There has been no shortage of smart LED light bulbs hitting the shelves. From Philips Hue to LIFX LED to WigWag, all are wirelessly connected and can be controlled by your smartphone to go from dim to bright, go on and off on a schedule and make a rainbow of hues. At this point, it seemed pointless to mention any new ones because they were all the same.
But an ex-Tesla CEO has brought something new and interesting to the smart light bulb market and it could prove to be the most energy efficient of all of them. Neil Joseph left Tesla last year to start Stack, a smart lighting start-up. Its first product is called Alba and it's what would happen if you combined a Philips Hue with a Nest Thermostat.
Not only is the LED light very efficient and wirelessly connected, but it adjusts itself, much like the backlight of your computer screen. It's what Joseph thought of while still working in his Tesla office.
“It was a sunny day, and I looked up and I thought, ‘Why are these lights on with full power, when full sunlight is coming through the window?’” he said.
The Alba bulb is equipped with sensors that monitor the amount of sunlight in the room. Depending on the brightness from the sun, the lights brighten, dim or shut off completely. Additional sensors pick up movement (or a lack of movement) in the room and turn the bulbs off if a room is empty or on if someone walks in. And like the Nest Thermostat, the bulbs learn and adapt to the owners' lighting habits.
This means never accidentally leaving the lights on when you leave the house because they'll automatically go off.
Of course the bulb does have a corresponding app. Once you've installed the bulb and connected the hub to your wireless router, you can start entering some preferences like spots in your house where you want certain types of lighting or whether you have a dog so that the sensors don't flip on the lights every time it runs through a room.
A starter kit of two bulbs and the hub can be pre-ordered for $150, shipping in early 2015, and additional bulbs will go for $60, which is on par with the other smart bulbs out there. Stack says it won't take long to recoup that cost because of the energy-sipping nature of the bulbs and the fact that the automatic dimming and shut off features save a lot of money over the course of a year.
Stack estimates that the Alba presents a 60 to 80 percent savings compared to regular LED bulbs and for a 1,500 square foot home using four hours of lighting per day, it will save $670 to $710 per year compared to incandescent bulbs.
The company plans on introducing other bulb formats over the next year.