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Help! My Philips Hue Tap Switch Buttons Aren’t Working! (How to Fix)

One of the best features that IoT has brought to the smart home is lighting control. There’s nothing like having an automatic wakeup call from your lights or being able to switch between relaxing evenings or parties with friends at the flip of a switch.

Smart home technology is here to make our day-to-day lives easier, but what good are all these gadgets and gizmos if they don’t work? The Philips Hue Tap Switch is well built and, honestly, pretty useful if you are looking to add a new layer of utility to your smart lighting setup, but even it can stop working from time to time.

Your Philips Hue Tap Switch can stop working for a range of reasons including being in setup mode, third party integrations, being out of range and more. Thankfully these are all easy to investigate and resolve.

As a final resort, it’s time to check for mechanical failures and reach for that warranty – all of which are covered in this article.

Getting to know the Philips Hue Tap Switch

Marketing image of the Philips Hue tap switch button
Marketing image of the Philips Hue tap switch button

Before you brighten up your day, you should know the ins and outs of this smart home lighting controller.

The Philips Hue Tap Switch is part of the Philips Hue suite of smart lighting devices that help you manage and control your home’s lighting – it’s known as a ‘Hue Accessory’, and it’s joined by the Hue Motion Sensors and Hue Dimmer Switches within their accessory line-up.

The four physical buttons on this tap switch can be integrated with the Philips Hue app to control your home’s smart lighting, and it requires the Hue Bridge (also called the Hue Hub) to function:

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

Most interesting of all is that this unique switch doesn’t use a battery. The Tap Switch is powered by the energy created when you press one of its switches (i.e. kinetic energy). How cool is that?

However it’s not always sunshine in the world of smart lighting. Here’s the most common problems with the Philips Hue Tap Switch and how to troubleshoot your worries away.

#1 – You’ve entered setup mode by mistake

We’ve got to start at the smart home version of “is it plugged in?”. With increasingly streamlined interfaces and buttons with multiple functionalities, it’s more common than ever to accidentally wind up in setup mode by mistake.

On the surface this is a good thing. Whether you’re pairing a new device or you are just troubleshooting your system, it’s good to be able to get into setup mode quickly. However, a few accidental misclicks can have you feeling like your Hue Tap Switch is broken.

Unlike other smart home devices, the Hue Tap Switch doesn’t have a true “factory reset”. Instead it can accidentally get stuck in pairing mode. The Hue Tap Switch gets into this setup mode when you press the “3” button down for ten seconds. This can happen accidentally during regular use or if you set something on top of the switch by mistake.

The fix is easy. All you need to do is follow the steps you took when you paired your Hue Tap Switch with your Hue Bridge or other hub. In other words, if you use the Hue Bridge and app, launch the Hue app, go to “Settings” and “Accessory Setup”:

Philips Hue app Accessory Setup section under Settings
Philips Hue app Accessory Setup section under Settings

From there, follow the steps to re-add the Tap Switch and configure it again. After that, it should be good to go. Reconnecting your Hue Tap Switch is also a great way to do some troubleshooting on your own.

Sometimes all you need to do to repair your Hue Tap Switch is to “re-pair” your Hue Tap Switch.

#2 – Check Your Hue App for the Tap Switch status

iConnectHue screenshot from the iOS App Store
iConnectHue screenshot from the iOS App Store

The Philips Hue Tap Switch can be integrated into several different apps. This gives you granular control over how you interact with your smart home, but also opens up a few potential places to troubleshoot a switch that has stopped working.

For example, you can use third party Hue apps such as iConnectHue and Hue Lights to import and control your Tap Switch. These offer extra Tap Switch functionality than you’ll get through the default Philips Hue app, but if you’re having issues then your first stop should still be your Philips Hue app.

Even if you primarily control your lighting through Alexa, Google Home or Siri, the Philips Hue app is still the “home” of your tap switch.

You should be able to see your Tap Switches listed in your Hue app’s “Accessory Setup” section. If not, simply follow the steps in the previous section to re-pair your tap switch to your Hue Bridge.

#3 – Check Third Party Integrations (e.g. HomeAssistant or HomeKit)

Third party smart home systems such as HomeAssistant and Apple HomeKit add a whole new layer of convenience for controlling our home lighting. Simple dashboard control and voice-activated commands make switching lighting profiles or turning on whole rooms at once a breeze.

However following on from my point above, if you do use these third party systems to manage your Hue Tap Switch, these could also be impacting the functionality. After all, whilst rare, bugs in HomeAssistant’s Hue Tap Switch support or an issue with HomeKit’s integration could cause your Tap Switch to ‘not work’.

To test whether this is the problem, you could quickly try removing these third party integrations from the Tap Switch and then re-syncing the switch directly with the Hue app (see section #1 earlier) and see if this works. If so, try re-adding third party support again.

For example, for HomeKit, once you are done setting up everything within the Philips Hue app, navigate to the Apple HomeKit and Siri section in the app. All you need to do is to follow the on-screen prompts to sync your Philips Hue Tap Switch with your HomeKit again.

