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Friday
Mar022018

Podcast #833: Philips Hue Lights

For many home automation is limited to lights turning on and off at prescribed times. Others would like the ability to control their lights while they are away from home. For these people full blown automation is not necessary. There are a growing number of products that will let you do this. They range from smart wall plugs to wifi connected light bulbs. One such solution are Hue lights.

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Hue Lights

For many home automation is limited to lights turning on and off at prescribed times. Others would like the ability to control their lights while they are away from home. For these people full blown automation is not necessary. There are a growing number of products that will let you do this. They range from smart wall plugs to wifi connected light bulbs. One such solution are Hue lights.

Hue lights are not the cheapest solution but from our experience they seem to be the most reliable and have the most options. Hue lights do more than just turn on and off automatically. They also can set the mood by changing color. They do cost more and for that you get the most robust and complete lighting system available.  

(Some) Hue Products

 

 

 

The Brains

The Hue Bridge is required to control your system. This is where you can name your lights and setup scenes and scheduling. You are limited to 50 lights per bridge. If you want to connect more lights you can add an additional bridge. Fifty lights seems like a lot, but once you get started you will want all your lights to be Hue lights! You can also connect 12 accessories, remotes  and motion sensors. More about those later. You will need an iOS or Android app to interact with the system and you can set it up to work from home or away. The Hue Bridge will also connect to Homekit, Echo, or Google Home. In our test we controlled the system by voice via Siri and the Echo with no issues.


Installation

Some people shy away from automation because it can be a bit complicated to get the system up and running. The Hue is straight forward but does require a little bit work to get right. First you download the app on your device and then go to the settings and scan the network for your bridge. Once found you will need to press a big blue button on the bridge. After it's connected more than likely you will need to upgrade the firmware.  

Now that your bridge is online you can start to add lights. Go to Light setup and add lights. Be sure that the light has power. Once found you can rename it and assign it a room. And that’s it! You will immediately be able to turn the lights on and off and if you have color bulbs you’ll be able to change colors.  The lights will also need a firmware update. Our recommendation is to set it up to do those automatically during the day time. They take quite a bit of time. We did an update to activate some cool features but ended up waiting over an hour. If you are patient go ahead and do the update. Otherwise wait a day to start playing with the cool features that are in the hue lights.


 

Performance

 

Make sure you get the Gen 3 lights. The color is better than previous versions and you can get higher wattages. Our test included bulbs, LED strips, and the Hue Bloom. The Hue Bloom is a light that is designed to bounce it's light off a wall to give an indirect ambiance affect. Ours are setup behind the TV and can be synced to what is on the screen!

When we set the lights to white we got bright white light. We could soften them up or select pretty much any color we wanted with a color wheel. The app has some pretty cool scenes that we ended up going with since our experimentation was kind of lame.  Ara would take about ten minutes and set something up and his entire family would say nah. After three failed attempts he chose a pre-canned scene and everyone loved it. In the end he gave in and went with it.

One of the reasons Ara dropped the VOCOLinc lights is because they would drop the wifi connection and lights would not turn on or they would  stay on when they were supposed to be off. In the three weeks of using the Hue lights they have not failed once!

I you want to go just a little beyond automated lights you can add the motion sensors and have lights turn on for you when you walk into your house or get up to go to the bathroom. They respond very fast too! There is also a dimmer switch that can control multiple lights. With this $25 accessory you can easily add a switch anywhere in the house that you want.


Hue Apps

There are a bunch of apps that add functionality to your hue lights. Some developed by Philips and others developed by third parties. These typically cost a few dollars. We tested an app that listens to your music through your phones microphone and then times the lights to the beat. It mostly works but there is some lag. We also downloaded a $3 app that watches your TV through your phone or tablet’s camera and then matches lights, that you choose, to the color of what is on the screen.


Conclusion

Philips Hue lights are one of the coolest home automation products we have tested. The more you have the more the capability. The only complaint we have about them is the price. If you can afford them it is the way to go!

 

 

 

 

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