One of the greatest appeals of a smart home is the ability to control all of your devices wirelessly, from just about anywhere – in or outside of your home.
In the quest to achieve this seamlessly connected smart home, being able to control all of your smart devices, including bulbs, from one central location is preferable to using several different hubs and apps.
Perhaps you’re considering (or are already using) the Philips Hue ecosystem for your smart lights. If you own, or are considering purchasing smart bulbs from other brands too, you may be interested in using your Philips Hue system to control these other bulbs. But is this possible?
In addition, even the most connected of homes still have a few conventional bulbs, and you no doubt own a variety of lamps and light fixtures that operate with these normal – or ‘dumb’ – bulbs.
Considering that Phillips Hue can control a variety of lights with the aid of the Hue Bridge, you might wonder if you can use this to also control your normal/’dumb’ bulbs? The answer varies depending on the smart device we’re talking about, but the gist is:
A Philips Hue system can control other smart bulbs if they are Zigbee (not WiFi) based, but they can’t control normal (dumb) bulbs without the help of a compatible smart plug or Zigbee switch.
Before getting into this in detail, we’ll look into how Philips Hue operates, and is normally controlled.
Philips Hue is a line of LED smart lighting with lights for the inside and outside of your home. These lights can perform a variety of functions from dimming, to color-changing, to motion-sensing. Within the app, you have the ability to set schedules based on time and even sunset/sunrise.
The newest Philips Hue bulbs also introduce Bluetooth control that perform similar functions. However since they run on Bluetooth, the range is more limited, and restricted to controlling one room at a time.
One of the main ways to control these smart lights is by installing a Hue Bridge into your home network, and then using the main Philips Hue app:
When it comes to the Hue Bridge, this connects all of the lights via the ZigBee protocol. This enables the lights to communicate with one another seamlessly over a mesh network.
Since the lights don’t use Wi-Fi, it doesn’t take from the bandwidth that you’re already using for other devices you may have at home, such as computers and tablets. This often ends up giving you a much faster, smoother experience than if it did use Wi-Fi.
Philips Hue’s line of Bluetooth lights are controlled somewhat differently. They connect to each other via Bluetooth, and even have their own app called Hue Bluetooth:
Other options for controlling Hue lights are the Hue Dimmer Switch, the Tap Switch, as well as with your voice using devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home/Nest and hubs like the Samsung SmartThings hub.
The Hue Dimmer switch is a light switch that attaches to the wall in your home and has a detachable remote that you can take around your house for convenient access and control. You can use this Dimmer Switch to dim your lights, as well as change the color scheme of any room in your home.
The Hue Tap switch is another light switch that you can use to control your Hue lights. It’s portable, and has four programmable buttons for easy customization. You must have the Hue Bridge in order to use the Tap switch.
When it comes to using Amazon’s Alexa, it must first be connected to the Hue Bridge (unless it’s a newer Echo device that contains a Zigbee chip). Since Alexa and the Echo usually connect to Wi-Fi, there are a couple of steps you have to complete in order to connect to the Zigbee-powered Hue Bridge. But the steps are simple, and once connected, they can be used to control your Philips Hue smart lights.
For various reasons, such as price or curiosity about other brands, you may own more than one brand of smart bulbs in your home. To that end, you might start to wonder if you can use Philips Hue to control the other smart bulbs you’re using. After all, the Hue ecosystem has tonnes of different integration options and often relies on a dedicated hub (i.e. the Hue Bridge), so surely it’s possible – right?
Well, the answer depends on which connection those smart lights use.
Since Philips Hue runs on the Zigbee protocol, it can easily control other smart bulbs that also run on Zigbee. Innr is one of the most popular examples of a compatible light provider, although GLEDOTPO and SYLVANIA are other examples.
These other Zigbee-powered lights all ‘speak a common language’, meaning that they can be connected to each other via the Hue Bridge, and thus controlled within the Hue app or the other integration options you have setup (such as Echo devices or a Hue dimmer switch).
Other smart bulb brands that are compatible with Zigbee include Sengled’s Element range, Cree’s Connected range and also Ikea Trådfri bulbs. In terms of pricing, Innr is usually a bit cheaper than Philips Hue (but not by much), whereas the other brands tend to run even cheaper.
In order to connect these bulbs, you simply refer to the Hue app, and have it search for other Zigbee-powered devices:
Once discovered, it will connect them to its mesh network, and you’ll have control over all of the Zigbee smart bulbs in, and around your home.
But what if your other smart bulbs run on Wi-Fi?
Unfortunately, when it comes to Wi-Fi-powered bulbs, Philips Hue cannot control them. Not only are they not compatible with the Zigbee protocol, but Wi-Fi-enabled bulbs all have their own specific apps that they’re designed to work with.
For example LIFX bulbs have their own LIFX app and there’s never been any attempt to have LIFX bulbs be controllable within the Hue app. Indeed, most Wi-Fi smart bulbs are considered competitors with Philips Hue and so they wouldn’t want this compatibility!
Should you have both Wi-Fi and Zigbee bulbs in your home, you will have to control them via separate methods – such as various smartphone apps:
The only way you can integrate them, at least to a certain degree, is by using a hub like Amazon Echo or Samsung SmartThings. This will enable you to control both from at least the same hub.
You cannot use the Philips Hue ecosystem to control normal (dumb) bulbs themselves directly – whether that’s dimming or changing color. Average light bulbs don’t have the technical capacity to operate like smart bulbs, and thereby they won’t be able to perform any of the functions that smart bulbs do.
Indeed, a standard light bulb is controlled purely with electricity supplied to it by a light switch (or wall socket if it’s a floor/side lamp). Any “on/off” functionality is therefore purely based on electricity, and a normal bulb certainly won’t be changing to bright pink or orange any time soon!
However, if you’re only wanting to turn them on and off, there are a variety of options you can employ to make a ‘dumb’ bulb smart.
One such option for floor/side lamps is to use a smart plug that is controlled via Zigbee – such as Hue’s Smart Plug or the one from Innr:
You can plug this into your wall socket, and then plug your lamp into this. You can then add the Hue smart plug into your Hue app, and control it with this or your voice – thereby allowing you to turn the lamp on and off in a smart way, despite it containing a ‘dumb’ bulb!
If it’s a more traditional ceiling light, you can also use a Zigbee light switch – such as the GE Enbrighten range. From there, you can connect them to the Hue Bridge or directly with the latest Echo devices, and control them from there.
When it comes to smart bulbs, Philips Hue is one of the most popular due to its diverse product line-up. However, because they sometimes carry a higher price tag, you may get curious about trying other brands of smart bulbs to achieve the same effect, at a fraction of the cost.
This works out conveniently if the bulbs are compatible with Zigbee as well. However, if you decide to choose Wi-Fi bulbs, that incompatibility will make it more difficult to achieve the goal of the seamlessly operated smart home.
When it comes to traditional, or “dumb” bulbs, your best option (if you just want to use Philips Hue to turn them on and off, that is) is to purchase a Zigbee-compatible smart plug or switch.
Alternatively, consider buying a smart bulb to replace the existing bulb – it may work out cheaper than buying a separate smart plug or switch, and it’ll at least offer dimming out the box too.