What is the Philips Hue and How Does It Work?

What is the Philips Hue and How Does It Work?

The Philips Hue is a WiFi connected light system that you can interact with on your phone, integrating common features like a dimmer, automatic timer, color change, and even flashing effects into your home lighting. It’s also fairly expensive, and you can expect to shell out $150-$200 on a starter kit with the bridge and three bulbs, plus $25+ per additional bulb you add to the system, and up to $75 for special effects like light strips and special lights, although you can get the plain white dimmable bulb for as little as $15 on Amazon, that’s still an investment for what is essentially, just a light bulb.

How Does the Philips Hue Work

The Philips Hue connects to your WiFi using a bridge, which Philips sells themselves. This device makes a connection between the RF frequency sent out by the light bulbs and the WiFi signal sent out by your router and allows you to control the lights using WiFi over your phone. Other than the RF, the lights are just basic color changing dimmable bulbs.

The bridge is the most important part of the technology because it allows you to communicate with the light bulbs without installing expensive and energy consuming Wifi chips into each. When you connect your phone using the app, it communicates with the hub, which then converts that signal into an easy RF signal. Conveniently, RF also works very well through walls, so you can control lights upstairs and downstairs. You can also connect it to your Amazon Echo if you have one and use voice commands to control it.

Can You Build a Light System Yourself?

If you have the technical experience then it’s actually not that difficult to build a WiFi light setup on your own. The main thing is that you need a WiFi to RF bridge, WiFI or RF light bulbs, color changing bulbs, and the technical know how to set everything up. A decent setup, with more options than the Hue, and including all of the lights in your home will likely cost you slightly less than the Hue + five lights, but will allow you to do more things, and will include a lot more lights.

For example, a quality WiFi bridge is usually $30-$50, if you want to program in options then you need a Raspberry Pi or Arduino board which will cost $25-30, light bulbs will likely be $5-15 each, if you’re adding in switches, you have to account for those as well, and you’ll still have to make it all work with an app of your choice, although there are several that you can likely use. If you just want to use it with your computer, it will likely be even easier.

So, why buy the Philips Hue? If you want the convenience of a plug and play system, the Hue is one of the best options currently on the market. It’s also not outrageously priced compared to other name brand options.

Is the Philips Hue Worth The Money?

At the end of the day, most of us are likely wondering if it’s worth the money. Unfortunately, that depends on how much money you have, how much of that cash is disposable, and how much tech and design matter to you. If you’re always after the latest gadget, like to change the look of your house, and would 100% hang decorative lights up and love them, then the Philips Hue is worth the money. It offers a lot of value, includes dimmer options, will work with app themes like Halloween for parties, and you can recreate disco and club looks using nothing more than your phone and the lights in your house. Plus with LED strips, you can do some very cool things with the Hue.

On the other hand, if you don’t have the disposable funds to easily spend several hundred dollars on a complete light system, don’t really do that much with your current light system, or otherwise likely won’t be changing the colors of your lights very often, it’s probably not a good idea for you. There are a few low cost alternatives you could also check out, and some, like the Sylvania Lightify by Osram, have almost all of the same features but at a much lower price.

One important thing to consider is that you can pick up a generic set of RF lights on Amazon and use them with an included remote control. While the remote control isn’t as nice as your phone, you’re usually looking at $25-50 for the entire set, which, at the least, will allow you to test out light control systems to see if you use it or will love it.

About The Author
Deanie
Gardenia Boyle, aka "Deanie," is a freelance writer from Seattle. When she's not busy working on a variety of writing projects, she enjoys volunteering at the Humane Society or hiking. If it's raining though, which it does a lot of in WA, you'll probably find her with a controller in her hand playing one of her favorite games, WoW or Final Fantasy.