How to Build a Smart Home Series Part 4b: Switching My Bulbs To Cree Connected [#BaSH]

By - March 2015

In part 4 of the How to Build a Smart Home series which was all about lighting, towards the end I mentioned the Cree Connected LED light bulbs. At the time when I started out with lighting I went with Connected by TCP. While Connected by TCP are great light bulbs for your smart home, they just wasn’t working well enough for me within my system. Since I use SmartThings as the central point of my smart home, Connected by TCP when it works, works well. However when it doesn’t I have to try to keep selecting on/off to get them to turn on or off. Sometimes I needed to go back to the TCP app for their lights which worked well with the bulbs closest to the gateway, but when I try not so much with the bulbs in the back of my apartment. While I do still use a few Connected by TCP bulbs in my system, Cree Connected LED was another brand I’ve taken a look at.

CreeConnectedLEDThe reason I became really interested in these bulbs first had to do with price. The Connected by TCP bulb is great at $19.97 (especially when compared to the $60 Philips Hue bulbs), but even better is $14.97 for the Cree Connected. This is especially true since the Cree Connected LED bulb can do the same as the TCP ones, but without the need of a Hub or Gateway to connect them to SmartThings. This was the second reason I took interest in the Cree bulbs. With the Cree Connected LED bulbs needing no hub or gateway I could connect the bulbs directly to the SmartThings systems and hopefully this would give me faster response time and consistency. The only issue I had been when I first read they were sold at Home Depot, was the hard time actually finding them in any stores. Even now when I look for some, they are still in limited numbers in stock.

ConnectedBulbSoftWhiteOn I was recently able to buy a few Cree Connected LED light bulbs from a Home Depot in Manhattan. That night I went about adding them to the system. After I screwed them in and powered them on, the SmartThings app wasn’t detecting the bulbs. SmartThings in their support document for these bulbs mentioned that if it wasn’t working you might not have the latest firmware. I spoke to support about this, and was told I was on the latest firmware. I tried resetting the bulbs and trying again, but had no better luck. Now the location I put these new Cree Connected bulbs was in my master bedroom which is towards the back of the apartment, where the SmartThings Hub is at the front of the apartment. I thought to myself “let’s try screwing a bulb into a light socket that is closer to the hub”. With most initial things you add to SmartThings, they always say initially to have it near the hub. After trying this with the Cree bulb my hunch was right. After resetting the bulbs and trying it from its now closer location, SmartThings was able to detect the bulb and add it to the system. I did a few on/off tests and all was good. I proceeded to do this with the rest of the Cree Connected bulbs I had and then when done, I screwed them back into the light sockets in the master bedroom. They didn’t immediately work, but I left the lights on and after several minutes I was now able to control them via the SmartThings apps.

The Cree Connected LED bulbs with the advantage of being connected directly to the SmartThings hub, gave me quicker and more consistent execution when I turned the lights on or off via the app. It also worked 10x better when it turned on via the motion being detected from the SmartThings motion sensor I have. This led me to pick up a few more and while I had to add them the system from a location closer to the hub, after this was done the bulbs worked great at their last locations.

Currently most of my blubs are Connected by TCP, so over time I will be replacing these bulbs with the Cree Connected ones. Again Connected by TCP bulbs are good, just when it comes to using SmartThings, I find that the Cree Connected ones work just a bit better and definitely more consistent.

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Jason Anderson is the Publisher & Editor At Large of G Style Magazine. A known gadget head and lover of all things digital. Some of his favorite movies include Hackers, The Net, The Matrix (1, 2, & 3), and Transformers.....see a trend here lol.
  • 1geek4hire

    Can you use the cree bulbs without any hub? If so can you please explain.
    Thanks in advanced

    • You’ll need a hub to use them. They connect with a system, by themselves they wouldn’t have anything to talk to.

      Jason

    • 1geek4hire

      Can I make my own hub out of an old computer, tablet or smartphone? Or do I need to purchase one? Thanks for your fast response!

    • I wouldn’t be able to answer that question unfortunately. This series focuses on building out a smart home using components you can buy and integrate with each other. I’m not sure about building something out of a computer and items like that from scratch.

      Jason