Today, almost everything is connected by the most popular wireless network protocol – Wi-Fi. Whether it’s the standard 2.4 Ghz frequency, or the newer, faster, 5 Ghz – Wi-Fi is the standard form of wireless communication for most.
Wi-Fi is used for most things; from the apps on our phones, to many of the smart devices in our homes – down to some laundry machines, air conditioners, and even refrigerators! So at the outset, the question of whether the Philips Hue connects to Wi-Fi may seem ridiculous. You may think ‘of course it does!’ Right? Not exactly.
While the Philips Hue app definitely does connect to Wi-Fi via your smartphone or tablet, the Hue smart home devices themselves aren’t exactly Wi-Fi-compatible – at least not directly.
First, let’s take a look at what the Philips Hue is.
Philips Hue is a rather extensive line of indoor and outdoor smart home lights. These lights can perform a variety of functions – from dimming to color-changing, motion-sensing, as well as lights that run on set timers.
These lights are typically controlled by a Bridge or dimmer switches, in conjunction with the Hue app.
With the plethora of color options available, Hue lights are able to change the mood in your home to your preferences. Some even have motion sensors, and when strategically placed throughout your home, can light your way through the house at night:
Users also find the outdoor lights to be particular helpful, as these lights illuminate the perimeter of your home, thereby deterring burglars.
The Philips Hue app gives you many options to control your lights. One such option is the ability to set timers so that your lights come on at regular intervals, further deterring burglars. This makes the lights particularly useful for people who are away from home for long periods of time – whether you’re at work or even on vacation.
Many people find these lights even more necessary during the holiday season when thefts tend to be on the rise.
But you may wonder, if you decide to make Philips Hue smart lights part of your life, how do you connect them?
Hue lights and bulbs either support Zigbee or Bluetooth. They do not contain a Wi-Fi chip like many other devices. This means that they way you set them up is slightly different to normal. One big benefit is clear though: no more entering Wi-Fi passwords (or more realistically: forgetting the Wi-Fi password, then spending 10 minutes hunting for it!).
Instead of running on Wi-Fi like most smart home devices, the Philips Hue smart lights’ main mode of connection is the Zigbee protocol. Using Zigbee enables each smart light to connect to each other efficiently, creating a seamless flow of operation – without relying on a Wi-Fi network to communicate.
In order to control these lights, many people purchase the Hue Bridge. The Hue Bridge does just what it indicates – acts as a bridge between Zigbee and your home’s internet:
However, the Bridge connects to your home’s Ethernet, not Wi-Fi. In order to do this, you will need to use an ethernet cable to connect the Hue Bridge directly to your Wi-Fi router or a connected network switch.
The Hue Bridge itself can be controlled within the Hue app, where you can utilize its many functions.
Your Hue bulbs and lights then connect via this Bridge, or via a mesh network which is part of Zigbee – this typically results in much greater reliability than having loads of WiFi bulbs:
Philips Hue also has smart lights that connect via Bluetooth. It’s to be noted, however, that these lights run on a different system than regular Philips Hue lights:
These are part of Hue’s most recent ‘generation’ (i.e. version) of bulbs and lights. To control them in Bluetooth mode, you require a separate app – the Phillips Bluetooth app.
Because Bluetooth range is more limited and smartphones can’t control too many Bluetooth devices at once, you can only control up to 10 lights, and this is restricted to a single room. Still, they make a good option should you only want special lighting for a relaxing evening in the family/living room, or to set the mood in the dining room.
While Philips Hue lights and bulbs don’t connect directly to Wi-Fi, they can be connected indirectly via the Hue app, and bridge devices such as Amazon’s Alexa/Echo, and Samsung SmartThings. Your smartphone then uses Wi-Fi to connect to the Hue app, whereas Echo and SmartThings also require Wi-Fi to various degrees.
In other words, whilst Philips Hue lights and bulbs don’t require Wi-Fi (since they use Zigbee or Bluetooth), you’ll often require Wi-Fi to configure things. The only exception is when using Hue Accessories such as the dimmer switch and motion sensors – these also use Zigbee, and so don’t require Wi-Fi for controlling your lights. You can even use them to turn your internet on and off via a smart plug!
In order to connect these devices, you will need the Hue Bridge. Whether you’re using Amazon’s Echo, or Samsung SmartThings, they’ll need to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network as the Hue Bridge is connected to via Ethernet.
