How do you illuminate your home?
Incandescent bulbs are too wasteful, giving off so much energy in the form of heat. Plus, since they burn out relatively quickly, you need to change these bulbs more often, which can be a real hassle, especially when a ladder is involved.
Fluorescent bulbs were a big step forward since they last longer, but many people dislike how things look under fluorescent lighting.
Now, the trend has been toward installing more efficient LED bulbs. And if you’re reading this blog, you’re likely to be interested in the awesome world of smart lighting – LED bulbs which can change color, be dimmed, and turned on/off in a smart way.
If you’ve been doing any comparison shopping for lighting setups lately, you may have already seen that Hue light bulbs tend to be expensive, when held up to other bulbs. It’s natural that you’d want to know whether they can easily burn out or get too hot in your smart home setup.
Philips Hue bulbs, like any other form of light bulb, will eventually burn out, but they’re rated by the manufacturer to last 25,000 to 50,000 hours when operated under ideal conditions. Whilst they shouldn’t get too hot by design, they may have shorter lives than expected, especially if they’re exposed to high ambient heat levels or if you install them in a setup that pumps in voltage higher than the manufacturer recommends.
Now, let’s shed a little light on the subject, to help you decide if Hue bulbs are right for you.
Philips makes a range of Hue lighting products, and their lifetime is driven mainly by how long you leave the lights on. They’re based on efficient, power-sipping LEDs (light emitting diodes).
According to the U.S. government’s Energy Star program, LED lights produce light as much as 90% more efficiently than old fashioned incandescent bulbs. You wind up paying for a lot of wasted electricity and heat when all you want to do is read a book or see the face of the person you’re sitting across the table from at dinnertime.
You should know that LED lights deal with their relatively smaller amounts of waste heat by using a heat sink to absorb it. Otherwise, the lights may not work properly. As Hue bulbs get closer to the end of their product lifetime range, they don’t suddenly stop working like incandescents. Instead, the amount of illumination decreases.
When an LED bulb’s lighting output falls by 30%, it’s considered to be at the end of its lifetime. Of course, it will still work at the lower intensity and there’s no need to toss it out if you can still see adequately by its light. You might also find it useful to move it to a location where brightness isn’t such a big deal, like in a hallway closet or your basement.
For context: incandescent bulbs last 750 to 2,000 hours, standard fluorescent bulbs last 2,000 to 4,000 hours, compact incandescent bulbs last 10,000 to 20,000 hours while Hue lights are rated at 25,000 to 50,000 hours, per Philips.
This ultimately means that whilst Philips Hue bulbs will burn out, they can last 10x or longer compared to older incandescent bulbs. And so whilst Hue does cost more, you have to consider that you get:
- All the smart functionality that they offer – changing of color, dimming, schedules/routines and a whole lot more.
- Up to a 10x longer lifespan than some other types of bulbs – especially incandescent and low quality fluorescent bulbs.
- Bragging rights for owning Philips Hue products – okay, this last point isn’t a serious one, but you can do some pretty cool stuff with Hue bulbs!
However I mention at the beginning that too much heat exposure can lower their lifespan. Therefore you may be wondering whether Hue lights may get too hot and fail earlier than expected?
Excessive heat can degrade the performance of Hue lights. In fact, as a result, the company forbids them from being used in enclosed fixtures. This is because otherwise the heat can build up and get to a point where they exceed the recommended temperature for the LED light.
Whilst this can damage it in the long run, it can also result in less light being output. For example, a standard color BR30 Hue bulb has an environmental operating temperature up to 40°C/104°F. Whilst houses aren’t likely to exceed this temperature, ‘locking’ the bulb into an enclosed space could result in the air temperature surrounding the bulb reaching (or exceeding) 40°C.
This will then rapidly lead to lower light output, and eventually lower the lifespan of the bulb.
Before you break out the mobile thermostat and start testing your Hue bulbs, it’s worth noting that the metal base of the bulb is likely to get much hotter than 40°C/104°F. This is absolutely fine: the voltage supplied to the bulb (i.e. to produce light!) will result in excess heat – even for low-heat bulbs like LEDs. The metal housing is used as a form of passive cooling, to dispell any excess heat.
