Philips Hue Range/Distance Guide: How Far Away Can It Work?

I recently purchased a Philips Hue starter kit and four candle bulbs, but due to having limited space (and power outlets) by the router in my living room, I instead installed my Hue Hub (the Bridge v2) up in my attic. I was able to do this because I already have full networking (and power) in my attic, but could the location cause range/distance issues?

A recently installed Philips Hue v2 bridge which is setup in my loft.
My Philips Hue v2 Bridge in my attic (I already have a home network in my loft).

If I do have issues, is the range any better with the newer generation of bulbs (the ones that support Bluetooth)? And on that note, why do none of the outdoor bulbs support Bluetooth (instead requiring the Hue Bridge)?

Bulbs that require the Hue Bridge (meaning ones that support Zigbee) have a better potential range than the Bluetooth Hue bulbs. Zigbee bulbs can also ‘mesh’ together and further improve communication range.

The Hue Bridge (Zigbee) vs Bluetooth

If you look at the side of a Philips Hue box, you will see that they say “ZigBee Certified Product”:

The boxes for the Philips Hue B22 Starter Kit and the Philips Hue White Ambiance E14 bulbs, both of which say "ZigBee Certified product" on their side.
Philips Hue items which are “ZigBee Certified” products.

This means that they contain a computer chip which communicates over the ZigBee protocol, just like an internet router can speak over the ‘internet protocol’ (such as WiFi) and wireless headphones speak over the Bluetooth protocol.

In basic terms, a protocol just refers to how different computerized devices can speak to each other, passing information back and forth.

The latest generation of Philips Hue bulbs contain both ZigBee and Bluetooth chips, whilst the ‘requires the Bridge’ bulbs contain just a ZigBee chip.

ZigBee was first developed in 1998, whilst Bluetooth is older – having been around since 1989. However both protocols have been updated since then – the newer bulbs support something called Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) which was formalized in December 2009, whilst the new ZigBee 3.0 standard – released in December 2016 – is supported by all Hue products.

In terms of the key features – and differences – of Bluetooth LE and ZigBee 3.0:

  • Both run on the 2.4 Ghz (2,400 Mhz) radio frequency band, just like 2.4 Ghz WiFi.
  • Bluetooth LE is faster, meaning that supporting devices can send and receive data quicker. (Of course, for light bulbs, the maximum download speed isn’t really important because smart bulbs just receive tiny bits of internet data).
  • Each ZigBee device can act as a ‘mesh provider’, meaning that they extend the range of the whole ZigBee network. This works by allowing for each bulb to pick up ZigBee signals from other bulbs, and then relay this on (either to another bulb, or the Hue Hub).

    This is a neat idea and it ultimately means that the more Philips Hue bulbs you have at home, the greater your overall smart light range will be.

There is also something called Bluetooth Mesh which is the same idea as ZigBee Mesh, but Bluetooth Mesh is a different protocol standard and Hue bulbs do not support it – meaning that the potential range of your Hue Bluetooth bulbs would just be ‘point to point’ (i.e. from the bulb to your smartphone).

How Far Does The Philips Hue Bridge (ZigBee) Reach?

If you’re using the Philips Hue Bridge, you’ll be using ZigBee for your home network (even if some of your newer bulbs support both Bluetooth and ZigBee). This is a good thing because as touched upon earlier, the potential range for ZigBee is higher than it is with Bluetooth LE.

Link Labs tested ZigBee and Bluetooth LE and found that ZigBee has a 291 metre outdoor range. This is somewhat confirmed by the official ZigBee Alliance stats, which say the outdoor line of sight range (i.e. without any obstacles in the way) is over 300m.

But what about indoor range? Well ZigBee Alliance’s stats also mention this, saying indoor range is 75-100 metres. However this is in perfect conditions.