For the Echo, you’ll enable the Hue skill in your Alexa app, then follow the on-screen prompts to connect to your Hue smart lights.
For Samsung SmartThings, you’ll connect via the SmartThings hub using the plus (+) feature to add a new device. Select Philips Hue, then Start. You will wait for the app to discover your Hue Bridge, then proceed to follow the prompts to complete set-up.
Even though the Hue Bridge installation instructions indicate that you can connect it to your Wi-Fi router, there are no options to indicate that you can do this wirelessly. During setup, there is nowhere for you to enter your Wi-Fi network name or password.
Therefore, at this time there is no way to wirelessly connect your Philips Hue Bridge. You must instead connect it to your router via an Ethernet cable.
This limitation may change in future versions. If you really want to use Wi-Fi (perhaps because you don’t have available Ethernet ports on your router), the only real option is to buy something like the Netgear N300 and connect this over Wi-Fi to your router.
You can then position the N300 near your Hue Bridge anywhere in the house (mine is in my loft!), and connect this via a short piece of Ethernet cable.
Because Philips Hue connects its devices primarily via Zigbee, you’re not using any part of your Wi-Fi’s signal or bandwidth. This means that your Hue smart lights, no matter how many you have, won’t put a damper on the strength or speed of your Wi-Fi signal. This ends up leaving you more bandwidth for your devices that do need to use Wi-Fi.
In addition, the Zigbee protocol’s mesh network is very reliable and efficient. Since its main function is connecting and controlling your lights, it offers a speed and reliability that Wi-Fi doesn’t.
For example, if you have power interruptions due to inclement weather or any other reason, you don’t have to worry about a slow-down in function.
Should you have to change your Wi-Fi information because you get a new router, changed ISP’s, etc., you don’t have to go through the hassle of changing the Wi-Fi information with your Hue smart lights.
Even with the benefits of Zigbee, you may not be completely sold on it. Not a problem!
Should you prefer to use Wi-Fi to operate your smart home lights, Philips also sells another brand of smart lights: WiZ. Signify (who bought the brand Philips Hue from Philips) also own WiZ.
With the WiZ app, you’re still able to use all of the same functions as you would with the Zigbee-powered Hue bulbs (i.e. dimming, color-changing, timers, motion sensors, etc)
You also have the ability to connect to a hub like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, or Samsung SmartThings, without any difficulties. Their respective apps are also compatible.
For ease of use and more streamlined operation, using WiZ may be a better option for some, but it’s worth noting that they are incompatible with the Philips Hue ecosystem – you can’t control Hue bulbs in the WiZ app, and conversely you can’t control WiZ bulbs in the Hue app (or via the Hue Bridge).
While the reliable Zigbee protocol may have its advantages, there are many who still prefer the convenience of having all of their devices connected and controlled via Wi-Fi. In that case, there are other popular smart bulbs that do use Wi-Fi instead of Zigbee.
Some of these smart lights are:
- LIFX Smart Bulbs: This is one of the most popular options on the market today. They have a variety of light options that work with Wi-Fi, including their newer anti-bacterial lights.
- NiteBird Smart Bulbs: They have options where you can fully customize your lighting, voice control and even sync the lights to music.
- GE Smart Bulbs: One of the most popular brands of electronics produces a line of intuitive smart bulbs. They have many of the same options as do Philips Hue.
- Sylvania Smart Bulbs: In addition to providing smart lighting via Wi-Fi, they are also compatible with Apple HomeKit. Some are even Bluetooth-enabled.
While the Philips Hue ecosystem doesn’t support Wi-Fi directly, using Zigbee or Bluetooth may prove to be beneficial as it won’t slow down your Wi-Fi. Your smart lights will operate efficiently as they communicate with one another via the Zigbee.
Should you prefer that your Hue lights operate via Wi-Fi, the WIZ range from Philips can help you do just so. They can connect your lights to Wi-Fi, giving you a wider range of options for connecting with other smart home hubs, such as Amazon’s Alexa/Echo.
If you decide not to use Philips Hue, there are several other Wi-Fi enabled smart home lighting choices. They’re also great options, and may even be a better fit for you.
At the end of the day, it all depends on what best suits you and your lifestyle best.