The WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set ($100) is the newest entry in Belkin’s lineup of home automation products that began two years ago with its WeMo Switch and WeMo Switch + Motion (iLounge Rating: B), and has been more recently expanding into everything from crock pots to humidifiers. While Belkin originally planned to stick to a “no screwdriver” rule with its WeMo devices to guarantee a solution that was easy for the average person to install and use, it was forced to depart from that with last year’s WeMo Light Switch (iLounge Rating: B) in response to customer demand for more comprehensive solutions. Now, however, Belkin goes back to WeMo’s roots with a lighting solution that is both functional and easy to install.
The LED Lighting Starter Set includes two Smart LED bulbs that can be screwed into any standard light fixture along with Belkin’s new WeMo Link bridge that plugs into a standard wall receptacle, providing connectivity between the bulbs and the Wi-Fi network. Additional bulbs can be purchased separately for $30 each, and the system provides support for up to 50 bulbs on a single WeMo Link. The bulbs produce 800 lumens of output—equivalent to a 60 W incandescent bulb, with a similarly warmish light temperature. The bulbs are the shape and size of a standard incandescent bulb, and we had no problem installing them in any of our standard light fixtures.
Much like the original WeMo Switch, setting the system up is straightforward; simply plug the WeMo Link into an available outlet, screw the bulbs into standard light sockets, and then fire up the free WeMo app and follow the on-screen instructions to link the system into your home Wi-Fi network. Once the bulbs are installed, any accompanying light switches must then remain on, since the lighting is controlled within the bulb itself and not at the switch. Unlike other WeMo devices, however, the bulbs default to an “on” state, which quite handily allows a bulb to be switched on in the traditional manner simply by toggling a light switch from off to on. Unfortunately, turning the light off afterwards will require a trip to the WeMo app if you want it to remain accessible on the network.
Those users familiar with the WeMo ecosystem will find that Belkin takes a slightly different approach here due to the introduction of the WeMo Link; the app effectively pairs with the Link and then goes out to discover available bulbs from there, presenting an additional setup screen. Once the initial setup is complete, additional bulbs can be even more easily added simply by selecting the “Add WeMo Link Devices” option from within the app.
Unlike other WeMo devices, the Smart LED Bulbs can be controlled individually or grouped in the app to be controlled together—useful for situations where you might be using two or more bulbs in a single light fixture, or if you want to create different lighting zones within your home. The app offers a brief tutorial on how to do this the first time you setup the system, as the feature is straightforward but not otherwise obvious—you need to go into edit mode on your WeMo device list and then drag-and-drop bulbs on top of each other to create groupings. A more intuitive way to do this would be a good idea here — Belkin should at least give users the ability to review the tutorial in the event they missed or skipped it.
Belkin has also added dimmer capabilities to the Smart LED Lighting system; the bulbs fade in and out gradually when simply toggled on and off, or users can set the desired intensity for each bulb or group of bulbs with a slider. As with the WeMo Switch, rules can be configured to turn bulbs on or off based on time of day, duration, sunrise/sunset, or external events such as motion from a WeMo sensor. However, with the LED Light Bulbs, users can also choose to set the target intensity for when the bulb comes on as well as choosing from pre-set fade-in and fade-out durations of 1, 5, 15, or 30 minutes. A Sleep Timer feature is also available allowing users to gradually fade a bulb out instead of turning it off right away. The only downside here is that IFTTT integration—the ability to trigger WeMo devices from external web-based services—has not yet arrived for the Smart LED Bulbs, although Belkin notes that its working with IFTTT to bring this to fruition in the “very near future.”
While we’re not so convinced about the utility of some of WeMo’s more fringe solutions like crock pots, we generally have been quite impressed with what the company has done with its core WeMo lineup in terms of switches and lighting. The WeMo LED Lighting system does a nice job of taking this to the next level, allowing for a relatively approachable home automation solution with new options that users have been looking for. This also has the tangible benefit of being integrated into Belkin’s larger WeMo ecosystem, allowing you to control other WeMo devices from a single app, take advantage of triggers based on WeMo motion sensors and sunrise/sunset times, and control your lights even when you’re away from home. The only real strike against the solution, as always, is the price; $30 per bulb comes in at about twice the price of normal “dumb” LED bulbs—a cost that of course is multiplied depending on how thoroughly you want to equip your home. That said, it’s also half the cost of other iOS LED bulb solutions we’ve looked at, such as the Bluebulb and the popular Philips Hue bulbs, making it a considerably more affordable option for users who don’t want to pay a premium simply for lights that change color.
Company and Price
Models: WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set
Compatible: iPhone 3GS to 6 Plus, iPod touch 4G/5G, iPad 2 to Air, All iPad minis