Philips Hue ‘Home and Away’ Not Working: How to Fix This

Home and Away is a Philips Hue feature that allows users to have smart devices turn on when they get home and turn off when they leave. This is one of the coolest smart features that users want to get up and running right away.

The only problem is that this feature occasionally stops working. It can even feel like Home and Away randomly turns on and off, but there are some concrete causes and reliable solutions to these problems.

There are a few issues that can stop Home and Away from working. The first thing to do is make sure your smartphone’s location services are enabled. After that, double check that your devices and lights are updated to the latest versions. If that still doesn’t work, check out some of the more in-depth solutions we’ve outlined later in the article.

What is Home and Away, and How Does it Work?

Home and Away uses your GPS location to detect when you arrive home and when you leave. It uses this information to control your smart devices. If you want your lights to turn on when you get home, and turn off when you leave, you can do that and more with Home and Away:

Philips Hue Home and Away app section
Philips Hue Home and Away app section

However, this feature can get buggy out of nowhere. These fixes should get you through any troubles Home and Away brings your way.

How to Get Your Home and Away Feature Working

Home and Away is a great feature, but users seem to face off against some feature-breaking issues. The good news is that most of these problems are issues with settings and permissions which can be quickly fixed.

Here’s how to get Home and Away up and running.

Enable ‘Out of Home’ control

First thing’s first: you aren’t able to use any of the features within the Home and Away section of Out of Home control is disabled:

The Home and Away screen on the Philips Hue app
The Home and Away screen on the Philips Hue app

So if you get the above message, you will need to go to Settings and then Out of Home Control within the Hue app:

A phone screenshot from the Hue app, showing that 'Out of home control' is currently disabled.
‘Out of home control’ is currently disabled in my Hue app.

Location Services

Here’s the biggest culprits of Home and Away not working. In order for Philips Hue to tell when you’re home, it needs to know your location.

Under your smartphone’s Privacy or Location Services setting, you’ll be able to enable locations and GPS features. Simply turn these on and most users will find that Home and Away suddenly starts working!

Samsung S10 phone screenshot showing bluetooth, mobile data and GPS (location) turned on, and also the 'IpsGeofence' app that's installed.
Smartphone with bluetooth, GPS and a geofence app.

But what if this simple fix doesn’t do the trick?

Significant Locations

Location Services might not be enough to fully enable the Home and Away features. When your phone uses your location, it doesn’t just check where you are for things like directions. There are apps that can “learn” which locations you like to visit. Philips Hue uses this data to figure out where “home” is for you.

This feature is called “Significant Locations” on iPhones and it is used by a variety of apps to gain granular information about where you live, work, and visit.

If this sounds like an invasion of your privacy, we have a workaround solution that’s just for you at the end of this article.

If you want to let Philips Hue handle the work for you, all you have to do is enable “Significant Locations” in your privacy settings on iOS (this does not apply to Android phones). This specific setting should be under Privacy in the Location Services setting. Switch it on and you’re good to go.

There are a few more permissions to check in order to make sure Philips Hue has all the access it needs to run your Home and Away settings.

Hue App Permissions

Arlight! Now we’re working our way through the basic problems that cause Home and Away feature issues. Here’s a tricky little setting that might be causing your Philips Hue app to not recognize your location.

You can now give individual apps certain permission without granting blanket permission to every app on your phone. This means you can have, effectively, only turn on location services for your Philips Hue app.

This setting will be located in different places depending on if you have an Android or iPhone, but you’ll be able to find it under “App Permissions” or a similar-sounding setting:

Android app permissions for the Philips Hue app
Android app permissions for the Philips Hue app

Make sure you enable the location setting for the Philips Hue app. Without knowing your location, the app can’t actually make the Home and Away feature work.

There is another sneaky setting that might be causing all of your location-based troubles.

Smart Battery Settings and Eco Mode

Your phone could still be the source of all of your Home and Away troubles. It could be that your battery saving features are costing you smart home utility.

Everyone knows the basics of what smart battery and eco mode do to reduce the strain on your smart phone’s battery. These settings dim screen brightness, pause updates and syncing, and pause other features like vibrate. They also cut down on your smartphone’s behind-the-scenes data usage and computing in order to conserve battery.

This last part of your battery saving mode could be costing you your Home and Away functionality.

In order for Home and Away to work, your Philips Hue app needs to be able to run in the background. What does it mean when an app runs in the background?

Plenty of your apps are technically “on” even when you’re not using them. Take your email app, for example. It frequently turns on in order to check for new emails even if you aren’t using it. The Philips Hue app’s Home and Away feature uses this background operating feature to check on a few things including if you’re close to your home.

The option to enable out of home control within the Hue app
The option to enable out of home control within the Hue app

If you’ve been having trouble with Home and Away and the problem isn’t with your location services, you should check your battery settings. Each smartphone brand is different here, but in your battery settings you should be able to exempt certain apps from battery saver restrictions. Let your Philips Hue app stay on even when the battery is low and you won’t have to worry about smart home service interruptions.

Here’s a quick smartphone battery tip:

What uses the most smartphone battery? Is it music? What about apps? How about connectivity like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi?

