Philips Hue bulbs work really well in general, and are quiet to the point that you can only heard a noise if you put your ear right up next to the bulb. However sometimes they can make an annoying buzzing sound, so I wanted to cover why this (sometimes) can happen, and how to solve it if it affects your bulbs.
Hue bulbs and light strips that buzz is not by design, and usually signals a problem that should – and can – be fixed, but the buzzing sound can be caused by a few different issues.
Cause #1: General LED issues and dimmed bulbs
Before smart bulbs came on the market, dimmable LED bulbs that buzzed were quite a well known issue – this was usually caused by an incompatibility between the LED bulb and the dimming driver/power supply, or sometimes by electromagnetic (EM) interference.
Philips Hue bulbs are LED based so they can potentially suffer the same issues too.
Firstly, are you using a third party (incompatible) dimmer switch to control your Hue bulb? If so, that’ll almost certainly be the cause of the issues. Hue bulbs need full voltage to be supplied to them, and then they can dim according to their own internal configuration. They should never be dimmed by less voltage being supplied, as this can damage the bulb – and cause buzzing issues.
However assuming that you are dimming your Hue bulbs in a compatible way (i.e. either via the Hue app or a Hue dimmer switch), perhaps EM interference is causing the issues for your bulbs?
To check this, try temporarily turning off any nearby electrical devices – especially things like microwaves and larger appliances. Also see if there’s a pattern to the buzzing – do all your Hue bulbs do it, or only ones in a particular room of the house?
Having said that, you shouldn’t generally hear the buzzing. I just went around my Hue bulbs and set the brightness to different settings, and I could never hear buzzing over the general ambient sound of the house. I could sometimes hear a very faint sound when I had my ear right by the bulb, but it wasn’t overly audible. It certainly wouldn’t be heard from a few steps away.
In other words, if you do hear buzzing and it’s not caused by dimming related issues (or EM interference), read on!
Cause #2: Software bugs
It seems weird to think that software updates can be applied to your Hue bulbs, but they are smart bulbs and so they can have software updates. Heck, you can check the version in your Hue app (under Settings) and install updates here if required:
The reason I’m saying this is that there have been software bugs in the past that have resulted in buzzing from certain types of bulbs, including Hue’s GU10 range of spotlights.
A recent GU10 software issue (which caused buzzing) was fixed in mid May 2020 by the Hue development team, for example.
So if you have buzzing issues, do check to see if there’s any pending software updates. If not, perhaps contact Philips Hue support and ask if the buzzing is a known issue with your particular type of Hue bulb.
You might get lucky and alert them to an issue which they diagnose and fix via a software update. If not, at least you have a record that your Hue bulb is buzzing and may be faulty.
Cause #3: Using the Hue Lightstrip+
Quite a few Hue Lightstrip Plus owners have complained of an immediate ‘electrical whine’ type sound after hooking everything up. This seems to come from either the Hue power supply (PSU) or controller for the LED lightstrip.
Other people have said that the issue goes away if they remove the Lightstrip Plus extensions they have purchased.
In short, the cause can vary but Hue’s lightstrips (which are great under kitchen cabinets) do seem to be a common source of buzzing irritation.
Overall the Hue controller seems to be the main culprit, however, and you can either try contacting Hue support to try and get a new one, or buy a third party LED controller/transformer (as long as it’s compatible, of course).
It’s a pity, but it does seem like a sizeable minority of Lightstrip Plus customers have been hit by noise issues and there’s no specific solution apart from trying to swap out the PSU/controller (if possible) or seeing if there’s a specific color/brightness combo where the noise isn’t too bad.
Cause #4: Software update issue
Whilst cause #2 talks of the need for software updates to fix bugs in the Hue bulb software, you can actually have noise issues whilst a Hue bulb updates – or whilst it downloads the update. This can sometimes take 30-60 minutes, due to the fact that the Hue bulb doesn’t work over WiFi and so data transfer rates can be quite slow (no more than 250 Kb/s on a standard Hue bulb).
Whilst this process is ongoing, some bulbs can have sound issues – and also flicker on and off a lot. I noticed this with one of my own E14 candle bulbs:
The Hue app said it was updating for around 30 minutes, and there was a 15 minute period where it made a definite ‘chugging’ type noise which could be heard from a few feet away.
My other bulbs were also updating during this time and were 100% fine, so this may have just been a one-off with this particular bulb. In short, if your bulbs are going through an update process, ignore any weird sounds or on/off issues for at least an hour!
Cause #5: Coil whine
If you are hearing a higher pitched buzzing or ‘whining’ type sound, this might actually be caused by coil whine. This frustrating electrical phenomenon is caused by electrical current passing series elecromagnetic coils inside transformers, causing the coils to move/vibrate – and sometimes give off a high-pitched sound in the process.
You can hear an example of this (from a computer) at 16 seconds in this video:
As in this video, instead of being purely high pitched, coil whine can also sound like a ‘crackling’ or even a fire type sound.
Standard Hue bulbs don’t tend to get audible coil whine issues due to their small internal transformers/coils. I say ‘audible’ because there will always be some noise emitted, but unless you’re stood with your ear against the bulb you shouldn’t really hear it.
If you can hear it from a few steps away, there could be a problem with the bulb. This is most likely either a loose connection or a genuinely faulty bulb, so read on in that case!
Cause #6: A loose connection
As we seen in cause #1, incompatible dimmer switches (that lower the voltage being supplied to a bulb) can cause buzzing noises from your Hue bulb because it’s getting incorrect voltage.
The same can be true if there’s a loose connection somewhere. In other words, if:
- The bulb isn’t in fully. This is more common with screw cap bulbs, but could even affect bayonet (twist) type bulbs. It’s worth quickly double checking this to rule it out.
- If the bulb is used in a table or floor lamp, check whether the lamp is fully plugged in at the wall outlet. If it’s not, or it’s going through an old power strip, try it fully plugged into the wall and see if that helps.
- If the bulb is used in a wired-in ceiling light, quickly check the internal connections are all tight (if you’re safe and competent to do so, of course).
Anything that could be causing voltage supply (or fluctuation) issues to the bulb can result in excess noise – along with potential damage to it – so it’s worth ruling this out as a factor as soon as possible.
Cause #7: Faulty bulb
If you’re still reading and none of the above has helped, you may just have a faulty bulb. It’s unfortunate, but it does happen.
I’ve spoken to people with a really noisy Hue bulb or Lightstrip+, and a new bulb or LED controller was sent and the noise got better. It didn’t always go away completely, but it was much quieter and – crucially – fine to live with.
Ultimately these are electrical components with computerized parts too, and anything manufactured in this way will have some variance – leading to some bulbs which are noiser than others. Or, you may have a bulb with a genuinely broken component.
Whatever the cause, get in touch with Philips Hue support and explain the issue and any steps you have taken to fix/diagnose the issue. Hue bulbs tend to come with either a 2 or 3 year warranty, so hopefully you’re covered. But if you’re outside of this period, you might still get lucky and get a new bulb. Either way, speak to Hue and see.
To give more context to this point, I have 12 GU10 spotlights (all dumb LEDs) in my kitchen-diner and as I type this, a couple of them are giving off an annoying, audible high-pitch buzzing sound. They’re all the same brand of bulb, so the 1 or 2 that are buzzing are simply not working correctly. I had this before in another room and swapping the bulbs out resulted in zero noise going forward. Sometimes you just need a new bulb, unfortunately.