Turn off your lights with iPhone - Schlage LiNK

If you've seen the new iPhone app commercial where the mom turns off her lights while heading off to the family vacation then you've seen Schage LiNK in action.  But let me go ahead and get this out of the way:  I'm not recommending this product for a lighting energy conservation measure!  Read on to figure out why.  But first, let's go over the basics of the product.

First and foremost, Schlage is a hardware home security company and their mobile app is mainly for maintaining the security of your home while you are away from it.  Let's not lose sight of this fact.  The mobile app interfaces with the hardware in your home through a wireless protocol called Z-wave (post on this coming soon).  The parent company of Schlage is Ingersoll Rand, which also owns Trane, the heating and air conditioning company.  This relationship allows the Schlage LiNK to work easier with a Trane thermostat!

While the main purpose of Schlage LiNK is for security reasons, the mobile app does have some conservation attributes which are listed here:

  • Climate screen—adjust home temperature of your Z-Wave enabled thermostat
  • Schedules screen—enable or disable a schedule
  • Lights screen—shows all of the Z-Wave lights connected to your system. You can control each light separately
  • You would think that being able to control your lights  with the Schlage LiNK light module (even if it is only lamps) would be a great energy conservation measure, and the features of the lighting module for Schlage LiNK can be seen here. But it was the final feautre that really caught my eye:

    Compatible with standard incandescent lighting only


    It is the year 2010 and you can make a system that enables a homeowner to turn off her lights while she is sipping Mai Tai's in Hawaii, but you can't let her use a CFL?  So we can use 21st century technology, but only to control 19th century devices?  The automatic lighting sensor in my kitchen that magically detects whether a person is in the room or not is connected to a circuit with 10 CFLs and it works perfectly!  So I know a remote device can switch on/off CFLs.  Why can't the Schlage LiNK?

    Until the Schalge LiNK can control CFLs (or better yet LEDs) I would just recommend using a lighting timer to automatically turn your lights on/off when you are on vacation.  It looks like a great product for home security, and the ability to control your thermostat over your mobile phone (like I do with my Ecobee web-enabled thermostat) is a wonderful conservation tool, but please, let's move away from incandescents!

    **Update 3/18/10 - Turns out Schlage isn't the only company with an iPhone app that allows you to turn off your lights.  As this article from ismashphone points out the MobiLinc Pro Insteon and X10 controller allows you to control your lights and thermostat from an iPhone app.

    A few of the cool features they mention:

    - Turn your Insteon, X10 Devices, and Scenes on, off, dim, brighten, fast on, fast off.
    - Thermostat, Irrigation, and Weather Support.

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    We bought the Schlage Link starter kid and found this out after reading the manual as well. Until I find another light module that works with Link (I REALLY love the iPhone app and web interface) I might just put a low wattage IKEA lamp next to it. I wish that it worked with CFL/LED bulbs, though. But so far, we're very happy with the Schlage Link setup, the iPhone app, and the website. No more keys to worry about losing, which is nice. The alerts are also great so we know when the kid gets home from school. (He doesn't know that it sends us alerts..yet!) I really wish that the Ecobee was a Z-wave thermostat like the Trane one is. The Ecobee & TED are on the list of cool stuff that we want to buy for the house. - I'm going to add a photo review once I buy that incandescent IKEA lamp. :D
    Do any of you know how to accomplish this remote on/off task for lighting for NON-Iphone people. I have a blind friend who is trying to remotely control lighting at a vacation residence and the timers are just too combersome for her to manage due to her disability. She has a screen reader for the computer and is very adept at utilizing it - can these things be accomplished via computer? HELP US PLEASE.
    The real question is... Why on earth would anyone want to use CFL lighting? LED lighting offers all of the benefits of CFL without the health risks and mercury. LED turns on right away, no waiting for them to brighten. Not to mention they last longer, work in cold weather and don't create any noise. A cut out from Wikipedia: Special handling instructions for breakage are currently not printed on the packaging of household CFL bulbs in many countries. The amount of mercury released by one bulb can temporarily exceed U.S. federal guidelines for chronic exposure.[52][53] Chronic however, implies that the exposure continues constantly over a long period of time and the Maine DEP study noted that it remains unclear what the health risks are from short-term exposure to low levels of elemental mercury. The Maine DEP study also confirmed that, despite following EPA best-practice cleanup guidelines on broken CFLs, researchers were unable to remove mercury from carpet, and agitation of the carpet—such as by young children playing—created spikes as high as 25,000 ng/m3 in air close to the carpet, even weeks after the initial breakage. Conventional tubular fluorescent lamps have been in commercial and domestic use since the 1930s with little public concern about their handling; these and other domestic products such as thermometers contain far more mercury than modern CFLs.[54] Mercury poisoning of Chinese factory workers In the past decade, hundreds of Chinese factory workers who manufacture CFLs for export to first world countries were being poisoned and hospitalized because of mercury exposure. Examples include workers at the Nanhai Feiyang lighting factory in Foshan city where 68 out of 72 were so badly poisoned that they required hospitalization. At another CFL factory in Jinzhou, 121 out of 123 employees were found to have excessive mercury levels with one employee's mercury level 150 times the accepted standard.[57] Use with timers, motion sensors, and other electronic controls Electronic (but not mechanical) timers can interfere with the electronic ballast in CFLs and can shorten their lifespan.[76] Some timers rely on a connection to neutral through the bulb and so pass a tiny current through the bulb, charging the capacitors in the electronic ballast. They may not work with a CFL connected, unless an incandescent bulb is also connected. They may also cause the CFL to flash when off. This can also be true for illuminated wall switches and motion sensors. Cold cathode CFLs avoid many of these problems.
    Another such app is Indigo Touch. It works with the X10 and Insteon protocols, which include relay-based devices that can handle CFLs. George
    lol, who actually still uses X10 anyways? Electronics are not like cars or antiques. Reverse comparability to a bad system makes another bad system. If you are using X10 still, go sell them on ebay so some other fool and get something that at least has feedback when you tell the light to turn off!
    Steve, Thanks for the feedback. My question is then: Why doesn't Schlage highlight this fact on their site? Instead of saying you can only use incandescents, why don't they say you can buy a different module to turn off the light? Also, in the iPhone commercial they show the lady turning off her lights, not dimming them. Isn't that false advertising? My main goal is to inspire Schlage to pay greater attention to energy conservation, not pay lip-service to it.


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