#4 – Check your linked Zigbee lights are working okay

YouTube thumbnail showing how to build your own DIY ZigBee light strip
Me with my DIY ZigBee light strip (not Philips Hue’s light strip).

The Philips Hue lighting system has been designed to be able to work seamlessly with countless third party devices. This is thanks to how Hue devices connect with each other. They all technologies such as ZigBee Light Link and Zigbee 3.0 to communicate seamlessly with each-other.

However, if your Hue Tap Switch is configured to control a non-Hue light, the success rate of these third party bulbs depends on how well they implement Zigbee technology. If your Hue Tap Switch has been acting up or it has stopped working, it might have more to do with the third party bulb than the switch itself.

Troubleshooting here gets a little more complicated because each third party light or device is different, but there are a few things you can try. For example, you can moving the Zigbee light to another socket/outlet and try controlling it manually with the Hue app (or voice commands).

If it is also temperamental here, odds are that your Tap Switch is working just fine and it is the third party light that is to blame. Troubleshooting the lights connected to your Hue Tap Switch should be your first port of call.

And whilst I’ve mainly spoken of non-Hue lights in this section, Philips Hue lights – which fairly robust – can still have issues, so it’s worth repeating the same steps for Hue bulbs too.

If there’s still issues with your Tap Switch’s control, we’re going to need to talk about ZigBee.

We’ve already mentioned that Zigbee is the technology that allows Philips Hue to work, but what is it?

Zigbee is a wireless communications technology similar to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. It allows smart home devices to “talk” to each other. Zigbee is open source which means companies can share this technology so that our devices can work together much more easily.

Zigbee has one major drawback and that is range. While this won’t be an issue in smaller homes and apartments, if your Hue lights and switches are too far apart they can disconnect.

Zigbee also uses the same frequency band as most WiFi networks. This can cause interference on the 2.4 GHz band. WiFi is typically strong enough to overpower Zigbee meaning your lights will go down before your internet does.

To fix this you can try switching as many of your home WiFi devices to 5 GHz as possible. This will reduce potential interference on the 2.4 GHz band and so is the easiest fix, but also not all devices support 5 GHz.

Another option is to try out Zigbee and WiFi channel planning. Essentially, there are different “channels” inside of the 2.4 GHz band. By logging into your router, you can change which bands your Wi-Fi uses in the settings. ZigBee is closest to channel 11 so avoid that one and you will be interference free!

If you still have issues, you can change the Zigbee channel that your Philips Hue Bridge runs on by:

  • Launching the Hue app
  • Going to “Settings”
  • Going to “Hue Bridges”
  • Select the “i” next to your Hue Bridge/Hub
  • Go to Zigbee channel change:
Phone screenshot of the Hue app showing the ZigBee channel change section for the Hue Bridge hub
ZigBee channel change for the Hue Bridge hub

If the interference is coming from your neighbor’s WiFi, then the best solution might be to bake some cookies and go make friends… before talking with them about Zigbee and Wi-Fi channels!

#6 – You’ve Run Out of Kinetic Juice

This problem is rare and could be a sign of some internal defects if it keeps happening. The Philips Hue Tap Switch doesn’t run on conventional batteries or even an externally charged lithium ion battery like other wireless devices. This switch is powered by “kinetic” energy, and supports 50,000 button presses.

That’s a fancy way of saying the physical action of you pushing one of the buttons powers the device.

In theory, this should mean you never run out of power, but theory and practice are two different things.

If you’ve tried other solutions on this list, you might be experiencing a power failure in this device. This could be due to a problem with the mechanical button press, a degraded circuit inside the switch, or another broken piece inside the device.

#7 – A Button Has Broken

This is probably the least likely outcome, but it’s still worth covering here. As covered above, the latest generation of Philips Hue Tap Switches have been designed with a life expectancy of 50,000 button presses.

Let’s have some fun and put that number into perspective. Even if you are a super-user pressing your Tap Switch 50 times a day, it should still last you the next 1,000 days. With that said, most users will only be pressing those buttons a handful of times each day netting us years of expected usage.

Of course, even the best laid plans of smart device designers and users don’t always pan out. A button can still break on you. This is often apparent as the buttons will either get stuck, rattle around in their housing, or just not work even after trying other troubleshooting methods.

There are two main ways to repair a busted button. If you are still under warranty or within your retailers return period, just send it back in for a replacement and you’re good to go.

If you are feeling the DIY spirit, a stuck button can often be unstuck by disassembling the housing. However, this should be considered a last resort, experts only kind of thing – and the first half of the video below shows the removal of the housing:

Finally, the Hue Tap Switch only has an IP20 water rating – with the “2” meaning it’s protected against a solid object such as a finger… and the “0” meaning there is no water/liquid protection at all. In other words, if you use the Tap Switch with wet fingers, there’s no guarantee that the device (or that specific button) will carry on working as normal.

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