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Multiple Philips Hue Motion Sensors (In a Room & Time of Day)

The true measure of a smart home is the amount of convenience it lends, paired with how much user intervention is needed for devices to operate as desired. The Philips Hue Motion Sensor allows your smart lights to react as programmed the moment motion is detected, but that isn’t to say they are without flaw.

Many users have encountered difficulty when using more than one Hue Motion Sensor in the same space. Equally by default they only support two time periods a day (essentially “day” and “night” config). But can these issues be overcome?

This article will break down what these problems are, how they impact performance, and the steps you can take to overcome them.

Two really useful Hue Lab formulas can be used to use multiple Hue motion sensors in the same space, and also to get three (instead of two) time-based configurations. They work really well.

What is the Philips Hue Motion Sensor?

My Philips Hue motion sensor on carpet
My Philips Hue motion sensor on carpet

The Philips Hue Motion Sensor is a PIR sensor that reacts to motion in a space by detecting changes in heat. It uses 2 AAA batteries, eliminating the use of wires and allowing for far more flexible placement options. The only necessary additional accessory is the Hue Bridge, but this device is included with almost all Hue Starter Kits.

The Hue App allows users to program their smart lights to react to motion in a specific way. For example, when you first trigger the sensor in the mornings as you exit your bedroom, it can trigger the lights in the kitchen:

Hue app Hue motion sensor setup with different times of day
Hue app Hue motion sensor setup with different times of day

Time of day also makes a difference. As another example, you can program the sensor to only turn the lights on to 50% brightness in a bathroom if you enter between the hours of 12 AM and 7 AM.

Placement of the Hue Motion Sensor is simple, as well. It can be placed on a shelf or mounted to the wall or ceiling with only a single screw. If you have a magnetic surface, the included magnet mount is literally stick-it-and-forget-it.

In a home equipped with Hue smart lights, the $40 motion sensor is a worthwhile investment that broadens the functionality of the lights in a big way.

But as mentioned at the start of this article, if you have a large space (or two rooms/areas that join onto each other) you may want multiple motion sensors or a way of configuring things for more than twice a day. The next two sections explore how to do this without the two sensors clashing with each other.

How to Use Multiple Motion Sensors in the Same Space

For all the benefits a smart home offers, devices sometimes interact with one another in unexpected ways. Hue Motion Sensors often interfere with each other’s operation, especially if specific timing is involved. For example, one user reports using their sensor to trigger the lights for 2 full minutes, with the first 1:30 showing full, bright light, and the last 30 seconds showing dimmed light.

This user has two sensors in a hallway. The first sensor triggers the effect, but if the user returns before the time is up, the second sensor dims the light once more—this time to 25% of its original brightness. The two sensors do not realize when the other has been triggered.

At first glance, there seems to be no workaround, but the answer lies in a feature within the Hue app called Hue Labs. Open the app and tap “Explore” at the bottom of the screen. Hue Labs is the fourth option from the top:

Hue app phone screenshot, showing the 'Hue Labs' option on the 'Explore' tab.
The ‘Hue Labs’ option on the ‘Explore’ tab of the Hue app.

Hue Labs is an area where experimental features are put into a sort of public test. These features provide a broad range of functions that the default Hue app does not include. One of these features is called Sensor Couple.

Hue Labs is an incredible feature and quite interesting to browse, but there’s no search option. Sorting through every single Lab is time consuming. Instead, tap the funnel icon to the right side of the screen and select “Hue Motion sensor” under the devices heading.

Sensor Couple will be the third lab from the top. Once you see it, tap “Try it!” to add it to the “My Labs” list. You can choose specific settings for the Lab once you add it, as well as choosing the function of each sensor you’re using.

This is a highly-recommended lab that helps overcome some of the more irritating aspects of using multiple motion sensors.

The two most common areas of your home where this can be useful are:

  • Large rooms – the Hue motion sensor has a range of around 16′, which is good but rooms can often be bigger than this. Having two motion sensors at either end of the room will therefore often be necessary for your smart lights to work as expected.
  • Where two rooms/areas meet, especially at an ‘L’ shape – lets say you have a garage that goes onto an ‘L’ shaped stairs. In this case, having a single Hue motion sensor might not work okay depending on how everything is positioned (note: it might work fine – it just depends on your house layout). If a single sensor misses motion a lot, you can get two and use the Sensor Couple formula instead.

How to Set Up Behavior During More Than Two Times of Day

Another problem that arises when using the Hue Motion Sensor is that, by default, the device only works with two times of day. That’s a limited amount of functionality, particularly now that so many people are working from home and spending more time in their homes than they used to.

The two standard time settings are Day and Night, but there is an option to access a third time slot: Evening. You do this through Hue Labs, by activating a Lab called “Three times is a charm.” Again, tap the funnel icon and choose “Hue Motion sensor.” The Lab is the top result when you narrow the available labs this way. Tap “Try it!”:

The Three times a charm Hue Lab formula
The Three times a charm Hue Lab formula

Once you’ve done this, you can set a specific start time for Day, Night, and Evening. You can also choose what specific rooms this Lab affects, as well as what to do when there is no motion detected. You can even set up specific commands relating to the current light level within the home.

This lab is one of the best solutions currently available to Hue users. While it isn’t a perfect solution (which would be allowing users to customize numerous time slots), it is better than many of the alternatives.

Keep in mind that Hue Labs is an official part of the Philips Hue functionality and can be accessed via the app as well as online in your web browser – you just need to login to your configure Philips Hue account.

Whilst it could be nice if this functionality as part of the app itself, it’s only a few clicks away and you won’t need to login again if you’re using the app.

Third-Party Solutions

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

If none of the above solutions works for you, there is another option: third-party app, such as iConnectHue. iConnectHue is an app with a full feature set that allows you to control almost every single aspect of your Hue lights, granting more customization than the official app itself does.

Although the official app has caught up in many ways, iConnectHue was the first app to support iOS widgets, work with multi-user geofencing, and much more. It’s a popular alternative that is used by thousands of Hue customers around the world.

Their blog has an entire guide covering how to configure multiple Hue motion sensors for one area, and it’s nice to see that this functionality exists ‘out the box’ within the app.

The service has an extensive privacy policy that lays out what information is gathered and why. A recent update also revealed that several services that transferred data to third parties have been removed. While no service is 100% safe, iConnectHue has taken steps to make the platform as secure for users as it can be.

One thing worth noting is that the iConnectHue app isn’t free. It is a paid service at $4.99 for download, with additional in-app purchases.

Many popular Hue Labs features are included by default in the iConnectHue app, including the ability to set up multiple timers and specific behaviors during those times. Specifically, iConnectHue offers 5 time slots for each day—two more than even the “Three times a charm” lab.

It also adds a feature that allows the motion sensor to fire only if a group is unaffected; in other words, it eliminates the problem of two switches interacting with one another.

There are a host of other features included within the iConnectHue app that make it worth checking out, particularly if you are a Philips Hue power user. It gives the official app a run for its money.

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