Guides and Reviews

IKEA Smart Blinds Review

Posted by Mike Lim

We love to paint the picture of the blinds automatically rising in the morning to kick start your day. Unfortunately, smart motorised blinds aren’t cheap. No, I’m not even talking about Somfy which cost close to grand in SGD. Even the china OEM blinds cost up to SGD300 (including installation) without factoring the cost of the fabric yet. I know the pain because paid about SGD 600 for motorised blinds and installed the Fibaro Roller Shutter module to control it via Homey hub.

With the introduction of the Fyrtur and Kadrilj range in Singapore, IKEA is changing game. A DIY install motorised roller blind, including fabric can start from only SGD139. Even the biggest size black out blinds cost SGD259. It even comes with 5 years warranty!

 

The IKEA motorised blinds is battery operated, thus do not require any running of power cables to the windows. The rechargeable battery comes with a micro USB slot for charging purpose.

Users can control the blinds with the remote button (shipped together) as well as mobile phone via the TRÅDFRI gateway (sold separately). If you are using the gateway then you can use the IKEA smart home app for scenes, routines and also other IKEA smart devices. The only major drawback is that the blinds comes in a variety of fixed dimensions. So if your window doesn’t really fit any of the available dimensions, it is going to look pretty odd.

Being a Homey user, we already know that Homey works with out of the box. In fact you can checkout this link for all the Homey compatible IKEA smart home products. Pairing of IKEA blinds to Homey is quite straightforward. Simply select the IKEA TRÅDFRI devices in Homey and select the Fytur (or Kadrilj) Roller Blind to set Homey into Zigbee pairing mode. Press and hold the 2 buttons right beside the battery compartment.

Within 15-20 seconds, the blinds should be paired with the Homey hub and you are good to go. We can also know the battery level within the Homey app to know when we need to recharge it. With the integration to Homey, you can now use Xiaomi or other Z-Wave sensors together with IKEA blinds to create scenes to block out the sun during a hot afternoon.

Conclusion

Being one of the most affordable motorised rollerblinds, you can almost fully fit out motorised blinds for 4-5 windows at the cost of single Somfy blinds. If you like grey-ish fabric (the only color available now), your windows fits the limited predefined dimension of the IKEA blinds and you already have a Homey, why wait?

Automate Asia Team (source : Domotics)

Read more

We love to paint the picture of the blinds automatically rising in the morning to kick start your day. Unfortunately, smart motorised blinds aren’t cheap. No, I’m not even talking about Somfy which cost close to grand in SGD. Even the china OEM blinds cost up to SGD300 (including installation) without factoring the cost of the fabric yet. I know the pain because paid about SGD 600 for motorised blinds and installed the Fibaro Roller Shutter module to control it via Homey hub.

With the introduction of the Fyrtur and Kadrilj range in Singapore, IKEA is changing game. A DIY install motorised roller blind, including fabric can start from only SGD139. Even the biggest size black out blinds cost SGD259. It even comes with 5 years warranty!

 

The IKEA motorised blinds is battery operated, thus do not require any running of power cables to the windows. The rechargeable battery comes with a micro USB slot for charging purpose.

Users can control the blinds with the remote button (shipped together) as well as mobile phone via the TRÅDFRI gateway (sold separately). If you are using the gateway then you can use the IKEA smart home app for scenes, routines and also other IKEA smart devices. The only major drawback is that the blinds comes in a variety of fixed dimensions. So if your window doesn’t really fit any of the available dimensions, it is going to look pretty odd.

Being a Homey user, we already know that Homey works with out of the box. In fact you can checkout this link for all the Homey compatible IKEA smart home products. Pairing of IKEA blinds to Homey is quite straightforward. Simply select the IKEA TRÅDFRI devices in Homey and select the Fytur (or Kadrilj) Roller Blind to set Homey into Zigbee pairing mode. Press and hold the 2 buttons right beside the battery compartment.

Within 15-20 seconds, the blinds should be paired with the Homey hub and you are good to go. We can also know the battery level within the Homey app to know when we need to recharge it. With the integration to Homey, you can now use Xiaomi or other Z-Wave sensors together with IKEA blinds to create scenes to block out the sun during a hot afternoon.

