Voltage, it matters.

I’ve been meaning to post this for a few weeks now and I am finally getting around to it. I have been experimenting with transforming my small apartment into a ‘smart’ apartment. Controlling devices by voice and the general automation peaks my curiosity. Through the process, I have run into typical technical troubles, but this problem was unique.

The problem began when I started learning about how smart light bulbs work. It is popular for these bulbs to require a hub, most costing ~$50, which acts as a middleman for the connections. I did not want to spend the money on a hub if I didn’t need to. I was researching and came across a brand that does not require a hub and is a well-known brand in China, Xiaomi. The bulb was decently priced and I had a coupon as well. I paid $15 for the bulb which can be found here. This bulb is RGB enabled meaning it can support up to 16 million colors and dimming capabilities. It would make for an awesome mood light.

I ordered the bulb from GearBest, which seems like a Chinese version of NewEgg. I have made purchases from this retailer before and never had an issue. I saw a great price for the bulb, threw it in my cart, and checked out. The shipping was free but slow. I anxiously waited for this bulb to arrive and when it finally did I was a little disappointed.

I followed the instructions to initialize the bulb in my home environment, but it was randomly shut off or flicker. This bulb gives off a temporary wifi that you connect to add it to your ‘smart inventory’. I was unable to stay connected to the WiFi long enough to successfully connect the bulb. It was frustrating. I did more research.

This is where things started making more sense. Since I ordered the bulb from China, it requires 220 volts which is the standard in China. In America, we use the standard of 110 volts. Long story short the bulb was not getting the energy it needed to perform as expected.

At this point, I know where things went wrong. That left me with the question of what to do next: let the bulb collect dust or find a solution that was worth it? I did not want to invest much more into this project.

I came across what they call ‘step up transformers’ which does exactly what I need it to, convert 110 volts to 220 volts. It is pretty much an outlet adapter. The problem was they were priced at > $30 anywhere I looked. I went searching on eBay and found a transformer for $8 with free shipping! Perfect.

Once the transformer arrived, I was all set. I reinitiated the bulb with the lamp plugged into the adapter – no powering down, no flickers, no wifi connection issues! I was all set. I experimented with removing the transformer from the lamp after the bulb was integrated into my smart network and ran into no issues. It seems like once the light was initialized it no longer required the 220v? Weird.

I’m not impressed I have to pay an extra $8 for my lack of attention to voltage, but it was an inexpensive lesson that I will remember.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.