Did you get a new Philips Hue smart lighting kit for Christmas? I bet you’re not alone–I feel like I’ve seen tons of people getting into it recently. If this is your first foray into smart lighting, you might be trying to figure out how to set up your new Hue lights, so I decided to write down a few things I’ve learned in the time I’ve been using mine. Read on for tips on naming your lights, setting up automation, and more!
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Where Will You Put Your Lights?
When you first pull your lights out of the box, you’ll discover that it’s not necessarily easy to figure out where you want to put them. Perhaps your ceiling fan fixture uses those annoying candelabra bulbs rather than the full-size bulbs included in the Hue starter kit. Maybe you want to put a smart light in your dining room light, but the fixture requires 4 bulbs.
I try to follow a few guidelines when I place my lights. First, I usually won’t use Hue in fixtures that require multiple bulbs. Because Hue requires the fixture to have electrical power at all times, you can’t turn off the light switch for the fixture. This means that it isn’t possible to mix smart bulbs and non-smart bulbs in the same fixture, and putting 3 or 4 smart bulbs into a single fixture would be unreasonably expensive.
I manage to avoid most of these issues by following this way of thinking: If only the Hue lights in a room are turned on, it should be enough light for me to hang out in the room, but not necessarily the maximum level of light I might occasionally need in the room. This means I’ll usually have a Hue light in a side lamp rather than the overhead fixture. The big advantage of smart lights is that you can have them come on automatically when you come home or walk into the room, and you don’t need maximum lighting for that. If I am working on a project and need as much light as possible, I can walk over and flip on a light switch for the overhead fixture.
Oh, and those colored lights that you don’t know what to do with? Try putting them in the corners of the room as accent lighting. A splash of color on a wall or in a corner can add a cool visual element to the room.
And Now, A Name
Once you’ve placed your lights, you can come up with names for them. I want to offer one bit of advice: try to choose unique names for all of your lights. For example, don’t have “Dining Room Light” and “Dining Table Light”. The reason for this is that you may want to set up voice commands for your lights with Alexa or Google Assistant, and you’ll eventually use those names to turn individual lights on and off. A week or month from now, you won’t remember whether the fixture you want is “Dining Room Lamp” or “Dining Table Light”. Even if you do remember the name, your voice assistant may mis-hear you and turn off the wrong light since the names are so similar.
Set Up Your Controls
Once you’ve placed your lights and named them, you need to decide how you want to control them. Smart lights always require power, so you shouldn’t use the normal wall switch to turn the lights on and off. You can always use the Philips Hue app to control the lights, but it can be annoying to open an app every time you want to turn your lights on. I’m going to suggest a few other approaches.
Control Hue With Your Voice Assistant
My favorite way to control my lights is with Alexa. It’s amazing to say “Alexa, turn the living room lights on” and have the entire room light up. If you don’t already have a smart speaker, this is a great excuse to get an Amazon Echo Dot or a Google Home Mini.
You’ll need to configure the voice assistant to recognize your lights. Fortunately, there are guides online available for both Alexa and Google Assistant.
Use A Motion Sensor To Turn Your Lights On Automatically
I also really enjoy using the Philips Hue Motion Sensor to automatically turn a light on when I walk into a room. It’s especially convenient for rooms that you frequently go into for a few moments at a time, such as a bathroom or hallway. I think it’s worth picking up at least one Motion Sensor to play with.
In the official Philips Hue app, you can configure the sensor to turn on one or more lights when it detects motion, and optionally turn those lights off again after a set period of time. You can also configure it to turn those lights on to a “night light” mode if motion is detected in the middle of the night. That night light feature is one of my favorite things about using the motion sensor, so I’d recommend setting that up.
Use a Physical Switch
Sometimes you still need a physical switch to control your lights. Maybe you’re on the phone with someone and can’t use a voice command, or maybe you have overnight guests who need to use the lights but don’t have access to the Hue app. Philips sells a few different physical controls for Hue, but my favorite is the Hue Smart Dimmer Switch.
I like the Dimmer Switch because it can be mounted on the wall similar to a normal switch. But the controller attaches to the wall plate magnetically and is completely wireless, so you can pull it off the wall and bring it
with you to the couch if you want. In addition to turning the lights on/off and dimming them, you can press the On button multiple times to cycle through different preset scenes for the lights. It’s a great remote control that doubles as a switch, and it’s reasonably priced.
If you really want to see the benefit of smart lights, you’ll want to set up some automation. The Hue app provides a few simple automation settings, such as turning on lights at sunset or when it detects that your phone is close to home. Experiment with it and try all of the settings out to figure out which ones work with your lifestyle!
Personally, my favorite Hue automation is the “wake up” alarm that fades the lights on in the morning. It’
s one of the biggest reasons I’d recommend putting a Hue bulb in a bedroom light fixture. I’d highly recommend trying that one out.
If you feel limited by the options in the official Philips Hue app, you might want to look into some of the other options, which brings us to third-party apps.
Use Third-Party Apps For More Features
If you try to set up more complex automation, you’ll quickly run into the limitations of the official Philips Hue app. Fortunately, there are a number of third-party apps that offer additional features and customization. If you want to make full use of the capabilities of your Hue lights, you’ll need to look into a third-party app.
I especially recommend using a third-party app if you have the Hue Motion Sensor. I’ve found that the official Philips Hue app doesn’t offer much customization for the motion sensor settings, whereas third-party apps allow you to configure many more settings and options for how the motion sensor works.
You can get Hue apps for every major platform, including iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac OS. Most of the apps will let you use basic functionality for free, so it’s easy to try them out and see if it’s something you want to use. Here are a few to check out:
Make Your Hue Setup Your Own
So that’s my advice for setting up your Philips Hue lights, and I hope it helps point you in the right direction. It can be intimidating to set up smart lights, but once you get the basics figured out you’ll have a lot of fun with them. Everyone has different tastes for what they want to do with their lights, so experiment with it and figure out what works best for you!