Some people report the metal element heading north of 180°F, but these Hue bulbs continue to work fine day after day. As long as the glass part of the bulb (i.e. the end which gives out light) doesn’t get very hot to touch, it should be fine.
If this is the case, though, consider contacting Hue support after confirming that the bulb is screwed in properly and there’s no household wiring issues (such as too much voltage being supplied to the light).
When it comes to Hue lightstrips, ideally you will run them in diffuser channels – also called a “u-channel” – to minimize heat build-up. This is because the diffuser channel acts as a heatsink, helping to dispel any excess heat.
However the key word there is “ideally” – this isn’t strictly necessary. They will probably be fine in ordinary use. I have left the Hue Lightstrip in my study running at 100% brightness for a few hours and it’s barely warm to the touch – it certainly isn’t at risk of overheating.
LED lightstrip temperatures depend on many factors, from design to how warm or cold the environment is. According to a report from Wave Form Lighting, LED strips operating at room temperature increase by 30°C/54°F. So if it’s 24°C/75°F inside while running LED lightstrips, you can anticipate them hitting 54°C/129°F at their peak.
Whilst this might sound a lot, most LEDs and associated components can run at temperatures up to 85°C/185°F without any problems developing in their reliability or capacity, let alone how long they will give off light.
But problems start to arise if you enclose lightstrips somewhere – such as in a really tight space between cabinets, or between a low-lying couch and the carpet. This can be like covering a laptop’s fan with a blanket which could make the laptop overheat and possibly fail.
If you’re running the Hue Lightstrip in a tight space, I would recommend using diffuser channels to reduce heat output where possible:
Finally, I wanted to mention “pre-made” Hue light fixtures and fittings. There Hue lights are even less likely to overheat than Hue bulbs and lightstrips, because they are designed as an “all-in-one” solution, specifically to run for long periods of time without the risk of them overheating. Plus they can’t be installed in enclosed areas, because they already contain their own housing – something which provides the LEDs inside everything they need to be cooled naturally.
Whilst Hue lights can last between 25,000-50,000 hours, the more heat an LED bulb performs under, the shorter its lifespan will be. In practical terms, a Hue bulb rated with a 50,000-hour lifespan may not readily give you that much use if you install it in an area where a lot of heat is generated, such as an enclosed fitting.
So, can you leave Hue lights on 24/7? According to LED & Lighting Info, yes, you can leave your lights on all of the time. Dimming LED lights will definitely cut down on the heat being generated, but this is not necessary for you to do for safety reasons.
Hue bulbs can be run at 1% if you’d like, but due to their high quality components and detailed testing, they’ll run just as well at 100% brightness for many hours.
This means that you can install Hue lights with no need to be concerned about dimming them or changing their colors to keep them operating safely 24/7. However, there is a case to be made that it’s not so safe for the environment to leave lights on when not needed. Electricity often comes from fossil fuels, so avoid using lights when not truly needed, to do your part to help the environment. You also will see reductions in your utility bills, which is an added bonus to the good feelings you and your family get from “going green.”
While LED lights use energy quite efficiently, if you can’t justify leaving a light on all the time, you might as well turn them off when not in use. Since Hue bulbs are smart, there’s a few simple ways you can do this:
- Set a timer within the Hue app to turn your Hue lights on or off at specific times. If you know that you leave home at 8am every morning and come home at 6pm each night, you can set up timers to ensure all your smart lights are off between these times.
You can do this by going to “Routines” and then “Timers” within the Hue app.
- Use the “Home & Away” geofencing feature to determine when you’re leaving or coming home. This neat feature is also available under “Routines” on the Hue app, but it’s more dynamic than using timers – it will automatically detect your presence (using GPS location data, if enabled) and you can use this to ensure that you don’t leave your lights on or off.
- Once hooked up to Alexa (or Google Assistant), you can use voice commands when you’re home to turn your lights on.
- Equally you can setup routines on the Alexa and Google Home apps to turn lights on or off at specific times of day.