Philips Hue is a smart home light ecosystem comprising a Hue Bridge, various bulbs, light strips, light fittings, decorative lamps and sensors. It is one of the ‘originals’ and can use Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri.
To be technical, each Philips Hue bulb has a Zigbee chip that will work with Zigbee controllers like the Hue Bridge, Alexa Echo Plus (with Zigbee hub) or popular smart home hubs.
Control is an interesting term.
Each bulb can remotely switch on or off, some can dim, and some have RGB LEDs to enable different colours, hues and even match the beat of the music. A voice assistant can control Philips Hue. “OK Google, run Savanna Sunset on the lounge.”
Why would you buy a Philips Hue system?
Do not buy it unless you have a specific use case. Otherwise, the novelty of using an app or voice control will soon wear off. GadgetGuy’s advice is to plan your lighting installation. It is retrofittable so that you can use the Hue ecosystem in new or older homes.
On the plus side, it is an easy system to incorporate into a smart home. You can then use voice control to switch on individual or groups of lamps and more. You can set up mood lighting. “OK Google it is movie night, or OK Google Good Night.”
It can be part of the IFTTT (If this then that) nested commands system as well. If a door sensor is tripped turn on the light and send a security cam photo by email.
You can buy White and Colour ambience portable ‘half-moon’ lights, and an LED light strips and create mood lighting.
The negatives include a premium price to go full Philips Hue in your home. It costs about $70 for a 600-Lumen (50W) downlight (requires an electrician to fit) and $90 for a 250-lumen downlight bulb (requires an existing compatible fitting).
What is a Zigbee hub?
The Hue Bridge uses Zigbee Light-link. It connects to the home router by Ethernet cable. In theory, it has a range of about 70metres indoor and 400 metres line-of-sight. In practice, the distance is about half that and depends on building materials, walls etc.
The Hue hub can support up to 50 lights, and the Hue app can only support one Bridge. A third-party app called Yeti can control two Hue bridges, but you lose some of the functionality because you cannot use the Hue App.
If you use another brand hub like Alexa Plus (speaker and hub), you must use the appropriate ‘skill’ to control the bulb. You may lose some Hue App functionality such as light scenes.
You also cannot easily add other brands of Zigbee bulbs to the Hue ecosystem.
That is why we recommend you think carefully about what type of smart home you want. If you want to go all out, then we suggest you seek professional help. GadgetGuy guest author Michael Verghios Director at Nimbull Smart Home is an expert and has penned a brief GadgetGuy Smart Home guide here.
Setup Philips Hue
Assuming you only want a few Hue devices then its easy to do it yourself.
We strongly recommend that you start small in case it does not meet your expectations.
If you already have a Zigbee hub or Alexa Plus you can just buy a light bulb first. A White 60W (equivalent) ES or BC (Edison Screw or Bayonet Cap) costs about $30. Put it in a suitable lamp and start the experiment. You will have to use the Alexa or hub ‘skill’ rather than the Philips Hue app. It is either going to work the first time or not at all.
If you do not have a Zigbee hub, then you can buy a Hue Bridge for under $90 and a single bulb. The Zigbee hub can control other Hue devices like dimmer switches, motion switches or tap switches.
You can find the entire range of 72 Hue products here. Retailers like JB Hi-Fi or hardware stores like Bunnings sell the most popular items. Others require specialist smart home installers and electricians.
Download the Philips Hue Android or iOS app, and it finds the bridge and bulb/s – simple.
Once you name each of the bulbs, locations and groups you can use the app (we are not at the smart home level yet) to control the bulb – on/off/dim.
The Hue app comes with a range of scenes that can control Hue lights with colour RGB LEDs. These include Savanah Sunset, Tropical Twilight, Arctic Aurora, Energise and more.
Smart Home voice control
I tried with OK Google. It uses the Hue app functionality instead of a skill. So, whatever you get in the app you should be able to control via voice.
You add Hue to the Google Home app via Manage Accounts. It is then ready to control the lights. I had four lights in a group called Test. I could say OK Google
- Turn on Test (all lights on at full strength)
- Turn on Ikea (or Light stripe or other unique names)
- Run Savanah Sunset (a scene) on Test (or address any light by its unique name)
- I also set it up with Routines like ‘I am home’ (lights on) and Good Night (lights slowly dim to off)
Philips Hue ecosystem is a good consumer level product. It is easy to set up for a DIY amateur using Google Assistant, Alexa or Siri.
But if you want more than a few novelty lights think hard about what smart lights can do and seek professional help.
Here you will start to understand that using a smart hub like the Vera Plus Home controller at $299 that supports all major standards (Z-Wave, Zigbee, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) and supports up to 220 disparate devices (including Philips Hue) in the one system is the better way to go.