back to article How many Androids does it take to change a light bulb?

For an awfully long time, there have been just two types of lights, more or less. There were ordinary incandescent bulbs and there were fluorescent ones. Sometimes, there were fancy circular fluorescent ones, but that was about as complicated as it got – save for fiddly things like the battle between weirdo continental screw …

  1. Haku


    Does this mean I'm now going to be called upon for more free tech-help from friends/family when they start buying device-controlled lights?

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Uh-oh

      Quite probably. And, of course, it's not just lights, but other things as well - there's a fair range of stuff in the WeMo range, for example, and you'll have the same problems with Lollipop whatever is it you're trying to connect, at least until they update the app.

      But in the case of lightbulbs, I suspect there are going to be a lot more people who "just expect it to work"

      1. Haku

        Re: Uh-oh

        "just expect it to work"

        You're not wrong there, if it looks like a lightbulb people will expect it to behave like a lightbulb - give it power and it lights up, but with new fangled wireless control technology embedded inside them they may not behave as expected by looking at the exterior.

        Perhaps a new, standardised name is needed for them to distinguish them from ordinary bulbs, dare I suggest iLites? Because everyone knows when you put a small i in front of a word it somehow indicates it's special in a technological way... well, except when used for place name like iNverness or iSle of Man.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Uh-oh

          Perhaps a new, standardised name is needed for them to distinguish them from ordinary bulbs, dare I suggest iLites?

          We already have the perfectly serviceable phrase "idiot light". True, it has historically referred to warning lights on control panels, but I don't see any reason why we can't also apply it to lights that have been techsturbated past all reason.

    2. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: Uh-oh

      >Does this mean I'm now going to be called upon for more free tech-help from friends/family when they start buying device-controlled lights?

      Doubt it. Not expecting these to be strong sellers. Most people are just fine with switches and (maybe...) dimmers.

      There's an obvious security application, but I'm not sure current products have worked that out yet.

      I suppose eventually you'll have light that follows you around and/or responds to voice commands. But you'll need something a bit cleverer than an app with a couple of buttons and sliders for that.

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        Re: Uh-oh

        Even if people don't go for the app controlled bulbs, you can probably still expect a few moans when they decide to save money replacing bulbs with LEDs, and then wonder why their dimmer switch doesn't work properly any more.

    3. therealmav

      Re: Uh-oh

      No. Because noone would be stupid enough to waste their time and money on device controllable bulbs when an old fashioned switch works so well and costs a fraction of the price.

  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    I can't turn the lights on because my phone battery's gone flat.

    Man! Talk about a first-world problem...

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: I can't turn the lights on because my phone battery's gone flat.

      Torch - just use the camera flash on your pho... oh

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I can't turn the lights on because my phone battery's gone flat.

      Is the remote really any better? I can hear a conversation like this now...

      "I can't turn on the lights; I lost the remote."

      "Have you looked in the sofa?"

      "No, It's dark, I can't see anything!"

      "You should turn on the lights."

  3. Mystic Megabyte


    I have been asked to supply a "lighting solution" for someone’s kitchen. I decided to get either wire suspended or track lighting but using LEDs. I have wasted hours on this project, it's as if the suppliers don't want to sell me anything. For example, I asked one supplier if a 240V track* would work using 12V and LEDs. The response was "it is possible to convert 240V to 12V". Well d'uh.

    ElReg boffins to the rescue?

    *FYI trying to buy a 12V track that is over a metre long is impossible. I need 2 x 3 metres and the cost of the joints exceeds the cost of the tracks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Clueless

      240v is the max voltage. So in theory 12v would work across that rail.

      However I'm pretty sure they would design a 12v connector so it is unable to fit into a 240v rail.

      1. tony2heads

        Re: Clueless

        Current would be MUCH higher (~20times) for the 12V system than for the 240V and as power dissipated

        W = I^2 R

        is increased by 400 times, so you need to get those resistances down.

