Best Alternative To Replace My Lifx Bulbs

upstatemike

Senior Member
I have about 20 Lifx bulbs in outdoor fixtures so I can do holiday color themes but I am getting frustrated with the flakiness of these things. I got Lifx over other bulbs because of the good color saturation, higher brightness, and ability to come on at the last set color. Wi-fi meant I could reach all bulbs without "building out" a mesh network so it was a simple upgrade. I don't really automate them, I just manually set a scene for each holiday in the Lifx app and let the Insteon switches that control them do the time of day on/off. Most of the year they are just set to white.

Lately it is a real pain to work with them because they are always going offline in the app, even though my Access Points show them with plenty of signal, I also go to set a color and the app says it worked just fine but in reality there is no change. The app seems to just assume the command worked without verifying the state of the bulb. After awhile it seems to catch up to reality and reflect the state but it can take several attempts to get the color set on a bulb. Also some days a few bulbs will come on and forget their last state and just default to white. Instead of correcting this the Lifx app just assumes that is what I wanted it to do and changes the color in the app to match the incorrect state.

So I think I am ready to switch to a lower stress alternative and am looking for the best option. I'm looking for any input regarding the options below that I am considering or really any alternative at all:

1 I thought of going to Inovelli Z-Wave bulbs but they have been unavailable forever with no sign of coming back in stock any time soon.

2 I see TP-Link has a local api and there is a plugin for it. Not sure if this is a good equivalent?

3 The new Philips Wiz Wi-Fi bulbs would be drop-in replacement but I haven't seen much feedback good or bad on these.

4 There is always Hue but I would need a second hub because my existing one is full. Reluctant to go that route until Philips finds a way to have multiple hubs on the same account and visible to Alexa. And there is the price factor.

5 I can do other Zigbee bulbs but would have to implement Conbee and go to a lot more effort. For this low use application I would prefer to find more of a drop-in replacement. Also a lot f Zigbee bulbs don't come on to their previous state so would not be drop in replacements for that reason as well.

I'm not looking to spend a lot of time and/or money messing with the existing Insteon switches which are working fine so I won't be re-wiring things to keep the bulbs powered all the time. What would you do if you were in this situation and wanted to replace the Lifx bulbs with something better?
 

sic0048

Senior Member
What is your wifi infrastructure?  I have Ubiquity access points and a firmware update is causing all kinds of connection issues for some of my wifi switches and my Alexa's.  I can't tell you how many times I've asked Alexa a question only to hear, "I'm having trouble connecting to the internet right now."  The wifi is solid and other devices stay connected just fine.  It's a know issue that still hasn't been fixed (at least not when I researched it a couple months ago).
 
I only throw that out there because it might not be the lights causing the problem.
 

wkearney99

Senior Member
+1 on finding lower stress solutions.  You know it's well past the WAF level of tolerance when the automation geek gets tired of it!
 
Those are, what, wifi-based?

I am loathe to use Wi-fi for lighting.  I've just never found it reliable enough.  Zigbee might be on the same frequencies but the communication methods seem a lot less problematic than random Wi-Fi support in devices.  That and, well, there's the security factor.  I have much less faith in wi-fi connected devices not presenting a higher-stress security factor than I'd like. At least with zigbee/z-wave/etc there's only one tcp/ip device open to abuse, not dozens of lightbulbs.

But understand, I'm not hijacking this into a security conversation, that's best held in different conversation.

You can continue to connect a variety of other solutions to a Hue hub, and you can connect Hue devices to other hubs (like a Conbee or the like).  The Alexa integration has been very reliable through the Hue app.  I've got a Conbee/deCONZ setup connecting to a Homeseer server and a Hubitat.  I have not dug into color control/integration through Alexa with that.  HS has good Alexa integration, we've used it daily for several years now and found it tremendously useful.

