#9: Review - Philips Hue
Hardware Review

#9: Review - Philips Hue

William Zink

Introduction

The first thing I concentrated on when I began my condo renovations was lighting. I had abysmal lighting from the original floor plan and knew that something needed to be done. I added (11) recessed can lights, 2 sconces in my utility closets and 2 ceiling fans to fix the problem and it did! Before, I felt like the ultimate bachelor running around with my cellphone light on while trying to do the laundry. So when it came to picking the right lighting choice I spent a lot of time debating....

TL;DR - In this post I discuss the pros and cons of Philips Hue, why I ended up with them and my overall review.

Do I choose smart switches or lights?

This is the main question that I had when I was at the beginning. I went with smart lights and here is why.
Smart lights give you a lot of features, such as color ambiance, uniformity, and warranty. But Will, these bulbs are $50 a piece!! Yes, I know, I know. But they do come with a warranty (which I have needed to use three times) the color adds a great feature and you never have to worry about buying the exact same bulbs again for that different white color effect. My next door neighbor's condo has 4 different "white" lights....

If the features I mentioned above just aren't worth your time then I really do suggest going with the smart switches. I use TP-Link Wi-Fi Switches at another house that I am working on and they work very well. They have a good integration with Home Assistant. But each device needs to be setup through the TP-Link app.

What about your old switches?

This answer might be one reason that you go with switches over smart lights. But you can use a blank cover plate, in some states (check with your local electrician) but you can drywall over your existing switches (this is what I did), or you can buy some switch guards and lock your existing switch in the on positon.

As you can see none of the options are that fantastic but this is one of my main complaints with Hue. I wish they would come up with a switch that could go in place of your existing switches. Hue lights prefer constant power, and their idle power draw is very minor.

Okay so I chose lights, now which ones?

There are several companies that make smart bulbs and it's growing by the day. I feel like the main contenders (at least at the time of writing this) were, Philips Hue, LIFX, Sengled

LIFX - The benefits of LIFX are that it doesn't require a Hub. This sounds great in theory but the reality is that you are asking the bulb to do more work. I have had countless issues where clients or people will ask me what is wrong with their bulbs. Some common issues are, the bulb is not close enough to your wireless access point, overheating the bulb, connection issues, switch / access point cannot support all of the devices that were just added to the network. Another benefit is that they get slightly brighter at 1100 Lumens where Philips Hue will only get to 800 Lumens

Sengled - Cheaper option, supports Alexa and Google Assistant. I have heard of connection issues with Alexa but I do not have any knowledge of these bulbs. I was of the mindset when I renovated my place that spending a premium for lights was worth the reduction in pain on systems supported and a company that backed their product.

Philips Hue - well we all know I landed on this option and here's why. The Hub actually convinced me rather than deterring me. I had heard that the range was excellent and I could store it within my networking closet. It uses Radio Frequency (RF) band to broadcast to the bulbs individually reducing the need for each bulb to be on the network. I wouldn't have to deal with the LIFX connectivity issues and the app supports rooms and zones which seemed like a perfect fit for me. I also went to look at products and was shocked at how many different pieces they offered, lights, sensors, lamps, outdoor lighting. This made me buy into the ecosystem. Similar to Apple, once you are in, you are pretty much in for life. Philips also offers a two year manufacturer warranty on their lights and I have needed to use it! But, overall I am happy with them and I also like that they are actively developing new products. Each time I am in a Best Buy I run to the Hue section and see what's new.

Philips Hue Review

Pros Cons
Innovative hardware Expensive $$$
A19 Lights - multiple colors supported Colored lights are more expensive
Built-in scenes A lot of time to configure custom scenes
A lof of accessories (switches, sensors, etc...) Only supports 50 devices per Hue Bridge!
Hue Switches are very responsive Sometimes a light will not follow the others in a zone
Brightness is good for the bulbs Lightstrips are not worth the $$
Supports remote management for your lights Upgrading the firmware is very time consuming and fails intermittently
Supports time automations Only allows two time automations (I wish I could create as many as I like)
Native Home Assistant support HA doesn't support scenes that well
Hue Tap (fantastic no battery switch) Philips Hue doesn't offer wired switches
Battery life! Having to worry about batteries in the first place
Good community support I find myself using the Hue iOS app sometimes
Energy efficient 'Always on' - always needing some sort of power draw
Device setup is easy
Supports multiple rooms and zones (i.e. inside, outside, upstairs)
Apple watch support
Wake-up and sleep modes

Products I use

Lights

Accessories

Hue Hub also comes with startup kit

Total: 42 Devices

Pictures

Custom mirror I created (with my contractors help)

Hue Light strip wrapped around 2x4 (wood board) and you can see mounting bracket
Finished result, no vanity needed with this setup

I just used a Hue indoor light strip with one extension and I am extremely happy with the result.

Above cabinet lighting

Don't worry about the mess, this is middle of construction
Cones did not stay, but this is a good view of the whole kitchen lighting setup

Entryway (looking back)

The left hand sconce is two hue bulbs

Entry

Some of the A19 hue color bulbs I added

Close up of recessed can

Ubiquiti AP and close up of A19 in a recessed can

Above cabinet and the mirror project I have found to be the best result for the LED light strips, but your mileage may vary :)

Issues

I have had a couple of issues within my 3 year tenure with Philips' lighting products.

Outdoor lights

3 of my outdoor strips have gone kaput. I live in a mild environment and have only had one strip last more than 2 winters. I feel like I am always having to tell them that my strip is out again. At $169 USD a piece you would think they would be more durable. Luckily these come with a warranty and each time Philips has either replaced it or sent me a check in the amount that I paid to replace the item. I don't have a ton of confidence that these will last me through this winter, but we'll see.

Indoor lights

I did have one indoor A19 light bulb overheat and literally burn out. I did contact Philip's support and they sent me a replacement very quickly.

The other issue seems to be software related. Sometimes when I come home my lights don't seem to be on the same settings as the others. It does seem to be with 1-2 lights in particular but it's weird that it doesn't follow it's counterparts sometimes.

Example, you can see the middle one is not as bright. But they both were set to on via Home Assistant.

Conclusion

As you can see I have bought into the Philips Hue ecosystem. I know a lot of you are going to add up the $$ and say that I overpaid but in all honesty for me it was worth it. I have been very happy with the Philips brand and the Hue line of products. The company is innovative, the customer support is pretty good, and I have found the system stable with very little hassle. Positives are that I do not have any networking issues that LIFX tend to have, every product is extremely responsive, excellent Home Assistant integration, and beside the single light issue mentioned above all 31 indoor lights have been running smoothly for over 3 years.

I have found a blog post about creating your own Hue light strips with better LED separation and are much cheaper. Blog post here if you are curious. Another similar post here. I think I am going to try some under the cabinet lighting with this solution, if I do I will write a separate post about it.

Overall: 8/10

I do wish that Philips would come up with some wired switches / sensors as I don't want to replace batteries all of the time. I also wish the Philips Hue light strip indoor and outdoor was a better product. There is also the argument that Philips Hue is overpriced due to the Zigbee protocol and Wi-Fi devices are cheaper. I know a lot of people are saying that I am putting a lot of eggs in one basket with Hue and that might be true. But overall I am happy with my choice and to this day, three years later, I don't think there is a rival that I wish I would have gone with.

Question

How do you handle lighting? Do you have smart switches or smart bulbs? Let me know in the comments down below!