        I once managed that by putting solder on the a bad joint on the track of a 12V halogen (no need for a soldering iron as it was bloody hot)

    2. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Clueless

      Well, I suppose the key thing is that you're not going to want the track to melt and drip in someone's hair. So, I would have thought that as long as you get the loads roughly equivalent, you should be ok.

      For example - exact values will vary by bulb - but a 60W spot on a 240V track is going to draw 0.25 amps. And you can get a 400 Lumen 12v LED spot that's roughly 50W equivalent and draws 6W, which is 0.5 amps. Just make sure you're not drawing more current than the track is rated for.

      Alternative may be simply to get the 240V LED bulbs, of which there's a pretty good range these days.

    3. tmagic

      Re: Clueless

      comes in 3m lengths, no joints necessary

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        Re: Clueless

        That, interestingly, looks identical to the old 12volt track I have sitting discarded in my office, which was part of an IKEA lighting system.

    4. ACZ

      Re: Clueless

      I'd just say watch out for the 12V LED bulb prices though - they can be significantly higher than for 240V equivalents. For example, 240V GU10 dimmable LEDs are an awful lot cheaper than the 12V GU5.3 equivalents. That said, given expected bulb life it might be that the additional cost of the bulbs is a relatively minor issue.

      GU10 dimmable LEDs - £4 each:

      GU5.3 dimmable LEDs - £16 each:

      Having read the article, it has however reminded me that I need to double-check the minimum load that my dimmers support - just looking at replacing halogens all round the house, and new dimmers would be an unwanted additional cost.

  4. 45RPM Silver badge

    IoT? WoT?

    I realise that this is probably just pure ludditism, but I can’t see the point of the internet of things. It’s just more stuff to go wrong, more stuff to keep patched and up to date, potentially an exciting new security risk, and more toxic waste at the end of its life. All for no benefit whatsoever.

    Who cares if the light bulb can be ice blue or whore-house red at the swipe of an app. It won’t materially change my life, any more than a fridge that’ll warn me if something’s about to go out of date (usually I’m quite aware of what’s in my fridge - after all, I bought the feckin’ stuff).

    Sorry. Bit grumpy and tired this morning - and I’m the person who couldn’t see the point of colour in a TV, remote controls or 1080p (so my track record on being right is pretty bloody piss poor). On that basis, anything I don’t like, or can’t see the point of, is likely to be the greatest thing ever.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IoT? WoT?

      I guess you don't have friends or parties?

      1. Montague Wanktrollop

        Re: IoT? WoT?

        So your friends at your parties get seriously impressed by you making a complete twat of yourself having to whip your phone out to dim a light bulb when you're stood right next to the switch?

        1. Nigel Whitfield.

          Re: IoT? WoT?

          I suppose, with a name like Montague, you simply ask your manservant to dim the lights for you when you need to impress friends at parties.

          1. Montague Wanktrollop

            Re: IoT? WoT?

            Manservant? So last year. I've had a penis butler ever since winning the lottery.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: IoT? WoT?

          So your friends at your parties get seriously impressed by you making a complete twat of yourself having to whip your phone out to dim a light bulb when you're stood right next to the switch?

          If they're anything like my friends they'd have their own phones out, the lights hacked in 15 minutes, and then they'd spend the rest of the party playing increasingly vulgar games with the light patterns.

      2. 45RPM Silver badge

        Re: IoT? WoT?

        @Anonymous Coward

        Yup. Surprisingly I do have friends - I try to get rid of them by being as curmudgeonly and contrary as possible, but they do seem to accumulate. But we’re of an age where we’re no longer impressed by the electric light, and where parties no longer consist of getting pissed amid a desperate whirlwind of trying cop off with the prettiest girl… an acceptable girl… any girl… anyone… the dog. Parties nowadays consist of getting pissed whilst talking about our latest penis extensions / mid-life crisises, whilst standing in the utility room (because that’s where the kegs of beer are). Our wives, meanwhile, are in the kitchen, getting pissed on wine, and talking about schools*.

