Philips Hue Motion Sensors in Wet Areas (Bathrooms and Outdoors)

Philips Hue smart lights are some of the highest-rated options on the market, with applications in almost every room of the home. One room that sees the most utility from smart lights is in the bathroom. Think about it: you need light during a midnight trip to the bathroom, but you don’t want to be blinded when your eyes haven’t had a chance to adjust. A Philips Hue motion sensor can trigger the lights to turn on at lower brightness levels.       

The downside is that the bathroom is also one of the most humid areas in a home. You have to consider whether the humidity and moisture will interfere with the operation of the motion sensor or even damage it outright. The answer boils down to its IP rating.

Understanding IP Ratings

The IP Rating of a device refers to its Ingress Protection. In other words, this is the measure to which electrical and mechanical devices withstand the intrusion of dust and water. Every device has an IP rating measure in two numbers, the first of which is anywhere from 0 to 6, while the second ranges from 0 to 8.

The first digit in the IP rating refers to its ability to withstand solids. A score of 0 means it has no protection, while a score of 8 means it has no ingress of dust and complete protection against contact.

The second digit of the IP rating refers to liquids. A rating of 0 means the device has no protection against water at all, while a rating of 8 means it can withstand immersion beyond one meter. Note that it doesn’t say it is waterproof—but it does mean that under normal conditions, an undamaged device with a rating of 8 usually refers to a hermetically sealed shell.

Understanding the meaning behind IP ratings will help you determine when and where a device is safe to use.

Will a Philips Hue Motion Sensor Work In the Bathroom?

Philips Hue Motion Sensor in an indoor bathroom wet area
Philips Hue Motion Sensor in an indoor bathroom wet area

The bathroom may be one of the most humid rooms in the house, but it is less humid overall than you might believe. A shower will only increase the relative humidity of a bathroom by a few percentage points, and the average home should fall somewhere between 40% and 60% humidity.

With this in mind, the Philips Hue Motion Sensor will absolutely work in a bathroom, provided it is kept in a dry environment. The motion sensor should not be placed in direct flow of water, either from the sink or the shower. The Philips Hue Motion Sensor has an IP rating of 42.

This means that it is protected against ingress from most wires, screws, and objects larger than 1mm. However, it has minimal water protection. The 2 rating means it is protecting against dripping water when tilted up to 15 degrees, or a spray of water from less than 15 degrees.

A lot of technical terminology, but what it boils down to is this: the motion sensor will work provided it isn’t placed in the direct line of the spray.

Will Humidity and Condensation Affect Motion Sensors?

My Philips Hue motion sensor in its box
My Philips Hue motion sensor in its box

The Philips Hue Motion Sensor is a PIR, or passive infrared sensor. These sensors work by detecting changes in heat between the background temperature of a space and a new heat source—ie, a person. PIR sensors are the third most common type of motion sensor in the United States.

While PIR sensors aren’t prone to false alarms, they do happen from time to time. Due to their reliance on heat, sudden changes in temperature, such as turning on the shower, can trigger the motion sensor.

Humidity and condensation will not. It is important to bear in mind that too much condensation (such as from a prolonged shower without a bathroom vent active) can build up and potentially damage the motion sensor, but thanks to its IP42 score the Philips Hue Motion Sensor should remain relatively unscathed. Just keep in mind that prolonged exposure to condensation can result in damage to the sensor.

For best operation and performance, position your motion sensor away from heat sources and water. Face it away from the shower. A placement toward the door will ensure the shower doesn’t accidentally trigger it, and you can adjust the settings within the Philips Hue app to ensure the lights remain on and do not shut off and leave you in the dark.

Will the Philips Hue Indoor Motion Sensor Work on a Porch?

The same considerations apply to using a Philips Hue Motion Sensor on a porch. Provided the porch is covered and no water will splash directly onto the sensor, there should be no problems when using it. However, there are other obstacles to consider when using an indoor sensor in a pseudo-outdoor area.

The first is the humidity. Depending on the part of the country you live in, relative humidity in the summer can maintain levels anywhere from 90% to 100%. While this will not trigger the sensor, that much moisture exposure can result in damage over a prolonged period of time.

The second obstacle to consider is the potential for false alarms. While heat can trigger PIR sensors, so can flashes of light. A passing vehicle or even the glint of sunlight off jewelry has the potential to hit the sensor in just the right way to trigger it. If a flash of light blinds the sensor, it can trigger it and start the routine you have linked to the sensor.

If your porch is not covered or has minimal covering, consider whether an indoor sensor is your best option. If there is a risk of moisture exposure, you should look into using the Philips Hue Outdoor Sensor instead.

Can the Philips Hue Outdoor Sensor Be Exposed to Weather?

The Philips Hue Outdoor Sensor serves the same function as the indoor sensor, but it boasts significantly higher specs. It has an IP rating of 54, which means it is fully protected against contact. Although dust can still enter the device, it cannot do so in a high enough amount to result in damage to the equipment.

The 4 rating means the Philips Hue Outdoor Sensor is fully protected against water splashing on the enclosure from any direction. To break this down further, the sensor is protected against most weather conditions. Even heavy rain will not result in damage; however, direct spray from a garden hose or exposure to intense condition such as hurricane-levels of rain might still damage the sensor.

This level of weather resistance makes the Philips Hue Outdoor Sensor the best option for triggering smart lights in your yard. For example, lights placed on a garage or around the sides of the house are too exposed for an indoor sensor, but the outdoor sensor will withstand the elements.

The Philips Hue Outdoor Sensor is the best option for use in a perpetually wet area, such as a bath house or sauna. However, for use in a bathroom, the indoor sensor should work fine provided you are careful with the placement.

How to Overcome the Sensors’ Limitations

Despite the potential issues that may arise when using the Philips Hue sensors in wet areas, there are steps you can take to overcome these problems:

  • The first is simple. If placing an sensor outdoors, you can place it under a covering of some kind. Considering the 100-degree field of view and the 16-foot activation range of the sensors, an awning above it will protect it from heavy rainfall without obscuring its operation.
  • The second is equally as simple. If possible, place the sensors outside the area that will be wet and humid. This is more difficult to do when placing sensors outdoors, but inside the home, a sensor placed just outside the bathroom door—or on the door itself—allows you to trigger the lights inside the bathroom without putting the sensor itself at risk.

Trust the IP rating of your sensors and understand their limitations. It isn’t difficult to place motion sensors in a location that allows them to operate without putting them at risk; after all, why would you need to place the sensor somewhere it would be directly exposed to the flow of water anyway?

About Patrick Hearn

Patrick Hearn is a smart home enthusiast who owns a bunch of smart devices, and writes for a number of tech blogs including Digital Trends, Online Tech Tips and more.

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