IKEA’s TRÅDFRI Smart Lighting – First Impressions

This is the first in a long-term-test series I plan to do about IKEA’s smart lighting TRÅDFRI, released earlier this year.  Intended to compete with the like of Hue, by Phillips, this line includes both warm white dimmable, and colour temperature adjusting white dimmable bulbs.

I purchased their Gateway kit, which includes two bulbs, the network gateway (to allow app-based control), and a wireless remote control module.  Priced at $99 Canadian, this kit is a relatively inexpensive way to enter the realm of smart lighting for your home.

Why You Might Love It

The kit, connected to your home network, and controlled by a smartphone app or wireless remote control, allows the two included bulbs easily adjusted from bright white light to dim warm light.

You can set schedules to have lights go on and off at set times. A bulb (like in a bedside lamp) can be set to slowly come on in the morning, gently waking you like the morning sun. Or, you can use the wireless remote to add a light switch anywhere in the room without running more wires. The hub can coordinate up to 100 devices, so future expansion is a simple matter of purchasing and pairing new bulbs.  They screw into a standard light socket, making this upgrade a breeze.

I found the initial setup to be quite easy, except for the fact the battery in the remote control module (required for pairing the bulbs) was almost dead. Since I didn’t already know the expected brightness of the indicator LED, I didn’t discover this was the issue until many frustrating attempts had been made at the pairing process. Once installed, paired, and configured, the system works smoothly and changes are propagated quickly between devices (including both smartphones).

Why You Might Hate It

The toggle light switch was invented 100 years ago.  Early switches go back even further, to 1884. Similar ones have worked perfectly well in performing the simple task of turning off and on cheap light bulbs since.  For this reason, the idea of spending $100 for two light bulbs and switch, and then another $15 – 25 per bulb to expand the system may seem ludicrous to you.

Opening the heat-sealed hard plastic packaging is enough to make you wish for Wolverine claws.  It’s seriously terrible and infuriating, and something IKEA really should improve in future versions.  I came close to drawing blood more than once.

Some components of the system don’t work very well in my experience.  This includes the rotary dimmer and motion detector kits, which I actually ended up returning.  Both seem like they could be useful but really were too glitchy to be useful in my intended scenarios.


IKEA’s first foray into smart lighting looks promising!  Since it’s based on the Zigbee standard, future integrations and interoperability should be possible.  Already, for example, some elements of the Hue system work together with TRÅDFRI and vice versa.  This Fall IKEA has promised integration with smart home systems as well.  If you are interested in venturing into a smart light system, IKEA offers a reasonably-priced and promising system to consider.  I currently have 11 TRÅDFRI components installed in my house, and plan to continue to expand this over the coming months as new bulb styles and features are made available.

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