Build a Smarter Home: Philips Hue Lights

philips-hue-640x640When Alex threw in his vote for this month’s techie lifehack, I wasn’t sure if it fit in to the category of gadgets that simplify your life. The Philips Hue lights are more expensive compared to our previous recommended tech tools. I couldn’t commit to going out and purchasing them to “test” them out as I had done with Google Keep and Waze.  However, along with Alex’s descriptive nomination, it only took reading a couple articles to make me realize these could be extremely beneficial to folks for several reasons. Let’s explore.

What are Philips Hue lights?

The Philips Hue lights are Wi-Fi enabled lightbulbs that connect to a hub connected to your internet router.  This allows you to control them from anywhere, just as you might control your other “smart things” like thermostat, oven, dishwasher, refrigerator, washing machine & dryer. This includes being able to control them from an app on your phone, tablet, or computer.

How will they change your life?

The ability to change the lighting mood with colored light bulbs is pretty cool. However the lightbulbs are expensive and if you’re like me, you want to know the practical (then you can indulge and justify the cool features). There are several incredible features of these lights that will not only make you live more like the Jetsons, but help you save money, energy, and improve you and your family’s safety.

Create Smart Routines For Your LightsLights Off In Wifi Range

Whether you are rushing out the door in the morning to get to work and school on time or falling asleep on the couch after an exhausting day/night, turning off lights is not always on your mind. You can save lots of money on your energy bill if you do. It’s also good for the environment. With the “Routine” feature, you can set up rules for your lights.

  • Set rules to turn on lights when you are arriving home from work after dark. For optimal smartness, this can be done when you are in range of the Wi-Fi with your smartphone.
  • Set parameters to turn off at a certain time of morning to get you moving out the door. Again, you can have the lights turn off once you are out of range of the hub.
  • Set them to start dimming at a certain time at night on weekdays (blame it on the lights kids, not Mom and Dad)
  • If you prefer to awaken slowly, set them to slowly turn on in the morning for a mellow start to your day.
  • Even set the night lights to turn off completely after a couple of hours in the kiddos room.

Set Up Light Alerts

Integrating your Philips Hue with other smart home automation systems, including the IFTTT (If This Then That app), allows you to create rules that will act as alerts. For example, you can create a rule to have your lights get brighter or change color if someone opens the garage door. To do this, a user integrated a Philips Hue standard color-changing bulb with the hub with their Linear Z-Wave smart garage door controller. When their garage door opened, a rule was set to tell the Philips Hue bulb in the living room to flash red. This way the homeowner would know when someone was coming or going (a great way to keep track of teenagers).

Did you leave your car windows down in the driveway? Create an “alert” via IFTTT (the app calls them “recipes”) to blink the lights when it starts to rain. Another one that might come in handy, if you aren’t by your phone and you miss a call from one of your VIP contacts, the lights can flash around the house to inform you have missed a call.

Improve Your Smart Safety Systems

There are several ways to connect your Hues up to things like your smoke detectors, exterior door locks, and more. If you use a smart thermostat, such as Nest, Ecobee3, or Sensi, you can create IFTTT recipes to blink your lights or turn them red when the smoke, radon, or carbon monoxide detector goes off. This is helpful as a secondary signal if you have several levels in your home or if you are in the garage, on the front porch or back deck.

If all of your doors are equipped with smart locks, such as Kwikset or Schlage, you can create rules with the SmartThings app to communicate with your lights. For instance, turn all lights green when all doors are locked. Your smart locks probably have an app that you can visit to see if they are all locked, but glancing at a light bulb is way more convenient.

Use Sensors to Light Up Small Spaces

Some overlooked places to have a Hue light are smaller rooms such as closets, the kitchen pantry, laundry room, and basement. These are some of the most beneficial places to put smart bulbs. By placing a Hue bulb and a motion sensor, the lights will come on automatically as you enter the room. No more tripping over clothes, food, or laundry baskets.

They are pretty cool, too.

There are 3 types of Philips Hue bulbs – White, White Ambiance, and Color & White Ambiance.  The color bulbs are way more versatile. (They are also more expensive, however, they are all LED and will last 25,000 hours or 10+ years.) The color bulbs display the full color spectrum. You can set a certain mood, have them sync to music, TV, games and more. They all sync up to your virtual home assistants – Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, and more.

At the end of the day, my skepticism faded fast. The more I read about these lights, it made me want to add Hues to my home.