        * guessing. I have no idea what they’re talking about really.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: IoT? WoT?

          talking about our latest penis extensions / mid-life crisises, whilst standing in the utility room (because that’s where the kegs of beer are). Our wives, meanwhile, are in the kitchen, getting pissed on wine, and talking about schools*.

          * guessing. I have no idea what they’re talking about really.

          Comparing your penis extensions would be my guess...

      3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: IoT? WoT?

        I guess you don't have friends or parties?

        Huh. My parties don't involve my friends watching my television. Talking, eating, drinking - sure. TV - no. Perhaps we've been doing it wrong, and we'd have more fun all sitting and staring at the pretty lights? Maybe a bit of drooling?

    2. Anonymous Blowhard
      Black Helicopters

      Re: IoT? WoT?

      You fool! This isn't for your benefit, whatever gave you that idea?

      The aim is to have lightbulbs that can be rented, and turned off if you don't pay: "lighting as as service" (tm).

      Also, Theresa May can then monitor the colour and send the police round to arrest you for soliciting if you change the colour to "sexy red".

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IoT? WoT?

      Don't worry about patching these. We can't get vendors to patch home routers, what makes you think they'll issue patches for a 10+ year light bulb. After all, how else are they supposed to get you to buy another light bulb?

    4. Richard Jones 1

      Re: IoT? WoT?

      I have yet to fully change out the old bulbs in the house and at the current rate of replacement I possibly have a 20+ years stock of old bulbs. However, one thing I have found is several handy devices for controlling lights and they never go flat. So I can turn on or turn off the lights as I need them and the magic item is a switch. These are often found on walls close to the entry point to a room, or just below the light source on the free standing lamps. The amazing thing about these mood adjustable lights is that there is absolutely no programming needed. Not only that, they cannot be hacked and never need a system upgrade. Even the oh so modern LEDs can operate using just this modern marvel of a switch. There is no need to worry about which version of software you have on your phone, in fact you do not even need a phone at all - except perhaps for phone calls or to invite people to join you.

      Dimmers feel so 1970s now.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When buying low-energy bulbs, or any other appliance, always remember:

    For every watt of energy this appliance doesn't waste as heat, your heating system will need to output an extra watt in order to keep the room at the temperature set on the thermostat.

    Thus, low-energy appliances do not save any energy during winter months in cold climates. In fact your total energy cost may increase depending the relative cost of fuel.

    However, in warm countries where people have air conditioning, you get a double saving. Every watt that appliance doesn't waste, the A/C doesn't have to remove.

    1. Owain 1

      Gas is cheeper than electric

      My central heating gas is cheaper per watt than my electricity. Therefore it IS cheaper to use Central heating than lights to heat my house. (I note your 'relative costs' statement.) I guess you'd need to be on something worse than electric heating.


    2. JDX Gold badge

      I rather like the heat and light to be independent.

      1. Danny 14

        Indeed, surely it is better to let the heating do the, you know, heating?

        ASDA had a great deal on 4watt 6x GU10 LEDs for £12 so I upgraded all our GU10s in one go. Damn they are bright, much brighter than I anticipated (I remember the early LED GU10s being pretty dim, and we don't mention the CFL versions).

        To go from 600W in my house to 48Watt will probably be noticeable (with the kids rarely remembering that the lights aren't turned off by the light fairy)

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Indeed, surely it is better to let the heating do the, you know, heating?

          Indeed. Besides the likely difference in cost/watt, heating systems that aren't fundamentally broken will be better than random electrical devices at distributing the heat. Can lights on the top floor, for example, will likely lose a lot of heat into attics. Appliances will generally produce hot and cold spots, leaving parts of a room feeling colder. They're simply not equivalent.

          Also, even in winter months, there are times when the heat from appliances is unwanted. I live in Michigan, not noted for its balmy winters. My home office is on the top floor, at the top of an open stairwell, and has a big south-facing window. It can be 15°F outside1, and the thermostat set to 65°F inside, and my office will easily get up to 75°F or more in the afternoon due to solar heat gain and convection up that stairwell. (We've put a curtain at the bottom - layout doesn't allow for a door - and that helps, but only so much.)