A couple of research papers looked into this with more independent tests, and the ‘Testing of communication range in ZigBee technology‘ paper concluded that the maximum real World range is 25m indoors. Another paper called ‘Range test with ZigBee in indoor environments‘ by P Kacz tested with ranges up to 11.7m (and up to two drywall or solid walls in the way), and found no range of technical issues here – meaning the effective range should definitely be higher than 11.7m.

In summary:

LocationExpected Range
OutdoorsOver 300m (985 foot)
Indoors (no barriers/walls)75-100m (246-328 foot)
Indoors (with walls and furniture)12-25m (40-82 foot)
Expected ranges of ZigBee in various locations

In other words, in a typical smart bulb home (with multiple bulbs, grouping together as a ZigBee mesh), you shouldn’t have any range issues at all. I certainly haven’t had any issues by my Hue Hub being in my attic, even though there’s 3-4 walls and ceilings between the Hub and some of my smart bulbs.

The only time you might have an issue is if your Hue Bridge is in one end of your house (such as by your router at the front of the house), and then you have a bunch of smart outdoor Hue lights, such as the popular Hue Discover range:

Hue Discover outdoor floodlight
Hue Discover outdoor floodlight

If your backyard is big enough, you may start to hit across the approx. 25m range limit.

If this is the case, you’ll see that your bulb is listed as unreachable (or perhaps offline) in the Hue app. However thanks to ZigBee Mesh, the solution should just be as simple as buying another Hue bulb and putting this somewhere in the middle. This bulb will then act as a a radio relay (almost literally), and should sort out any range issues – I go into this more in the final section.

What’s the Range with Bluetooth (Without the Bridge)?

Bluetooth range is more limited – Link Labs (which I mentioned earlier) also tested Bluetooth LE, finding a 77m range outdoors (compared to 291m with ZigBee). Indoors the situation is expectedly worse, with Hue’s own product announcements from 2019 saying that you can expect a 30 foot (9.1m) indoor range.

A phone screenshot showing the Philips Hue Bluetooth mobile app.
The Philips Hue Bluetooth mobile app.

A December 2016 research paper titled ‘Indoor Positioning System using Bluetooth Low Energy‘ tried creating an accurate positioning system using Bluetooth LE, and found that over 4m the accuracy drops to the point where the system would no longer be reliable.

Naturally a tiny packet of data saying “Living room light off” requires less accuracy than a positioning system, but the main point here is that the greater the distance, the more chance there is of errors and communication systems (such as your light not going off when you ask it to, and needing to attempt this multiple times).

Hue’s marketing is honest about this, however, saying:

The light bulb only works within the Bluetooth range (about 30 feet), meaning you can control lights in one room of your home. This makes it easy to get a feel for how smart lights work (and just how handy they really are!) before committing to a full Hue system

In other words, if you want to quickly try out smart lighting, you should be okay with the range of Hue Bluetooth bulbs whilst in the same room. The benefit of this approach is that these bulbs also contain ZigBee, meaning that you can upgrade their range by switching to the Hue Bridge at a later date.

Does The Hub Have To Be In The Same Room As The Router?

I’ve already touched on this, but this question is asked a fair bit so I wanted to cover it explicilty.

The Philips Hue Bridge install instructions does say to plug the Bridge/Hub directly into your router:

Photo showing the inner text of a Hue starter kit, telling us to "Plug in the Hue bridge and connect to your Wi-Fi Router".
Hue’s starter kit instructions: plug Hue Bridge in ‘to your Wi-Fi Router’.

However this doesn’t matter, and doesn’t need to be done. You just need to make sure that the Hue Hub is connected via an Ethernet cable into your home network – the same home network that you’ll be connecting to the Hue app with on your phone’s WiFi.

In other words, if you have extended your home network via network switches, you can instead plug your Hue Hub into this:

A Netgear network switch installed on a piece of wood in a loft, with three ethernet cables going in and one power cable (for the switch) in the back.
A Netgear network switch installed in my loft.
A recently installed Philips Hue v2 bridge which is setup in my loft.
My Philips Hue v2 Bridge connected to this Netgear network switch.

