It’s the end of another decade, and while we don’t have real hoverboards, flying cars, or affordable dental care, we do have multicolored lightbulbs you can control over WiFi. [Don Howdeshell] picked up a couple of cheap Merkury branded units in a Black Friday sale, and quickly set about hacking them.
By and large, many of these bulbs are manufactured by various companies and rebranded for whoever happens to place an order. The bulbs tend to use the Tuya IOT ecosystem. Based on the ESP8266, reflashing the bulbs with custom firmware is simple, thanks to the Tuya Convert project. Using a Linux computer with a WiFi card running in Access Point mode, it spoofs a server that tricks the Tuya product into downloading a firmware update. From there, the bulb is an open book, ready to do your bidding.
One of [Don]’s attempts didn’t go so swimmingly, however. Flashing the firmware failed and the bulb was non-functional. [Don] elected to to a teardown, photographing it for our perusal, before hooking up to the ESP8266 directly over its serial interface. From there, it was simple to reprogram the bulb with Tasmota firmware, getting it back up and running.
[Uri Shaked]’s lamentation over the breaking of his smart bulb was brief as it was inspiring — now he had a perfectly valid excuse to hack it into a magic light bulb.
The first step was disassembling the bulb and converting it to run on a tiny, 130mAh battery. Inside the bulb’s base, the power supply board, Bluetooth and radio circuits, as well as the LED board didn’t leave much room, but he was able to fit in 3.3V and 12V step-up voltage regulators for the LiPo battery.
[Shaked]’s self-imposed bonus round was to also wedge a charging circuit — which he co-opted from a previous project — into the bulb instead of disassembling it every time it needed more juice. Re-soldering the parts together: easy. Fitting everything inside a minuscule puzzle-box: hard. Kapton tape proved eminently helpful in preventing shorts in the confined space.
The humble incandescent lightbulb is an invention just about anyone born in the 20th Century is more than familiar with. But it’s not the be all and end all of lighting technology – there are neon lights, compact fluorescent bulbs, and even LEDs are finally being adopted for interior lighting. But with the endless march forward, there are vintage throwbacks to the past – how many hipster cafes have you been to lately with great big industrial-looking filament bulbs hanging from the ceiling?
However, that’s not all history has to give us. These gas discharge bulbs from yesteryear are absolute works of art.
The bulbs contain delicate floral sculptures in metal, coated with phosphor, and the bulbs are filled with neon or argon gas. Applying mains voltage to the electrodes inside the bulb causes the phospor to fluoresce, creating a glowing flower that is hauntingly beautiful.
These bulbs were manufactured by the Aerolux Light Company, from the 1930s to the 1970s. Once upon a time, they could be had for as little as 20 cents a bulb – nowadays you’re likely to pay over $50 on eBay or Etsy. The bulbs work by the glow discharge effect, not at all dissimilar to garden variety neon lamps.
While it’s not easy, it is possible to make your own vacuum tubes. Maybe it’s time to order some phospor powder and a tank of neon and get to work? Be sure to document your attempt on Hackaday.io.
Cost-effective LED lighting for your home has opened up many doors for more efficient living, but also some more creative illumination for your living space. If you want to bring the dazzle of city lights right into your home, [David Grass] has two projects to sate this desire in perhaps the most literal way possible: Huddle and Stalaclights.
These clever, 3D printed bulbshades are possible since LEDs emit very little heat, and can be printed in a variety of designs. Huddle is named for — and illustrates — humanity’s coalescing into cities as the centre of modern life from which most of our information and technology emits. Stalaclights offers an inverted perspective on the straining heights of skyscrapers and is inspired by the Art Deco era and the expansion of cities like New York and Chicago.
[ElectronUpdate] has posted many great reviews of commercial LED bulbs that one can purchase to replace standard E26 incandescent light bulbs. In his reviews he evaluates the light emitting performance and does a thorough and detailed teardown, evaluating and understanding the circuit technologies used. For the light emission evaluation he uses a light meter and some homemade graph paper to plot the lumens at different angles. Flicker is easily evaluated using a solar panel from a discarded solar path light connected to his oscilloscope. Any flicker will show up quite nicely and can be measured. Of course a kill-a-watt meter makes an appearance in most reviews to read watts and power factor.
Recently [ElectronUpdate] wanted to understand the meaning of CRI which is advertised on many of these commercial LED packages. CRI stands for color rendering index and deals with how colors appear when compared to a natural light source. After doing some researching he found that a CRI over 80 is probably good for LED lighting. The next dilemma was how to measure CRI without expensive scientific equipment. He found a website that we have featured before with free software and instructions on how to build a spectrometer. The web instructions include building a meter box from paper but he found it was much more reliable if built out of wood. We’ll let you follow [ElectronUpdate’s] recommended build if you like, but you’ll need a few items which he does detail.
After a short calibration procedure the final rig will measure power spectral line densities of your light source. [ElectronUpdate] is promising more details on how the colorful measurement data can be related to CRI ratings, but you can get a jump on the details at Full Spectrum Solutions. We also recommend you browse through all of [ElectronUpdate’s] LED bulb reviews on YouTube if the progressing performance and innards of LED bulbs fascinates you as much as it does us.
Halogen bulbs put out a lot of focused light but they do it at the expense of burning up a lot of Watts and generating a lot of heat. The cost for an LED replacement like the one seen disassembled above has come down quite a bit. This drove [Jonathan Foote] to purchase several units and he just couldn’t resist tearing them apart to try out a couple of hacks.
The one we find most interesting is a PWM based dimming hack he pulled off with an Arduino board and a FET. The bulbs are designed to be dimmable through the 12V supply that feeds the light fixture. But the relationship of dimmer position to light level is not linear and [Jonathan] figured he could do better. His solution is to add a FET in parallel with the LEDs. When activated it basically shunts the current around the diodes, resulting in a dimming. The video below shows this in action. We wonder if the flashing is a camera artifact or if you pick that up with your eye as well?
You may also be interested to read his post on Gelling the LED bulbs. Gels are colored filters for lights (or camera lenses). He cuts his preferred color down to size and inserts it between the LEDs and the lenses.
[Todd Harrison] was thinking of replacing some incandescent light bulbs in his house with LED models, so and his wife picked up a single candelabra bulb to test before they spent the cash to swap them all out. The bulb died in about a week’s time, so [Todd] got out his trusty electronic disassembly device (his hammer), sharing his post-mortem examination with us.
After taking a cursory look at it, [Todd] found that the circuit powering the bulb was not overly complicated. A small bridge rectifier along with a few caps and resistors are all that was used to power the device, making it’s failure a bit puzzling. When [Todd] wired it up to his power supply, the bulb lit up, much to his surprise. His best guess as to why it died is that the shrink wrap around the PCB managed to cause a short, though he also noticed that one of the bridge rectifier’s legs was not soldered down.
He started tooling with the light to find out more about it, but he managed to blow out a handful of LEDs in the process. All in all the LED lighting swap was a disappointment, but at least he had some fun along the way!
Continue reading if you’re interested in seeing [Todd’s] diagnosis in its entirety.