          75°F (24°C) is already warmer than I want. Having electric lighting and appliances (pesky computers) heating it further isn't an improvement.

          1What we call "chilly" in these parts. About -10°C. You'd want a hat.

  6. Mike Flex

    the dreaded dingy CFL

    Well, now we have dingy LED lamps. The brightest available from my local DIY emporium is only rated at 50 W equivalent, which is rather less than the 100 or 150 W incandescent lamps I used to use in my living room.

    That's before you start arseing around getting the lamp to work with your phone, which will pretty much rule these products out for normal people.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: the dreaded dingy CFL

      Certainly, some of the older/cheaper LED bulbs have been pretty dingy too. The most recent ones I've bought, however, do definitely exceed the brightness of the GU10 halogens that they replaced, likewise the ones I'm using for the fittings are better than the daylight tinted tungstens.

      But, I got them from a specialist online, rather than the local DIY store.

      1. Danny 14

        Re: the dreaded dingy CFL

        I posted in the wrong bit, ASDA had a deal on 4Watt GU10 at 6x for £12 so I went mad. They are *far* brighter than the halogen ones replaced. I changed some SES at the same time and they were *FECKNG BRIGHT* compared to the 30watt ones I replaced, the light is quite "clinical" though.

        LEDs have come a long way.

    2. Dan Paul

      Re: the dreaded dingy CFL

      Don't know if yoiu can get them overseas because of all the electrical anomalies you folks enjoy but Home Depot has "Cree" brand LED incandescent bulb replacements and they are anything but "dingy". Unfortunately, all I see are the 120 VAC screw type.

      They have a both warm white (2700K) and cool white versions (5000K) and the warm white light is much like an old incandescent would have been. Doesn't look at all like the light from a CFL.

      They have 60 Watt equivalent versions also.

      BTW, there are many manufacturers that make Zigbee addon relays that could go in the electrical circuits rather than the bulbs. Just not sure if you can easily get an "App" for that.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe I'm a luddite, but I pine for the days when we could walk into any hardware store and buy simple ordinary 60W incandescent bulbs with a standard bayonet cap. They only cost a few pence, lasted for years, and were compatible with all my existing light fittings and switches.

    I really don't like the modern idea that every light fitting requires a slightly different type of bulb, that needs to be replaced every 6 months, costs 9 quid, is out of stock, and doesn't work with a dimmer, PIR or time switch.

  8. Kubla Cant Silver badge


    The G4 halogen and its lampholder must be the crappiest system ever devised by an incompetent. I see that it's now possible to buy LED replacements for G4 bulbs. But the problem with G4s is not the bulbs, it's the lampholders.

    I used to have G4 spotlights under my kitchen cupboards. After 2-3 years I found that they no longer worked, even with new bulbs, presumably because the contacts in the lampholders had corroded. Fortunately, new G4 spotlights are very cheap, but it's a pain in the neck to have to keep screwing new ones to the cupboard, so I replaced them with LED tape.

    This isn't a solution for the ceiling lights that contain multiple G4s, only half of them working. Insert a new bulb, and it still doesn't work. Wiggle the new bulb around, and it works intermittently. So now I have to replace the entire light.

    1. getHandle

      Re: G4

      G4s in the ceiling? Ditch 'em and go for GU10s - you won't look back. (Or up - they're too bright ;-)

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: G4

        The ceiling fitments (lumieres, in the exotic jargon of electricians) aren't spotlights or downlighters. They're pendant fixtures with lots of G4s on stalks, so replacement with GU10s is not an option.

        1. getHandle

          Re: G4

          Ah, okay, tricky. LEDs are still the way to go though - the quality and lifetimes are vastly improved on just a few years ago. Good luck!

  9. Palpy

    WeMo and security

    Jan 13, 2013: A clever fellow calling himself "Daniel" rooted a WeMo outlet and used it to flick a light on and off at a great rate, claiming that with a high-current item he might be able to burn down a house.

