Belkin WeMo Lighting
Belkin WeMo is a whole family of smart products that can be operated from a single app, allowing you to make coffee, switch your iron off…or your lights on, or check who’s at the front door, all remotely via your phone.
We have been testing out the Belkin WeMo Lighting Starter Set at The Wifi Pad to see if it’s a must have addition to our homes, or just another at-home foot spa waiting to languish unused in a cupboard for the rest of time.
Our rating: 7/10
Amazon rating: 3.6 out of 5 stars
Hit and miss. It’s easy to see why there are such polarised reviews online about WeMo smart lighting. After trying them out in the first of our test homes we were virtually fully signed up members of the WeMo fan club. Simple set up, reliable connection, reasonable light quality, impressive energy efficiency and nice additional touches – like the fade in/out, what’s not to like?
But then we tried them again in a different Wifi Pad home where we had nothing short of a mare with these lights. The link between app and lights dropped on a frustratingly regular basis requiring a manual reset – problematic if you are on a sun lounger in Greece at the time.
It seems that the reliability of WeMo is highly dependant on your wifi set-up at home – for two-thirds of you it’ll work perfectly – and with the other benefits that WeMo offers, those odds might well be good enough to convince you to give them a go…there is always the returns policy if it turns out you are one of the third of households that just don’t seem to be WeMo compatible.
App is extremely easy to use
Energy efficiency/electricity saving
‘Link’ does not need to plug into your route
Useful for holiday security
Not easy to quickly turn off/on
Dropped connections result in no control
Rules wouldn’t sync between our devices
Incompatibility with some wifi set-ups
Review score summary:
In our first test home WeMo set-up went like clockwork, the instructions were simple to follow and everything worked first time. So, when we tried again in a second home we weren’t anticipating any problems. We were wrong…
It all got off to another flying start: download the WeMo app, swap the current light bulbs in the lights you want to control for WeMo smart bulbs – we had one in a living room lamp and the other in the bedroom ceiling fitting, plug in the WeMo Link to any central wall socket, switch on the Link, open your WiFi setting and connect to the WeMo Link, then add the two smart bulbs in the app. And you are good to go….
Only my phone failed to locate the WeMo Link the first time around, cue restarting the whole process including taking the light bulbs out again. Second time it worked and all was good in the lighting world. For a bit…
Based on own first test where everything went according to the rulebook, there was lots to like about WeMo. It made lighting our house for the couple of hours before we got home from work a doddle (also reducing the energy bill as we didn’t have to leave a light on all day), we really liked being able to fade in light over 15 mins in the morning, so much nicer than an alarm clock, or a toddler jumping on your face (sadly, it doesn’t actually prevent toddlers jumping on your face, but having them do it in mellow lighting feels like a more relaxing kind of assault). And when we went away for the weekend, using the ‘away’ setting – which intermittently turns the different lights on for periods of time like someone is at home, was very reassuring. However…
In our second test location, the WeMo smart lighting set was let down by periodic dropping of the connection to the bulbs – leaving us with phases where they were either stuck on, or off, unless you resorted to the old-fashioned wall switch approach – which obviously defeats the object. And twice in our test period we had to reset the whole system, Link AND bulbs in order to re-establish the connection.
But the bigger issue for us was the fact that we couldn’t get the three phones/tablets used in our test to operate together in controlling the lights. Our Apple phone and Apple tablet were in sync, so rules created on one, appeared in the app of the other. But our Android device did not want to play with the other two and as a result they were overriding each other’s settings. A quick glance online shows that others have successfully had multiple controllers operating and sharing rules, so this clearly isn’t an issue for all phones, but for some reason it was for our Apple and HTC devices.
This is a software problem and is a pity as when WeMo is installed on just the one phone we were pretty impressed with it and would certainly have considered it a useful addition to our home – we can’t help thinking a cloud based control would work better for multiple users.
On the plus side, the app is extremely simple to use allowing you to control individual bulbs or group of bulbs, and create rules for on, off, or on until a specified time. You could choose the brightness of the bulb for each rule allowing you to have a low level lighting that is set to fade out completely over 10 minutes when you go to bed, or a 15 minute fade in to bright light in the morning when you want to usher in consciousness at a sedate pace. However this only controls the amount of light, rather than offering different shades of white light like you get with the coloured smart lighting bulb.
It was easy to create, activate or deactivate rules, and change the name of bulbs so you can easily recognise them.
When used in a secondary light source, like a lamp, WeMo is great, you can set rules for the times and settings you normally want, meaning you can mostly leave it to it’s own devices. In fact you only have to get involved via the app when doing something different to your norm, like going on holiday (away setting), or increasing or decreasing the brightness for a specific time or event like watching a movie (dimmer lights) or building a scale model of the Shard out of matchsticks (brighter lights).
However, for the smart bulb that we’d used in our bedroom ceiling, it suddenly felt extremely inconvenient. Popping into the bedroom to look for something became an event: locate phone, take phone to bedroom, open app, turn on light, turn up brightness, locate item, turn off light via app, close app, and so on. Even more annoying was when you remembered a second item you needed just minutes later.
The solution is leaving lights on the whole time you are at home, but this just feels wrong (even if it is my kid’s approach to things) and is hardly going to deliver the energy saving smart lighting has the potential to bring about. Or, which may be WeMo’s master plan, getting a WeMo motion detector so your lights come on automatically as you enter the room.
Alternatively, and more cost effectively, by using your smart bulbs in supplementary lamps, you will get all the benefits of WeMo but can still quickly flick your overhead lights on and off without the drama, grab whatever item you need, and avoid sending your smart lighting system into connectivity meltdown.
Overlooking the connectivity issues we had on one of our tests – which only some people seem to experience, and assuming we used these bulbs where we found them most useful, in secondary lamps rather than the main ceiling light we think the WeMo lighting starter kit offers pretty good value for money. In reality it’s safe to say you could achieve some of the benefits of smart lighting with diligent use of a mains timer, but smart lighting is for anyone looking for the next level of lighting control via a less old-school method.
For the £80 cost of the starter kit (which gets you the WeMo Link and two bulbs) which has a life-span of 23-odd years, we’d say this was a worthwhile investment. It is among the most energy efficient of the smart lighting brands delivering 800 lumens of light off of only 9.5 Watts, the equivalent of an old school 60W bulb but using just 10% of the energy. The maths shows that you will cover the cost of your kit in the first year and then have 22 more years of significant savings to make after that when compared with non-programmable, regular bulbs.
And not having the panic from your sun lounger than you forgot to leave a light on when you left for your holiday? As the popular advert goes….pretty bloomin’ marvellous.
Any other business?
It’s worth adding that visually the WeMo bulbs ticked our boxes. Personally we prefer that our lightbulbs aren’t jazz-handing as the visual centrepiece of a room, so it was a relief to find that, unlike some other brands on the market, WeMo bulbs are a lesson in design subtlety.
And the plug-in WeMo Link, which unlike other smart lighting brands does not need to be connected directly to your router, is equally discrete. When working properly it won’t have any lights on, it’s only during start-up or if something is wrong that the lights appear. It only occurred to me how unusual the lack of lights was in any kind of tech gadget when – assuming the connection had failed – I found myself checking the instructions for the third time to see why the Link wasn’t lit up like a christmas tree. A pleasant change from all the flashing and blinking that happens in all corners of The Wifi Pad on a permanent basis.