Conclusion

Being one of the most affordable motorised rollerblinds, you can almost fully fit out motorised blinds for 4-5 windows at the cost of single Somfy blinds. If you like grey-ish fabric (the only color available now), your windows fits the limited predefined dimension of the IKEA blinds and you already have a Homey, why wait?

Automate Asia Team (source : Domotics)

Read more

5 reasons why you need neutral for smart switches

Posted by Mike Lim

You can install smart switches without neutral, why do people still do otherwise when they can save cost? There's quite a number of smart switches that market themselves as not requiring neutral wire, no wiring hassle.

Xiaomi Aqara switches is one, Ufairy Z-Wave switch is another one, some of the Z-Wave modules such as FIBARO Dimmer 2 and Aeotec Nano Dimmer also can be installed without neutral. In fact, there are a lot of Zigbee switches on Taobao and Aliexpress that can be installed without neutral.

Why do we want to make life difficult and prefer a neutral solution when we can help customer save cost? Here's 5 reason why:

1. Protect your LED lights and drivers from damage

The reason every smart switch needs a neutral wire attached: it needs to stay powered all the time. The neutral wire does this job exactly. It allows the switch to stay powered even when the light is off. The switch uses the neutral wire to return the current back to the DB (mains) when the switch is off.

Base on the reason above, so how do switches that do not require neutral overcome this law of physic? They return the current via the switch wire, through the LED light/drivers, into the neutral in the ceiling and back to the DB (mains). Sounds viable right? This would mean that when the switch is at the off state, there is a small current flowing (sufficient to power the switch and yet not sufficient to power the lights ) running through your LED lights/drivers. Typically a Zigbee, Z-Wave switch require 1W or below so we assume 1W of current is constantly running through your lights/drivers.

Now if your lights/drivers are on/off type (non dimmable), you are constantly under powering them. Under powering an electrical appliance typical causes damage over time. Some of the low power bulbs, i.e 3W may flicker even if the switch is off because 1W of current is quite significant for a 3W light. You might even notice some of the low power lights are actually on at night when the switch is off! 

 2. Electronics in LED drivers degrade over time

You may experience having your switches and lights work perfectly well right after installation. However, after a while your LED drivers may degrade over time and become sensitive to that small current and start flickering.

3. Smart switch without neutral is technically a dimmer switch

This is also the reason for Z-Wave modules such as FIBARO dimmer 2 and Aeotec Nano dimmer can work without neutral. These switches/modules maintain power by cutting the current up to the minimum just like you dim a dimmer to minimum. This works better for dimmable lights/drivers as they are built to work under small current. In some cases, low power dimmable lights might still light up the bulb when the switch is off, just not as badly as a on/off light. Which brings us to the topic of bypass.

4. You may need to use a bypass

Z-Wave modules such as FIBARO dimmer 2 and Aeotec Nano dimmer, you can install a bypass at the light to increase the load of your lights so that a small current doesn't power up your lights. For Ufairy switches, they also have a bypass that synchronise with the state of the switch so that when the switch is off, the current goes thru the bypass instead of through the lights/drivers. These are inherently additional point of failures which can be forgotten after installation. If you ever change switches or brands down the road, you might wonder why there are still issues with a new switch as these bypass are made for the specific brand only. You will eventually incur cost of installing or removing the bypass.

5. It only works for wireless technologies that uses low power transmission

If you had already noticed, there is no wifi smart switches that do not require neutral. If there is, please read the technical details. This is because wifi takes higher power compared to Z-Wave and Zigbee and thus will introduce a higher current through your lights. It doesn't make technical sense to build one because it will definitely power up your lights/drivers in off state.

Conclusion

With all these considerations, we do not want risk having customer experience such teething issues down the road. There are so many different quality of lights and drivers in the lighting market. They degrade and respond differently to that small current thus there is no way we can guarantee a stable installation with no neutral smart switches.

So far, we are assuming all smart switches are of the same quality, but take Xiaomi Aqara non neutral switches for example, they fail so much that the Singapore distributor/reseller reduce the warranty to 7 days and stop stocking them all together.