    Feb 18, 2014: "IOActive researchers uncovered numerous vulnerabilities in all Belkin WeMo home automotation devices that put over half a million WeMo users at risk of being hacked..."

    WeMo says they've patched the vulnerabilities, and there are no further problems. The I of T is notoriously insecure, though. Be careful out there.

  10. The elephant in the room

    A useful article - I wondered why my 4 dimmable LEDs couldnt be dimmed below a certain point. I will replace one with an incandescent to increase the load for the dimmer switch.

    Dimmable LEDs look odd because their colour temperature remains the same as they dim, where as the colour temperature of incandescent bulbs gets lower (warmer) when they dim. Maybe the cleverer app-controlled RGB LEDs can compensate for this.

    1. Anonymous Blowhard

      " Maybe the cleverer app-controlled RGB LEDs can compensate for this."

      They'd be cleverer if they just did it in response to the input power rather than requiring an app.

  11. Sporkinum

    CFLs are way better than the used to be, and at least for me, cost way less than LED bulbs for equivalent or better light output. The only issue I have with CFLs, is that they take a while to warm up when cold.

    By Grabthar's Hammer, what a savings!

  12. Indolent Wretch

    "Elgato's app-controlled lights use Bluetooth rather than a Wi-Fi hub, but they're iOS only for now"

    Every time I see something like this it just shocks me.

    Why would you do it? Why would you spend all that money bringing a product to market and it not occur to you to have the critical app for your product be written with a platform independent development system.

    How could you possibly be that dumb?

    Kill them, kill them with fire.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is why....

    I have resolutely refused to upgrade from my classic bayonet bulbs, of which I have over 300 stored in a large box in the attic having bought bulk from a closing down sale at 10p for a 60w bulb.

    Fuck the environment.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is why....

      Amen....the whole "environmental" thing on bulbs is a smokescreen to cover the fact that they are overcharging for electricity anyway.

  14. Oldfogey

    If you want incandescent....

    Google (other search engines may be available) for "heavy duty bulbs". You can find incandescent bulbs up to 150 watts still available.

  15. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Shouldn't we be prepping for the end of civilisation rather than setting up IoT lightbulbs? You know, how to use a set of recovered Nokia 6310i batteries to boil water and that.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      how to use a set of recovered Nokia 6310i batteries to boil water and that.

      1. Add salt to water.

      2. Add batteries to salty water.

      HTH. HANA.1

      1... "Apocalypse", obviously.

  16. Nick Pettefar

    Makes sense!

    I swapped our CFLs in the chandeliers for ugly LEDs (designed by the same people responsible for the Ducati/Fiat Multistrada/pla one supposes) and our electric bill is €50 less each month! (Also swapped the Sun T2000 for a dumpster-dived laptop for our web server hardware which I suppose also added to the electrical consumption savings.)

  17. David Roberts

    CFLs are a waste of time

    If you can ignore all the current UK building regulations about using low energy bulbs then you may well find most applications don't suit CFLs.

    Main living area - flexible dimmable lights.


    Bathrooms - instant full power lights - halogen (well, I ran out of halogens so the office has an incandescent from old stock). CFLs which give the same light as 60 - 100 watt lights take too long to warm up.

    This leaves bedside lights and the main lights in the bedroom, plus hall and landing lights.

    So currently we have more non-CFLs than CFLs. Not because we want to use more power but because they just don't work the way the old style incandescents did.

    The house was rewired a couple of years ago when LEDs were just becoming main stream so we have dimmable LEDs over the kitchen work surfaces and they work very well. However we have had to upgrade some dimmer switches because those that claim to work with low power setups sometimes don't long term. 120 watts upwards seem fine, but below that be prepared to pay extra for a high specification dimmer. A single 60 watt halogen can cause dimmers to fail.

    One additional thought - although I don't use Powerline adapters for Ethermet, why all this wireless stuff for light bulbs? Can't you just replace the switches with smart switches which are controllable over Ethernet over the power circuits? This might make the control interface much easier to implement as device and OS independent and give you a much wider choice of bulbs. Or is the point to load the expense into the things you replace most often?

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