LIFX Developer Zone

Maximum/many bulbs on a single network


#1

I’m currently developing an art installation and considering using LIFX bulbs as an output for creating a colour scene in a single large room vs a DMX setup with theatre lights.

I found this support article about maximum number of bulbs, but I was wondering if any users had any practical experience with a large number, where it peaks and what sort of problems one might run into if you had something between 10 and 30 running at once under programmatic control (using one of the nodejs or python libs with LAN control).

Are there challenges unique to the bulbs or is it mostly standard networking problems with large numbers of devices? Don’t have a huge amount of experience with networking so any pointers there would be useful.

Would be good to know if there’s any pros/cons to using the HTTP vs LAN for this kind of thing as well as we don’t need the lighting to be super responsive.


#2

I have a lot of bulbs. Right now I have 44 and grew to that many over 12 months.

I have a lot of experience with problems the volume of lights have cause and how I solved it.

I won’t tell you the whole story as it is very long, I’ll just tell you what I do now. If you have any questions I’d gladly answer.

Let me start with explaining how many network clients I have, wireless and wired. This is important because I ran into issues with both number of wireless clients (which others have experienced) and just total number of network devices.

I currently have…

44 LIFX Bulbs (Mostly BR30 Color 1000s Gen2)
~80 total wireless clients (~55 are 2.4ghz, rest are 5ghz) *note the bulbs are 2.4ghz only.
120 total network clients with an IP.

The first issue I ran into was my wireless router could not handle 45+ or so wireless clients well. They all stayed connected, however the lights basically became 50/50 as to if they would respond.

Keeping the same router, I purchased 2 Ubiquiti UAP AC PRO access points and a Ubiquiti Cloud key. I kept the same router. After installing these access points and spending some tweaking the config I got my lights to basically 100% reliability.

As I got more lights and other wireless and wired devices I learned that my router was struggling to route traffic for 70+ devices (wired or wireless).

I switched to the Ubiquiti EdgeRouter and my problems cleared up.

I continued to add more wireless devices and found that even Ubiquiti had trouble with 40+ devices per AP. So I got a few more APs. My devices are balanced across the APs based on location in my home and no AP has more than 35 devices.

You ask if it is bulb issue or just standard networking issues, I’d say both. It is clear my networking equipment couldn’t handle everything until I upgraded / expanded. That said, these bulbs and the LIFX code does have issues. I feel like the bulbs could recover better when losing a connection.

As for HTTP vs LAN… I will tell you that my LAN control is useless. It never works right. Right now if I was to do a LAN request to turn off all of my lights (using the LIFX app) at once only 30-50% would turn off. If I disable wifi and use my cellular connection 100% would turn off.

I should also tell you that I am a SmartThings users. I control these lights mainly with automations versus wall switches / mobile apps.

Let me know what specifics you want.


#3

Thanks Eric, that’s helpful. We’re thinking more like 15-20, it sounds like the point of networking issues is around 40 devices on a single AP? Would the LAN still be unreliable at that number?


#4

I’ve never had success via lan no matter what. Others are mixed.


#5

I was using LAN successfully for a color scroll on my LIFX-Z. I was sending 3 command bursts every 2-3 seconds. Until the LIFX-Z controller kept dropping off network and eventually died.
In my opinion, for your installation, not requiring an internet connection and just running local sounds better to me.
On a side note though, using DMX would let you integrate with bigger systems without issue.


#6

I have the eero mesh network (great product btw) and can control 26 LIFX bulbs plus everything else wifi in my house with no problems. Almost all of my bulbs are in recessed can fixtures.


#7

Update:
I have over 50 bulbs/z strips connected and running simultaneously with all of the other things on my network and they seem to work fine. I even tried a “stress test” on the bulbs by issuing many commands and for the most part they worked perfectly. Only when I run custom python scripts with MANY commands sent to the cloud, sometimes a bulb might miss a command.
I’m running a mesh network (3 eeros with a hard wired backhaul) and am fairly happy with the performance of the bulbs.


#8

I know it’s been a while since the original posting, but the number of LIFX bulbs on your network is always going to be limited to the number of devices your subnet supports first and the number of devices your APs can support second.

Summary

I have 5 APs and about 130 wireless devices on my network. 90 of those are LIFX bulbs (about an even split between BR30s and A19s). I’ve issued a LIFX HTTP command to color cycle on every bulb in the house for a minute, and it worked just fine.

Details

For reference, I have a 100/100 fiber Internet connection with 4 UniFi UAP-AC-Pros and 1 UAP-AC-HD. I use a UniFi Unified Security Gateway (same hardware as the EdgeRouter PoE).

The number of competing wireless networks is minimal, but the neighbors have their Wi-Fi on weird channels like 2 and 5 which causes a lot of RF noise and could potentially decrease the bandwidth of my access points. There are also some chatty devices (cameras) in the 5GHz range.

In normal use, I only ever see up to 30 devices on the 2.4GHz radio.

FAQ Article

Bringing it back to the original post, I think this old FAQ answer is incorrect. It only seems to be relevant for single-AP scenarios and does not specify anything about the type of Wi-Fi router that would support a larger number of Wi-Fi devices.

HTTP vs LAN

There’s virtually no difference between HTTP API and LAN protocol anymore in terms of what works.

In the past, I found the HTTP API to be very unreliable. Lights would be connected to my network, but were disconnected from the cloud. After the 2.14 update for 3rd gen bulbs, I haven’t noticed any further cloud-connection issues.

I wrote my own LIFX Controller software that runs on a Raspberry Pi and also another controller software for Flic buttons. I use this to control the lights strictly using LAN protocol. I think the only issues that come up are related to the software I wrote rather than the LAN protocol itself.

Latency is nearly non-existent when using the LAN protocol.

In April and May, I was using IFTTT. It would be between 4-7 seconds for a command to go through. Sometimes, it wouldn’t even work.

I do know Alexa never works when I try to turn off roughly 80 lights in a group at once. If I split my upstairs and downstairs, it works fine. Dunno if Alexa or LIFX is the cause.