The same is also true if you use a second WiFi router (e.g. as a repeater) to boost your home’s WiFi range. As long as the second router contains an Ethernet port, you can plug your Hue Bridge into this and it should all work fine.

The main thing to remember is that there is an upper limit on ZigBee’s indoor range – whilst this is a quite reasonable 25m or so, you don’t want to position your Hue Hub in a way where it is very far away from all your Hue lights – otherwise you will see seeing communication/range issues.

How to Extend the Bridge’s Range Uing ZigBee Mesh

Earlier on I mentioned ZigBee mesh, and how this can help solve any range issues you might be having if there’s a big distance between your Hue Bridge and your Hue smart lights. But what exactly is ZigBee mesh?

Imagine a spider’s web (sorry arachnophobes!). It isn’t just an outer ring of webbing, and then the central bit. It’s a series of interconnected points due to having lots of webbing lines, all connecting at set intervals. This strengthens the overall spider’s web.

ZigBee mesh is the same idea: instead of having everything point-to-point, i.e. each bulb connecting directly to the control device (your mobile phone), each bulb can potentially connect to each other, with only one or a few connecting to the control device (the Hue hub):

A diagram illustrating how ZigBee Mesh may look for a Philips Hue smart light setup, with bulbs in each room and an outdoor light - and them being interconnected, with some ultimately also connecting to the Hue Bridge.
Multiple smart Hue lights, connecting to each other and the Bridge to form a mesh network.

In this way, the mesh is stronger and the overall range of your Hue lighting setup is increased. This means that you don’t have to worry as much about the range of a Hue outdoor light, since it doesn’t need to be in range of your Hue Bridge – it simply needs to be close enough to another Hue light, which will act as a ZigBee repeater.

This feature is automatic with your Hue lighting system – you don’t need to enable any settings, the mesh will just form itself in the most efficient way for your home’s smart lighting setup.

About Tristan Perry

Tristan Perry is a software developer who is passionate about tech gadgets, DIY and housing. He has therefore loved seeing smart homes hit the mainstream. Tristan also has an academic background (in Math & Computer Science), and so he enjoys digging into the technical ways that smart home devices work.

Tristan owns close to a dozen Amazon Echo devices, way too many Philips Hue bulbs and lightstrips, a boat-load of Ring Cameras and Doorbells... and a bunch of other smart home devices too (from Reolink, Google Nest, GLEDOPTO and others).

If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions about this article, please leave a comment below. Please note that all comments go into a moderation queue (to prevent blog spam). Your comment will be manually reviewed and approved by Tristan in less than a week. Thanks!

14 thoughts on “Philips Hue Range/Distance Guide: How Far Away Can It Work?”

    • No in that sense, no. Philips Hue uses ZigBee, whilst mesh network routers are WiFi based – so they are different technologies. However ever new Philips Hew bulb that you add will increase the range/distance.

    • Let’s add to this answer here.

      If your network mesh is working correctly, you could have a Hue Hub at both ends and run your lights off those hubs. But then you would have 2 ZigBee meshes.

      /-ZigBee Mesh-\____/—-Wifi Mesh——\___/ZigBee Mesh\

      Lan Cable –> ===
      Wifi Mesh –> ~~~
      ZigBee Mesh –> —

      Phillips Light –> PL
      Hue Hub –> HH
      Wi-Fi-Mesh–> WM

      This is a contrived case, however. And it assumes the Hue Hubs (HH) are further apart than their ranges support, and additionally the Phillips Lights are even further from the Wi-Fi mesh. This kind of setup would not happen often naturally, since placing lights between the hubs would end up connecting the two ZigBee meshes together, at which point the Wi-Fi-mesh would become redundant. To have this type of setup, one would have to intentionally separate the two ZigBee meshes from each other.

