Smart bulb or smart switch? Startup Noon Home says smart bulbs are dumb

Smart bulb or smart switch? Startup Noon Home says smart bulbs are dumb

The problem with smart bulbs, as we’ve been pointing out for years, is that they turn dumb the instant you turn off the switch that controls the bulb. It’s far better to install a smart switch to control a less-expensive dimmable LED. Silicon Valley startup Noon Home today introduced what could be the smartest switch to date: The Noon Smart Lighting System.

The Noon Smart Lighting System consists of one Wi-Fi-enabled Room Director switch, which features a glass OLED touchscreen, and two extension switches that communicate via Bluetooth. Noon says its switches—already available at Best Buy—sense the types of bulbs they’re controlling (incandescent, LED, fluorescent, low voltage, etc.), and can automatically create the type of layered lighting that would normally require the skills of a professional designer.

Layered lighting describes a combination of ambient lighting for general illumination (so you can walk around your home without tripping over furniture); task lighting to aid in the performance of specific activities (such as cooking or reading); and accent lighting to highlight a painting on the wall or to draw attention to an architectural feature.

The Noon Smart Lighting System can create such scenes with a single touch--or if you have an Amazon Echo--by uttering a single sentence.

director swipe Noon Home

The Noon Room Director features a glass OLED touchscreen that displays icons for custom lighting scenes.

In an embargoed briefing last week, Noon Home CEO Erik Charlton (former Head of Business at Nest Labs) said Noon switches can also identify the type of bulb they’re controlling based on the amount of current the bulb draws. “The switch can determine if the bulb can be dimmed,” Charlton said, “and if it can, exactly how much it can be dimmed, so the system can dim the light without any popping or flickering.”

The Noon system will automatically create three lighting scenes—Relax, Everyday, and Bright—based on the information it receives about the bulbs, fixtures, and room types. Customers will also be able to create custom scenes of their own, and then select them at the switch, by using the Noon app, or asking Alexa to do it. Each Director can control up to 10 Extensions, although deployments will be limited by Bluetooth's range.

In addition to these scenes, the Noon Director has a motion sensor that can automatically trigger your lights to create subtle path lighting that won’t disturb other occupants in your home who might be sleeping. The system also has a vacation mode that will learn how you control your lights over time and mimic that behavior while you're away to fool would-be intruders into thinking someone is home.

room director install Noon Home

If you're not comfortable dealing with your home's wiring, Noon Home has partnered with InstallerNet to provide professional installation.

Charlton said the Noon Smart Lighting System is designed for do-it-yourself installations, with a feature that can automatically identify which wire is the line (the wire carrying the current from the home’s electrical panel) and which is the load (the wire carrying current to the light bulb when the switch is in the on position). The upshot is you won't need to worry about mixing them up. And unlike some smart switches, Noon switches can be used in 3-way or 4-way configurations (where more than one switch controls the bulb) without needing special switches at the other locations.

Knowing that not everyone is comfortable dealing with high voltage, Noon Home has partnered with InstallerNet to provide professional installation. The Noon Smart Lighting Kit consisting of one Noon Director, two Extension switches, and three wall plates sells for $400. The Director can also be purchased separately for $200 and Extensions for $100 each. Installation through InstallerNet costs $149 for three switches and $20 for each additional switch. Noon is offering a $100 off professional installations for a limited time.

The Noon Smart Lighting Kit looks promising, and we'll have an in-depth, hands-on review soon. As with any smart switch capable of dimming a bulb, however, we already know that this one won't get along with smart bulbs. That's because the circuitry in smart bulbs depend on a steady flow of electricity. If the biggest advantage of using a smart switch is not having to worry about a smart bulb being rendered inoperable by a switch in the off position, the biggest drawback is that smart switches can't control color-changing bulbs.

If you don’t care about that, the Noon Smart Lighting System is available at Best Buy, B8TA, and NoonHome.com now. Distribution will expand to select Home Depot stores on November 15.

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