Ikea Smart Lighting

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Pros

  • Affordable
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Well-designed app
  • Can be used without Wi-Fi

Cons

  • No coloured bulbs
  • No voice control
  • Limited functionality compared to competitors

Key Features

  • Review Price: £69.00
  • Bulbs can change warmth and brightness
  • Motion sensor can detect movement up to 5m
  • No need for Wi-Fi to get started
  • Affordable
  • Bulbs last for around 25,000 hours
  • Bulbs from £9, gateway kit costs £69
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What is Ikea Smart Lighting?

Ikea already owns the flat-pack furniture market, but now the Swedish megastore is taking on smart lighting.

That is, a lighting system that lets you play around with the brightness and colour temperature of your bulbs, set timers, install motion sensors – and control it all from your smartphone. In typical Ikea style, this new system has a funky name: Trådfri, which is Swedish for ‘wireless’.

Philips Hue offers similar a setup, as does British Gas with its Hive Active Light system, but the Ikea Trådfri costs around half as much. If you’ve been thinking of giving your lighting an upgrade, this is a really affordable way to do it.

Related: Nest vs Hive – which is the best smart thermostat?
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Ikea Smart Lighting – Design

The Trådfri system is made up of a number of components, and the best thing is that you can start small and build up over time. You’ll need the whole kit and to use Wi-Fi to get the most out of it, but you can go for the basic offline approach too.

For a start, there are two types of bulbs – the White Spectrum (£15) and the Warm White (£9). The Spectrum is the more talented of the two, and lets you notch up your lighting through five levels of brightness and three different colour temperatures, warm to cool. It’s worth the extra £6 that you’ll pay on the Warm White, which is only dimmable.

Unlike Philips Hue, the Trådfri doesn’t offer you any colour options. If you were hoping to turn your home lighting into a veritable rainbow, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

You’re also more limited on the type of bulb available within Ikea’s range. Most are of the E27 variety, which is a large screw fitting. There are also options for E14 and GU10, but nothing for the common bayonet fitting.  Philips Hue and British Gas Hive have a wider selection in this respect, but you can pick up adapters pretty cheaply if you need to – Ikea itself does a two-pack for £1.

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Next, there are the controllers, and you’ll need at least one of these to unlock the bulbs’ functionality. The puck controller lets you turn lights on and off, adjust the colour temperature and the brightness, while the motion sensor allows you to set your lights to be triggered by movement in the room.

Unfortunately, the motion sensor isn’t weatherproof, so it can’t be used to control outside lighting. This feels like a bit of an oversight by Ikea, but here’s hoping there are weatherproof options in the pipeline.

Finally, the Trådfri gateway is a hub that needs to be connected to your router, and unlocks the ability to control your system with the Trådfri app. This is worth it if you want to be able to group lights together and create timers.

The gateway itself costs £25. The most economical option is to get the £69 ‘gateway kit’, a handy two-room starter pack that also includes a puck controller and two White Spectrum bulbs.

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Ikea Smart Lighting – Setup

The beauty of the Ikea Trådfri system lies in its simplicity.

You can get started on just one bulb and a controller for a little as £29. There’s no need to connect to your Wi-Fi network, just place the bulb and controller close together and pair them with a long hold of the controller’s pairing button.

To get the most out of them, you’ll need to invest in the Trådfri gateway, which is well worth it. The Trådfri app (iOS/Android) will run you through the process step by step, but it’s as simple as plugging it in and connecting it to your router via the bundled ethernet cable. The app will then ask you to scan the QR code on the bottom of the gateway to connect to it, and you’re all set.

You’ll then want to start adding your bulbs and controllers to the gateway, which you do using the same pairing button. The app will guide you through this too, and tell you when it’s added a new bulb or controller successfully.
Ikea Smart Lighting

Once you have them all installed, you can then group them into rooms or zones as you see fit. This way you can control all the bulbs in a room at once using your controller, but also have individual control over each bulb within the app.

The motion sensor is a little different. You still pair it the same way, but then set how long you want it to wait for no movement before switching off – a choice of 1, 5 or 10 minutes. You can also set it so it only triggers in night time hours.

I set up three rooms within five or so minutes. The app is really clear at walking you each step, but there are also loads of helpful set up videos and troubleshooting questions should you run into any problems.

One thing to bear in mind is that any bulbs will need to be within good Wi-Fi reach of the gateway in order for them to be controllable via the app.

The physical controllers, on the other hand, should work up to around 10m or so – enough from one end of the room to the other.

Ikea Smart Lighting

Ikea Smart Lighting Usability and features

Once your Trådfri system is set up, it’s a cinch to use. Whether you use the app or a controller, the system is responsive with no significant delays between command and action. I did find the controller just a touch quicker at delivering what I asked for, particularly when dimming lights, but it’s close enough for both to be good options.

The bulbs go bright too, up to around 1000 lumen, and should last for a few years before they need replacing. The official figure is around 25,000 hours, which is a decent lifespan.

All the extra functionality added by the Trådfri gateway works without hiccup too. You can set individual timers for lights to go on or off, set multiple timers to fool burglars when you’re away from home. The “rise and shine” mode gradually raises the light levels over 30 minutes – a more agreeable wake-up call than an alarm clock.

You can also set ‘moods’. The White Spectrum bulb comes with three pre-installed – focus, everyday and relax – but you can also create your own, with your own combination of colour temperature and brightness.

All handy features for sure, but there are limitations. For example, there’s no ability to turn your lights on or off remotely, no geofencing to have them turn on as you’re pulling into your road like Philips Hue, and no voice control. It’s also a very closed system, so can’t get involved in any IFTTT functionality.

Not the smartest light system going then, but what it does offer it does very well indeed.
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Should I buy Ikea Smart Lighting?

Trådfri is every bit the smart lighting you might expect Ikea to produce – basic with no frills, but beautifully done.

People interested in the fancier functionality of Philips Hue or British Gas’ Hive Active Light aren’t going to be swayed by this approach, but anyone who fancies dipping their toes into smart lighting will find this an affordable and accessible way to do so.

Plus, Trådfri is in its early days. I’m not saying you should invest expecting it to get better, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

For many, what it offers will be just fine anyway, especially when it does it this well.

Verdict

Smart-lighting aficionados will want to look elsewhere, but for everyone else, the Ikea Trådfri is a cheap and easy way to make your home lighting that little bit smarter.

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