Like we always tell our customers, going for smart switches without neutral is like weight management without regular exercise. It only works temporarily and doesn't last. 

Automate Asia Team

This article is part of Series of articles to start your smart home journey, the smart Singaporean story

Read more

You can install smart switches without neutral, why do people still do otherwise when they can save cost? There's quite a number of smart switches that market themselves as not requiring neutral wire, no wiring hassle.

Xiaomi Aqara switches is one, Ufairy Z-Wave switch is another one, some of the Z-Wave modules such as FIBARO Dimmer 2 and Aeotec Nano Dimmer also can be installed without neutral. In fact, there are a lot of Zigbee switches on Taobao and Aliexpress that can be installed without neutral.

Why do we want to make life difficult and prefer a neutral solution when we can help customer save cost? Here's 5 reason why:

1. Protect your LED lights and drivers from damage

The reason every smart switch needs a neutral wire attached: it needs to stay powered all the time. The neutral wire does this job exactly. It allows the switch to stay powered even when the light is off. The switch uses the neutral wire to return the current back to the DB (mains) when the switch is off.

Base on the reason above, so how do switches that do not require neutral overcome this law of physic? They return the current via the switch wire, through the LED light/drivers, into the neutral in the ceiling and back to the DB (mains). Sounds viable right? This would mean that when the switch is at the off state, there is a small current flowing (sufficient to power the switch and yet not sufficient to power the lights ) running through your LED lights/drivers. Typically a Zigbee, Z-Wave switch require 1W or below so we assume 1W of current is constantly running through your lights/drivers.

Now if your lights/drivers are on/off type (non dimmable), you are constantly under powering them. Under powering an electrical appliance typical causes damage over time. Some of the low power bulbs, i.e 3W may flicker even if the switch is off because 1W of current is quite significant for a 3W light. You might even notice some of the low power lights are actually on at night when the switch is off! 

 2. Electronics in LED drivers degrade over time

You may experience having your switches and lights work perfectly well right after installation. However, after a while your LED drivers may degrade over time and become sensitive to that small current and start flickering.

3. Smart switch without neutral is technically a dimmer switch

This is also the reason for Z-Wave modules such as FIBARO dimmer 2 and Aeotec Nano dimmer can work without neutral. These switches/modules maintain power by cutting the current up to the minimum just like you dim a dimmer to minimum. This works better for dimmable lights/drivers as they are built to work under small current. In some cases, low power dimmable lights might still light up the bulb when the switch is off, just not as badly as a on/off light. Which brings us to the topic of bypass.

4. You may need to use a bypass

Z-Wave modules such as FIBARO dimmer 2 and Aeotec Nano dimmer, you can install a bypass at the light to increase the load of your lights so that a small current doesn't power up your lights. For Ufairy switches, they also have a bypass that synchronise with the state of the switch so that when the switch is off, the current goes thru the bypass instead of through the lights/drivers. These are inherently additional point of failures which can be forgotten after installation. If you ever change switches or brands down the road, you might wonder why there are still issues with a new switch as these bypass are made for the specific brand only. You will eventually incur cost of installing or removing the bypass.

5. It only works for wireless technologies that uses low power transmission

If you had already noticed, there is no wifi smart switches that do not require neutral. If there is, please read the technical details. This is because wifi takes higher power compared to Z-Wave and Zigbee and thus will introduce a higher current through your lights. It doesn't make technical sense to build one because it will definitely power up your lights/drivers in off state.

Conclusion

With all these considerations, we do not want risk having customer experience such teething issues down the road. There are so many different quality of lights and drivers in the lighting market. They degrade and respond differently to that small current thus there is no way we can guarantee a stable installation with no neutral smart switches.

So far, we are assuming all smart switches are of the same quality, but take Xiaomi Aqara non neutral switches for example, they fail so much that the Singapore distributor/reseller reduce the warranty to 7 days and stop stocking them all together.

Like we always tell our customers, going for smart switches without neutral is like weight management without regular exercise. It only works temporarily and doesn't last. 

