Ikea is to challenge the dominance of Philips Hue light bulbs with its new Trådfri range of smart light bulbs.
Unlike Philips Hue, there are no colour bulb options in the Trådfri range, but they are cheaper than the Philips Hue Ambiance bulbs.
The basic kit for the bulbs will set you back £69 and consists of a gateway hub, which is wired to your router, two E27 light bulbs and a remote. Additional bulbs range from £9 to £15 depending on size and brightness. The hub creates a Trådfri (Swedish for wireless) network in your home and allows you to control up to 10 bulbs from a free app on your phone or the remote control.
If you are already using smart devices in your home, such as smart light bulbs or a wireless security camera, a smart hub can make it easier to control them using one smartphone app.
Find out which are the top-scoring hubs we’ve tested by visiting our guide to the best smart hubs for 2017.
Despite using the same ZigBee light-link network as Philips Hue, you can’t currently use smart hubs, such as the Amazon Echo, Samsung SmartThings or Apple Homekit, to control Trådfri bulbs. However, the fact that the bulbs use the ZigBee frequency does mean there is hope for them being compatible with smart hubs in the future.
What is in the Trådfri range?
All the products in the ‘gateway’ kit are available separately, so if you don’t need E27-sized light bulbs you could, for example, buy the gateway hub for £25, a pair of smaller E14 bulbs for £12 each and a remote for £15. The total for this makeshift kit would be £64. Unfortunately, there are no bayonet bulbs available – something Philips does offer in the Hue range – but there are GU10 spotlight bulbs, which cost £12 a piece.
There are also smaller dimming kits, which come with one bulb and one wireless dimmer. These work without the need for a gateway, but you won’t be able to use the free Trådfri smartphone app to control the bulb and you won’t be able to add it to your Trådfri network without a gateway. With the gateway and smartphone app you can also set up timers and group multiple bulbs together, so all of your lights in a specific room can turn on at once.
The remote and the app give you the option to dim the lights and switch from warm to cold light.
If you want to add a security element to your smart light bulbs there is a motion sensor. This £25 kit comes with a bulb and a sensor, which will turn certain bulbs on when it senses movement.
There may be no colour Trådfri bulbs, but Ikea does offer light panels. These large wall or ceiling-mounted panels come in five different sizes, from 30x30cm to 60x60cm, and they work in the same way as the bulbs. Each panel comes with a remote, but they can also be controlled from the app, as long as you have a gateway hub.
If you’re not ready to have smart light bulbs throughout your home, make sure you buy top-rated LED bulbs. Take a look at the best light bulbs we’ve tested.
How does Trådfri compare to Philips Hue?
Colour bulbs aside, both the Trådfri and Philips Hue range work in the same way. Both require a hub to be wired to your router and both have an optional physical dimmer switch in addition to a free app. The Ikea starter set is cheaper though. The Philips Hue White Ambiance kit, which has two bulbs, a remote and a hub costs £99.99. Philips also has a two-bulb kit for £59.99, but there is no remote and you can’t adjust the light from cold to warm. Philips Hue also lets you control up to 50 bulbs; Trådfri is limited to 10.
As well as standard white and colour bulbs, Hue has a range of lamps and striplights, which work in the same way as the bulbs.
Visit our guide to buying the best light bulb for running costs of halogen, LED and CFL bulbs and tips to steer you to the right bulbs for your home.