      Keep in mind, the Phillips Hue Lights communicate using either Bluetooth or ZigBee, they are not Wi-Fi lights. To connect to them using your phone’s Wi-Fi, the bulbs must be connected using the Hue Hub (Bridge). **And this is a good thing**. Most Wi-Fi routers have a limit to the number of devices that can connect to them. The more stuff you add to your location, the busier the Wi-Fi radio band gets, and the harder your router will have to work. My house has 40 smart lights in it, in multiple bedrooms, bathrooms, family room kitchen, and basement areas, not to mention outside. If the bulbs were connected to Wi-Fi, that would be 40 more devices on my Wi-Fi router. The Hub allows them to be on their own private network. Leave the Wi-Fi for the devices that really need the network like iPads, multiple phones, desktops, laptops, TVs, fridges, washers/dryers (… you get the picture). Wi-Fi is a limited resource.

      • I don’t have much to add other than to say: awesome comment JD, and all great points. You’re quite right that the Hue Hubs can ‘double up’ in this way, and also generally speaking, offloading smart lights from your router is a smart idea. I always cringe when people try and have tons of smart devices connected directly to their single Wi-Fi router.

  1. Hi Tristan,

    Thanks for this. Do the lights need to be “on” for the ZigBee mesh to be extended or can the lights be off?

    If you don’t want more bulbs or don’t have a need for them, can you use something like the Philips Hue Smart plug to extend the range?

    • Hi Jack,

      Lights don’t need to have >0% brightness in order to work within the ZigBee mesh (i.e. extending the reach of the network).

      And yes, the Hue Smart Plug acts as a repeater too which is nice (and again, it doesn’t need to be ‘on’, supplying power to the appliance, it just has to be in an active wall socket so it’s receiving power itself).

  2. Hi Tristan,
    I have Hue lights in an office that is pretty far from my original bridge. The lights i just got for my office came with another bridge. Can I use this additional bridge to EXTEND my original bridge without creating a new one separate from the one controlling all my other lights?

    • Hi Art, that’s an interesting question. I don’t know for sure sorry, but I haven’t seen anything that would suggest that the Hue Bridge can act as an extender. It functions as it’s own ‘base’ (within the network), instead of being an ‘add-on’ device. Basically, a Hue Smart Plug or Hue light will extend the reach fine – but I don’t think that the second Hue Bridge will help you here sorry.

  3. Honestly, my hue bridge is at a different floor, and we have heated floor, all our wall are in concrete, some reinforced. I’m far from the 25m of reception, and I’m wondering if I will install another bridge on the 2nd floor. I’ve no use for a smart bulb just above the bridge.

  4. Hello Tristan, I hope you can help me.
    I live in a stone house of 3 floor with external walls large up to 100 cm and internal walls measures up to 20 cm. The Philips Hue Hub is in the middle floor connected to a TP-Link Deco P9 Powerline Mesh Router (to have a better Wi-Fi signal). I cannot reach the bulbs (Innr E14) at lower floor, even if I have a bulb in the stairs (that should extend the range of ZigBee). Any suggestion to solve my problem? I need a further hub?

    • Hello, sorry to hear of the signal/range issues, that’s frustrating. There probably won’t be an easy answer with 20cm thick internal walls, unfortunately. You could try adding a few more ZigBee bulbs or smart plugs just in-case these ‘randomly’ work in a way that improves your ZigBee range on each floor. But beyond that, you might need to look at having another Hue Hub. Luckily the Hue app now supports multiple Hue Hubs fairly well (unlike 1-2 years ago, where it barely supported multiple Hue Hubs).

    • Ooo great question.

      I’m not aware of any ‘ready made’ ZigBee strength meters, although you can purchase tunable signal strength meters – which you could then presumably set to 2.4 GHz and channels 11-22 (i.e. the ZigBee range).

      Alternatively, Aqara shows the ZigBee signal strength for each product within the Aqara app. So if you had Aqara products, you could move them around your home to key locations, then jump into the app to get an idea of the ZigBee strength at different points in your house.


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