Stack Lighting BR30 Downlight Starter Kit: A Smarter Smart-Bulb
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The problem with many of today’s smart bulbs is that they’re really not that smart. My home already has light switches. I walk into a room and flip the switch. I walk out and flip it again. It’s pretty easy. Moving the switch to my smartphone doesn’t really make my life any easier. Any smart bulb that I want to buy is going to have to bring a little more to the table and that’s what Stack would like to do.
Stack Light Specs.
- Beam angle of 120 degrees
- uses a maximum of 13 watts of power
- luminosity is rated at 750 lumens
- rated for 30,000 hours
- color temperature range is 2700-6500K
- 2-year warranty
- BR30 bulb format
Stack Lighting is trying to make a truly smart bulb by making it totally autonomous. The lights turn on when you’re there and turn off when you’re not. They use very little power and last a very long time. They might even improve your mood and help you get to sleep at night! Now, those are some features that could convince me to buy.
Stack lights use Zigbee wireless protocol so they need a hub to talk to your internet router. The kit comes with a hub and two Stack B30 smart bulbs. Plug the hub into your router. Then screw in the bulbs. They are designed to work in recessed ceiling cans with a diameter of 5 inches or greater. Once everything is plugged in and screwed in, use the mobile app to set them up and control them or let them control themselves. Easy peasy.
The Stack lights are not your ordinary light bulbs. They are equipped with Zigbee wireless communication, a motion sensor, and a light sensor. And, oh yeah, they still make light too. The lights use these tools to do some cool things most lights can’t.
The motion sensor allows the lights to automatically turn on when you enter a room and turn off when you leave. Once the sensor is triggered, a timer starts and if the sensor is not triggered again, the lights will shut off when the timer runs out. The timer is manually adjustable in the app. Or, you can leave the timer alone and Stack will try to change it itself by learning your habits.
Unfortunately, the motion sensors may not be as sensitive as you might like. If you happen to be watching TV or reading or even eating, the sensors may not be triggered. You’ll have to stand up or wave your arms to keep from eating in the dark. You could also go into the app and switch the lights to “on”, but if that’s the case, wouldn’t it just be easier to flip a wall switch?
Ambient Light Sensing
The Stack lights will adjust their intensity based on the amount of light already present in the room. My initial thought is that this would mean the light would be really bright at night and dim during the day. But, it’s actually the opposite. Less light is needed at night to noticeably brighten a room.
There is also “night mode” which is probably more accurately called sleep mode. This shuts the lights off. But, if they are triggered by motion, they will come on at a very low setting. This makes Stack lights the perfect night lights. They will give you enough light so you don’t stub your toe, but not so much that you spend the next hour trying to fall back asleep.
Light Temperature Adjustments
The app allows you to choose different “scenes” which will adjust the light temperature. If the lights are set to the “auto” scene, they will start the day a bright blue-white color. As the day goes on, the light will turn to a softer yellowish light. The purpose of the color changing is to be more in sync with your body’s Circadian rhythm.
To be clear, these lights to not actually change their hue, like the Philips Hue bulbs. You cannot get purple, pink, green or any other exotic color with the Stack lights.
Stack Lighting has made a considerable effort to make their product compatible with other smart home mainstays such as Nest, IFTTT, and Amazon Echo.
Works With Nest
Stack uses the motion sensors built into the bulbs to work with Nest. You can tell the Stack app if a certain room is feeling too warm or too cold. The Nest thermostat will then adjust the temperature accordingly when you are in those rooms. The Nest thermostat can also use the motion sensors to help decide if you are home or away.
They also work with the Nest smoke alarm, Nest Protect. Connect Stack lights to the Nest Protect and they will flash during an alarm event.
Alexa, Meet Stack
Control your lights with your voice using Amazon Echo. Just say, “Alexa, dim the lights to 30%” and poof, instant mood lighting. This is the only command available for now, but I’m hoping that more will be coming in the future.
IFTTT (If This Then That)
IFTTT is a DIY geek’s dream come true and your Stack lights will be compatible. Create your own recipes or choose from existing ones. You could even use IFTTT to create custom commands for Alexa.
Stack Lights Are Durable And Efficient
Stack lights are LED lights. LED lights last way longer than your average light bulb of the recent past. These lights are rated for 30,000 hours (more about the benefits of LED lights). This means you could run them all day every day for 3.5 years and not expect them to fail.
Of course, it’s unlikely you’ll leave your lights on ALL the time. If you use them an average of 8 hours/day, they should last over 10 years.
I suspect that the sensor technology will become obsolete long before the lights fail. However, just in case they do, Stack does give you a 2-year warranty.
LED lights are also low power. Stack B30 Downlights use a maximum of 13 watts of power and put out 750 lumens. This is roughly an equivalent amount of light to a 60W incandescent bulb at less than 22% of the electricity cost.
Running a Stack light at full power for a year straight would cost about $17 if your electricity costs $0.15/kWh. Stack did a study and found that during typical operation, Stack smart bulbs on average, operated at less than 60% of their maximum power. So if you use lights for a more reasonable 8 hours/day at an average intensity of 60% capacity, the total cost per year would be about $3.40 per light. Not bad.
TheSmartCave Official Opinion
The only drawback I see right now is the limitation of the motion sensors. This isn’t really a knock against just Stack. Motion activated lights, in general, are often fooled by “low motion” activities such as reading or watching TV. This is one reason why I think integration with voice control is a big deal. When the motion sensors fail, you can use your voice.
I can see Stack lights working great in hallways, kitchens, closets and bathrooms. They may prove to be less effective in rooms where you tend to sit still for long periods. However, even though you may have to resort to some manual control, you can still benefit from the color changing and energy saving features.
Stack Lighting is trying to create the ultimate smart bulb and they are off to a great start. For such a young company, they have built some great connections with major players in the smart home market. They have also built a long-lasting, energy efficient product and outfitted it with some cool features.
I love getting comments from my readers. If you have any thoughts about Stack lights or smart bulbs, let me know in the comments below!