On the most recent IoT Podcast, our voicemail hotline delivered a 2-for-1 special: We were asked a pair of separate but very related questions about connected outdoor bulbs. First, Dean asked what lights could be used outside given that he lives in Minnesota, where the average winter low temperatures are in the single digits. We follow up Dean’s question with one from Richard, who is looking for a wireless solution he can use with his outdoor bulbs.
Currently, Dean has Hue bulbs indoors and he was gifted three more, which he’s using for outside his garage and home entryways. Hue indoor bulbs can work between -20°C to 45°C (-4°F to 113°F) but they’re not outdoor-rated for moisture, unfortunately.
If Dean’s gifted bulbs are true outdoor PAR38 spotlights, you’d think they’d be our recommendation. Yet, the official specs of Hue’s outdoor spot don’t mention any environmental rating. And the supported temperature range for the outdoor bulbs is the same as the range for Hue’s indoor bulbs. So they’re more than adequate during the Minnesota summers, but a very frigid winter could cause issues.
I say “could cause issues” because I actually use indoor Cree connected bulbs in my outdoor fixtures. Obviously, this isn’t recommended by Cree and my Pennsylvania winters are likely more mild that Dean’s are. Yet, for the past two years, these bulbs have functioned perfectly, even when we experienced sub-zero temperatures.
Given that there aren’t many outdoor connected bulb options rated to handle very cold winters, and the fact that Dean’s bulbs were a gift, we say give them a try. Perhaps someone will bring connected outdoor bulbs that can work in lower temperatures but for now, there really aren’t any good options. We were going to recommend Hue’s outdoor fixtures but the company hasn’t listed any temperature ratings for these.
Richard’s question is a little easier to tackle as he wants to have a battery-powered switch that can turn his outdoor lights on or off.
Wi-Fi is Richard’s preferred bulb radio but that presents a challenge: Wi-Fi uses far more power than Bluetooth, Zigbee or ZWave, which is why you don’t see battery-powered Wi-Fi switches. And that means Richard may need a hub for his bulbs instead of natively linking them to his Google and Amazon products.
Again, we’re turning to Hue outdoor bulbs, mainly because Richard doesn’t have the same temperature requirements as Dean and because the Hue hub is small. Hue also makes a $25 wireless wall switch for its lighting systems.
An alternative if Richard wants a “full-featured” hub is to get a SmartThings hub and a wireless Zigbee or ZWave switch. He’ll also need to choose bulbs that work with SmartThings. Sylvania makes a $10 battery-powered Zigbee switch, for example, while the Aeotec WallMote for ZWave costs $60. The latter option supports up to 16 bulbs or scenes, hence the higher cost. Keep in mind that most wireless “switches” are more like buttons and can either be mounted to a wall or left nearby the lights you want to control.
To hear both of these questions in full, as well as our discussion, tune in below to the IoT Podcast.