Smart Home Experience Report – IKEA Tradfri

When I heard about 1 ½ years ago about IKEA Tradfri, it was clear to me that I wanted to try out this Smart Home lamp system.

About 2 years before I had gained experience with Phillips Hue. But I was not very enthusiastic. I was annoyed by different things. First, the individual lamps and switches were too expensive for me and second, the switches annoyed me. The idea that the switches work without batteries is actually ingenious, but I needed 2-3 attempts until the switch emitted the signal. And secondly, I was annoyed that there weren’t even any motion detectors that could be mounted in the corridor, for example. I would call that at least a little smart.

In a nutshell, the word smart in the term “smart home” is a bit high. But “linked home” for a networked house or home doesn’t sound so good.

Basic components:

Switches:

  1. dimmer (the dimmer is only suitable for white lamps that can only be dimmed)
  2. switch (can change the colour of a lamp and dim it

Lamps:

The basic advantage of the IKEA Tradfri system is that you can dim all lamps. There are 3 basically different types of lamps.

  1. white glowing lamps that you can dim.
  2. lamps where you can set the colour from cold white to warm white and which you can dim.
  3. lamps in which the colour can be adjusted and dimmed over the entire colour spectrum.
  4. there are also different LED panels
  5. and now there are also LED drivers that allow you to operate a different number of “stupid” LEDs (e.g. from a China export dealer or more simply from IKEA), but the drivers have an output of 24V, so most of my LEDs, which need either 5 or 12V, are not compatible.

More components:

  1. dimmer
  2. switches (where you can adjust and dim the color)
  3. LED driver
  4. motion detector
  5. Tradfri hub (to bring in a little bit of intelligence and use the app)
  6. unfortunately not yet available, but announced switchable sockets.

The IKEA Tradfri system can be operated in two different versions.

1. single lamps and a mobile button

This is actually the offline version where you can’t use the app. You can create groups, e.g. all lamps behind the sofa and connect them with a single switch.
This makes sense for lamps with dimmers. Often you have a lamp with dimmer behind the sofa, but when was the last time you set the dimmer behind the sofa? With the switch it also works perfectly from the sofa. But to set it up, you have to remove the dimmer from the lamp, because the Tradfri lamps don’t work. But this is a simple task for someone with some electronic experience. At the end the 230V have to be on the lamp socket.

2. many lamps and groups with the Tradfri hub

With the Tradfri Hub, you then have the possibility to control all lamps, groups and switches via an app. This is the easiest and best way to equip your apartment with Tradfri.
In addition, you can pre-program a few intelligent things such as the start time in the morning or an absence program.
With the Hub you also have the possibility to control the whole thing via Amazon Alexa or Googel Assistant. (These options fall away for some privacy concerns).
But probably the most interesting thing is that you can access the Hub with different open platforms like OpenHub or pytradfri and you can actually do it a little intelligent.
[Note to pytradfri https://github.com/ggravlingen/pytradfri: PyTradfri only works on Linux, because the libcoap-library for Windows does not exist. A workaround is the Linux subsystem Bash of Windows 10 or a RaspberryPi)

I started with the variant without hub, simply because it was still sold out at that time, and with about 4 lamps. I still had to convince my sweetheart of my new idea to get budget 😉
But when the dimming function and the motion detector in the hallway proved to be extremely useful during the night, I was allowed to equip almost the whole apartment with IKEA lamps and install the hub.

My conclusion after approx. 1 years ½
I’m still convinced of the system. The initial costs are reasonable and if you’re a little creative, you can do some cool things with it.
I like the motion detectors, the LED drivers and I’m really looking forward to the switchable sockets.

The Hub has its limits. Our apartment is not really big, but there is a room that I just can’t reach anymore. I wonder if the ZigBee protocol was implemented properly, because the devices should be networked with each other and this room should be accessible at least indirectly via the lamp switch network.
At the moment I’m thinking about implementing a second hub for the rear area.
You would also have to do that if you live in a multi-storey house.

At the moment, a lamp in the corridor only works once in a while and usually has to be reactivated by a reset (switching off the power). I have to investigate this in more detail, on the one hand this may be because the battery at the switch is perhaps too weak, or the lamp is through.)

After a year most switches now have the time when I have to replace the battery. But I find this acceptable compared to the disadvantages of the Phillips Hue switches, which only worked from time to time.

The biggest problem are visitors who don’t know these systems and try to operate the lamps via the 230V switches installed in the apartment. The first press on the switch takes the power from the system. This is the point where most people complain that the bulbs are defective. First the second pressure, would then switch on the lamps again, but most try that then no more.
For this problem I developed 3d-printed parts and equipped the flat with them, which helps in most cases (in the beginning it helped me too 😉 ). I will present these parts here soon.

I spent a lot of time setting up OpenHab on the RaspberryPi and configuring it properly. That worked basically and once you understand the system, you can do a lot with it.
But somehow, while experimenting around, the whole system with the configurations was wasted away. Since then I didn’t feel like it anymore, because so much work disappeared.

Right now I think it’s easier for me to make it a little more intelligent with Python and the pytradfri library.

The Hallway or Stairway function doesn’t officially exist. If you’re wondering what kind of function it is, here’s a short explanation. If you have a gear, there are usually one or two lamps hanging there. You usually have a switch at each end to operate the lamps. But a Tradfri group officially has only one switch. This makes the whole thing a bit pointless.
But, there’s an unofficial variation on how to do it anyway. This is not documented and has already changed in the last year.
How you can do it, you can read here: IKEA Tradfri Hallwayfunction / Stairwayfunction.

Since the switchable sockets do not yet exist, I did some research and found out that a Tradfri switch or motion detector can also be connected to a switchable Osram Lightify socket. You can read how to do this here: Pairing IKEA Tradfri switches with OSRAM Lightify sockets.

All in all, I’m still enthusiastic about IKEA Tradfri and happy about all the extensions and updates there are. I can only recommend the system personally.

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