Actually, the single biggest tax on your battery is your smartphone’s screen. If you’re looking to improve battery life, limit the amount of screen time and dim that brightness to really save on smartphone battery life.

Update Your Lights

Your problems might not have all that much to do with your Hue app or your smartphone. It could be your lights that are complicating your routines.

New smart home users often think that the simple things like lights are similar to traditional LED or incandescent lighting. You plug it in, and the light turns on. However, these lights actually have onboard computing power.

The software on your smart lights is known as firmware. This is the most basic kind of software and is present on pretty much every smart device. Firmware is what allows your smart light to communicate with the rest of your smart home system. This software is usually pretty robust due to how simple it needs to be, but every now and then it needs an update:

My Hue app showing both the Hue Bridge and Hue dimmer switch being updated
Both my Hue Bridge and Hue dimmer switch are being updated

If your smart lights, motion sensors, or other devices are behind on their updates, this could be causing your Home and Away features to act buggy.

Before you move on to the more creative solutions for this problem, check to make sure that your smart tech is fully updated to its latest version. This process is different from manufacturer to manufacturer, but updating is usually done through the connected app.

In the case of Philips Hue, you can see which update each of your lights is currently running and do system updates via the app. Keep in mind that different product lines have different updating schedules. So those LED lights might have been updated before another part of your system.

If this isn’t doing the trick. It’s time to break out some DIY skills!

Leave the Hue App Behind

Drastic problems call for drastic measures.

If you are determined to have the Home and Away functionality up and working, you might need to ditch the Hue App. At least this part of it, anyway.

We’ve read countless reports from smart home users who just couldn’t get this feature working. With all of the different types of devices, apps, and updates, there are bound to be a few systems that Philips Hue doesn’t get around to optimizing. This means that somes users are going to have to get a little creative to get around this problem. One way you can accomplish this is by turning off the Home and Away feature in the Hue app.

That’s right. Turning off Home and Away is the first step to getting it to work! Alexa, Homekit, and other smart home apps all have similar features to Hue’s Home and Away, after all.

You can use apps like Alexa and Homekit to set a routine that mimics Hue’s Home and Away feature – this feature is often called geofencing in other apps. Geofencing gives you all of the Home and Away functionality when you just can’t get the Hue app to work properly.

The approach for doing this will vary depending on what smart home devices you have, however. For example, if you just had a smart speaker and nothing else, you’re unlikely to be able to set-up a routine to provide home and away-type control because you don’t have any devices that can detect when you’re coming home.

However many smart door locks do provide this functionality, and then you can often create a routine to say “once the door lock detects I am home, turn on a light”.

If you’re looking for another way to get around this problem, you can always try using a motion sensor to solve this problem.

Try Using a Motion Sensor

A Philips Hue Outdoor Motion Sensor
A Philips Hue Outdoor Motion Sensor

Being into smart home tech is all about being creative. You can optimize your home’s lighting for your lifestyle and add some flare along the way, but the real creativity starts when you put together your own smart routines and device networks. This is a basic guide on using smart motion sensors to mimic Home and Away features.

Let’s create a DIY Home and Away function.

One clever work around involves setting a motion sensor to automate the Home and Away process with a physical device rather than rely on any one app to get the job done. This solution is ideal for people who want Home and Away features, but who also don’t feel comfortable giving up their Significant Locations privacy.

Here’s how this solution works. All you need is a motion sensor like the Hue Outdoor Motion Sensor or the Shelly Motion Sensor, and you’ll be able to use motion detection to mimic Home and Away.

You can set devices like the Hue Outdoor Motion Sensor to detect when a car enters your driveway and then have your interior lights respond accordingly. You can also aim the Shelly Motion Sensor at the front door and use an Alexa or Echo routine to create the same Home and Away features.

These solutions will require some fine-tuning to handle the specifics of a user’s environment, but they are a great way to get granular control over your smart home without having to give up so much personal information.

Some users of this method complain that they can turn lights on easily enough (once motion is detected), but then not turn them off after a set amount of time. Luckily there is a simple solution to this, though: you can add a “wait” action as part of your routine, and then turn lights off. So your Alexa routine might be:

  • Name: turn lights on when I come home.
  • Trigger: smart device trigger -> motion sensor – when motion is detected
  • Actions:
    • Turn various (specified) lights on.
    • Wait 15 minutes.
    • Turn various (specified) lights off.

No matter what the cause of your Home and Away woes was, there is a solution that can restore this functionality.

Follow these steps and you’ll have your smart home recognizing you when you step through the doorway like a superhero entering their hideout.

About Tristan Perry

Tristan Perry is a software developer who is passionate about tech gadgets, DIY and housing. He has therefore loved seeing smart homes hit the mainstream. Tristan also has an academic background (in Math & Computer Science), and so he enjoys digging into the technical ways that smart home devices work.

Tristan owns close to a dozen Amazon Echo devices, way too many Philips Hue bulbs and lightstrips, a boat-load of Ring Cameras and Doorbells... and a bunch of other smart home devices too (from Reolink, Google Nest, GLEDOPTO and others).

If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions about this article, please leave a comment below. Please note that all comments go into a moderation queue (to prevent blog spam). Your comment will be manually reviewed and approved by Tristan in less than a week. Thanks!

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