From the day Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb until the mid-2000s, very little changed. You had a very thin wire inside a glass vacuum bulb. When an electrical current hit the wire, it became white hot, giving off enough light to fill a room. The concept may have required thousands of tests to get right, but it was tried and true.
Unfortunately, old-school incandescent bulbs are power hogs. They give off most of their energy not as light, but as heat. In fact, while incandescent bulbs are illegal in the USA, they remain legal in Europe as “space heaters.” If your light source is so inefficient that it legally qualifies as a heater, you’re doing something wrong.
Regulators and industry tried to help the environment with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. These were significantly more efficient, and could last for years. However, CFLs take a minute to “warm up,” defeating the purpose of a light switch. Not only that, but even high-end CFLs produce a harsher, fluorescent-style light that many people find irritating. LED technology solved that problem for good. With an LED bulb, you get the environmental friendliness of a CFL and the quality of an incandescent. You also get a bulb that will last for several years.
We’re about to review the Novostella 13W Smart LED Light Bulb. We’ve reviewed a number of products in the past, including ultraviolet ozone light bulbs. But this is our first smart bulb, and we’re excited to see how it works! We’ll go over how it’s used, how it works, and how it’s connected. We’ll also go over the smart features, as well as any hiccups you might encounter. Let’s take a closer look, and see what we learn!
Why Use Smart Bulbs?
So, we know what an LED bulb is. They’re around us all the time! But what exactly makes a smart bulb different? The first thing you’re liable to notice is the price tag. They’re a bit steep. However, they’re designed primarily for power savings. In theory, if you use the right settings, you’ll actually end up saving money over the lifetime of the bulb. Of course, this all depends on what settings you use. If you don’t take advantage of any smart features, you’re not going to see any benefit. You might as well buy an ordinary LED bulb. If you’re not sure, there’s no need to spring for an entire smart home lighting system. You can start small with a single bulb, and see if it’s worthwhile to you.
So, what makes smart bulbs smart? In brief, it’s because you don’t need the switch to operate them. With an ordinary light bulb, you turn it on or off manually. A smart bulb can be programmed to turn on and off automatically. This means no wasted energy from lights being left on by accident. Smart bulbs can also be integrated with Google Home, Alexa, and other smart home systems. This means you can operate them hands-free when needed.
Smart bulbs often integrate other features as well. For instance, many smart bulbs can be dimmed without the need to install a dimmer switch. Similarly, many of them, like the Novostella bulb, are also color-changing. This allows you to set a variety of moods for the same room, all with a single bulb. Other bulbs integrate even more smart features, such as automatic vacation mode. These bulbs will actually keep track of your ordinary usage, and mimic that when you’re away.
Before you buy, it’s a good idea to consider what you need. Do you need just one bulb? Are you trying to light a larger room? Or do you want to cover the entire house? Depending on what you need, you’re going to need a different package. The Novostella bulb is either a one-pack or a three-pack, not a whole home system. That said, it can work with larger systems; we’ll talk more about that in a second.
At first glance, the Novostella 13W Smart LED Light Bulb looks like an ordinary LED bulb. It has a small metal base, which screws into any standard North American light bulb socket. Above this base, there’s a plastic ballast. This ballast is where the internal electronics are housed, but it maintains a low-key look. The sides are plain white, and can be mistaken for an old-school incandescent bulb at first glance. On top of this ballast, there’s a transparent dome that serves as the “bulb”. However, the purpose of the dome is really just to spread the light around.
The actual LED beads are very small, and there are dozens of them located around the top of the base. This is what allows you to produce different colors and brightnesses. The different beads work in concert to produce exactly the light you desire. Keep in mind that just like ordinary light bulbs, LED bulbs are not waterproof. There are special water-resistant housings, even LED pool lights. But an ordinary LED bulb, even a smart one, is poorly suited for that purpose.
The Novostella 13W Smart LED Light Bulb comes in a pack of one or three. It’s a bit pricey, but this is to be expected for a smart bulb. Still, if you’re on the fence, you might be better off starting with the one-pack. If you like what you’re getting, you can buy three-packs afterwards to save a few bucks on a larger number. On the flip side, if you’re not happy, there’s very little risk. Novostella offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you don’t like your bulb, just send it back for a full refund. In addition, the Novostella smart bulb is guaranteed for a full year. To be fair, it should last for five or ten. But if there are any defects, it’s bound to fail within the warranty period.
Setup and Connectivity
Setting up and installing the Novostella 13W Smart LED Light Bulb is fairly simple. First, remove your old bulb, and screw the new one into the socket. Once that’s done, it can be turned on or off like an ordinary light bulb. Of course, you’re going to want a little bit more than that from your fancy new smart bulb. To do so, you’ll need to connect your light bulb to the internet.
The easiest way to do this is to connect directly to your home’s WiFi network. Once this is done, you can connect to the bulb with your smartphone. The Smart Life app is available for free on Android and iOS, and is easy to download. Screw in your bulb, install the apps, and follow the wizard to get set up in just a few seconds. Within the app, you can control a single bulb, or create different groups of bulbs to control together. You can turn on groups or individual lights with just a simple tap. Keep in mind that this only works if the light switch is on! If the switch is off, the bulb won’t be getting any power.
In addition to app control, the Novostella bulb can also be controlled with your smart home device. It’s compatible with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. This makes it suitable for any kind of voice control. It also means you can control your device remotely with Google Assistant or the Alexa smartphone app.
Another alternative method of control is to connect your bulb to a smart home hub. These hubs, like the TCL Xess Smart Home Hub, function as a bridge between your devices and your router. The advantage of a hub is that you can control a variety of devices from the same app. If you’ve got a fridge, smoke detectors, lights, and a dozen other devices, this can be helpful. Why use a dozen different apps when you can run everything from the same place? The downside of hub controls is that they tend to be generic. They can handle dimming or turning lights on and off, and that’s about it. If you want to take advantage of unique features, you’re out of luck.
Some smart bulbs also allow you to connect via Bluetooth. This only works at close range, since Bluetooth only works within about 30 feet. Even so, it’s a useful way to program smart bulbs if there’s no WiFi signal. The Novostella smart bulb does not have a Bluetooth option, so keep that in mind if you absolutely need Bluetooth.
The Novostella 13W Smart LED Light Bulb is one of the brightest comparable bulbs on the market. It only draws 13 watts of power at full brightness, but puts out an impressive 1,300 lumens of light. This is enough to fill a large living room all on its own. Of course, you might not want just one bright light. You might want a few softer lights. For this reason, the brightness can be adjusted from 0 to 100 percent.
Moreover, the color temperature is also adjustable. The bulb can be adjusted between 2,700 and 6,500K, anywhere from soft white to daylight. Not only that, but the bulb can produce all 16 million SVGA colors. This makes it a great choice for parties or general atmosphere. You can even choose between eight presets if you want to set the mood right away.
We’ve talked about how you can set a timer on the Novostella bulb. But what happens if the power goes out? In that case, you don’t have to worry. Each Novostella LED bulb has a built-in memory chip. Even if it’s disconnected from power, it will still keep your settings stored locally. As soon as power is restored, it will resume normal operation.
As you can see, the Novostella 13W Smart LED Light Bulb is a solid buy. It offers plenty of smart options, along with lots of customization. Not only that, but it works with either a direct WiFi connection or a smart home hub. Whether this is your first smart bulb or your 100th, it will work easily with your existing smart home system.