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Smart bulbs, Home Assistant, and exterior lighting!
8/18/19 update: Still loving these bulbs.
Why smart bulbs vs smart switch?
- Ease of install – simply screw in the bulb. No wiring required. In addition, you may not be able to use a smart switch because there isn’t enough space in the switch box, no neutral, or perhaps you have many dual switches on a single gang
- Cheaper (depending on setup) – smart bulbs are getting cheaper – $5-$10 a bulb. A smart switch is $30+. If a switch controls less than 3 bulbs, smart bulbs may be cheaper. Yes the bulbs will eventually burn out, but LEDs should last 20+ years
- Dimmable – in case you don’t have a dimmable switch
- Precision control – each bulb can be individually controlled. This could be nice in certain situations such as only lighting portions of a room. Or scaring the neighbors by having random bulbs going off outside.
However, there is one big downfall to smart bulbs. The switch controlling power to the bulbs has to be on at all times. This means that you can’t use the switch to control the light. You can turn it off, but then you won’t be able to control the switch. For my setup, I use smart bulb in situations where the lights are fully automated and I don’t need the switch to control them often such as exterior lighting.
Sengled E11-G13 Zigbee Bulbs
I’ve been using Sengled E11-G13 Zigbee Smart Light Bulbs, and I’ve been very pleased. I use these for my exterior lighting and ceiling fans that don’t have a wall switch. They pair perfectly with Home Assistant and are fully automated using sunrise and sunset to turn on/off daily. In addition, I only light up certain exterior lights depending on the day of the week. I live in the northern US and subzero temps are common – these bulbs still operate just fine. Depending on the sale, these bulbs are as low as $5-$10 a piece from amazon.
One downfall of the bulbs is that they are not zigbee repeaters (range extenders). However this is easily remedied by getting a zigbee extender. I’m using the Iris Smart Plug because not only is it a zigbee repeater and controllable outlet, it can also act as a Z-Wave repeater. NOTE: The Iris product line has been discontinued as of early 2019
Connecting with Home Assistant
Iris Smart Plug & Zigbee + Z-Wave Repeater
These are zigbee bulbs which I was originally concerned about, however I’ve had zero issues pairing these with HA on my Raspberry Pi.
To sync with Home Assistant, you need to have the zigbee component added to your config file. It’s very easy; only 3 lines need to be added to you config – see: https://www.home-assistant.io/components/zha/.
Note: this is also a “zigbee” component in HA. As I understand, this is outdated. Use the “zha” component.
Zigbee isn’t as formalized in HA as Zwave (you don’t have a fancy control panel), but they are a breeze to add. Simply go into HA, in the developer tools in the menu on the left, click on the services button. Here run the zha.permit service. Then screw in your bulb and power it on. You’ll know the bulb is connected when it will dim to a low brightness and back up again a few times. You can plug the bulb in first before calling the zha.permit service, but you run the risk of someone else linking to your bulb! This would only be an issue possible in a multi-unit home.
Once the device is added, it will show up on your Home tab in HA if you have discovery turned on. It’ll have a default name of “sengledE11G13”, but this can easily be renamed.
Also a newer great feature in HA is light grouping. This is similar to the default grouping in HA that can group any entity, but this light grouping simplifies things for lights. It allows you to create a new light entity that is composed of other lights. If done correctly, you’ll see just one entity for multiple bulbs. For example if you have a bulb on either side of your garage, chances are that you’ll typically want them both on or both off. Using light grouping will make your interface simpler and easier for the family to understand. You still can control each light individually if you desire.
I’ll update this post with any other items I notice with these bulbs and outlets. I’ve been using them for a few months now without issue and having the exterior lighting on the house fully automated is great.