Until the Philips Hue series came along.
How would you like to play around with 16 million colours and be able to choose the brightness of them wirelessly and from your app?
Sounds like fun?
Picture this: Every room in the house can have its own mood light, from soft reddish background illumination to pleasant reading light to very bright daylight when you’re working where being able to distinguish colours is important. On your app you can choose from 11 preset colour schemes or create your own from the 16 million colours and hues available on palette of your app. And vary the brightness endlessly...
So how does it work?
There are 3 elements you need to make it work: the Philips Hue LED bulbs, the Philips Hue Bridge and the wireless control.
The Bridge is the nerve centre of the system. It’s a square white Apple-esque device with a big central button and 3 status LEDs. This connects to your router so that the wireless control and your app can access the bulbs through your network. So your phone needs to be on the same network as well. The Bridge can also control other accessories like motion sensors.
The Wireless Remote Control has On/Off and dimming buttons. The Switch is powered by a CR2450 battery. You can set different lighting scenes with up to 5 presses of the On button!
One remote can cover two rooms (about 12m) so for a whole house you might need more than one control.
Or use the Hue app on your phone to switch on and dim the lights.
Easy to Use?
Setup is easy once you have the 3 components.
The app looks for the Bridge and connects automatically. You can then setup the individual rooms and the lights in that room. The app functions well but I would have wanted a more intuitive and easier interface. There are plenty of other apps that work with the Hue system so you’ll find one that will be just right for you.
Interesting too is the fact that not only do you need to upgrade the software of the app and Bridge but also the bulbs themselves! The app indicates when an upgrade is necessary and says that it might take up to an hour... It actually takes about 10 minutes per lamp which is indeed long. Way too long if you have tricked out your whole house. And I’m not sure how often these upgrades are coming down the pipe and what is actually being upgraded. Communication between the Hue Bridge and the lights are encrypted and with standard authentication techniques.
The light bulbs are 806 lumens which translates to an efficient 9.5W which is equivalent to the old scale 60W. They go from a very warm white to a very cool daylight with all the colours in between and rated for 25000 hours.
If you want to do fancy, you can as the Philips Hue will play nice with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Nest and SmartThings. Also Cortana and Logitech. It’s voice control ready.
You can set timers or control your lights when you’re away from home. Or create Routines so that you can go to sleep or wake up with gradually decreasing or increasing light. And you can sync with music and movies in between...
And I have not even told you about the Hue Labs where you can experiment with Presence Mimicking (to make it look like you’re at home when you’re away) or Candlelight Romance where the lights become like “real” candles. You need Alexa for this though at the moment so we have not tried that function yet.
The Philips Hue system works well, It is very pleasant to have the right mood light when watching TV and very important to have the right illumination on your work. In practice you’ll probably settle on one or two “scene” lighting schemes, just like we normally use one or two settings out of a dozen on our dishwasher.
Even though normal LED lights are cheap enough to have in your whole house, the Philips Hue bulbs are quite expensive at AUD66. And you need the Bridge at $85 (available at Bunnings) The Bridge will handle up to 50 light bulbs or sensors.
So the lounge and bedroom are probably the most likely place for setting the right mood with the Philips Hue system.
We thank our friends at MobileZap for allowing us to play around with these devices.
You can buy the bulbs and dimmer switch ($32) at MobileZap. They come in 2 fittings: bayonet (B22) or the Edison screw fitting (E27).
Just one more hint: there are also 2 generations of the Bridge (the earlier one is called Hub) and THREE generations of light bulbs. Buy only the latest generation which have a Richer Colors logo on the top right of the packaging. They are AUD66 on the site.