, Green Renovation Expert

In: ElectricalGreen Living

With over 1,000 vendors at the USGBC's Greenbuild International Expo and Conference there was no shortage of exciting technology to improve comfort while lowering energy bills. But there was one cool game-changing product that caught my eye.

Philips Hue Master LED

Hue from Philips

In the "oh this is cooler than brass monkey on a snowy day" category, nothing beats this exciting technology from Philips. Imagine light bulbs that use very little energy, are totally dim-able, can change to any color you like, can be operated from your iPhone, can help you fall asleep and wake up. George Jetson never had it so good.

I've written before about how choosing the right light bulb can impact your mood. With Hue light bulbs you can change the actual color temperature of the bulb. This means that you can choose light that is best suited for any time of day. At night, you want light that mimics candle flame (warm bulbs). But, when you're working or studying, you want bulbs that mimic sunlight and help you concentrate. In the morning you want light that rises slowly and changes color like the sunrise.

Time-of-day lighting

Until about one hundred and fifty years ago the rhythms of day and night, sunrise and sunset were gentle and graceful. Now you can mimic nature by using your smart phone or tablet to program your lights to change color and brightness based on the time of day. As the sun rises, your lights can slowly turn on and brighten while changing color to match outdoor light. Rather than having the alarm go off and flipping on a 100 watt bulb, you can welcome your day a little more gracefully.

To help you (or your young children!) fall asleep, you can set the bulbs to slowly dim and becoming warming (and thus more relaxing) over the course of minutes or hours. The light changes imperceptibly and can help let that melatonin kick in that allows you to fall asleep.

This may be one of the ways where I think technology can help us with biophilic design. Technology often distracts from nature and disrupts the ryhthms of our day. When used thoughtfully, color dimming technology can provide indoor comfort that mimics the environment in which we evolved.

lighting from Philips Hue

Romance lighting

Want to get a little romantic? Then crank up the Barry White, snap that remote control fire place and set your Hue to a soothing color with a little red hue. You can access default settings on your smart device to create relaxing or energizing ambiance.

An unnecessary but wonderfully wonky feature is the ability to upload photos from your smart device and select a color from the photo that you want your bulbs to glow. If you love that gorgeous pink sky from the vacation beach photo -- you can select one of the cotton candy clouds and drag it into the color selector on the app. The selecting bulbs automatically change to that color.

iPhone app screenshot for Philips Hue

Security lighting

You can now say goodbye to those silly plastic dial timers that you plug into your bedside lamp while you're on vacation. Hue bulbs can be programmed to turn on and off during random times in different rooms. With the blinds closed no one will know whether it's you or the HAL 3000 controlling the lights.

Philips Hue starter pack

If you were wondering what to get me for Christmas . . . wink, wink. They are $199 for a starter pack of 3 bulbs and the Hue Bridge -- which connects up to 50 bulbs to your WiFi router. For now, Hue is available only through the Apple Store. But, I suspect soon you'll see them just about everywhere.


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