Automate Asia Team

This article is part of Series of articles to start your smart home journey, the smart Singaporean story

Read more

Innr, an affordable Philip Hue alternative

Posted by Mike Lim

Philip Hue has always been a synonym to smart lightings, just like Coke is to cola. The Philip Hue bulbs are based on Zigbee Light Link and requires the Philip Hue Bridge in order for you to control with your mobile phone or voice assistants. There are also a bunch of other prominent connected bulbs that are either running on wifi or Zigbee such as LIFX, IKEA Trådfri, OSRAM Lightify etc.

So why are we writing about yet another connected bulb, Innr? Innr is a Dutch lighting company which created a complete connected lighting proposition based on Zigbee Light Link, the same protocol used by Philips Hue. This means, if you already are a Philip Hue user and looking at expanding your lighting control, Innr bulbs works well with your existing Philip Hue Bridge! Secondly, a single Philip Hue White and Ambience bulb cost S$90 while the same range from Innr with better colour representation cost S$60! The other white or tunable white bulbs (E27 or GU10) are also relatively cheaper than Philip Hue. We can actually end our review just by these 2 points but let's take a closer look at the products.

Innr Products

 

We managed to lay our hands on some of the products in the Innr range for testing, mainly the Innr RGBW Dimmable, Innr Tunable White E27 and Innr GU10 Tunable White

The Innr bulbs specifications are on par (in some areas better than) with the Philip Hue and yet retails for a lower price.

  Philip White and Colour Ambience Innr RGBW Dimmable E27
Price S$90 S$60
Length 110 mm 120 mm
Diameter 62 mm 60 mm
Wattage 9.5 w 9.5 w
Beam Angle 180 degrees 240 degrees
Lumen 806 lm 806 lm
Lifespan 25000 hrs 25000 hrs
Warranty 2 years 2 years

 

  Philip White Ambience Innr Tunable White E27
Price S$49 S$39
Length 110 mm 120 mm
Diameter 62 mm 60 mm
Wattage 9.5 w 9 w
Beam Angle 180 degrees 240 degrees
Lumen 806 lm 806 lm
Lifespan 25000 hrs 25000 hrs
Warranty 2 years 2 years

 

  Philip White Ambience GU10 Innr GU10 Tunable White
Price S$49 S$45
Length 57 mm 55 mm
Diameter 50 mm 50 mm
Wattage 5.5 w 5.4 w
Beam Angle 38 degrees 36 degrees
Lumen 300 lm 350 lm
Lifespan 25000 hrs 25000 hrs
Warranty 2 years 2 years

Innr also has many interesting products such as Innr Spot Kit, Innr Puck Light that are quite unique. In this review, we will test the Innr RGBW Dimmable E27 and the Innr Spot Tunable White Dimmable GU10.

 

Pairing with Philip Hue Bridge

 

For Philip Hue bulbs, the Philip Hue Bridge automatically scans for bulbs that are powered up during the pairing process. However for Innr bulbs, you actually need to power cycle each Inner bulb while the Hue Bridge is searching for the bulbs. This means that if you have 3 Inner bulbs that is powered by a light switch, you actually have to turn off and on for a total of 3 times to add 3 Innr bulbs to the Hue Bridge.

  

Color Representation Comparison

 

We grouped a Philip Hue White and Colour Ambience with Innr E27 RGBW together in the Hue Bridge to perform the colour comparison. We didn't realise that Philip Hue, green and blue are so far off until we compare it beside Innr!

In case you think we are biased, you can search for more comparison videos on YouTube.

Pairing with Athom Homey

 

We cannot help but like to take the chance to show how well it works with Homey. This is especially relevant if you plan to setup a complete smart home with minimum wiring.

We setup 4 GU10 bulbs to Homey and fired away voice commands such as Alexa, set track light to warm white, cool white or dim to 20% and it worked quite well.

Conclusion

 

The conclusion remains unchanged, Innr is very affordable and perform as well, if not better than the Philip Hue. The only thing you probably won't get from Innr is the Innr Bridge which cost the same as the Philip Hue Bridge but does not work with Amazon Echo or Google Home yet. In fact, we think new users should just get Philip Hue Bridge and Innr bulbs for their smart lighting.

