HEV Light and the LIFX Clean Bulb (Myth or Real?!) – New Video

In August 2020, the LIFX CEO announced a new LIFX product on Twitter – the LIFX Clean:

This product is designed to be anti-bacterial, providing both smart lighting and cleaning potential. However the actual cleaning capability isn’t always effective – especially when run for a short amount of time, or from more than 4 foot away.

So I wanted to shoot this video and explain the pros and cons of this really interesting product:

The video timestamps are:

  • 0:00 Intro to LIFX Clean’s light
  • 1:46 UV vs HEV Light
  • 3:13 Scientific studies (not as boring as it sounds!)
  • 3:47 The problem with putting this in the ceiling
  • 4:38 Wrapping up

This product is available to buy on Amazon.com and directly from LIFX, links are below to the LIFX website:

Specific tests were done on the LIFX Clean bulb by a lab in Australia, and the results for this are below:

Equally a general research paper concluded that HEV light is effective at killing bacteria from close distances:

However other research concluded that HEV light can cause skin to dry out or age prematurely:

Video Transcript

Hello, I’m Tristan from Smart Home Point. In August 2020, LIFX announced LIFX Clean: an A19 bulb that can apparently act as a disinfectant. This is obviously a timely product considering the global pandemic, and that a generation of clean-conscious people has appeared, understandably. Also as a big nerd, I found the idea of a light bulb that kills germs pretty interesting so I’ve been researching it and I wanted to shoot this video and talk about whether the marketing lives up to the reality.

The idea behind this product is that you use it like a normal light bulb when you’re around, but then you can schedule (or manually enable) a cleaning cycle – ideally at night. After 8-12 hours, a decent number of bacteria MIGHT be killed. This is designed to be used when you’re not near it, for reasons I’ll cover later.

Now to be clear, I am not a scientist or a “safety research person” (I dunno what they’re called). I haven’t doused my surfaces in e-coli and run some CSI-Miami level tests on them.

Yes, there’s definitely significant traces of e-coli here.

Eww. But I CAN say whether this is a genuine product or a “scam” (like some cynics have claimed). This is because various independent scientific tests have already been carried out on it. The short answer is that YES it does work, but it won’t kill viruses (like the germs that cause flu and COVID-19) and it probably won’t help much if you just have the LIFX Clean in your ceiling. This product is designed to sit fairly close to a surface, and run a cleaning cycle over multiple hours.

Right, let’s get into the details. You might know that UV (ultra-violet) light can kill “germs” – whether that’s bacteria or viruses. However you might also know that UV light is ‘bad’ – it can significantly increase the risk of developing skin cancer, for example. As a result, a smart bulb that pumps out UV light… probably wouldn’t be a good idea! Thankfully, though, there is an alternative: HEV light, which stands for High Energy Visible light. This sits on the violet or blue band of light, pumping out 405 nanometre light which is just on the edge of the visible spectrum. Unlike UV light, there’s no research linking HEV light to an increased risk of skin cancer. Which is good!

There are, however, studies suggesting that HEV light can harm your skin, causing it to dry out or age prematurely. For this reason, whilst LIFX say fairly correctly that the LIFX Clean bulb is safe for humans, they also say that you should run it in the “hours that you’re not using it”. This seems sensible advice – when it’s in “cleaning mode”, you wouldn’t want it pointing at your keyboard whilst you type for hours. As I mentioned earlier, the idea behind this product is essentially that you run it when you’re not around – such as at night . It’s also most effective when pointed directly at a surface from one or two feet away – it’s not designed to simply be put in the ceiling and run for a couple of hours.

This brings us onto the scientific studies – one detailed study tested HEV light in general, and another tested LIFX Clean’s offering directly. Both concluded that as much as 99.99% of bacteria can be killed when run overnight, although this is when the bulb is pointing directly at a surface from just 40cm (1.4 ft) away, and run for 8-12 hours. If the bulb is 4 foot away and only run in cleaning mode for 4 hours, it might not even kill half of the present Staph bacteria. In my case, the distance between my kitchen spotlight and my kitchen worktop surface is closer to 5 foot away – so the LIFX Clean probably wouldn’t be too helpful here. In-fact I can’t find any data showing that HEV light is fully effective on bacteria at 5 foot away – all the studies seem to be for 4 foot or closer.

Indeed, the detailed testing done on the LIFX Clean bulb found that it can kill up to 75% of bacteria when run overnight from a standard-height kitchen or bathroom light – BUT they also clarify that this is from just 4 foot away, and when run for a whopping 12 hours. This sounds good, especially since kitchens and bathrooms can be high-risk areas for picking up bacteria, but not everyone will be able to run cleaning cycles for 12 hours at a time and from just 4 foot away.

So this is one downside with a product like LIFX Clean: it’s not always going to be clear whether something is fully clean or not. A 75% reduction in bacteria sounds good, but if your light is slightly further away than the research goes and the cleaning cycle only runs for 6 hours, for example, then there will still be a decent amount of bacteria left on a surface.

So the short of it is that LIFX Clean IS a genuine product that CAN kill bacteria, but you need to be aware that it’s most effective from one or two feet away. The further away you get, and the less time you run it in cleaning mode, the less bacteria gets killed. As a result, this product is probably worth buying if you want to disinfect your keyboard and mouse areas overnight (for example). But there is of course a cheaper and arguably a better option – regular hand washing and general good hygiene. Without these standard measures, no amount of smart light cleaning will really be helpful. Equally I’d be wary about mounting this in my own kitchen or bathroom ceiling because it’d be 5 foot away and I’d only be able to run it for 7 or 8 hours max – which probably wouldn’t kill all that much bacteria.

And that just about wraps up this video. I’ll put links to this product and the scientific research papers down in the description. I hope you enjoyed this video – if you did, please click the thumbs up button which will tell YouTube that more people should watch this video. Please also consider subscribing, and pressing the bell icon which will notify you when I release new videos. Thank you!

About Tristan Perry

Tristan Perry is a software developer who is passionate about tech gadgets, DIY and housing. He has therefore loved seeing smart homes hit the mainstream. Tristan also has an academic background (in Math & Computer Science), and so he enjoys digging into the technical ways that smart home devices work.

Tristan owns close to a dozen Amazon Echo devices, way too many Philips Hue bulbs and lightstrips, a boat-load of Ring Cameras and Doorbells... and a bunch of other smart home devices too (from Reolink, Google Nest, GLEDOPTO and others).

If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions about this article, please leave a comment below. Please note that all comments go into a moderation queue (to prevent blog spam). Your comment will be manually reviewed and approved by Tristan in less than a week. Thanks!

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