As for your existing switch scenario, I've seen conflicting info on how well various smart bulbs handle being connected through a switch.  Mesh-focused networks (zigbee/z-wave) do NOT benefit from devices coming and going.  That and some smart bulbs don't present predictable behavior or speed when powered up through a switch.  But I've not used enough of them to have useful experience with it.  It'd be worth checking first how well they handle their power-on state.  As in, do they remember their last setting?  Can they be configured as 'unlit when powered up'?  Because if they tolerate being powered up and staying off, or at least remembering the last settings, they might be useable on a controlled switch.  As in, flip the switch, the lights 'boot' and have your automation system tracking the switch power-on event and immediately signal the lights.  If they're slow to boot, or unpredictable, it turns into a dance trying to get them set properly.

All of this you likely already know.
 

wkearney99

Senior Member
sic0048 said:
What is your wifi infrastructure?  I have Ubiquity access points and a firmware update is causing all kinds of connection issues for some of my wifi switches and my Alexa's.
 
Any specifics on this?  I've got a bunch of unifi access points but no wifi bulbs.  I've seen some off/on problems with alexa devices not all handling their house-wide announcements in a synchronized fashion.  As in, the audio 'popcorns' through multiple devices.  I've not delved into it much, but your comment piques my interest.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
sic0048 said:
What is your wifi infrastructure?  I have Ubiquity access points and a firmware update is causing all kinds of connection issues for some of my wifi switches and my Alexa's.  I can't tell you how many times I've asked Alexa a question only to hear, "I'm having trouble connecting to the internet right now."  The wifi is solid and other devices stay connected just fine.  It's a know issue that still hasn't been fixed (at least not when I researched it a couple months ago).
 
I only throw that out there because it might not be the lights causing the problem.
 
I am not a network guru so I'm not sure how to verify if that is a contributing factor or not. Basically this is what I have:
 
I use a Peplink Balance 20 router with two WAN connections (Main is T-Mobile cellular and the backup is DSL). I like the Peplink because it lets me manage my wireless access points from within the router interface and shows all of the clients by name instead of me needing to keep track of MAC addresses. I have 199 reserved IP addresses with 152 clients typically connected during the day and 174 typically at night.
 
I have 7 wireless access points and 119 of my toatal 199 clients are wireless. Typically I have 99 wireless clients active during the day jumping to the full 119 at night when the Lifx bulbs kick on. Most of the wireless clients are Amazon Echos (about 40) with Sonos, Lifx, thermostats, phones, and tablets accounting the rest. 
 
I don't see any network issues apart from the Lifx bulbs so I have to think it is more of a bulb issue than a network infrastructure issue.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
wkearney99 said:
+1 on finding lower stress solutions.  You know it's well past the WAF level of tolerance when the automation geek gets tired of it!
 
Those are, what, wifi-based?

I am loathe to use Wi-fi for lighting.  I've just never found it reliable enough.  Zigbee might be on the same frequencies but the communication methods seem a lot less problematic than random Wi-Fi support in devices.  That and, well, there's the security factor.  I have much less faith in wi-fi connected devices not presenting a higher-stress security factor than I'd like. At least with zigbee/z-wave/etc there's only one tcp/ip device open to abuse, not dozens of lightbulbs.

But understand, I'm not hijacking this into a security conversation, that's best held in different conversation.

You can continue to connect a variety of other solutions to a Hue hub, and you can connect Hue devices to other hubs (like a Conbee or the like).  The Alexa integration has been very reliable through the Hue app.  I've got a Conbee/deCONZ setup connecting to a Homeseer server and a Hubitat.  I have not dug into color control/integration through Alexa with that.  HS has good Alexa integration, we've used it daily for several years now and found it tremendously useful.

As for your existing switch scenario, I've seen conflicting info on how well various smart bulbs handle being connected through a switch.  Mesh-focused networks (zigbee/z-wave) do NOT benefit from devices coming and going.  That and some smart bulbs don't present predictable behavior or speed when powered up through a switch.  But I've not used enough of them to have useful experience with it.  It'd be worth checking first how well they handle their power-on state.  As in, do they remember their last setting?  Can they be configured as 'unlit when powered up'?  Because if they tolerate being powered up and staying off, or at least remembering the last settings, they might be useable on a controlled switch.  As in, flip the switch, the lights 'boot' and have your automation system tracking the switch power-on event and immediately signal the lights.  If they're slow to boot, or unpredictable, it turns into a dance trying to get them set properly.