Automate Asia Team

Read more

Philip Hue has always been a synonym to smart lightings, just like Coke is to cola. The Philip Hue bulbs are based on Zigbee Light Link and requires the Philip Hue Bridge in order for you to control with your mobile phone or voice assistants. There are also a bunch of other prominent connected bulbs that are either running on wifi or Zigbee such as LIFX, IKEA Trådfri, OSRAM Lightify etc.

So why are we writing about yet another connected bulb, Innr? Innr is a Dutch lighting company which created a complete connected lighting proposition based on Zigbee Light Link, the same protocol used by Philips Hue. This means, if you already are a Philip Hue user and looking at expanding your lighting control, Innr bulbs works well with your existing Philip Hue Bridge! Secondly, a single Philip Hue White and Ambience bulb cost S$90 while the same range from Innr with better colour representation cost S$60! The other white or tunable white bulbs (E27 or GU10) are also relatively cheaper than Philip Hue. We can actually end our review just by these 2 points but let's take a closer look at the products.

Innr Products

 

We managed to lay our hands on some of the products in the Innr range for testing, mainly the Innr RGBW Dimmable, Innr Tunable White E27 and Innr GU10 Tunable White

The Innr bulbs specifications are on par (in some areas better than) with the Philip Hue and yet retails for a lower price.

  Philip White and Colour Ambience Innr RGBW Dimmable E27
Price S$90 S$60
Length 110 mm 120 mm
Diameter 62 mm 60 mm
Wattage 9.5 w 9.5 w
Beam Angle 180 degrees 240 degrees
Lumen 806 lm 806 lm
Lifespan 25000 hrs 25000 hrs
Warranty 2 years 2 years

 

  Philip White Ambience Innr Tunable White E27
Price S$49 S$39
Length 110 mm 120 mm
Diameter 62 mm 60 mm
Wattage 9.5 w 9 w
Beam Angle 180 degrees 240 degrees
Lumen 806 lm 806 lm
Lifespan 25000 hrs 25000 hrs
Warranty 2 years 2 years

 

  Philip White Ambience GU10 Innr GU10 Tunable White
Price S$49 S$45
Length 57 mm 55 mm
Diameter 50 mm 50 mm
Wattage 5.5 w 5.4 w
Beam Angle 38 degrees 36 degrees
Lumen 300 lm 350 lm
Lifespan 25000 hrs 25000 hrs
Warranty 2 years 2 years

Innr also has many interesting products such as Innr Spot Kit, Innr Puck Light that are quite unique. In this review, we will test the Innr RGBW Dimmable E27 and the Innr Spot Tunable White Dimmable GU10.

 

Pairing with Philip Hue Bridge

 

For Philip Hue bulbs, the Philip Hue Bridge automatically scans for bulbs that are powered up during the pairing process. However for Innr bulbs, you actually need to power cycle each Inner bulb while the Hue Bridge is searching for the bulbs. This means that if you have 3 Inner bulbs that is powered by a light switch, you actually have to turn off and on for a total of 3 times to add 3 Innr bulbs to the Hue Bridge.

  

Color Representation Comparison

 

We grouped a Philip Hue White and Colour Ambience with Innr E27 RGBW together in the Hue Bridge to perform the colour comparison. We didn't realise that Philip Hue, green and blue are so far off until we compare it beside Innr!

In case you think we are biased, you can search for more comparison videos on YouTube.

Pairing with Athom Homey

 

We cannot help but like to take the chance to show how well it works with Homey. This is especially relevant if you plan to setup a complete smart home with minimum wiring.

We setup 4 GU10 bulbs to Homey and fired away voice commands such as Alexa, set track light to warm white, cool white or dim to 20% and it worked quite well.

Conclusion

 

The conclusion remains unchanged, Innr is very affordable and perform as well, if not better than the Philip Hue. The only thing you probably won't get from Innr is the Innr Bridge which cost the same as the Philip Hue Bridge but does not work with Amazon Echo or Google Home yet. In fact, we think new users should just get Philip Hue Bridge and Innr bulbs for their smart lighting.

Automate Asia Team

Read more