LIFX Bulb Behavior After A Power Outage (Will This Change?)

After much soothing, your baby is finally asleep. You tuck them in for the night, dim (or turn off) your LIFX smart lights and slowly close the door, inching away so that you don’t wake up your child. Phew, finally – there’s nothing more peaceful than a quiet house!

You go to bed a few hours later, only to be suddenly woken up at 3am to the sound of a crying baby and bright lights throughout your house. What happened?! Well…

LIFX bulbs currently turn themselves on after a power outage, meaning that if the bulb had 100% brightness before being turned off, it’ll be fully illuminated after the outage. Whilst LIFX haven’t fully fixed this problem, there are some workarounds to this.

How LIFX bulbs work

Marketing image of a LIFX downlight with a white casing, and bare cable on the other end.
A LIFX downlight.

LIFX smart bulbs are premium-end smart bulbs that have pretty good build quality, and produce a good quality of color. They also produce some of the brightest bulbs in the smart bulb market with up to 1,100 lumens of light, which held the record of ‘brightest smart bulb’ for quite a while (before Philips Hue beat it in mid-2020 with a 1,600 lumen bulb).

LIFX bulbs contain a WiFi chip in them, meaning that they are part of your home WiFi network. You can download a LIFX app and control them with your smartphone, or hook them up to your smart speaker (such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home device) and control them that way.

By ‘control them’, I should add that this means the ability to:

  • Turn your LIFX bulb on and off.
  • Change its color, from bright orange to deep blue and everything in-between!
  • Dim its brightness down to 1% (i.e. night light levels), and back up to 100% brightness (day time light levels) as you wish.
  • Have your bulbs go on and off (or change color) on a timer, or based on the sunset/sunrise.
  • Include the bulb in your automation routines so that you can (for example) turn a light on when someone presses your doorbell.
  • ‘Dance’ to music…
  • and a whole lot more.

That’s the beauty of smart bulbs – they can make your life easier by changing to suit your lifestyle, along with offering a bunch of fun features too. But one big downside of them is what happens when there’s a power outage…

How LIFX bulbs respond to a power outage

LIFX app showing the dashboard and various lights that can be controlled from here.
The LIFX app
dashboard.

Smart bulbs have a number of different states:

  • Whether they’re on or off.
  • Their brightness level (are they dimmed right down, or at full brightness?).
  • Their color (are they a simple white, or set to a weird orange-purple color?).

This information is stored on your LIFX smart bulb so that if you turn the bulb off on the wall (or there’s a power outage), it can start back up at the same brightness levels and color.

Notice how I only mention color and brightness there, not the on/off state? Right now, LIFX bulbs will be turned back on after power is restored to them – whether they were on or not before the power was cut.

This has caused people to be quite annoyed because they turn the lights off at night, only to have them be back on at 100% brightness in the middle of the night (after a power outage)! Here’s some quotes from annoyed LIFX customers who have been hit by this problem:

Especialy when I use the light in ours and our kids bedroom. Bulbs go into 1000 suns mode waking everyone.

u/littlesadlamp on Reddit, June 2020

This is ridiculous fix this issue ….storms caused this to happen several times and I’m tired of waking up to screaming toddlers wanting the light off when it should not have come on in the first place!!!!

Pierre Barry on Facebook, July 2019

Add me to list of people who’d like a fix to be implemented. Mini brown-out and it woke up our baby in the middle of the night. Took my wife and I hours to put him back to bed.

Gary Goldberg, August 2020

I found my way to this conversation after starting today with a 2:30am wake up call from LIFX! :slight_smile:

jackcorbae on LIFX Community Forums, November 2019

…and a whole lot more complaints dating back years!

Finally, as if that wasn’t enough, some people report that around 20-40% of their LIFX bulbs fail to re-connect back to their WiFi network after a power outage, causing them to not be controllable anymore.

I take a look at how to fix (or workaround) both these issues in the following two sections.

How to stop LIFX bulbs waking up the house after an outage!

When this issue was first raised with LIFX, they said the following:

I have been informed this will be coming in a future firmware update.

LIFX, Facebook, 22nd January 2016

No that’s not a typo, they promised to fix this back in January 2016. It’s now… well beyond that date, and there’s still no fix within the app itself.

This is frustrating because Philips Hue have a great, simple fix for this (see the final section for more on this), and there doesn’t seem to be an obvious reason why LIFX can’t offer a fix up either.

All it’d involve is asking users what they want their bulbs to do after power is cut and restored: do they want them to stay off, or come back on? Simple.

But since LIFX don’t give this option in the app, you have to look at a workaround. Thankfully one does sort of exist: remember how I said earlier that LIFX bulbs go back to the same color and brightness as they did before a power outage?

Well what you can do is setup routines (on Google Home or Alexa) to turn off your LIFX bulbs, and set their brightness to 1% and the color to a moderate yellow (a fairly ‘night time’ color).

Then if you did have a power cut, the bulbs will just come back on to a very dimly-lit 1% brightness. This shouldn’t be enough to wake up the house, as it mainly acts as a night light at 1%:

A table lamp with Philips Hue E14 candle bulb, dimmed to 1% brightness
One of my smart bulbs dimmed down to 1% brightness, used as a night light.

How to reconnect LIFX bulbs after a power outage

When there’s a power outage, some people have reported that around 1 in 3 of their LIFX bulbs fail to reconnect back to the home network – hence making them unreachable (and uncontrollable) in the LIFX app.

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a single “do this and it’ll fix it” set of steps for this problem. Some things that have worked for people, however, are:

  • Removing the bulbs from the LIFX cloud, and re-adding them all over again as though they’re new bulbs.
  • Reset the bulbs back to their factory defaults by turning them off and on again 5 times in a row.
  • If you use Google Home, you can now say “Hey Google, sync my lights” and it’ll go through the setup process quickly and reliably.
  • Turn the bulb off, and leave it for an entire day. I’ve heard a couple of people say this works, weirdly enough. Maybe it’s because some LIFX settings somewhere gets reset after this length of time, allowing the bulb to be ‘re-added’ after 24 hours?

As you can see, there’s a few things you can try if your LIFX bulbs fail to re-connect automatically after a power outage.

How Philips Hue bulbs handle power outages

Philips Hue have a simple approach to this power outage problem: they give users the choice of exactly what should happen to their bulbs when the power is cut:

Screenshot of the Philips Hue mobile app, showing the power-on behavior setting for a bulb. Options are "Philips Hue Default", "Power loss recovery" or "Custom".
Hue’s power-on behavior for a smart bulb.

Either you can choose to have bulbs go back to their full brightness, or you can go with the “power loss recovery” option which will keep the bulb off if it was previously off. Simple!

You can also choose a custom color and brightness, which is useful if you wanted to set all your bulbs to a nightlight mode (1% brightness) just incase.

This sort of feature shouldn’t be tricky for LIFX to implement, especially since they already set their bulbs to go back to the original color and brightness. They need just to also add the state (on or off) into the mix too, allowing users to keep the bulbs off if they were previously off.

Ah well, hopefully LIFX’s promise in January 2016 to fix this will come true one of these days…

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