All of this you likely already know.
 
Hue would work if I use expensive Hue bulbs which would act as repeaters out to the remote fixtures down by the street etc. Using chepaer bulbs with the a hue hub probably won't work because most other zigbee bulbs (like Sengled for example) are not repeaters so they wouldn't reach the farthest locations. Also an issue if I power down some fixtures via the switch and mess up the routing anyway. Also a moot point because I already have 40 bulbs on my Hue hub and Philips isn't supporting multiple hubs with Alexa yet.
 

wkearney99

Senior Member
Good point on the quantity and hue bridge count, I have not run up against that limit so I never crossed my mind.  I honestly don't know what limits exist in a zigbee scenario.  I've had good success with the Jowihue plug-in for HS3.  This thread touches on high device counts and deCONZ.  

https://forums.homeseer.com/forum/lighting-primary-technology-plug-ins/lighting-primary-technology-discussion/jowihue-w-vuyk/87728-large-hue-deployment-suggestions
 
The Jowihue plug-in handles both my Hue and my deCONZ gateways.  It can support more, so perhaps having a separate interface for your driveway lights could work through it.

I've ignored addressing this for a while, how to do voice control of color devices through Homeseer using native alexa lighting command (not having to use the stilted "ask homeseer..." syntax.  
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
wkearney99 said:
Good point on the quantity and hue bridge count, I have not run up against that limit so I never crossed my mind.  I honestly don't know what limits exist in a zigbee scenario.  I've had good success with the Jowihue plug-in for HS3.  This thread touches on high device counts and deCONZ.  

https://forums.homeseer.com/forum/lighting-primary-technology-plug-ins/lighting-primary-technology-discussion/jowihue-w-vuyk/87728-large-hue-deployment-suggestions
 
The Jowihue plug-in handles both my Hue and my deCONZ gateways.  It can support more, so perhaps having a separate interface for your driveway lights could work through it.

I've ignored addressing this for a while, how to do voice control of color devices through Homeseer using native alexa lighting command (not having to use the stilted "ask homeseer..." syntax.  
 
I have Jowiehue connected to my Hue hub for control in Homeseer events but use the Hue Alexa skill for direct voice control. I didn't see any value in putting Homeseer in the middle for voice control when a more direct path is available.
 

wkearney99

Senior Member
I'm not sure the path is different enough to be problematic.

Hue integration: Alexa-device->AWS_cloud->Philips_cloud->Hub
HS3 integration: Alexa-device->AWS_cloud->MyHS_cloud->HS3->multiple_possible_interfaces
 
The upside is you're getting a single point of entry back into the house where HS3 (or whatever automation system you choose) has a shot at "doing more" with the incoming request.  Otherwise you have to 'hook' your automation system to tracking the state of devices on the hub.  I prefer to use Lutron's occupancy tracking right in the main repeaters for this reason.  The motion sensor directly controls the lights through the repeater, involving no delay through HS3.  But I hook the vacancy detection events to do some clean up based on conditionals.

But it's not a 'hill to die on' argument.

Where it starts to be a factor is if you're going to depend on tight hub/light integration for effects and such.  I've put zero effort into doing this but I gather if you wanted to make use of clever color scene animations or integration for 'entertainment' zones then you'd probably be better served going through the Hue hub and apps or other devices that know how to speak to it.   The upside is the HS3 plug-in will still let you do that (up to the limits of the Hue hub's limits, that is).  But, again, this is probably possible with anything that supports local integration with multiple lighting hubs and not just HS3.
 

picta

Active Member
I have 12 Lifx bulbs, of different types. They are great color lights, but the app is beyond terrible. I don't even remember when it worked last time. So I use the LAN API instead and it works great until something happens and they loose the wifi connection. Then I have to use the app to re-enroll them again, which is a major pain. Also, Lifx-mini bulbs disconnect most frequently. All other types generally stay connected for about a year. As long as they stay on-line they are fantastic, I have all kinds of automation with them.
 
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