The goal of most smart home owners is to get their homes to operate seamlessly and achieve interoperability with all of their smart devices. With the introduction of smart home hubs such as Amazon’s Echo, Samsung SmartThings, and Apple HomeKit, just to name a few, this goal of interoperability seemed to become a reality. However, is this cohesiveness always achievable?
Take, for example, one of the most popular smart home light systems on the market – the Philips Hue lighting ecosystem. Unlike some other smart home light systems such as LIFX smart lights, Philips Hue and its components connect using ZigBee, not Wi-Fi. While connecting the lights themselves to smart home hubs (like the Echo 4th Gen, for example) has become easier in recent years – what about the various Philips Hue accessories?
One such component, is the Philips Hue Dimmer Switch. In order to control their Philips Hue lights, many people opt to use the Hue Dimmer Switch. In their quest to achieve that cohesiveness in their smart home, many seek to control their Hue Dimmer Switch with Alexa via the Amazon Echo. But is this possible?
In order to more completely understand this, it’s important to take a look at not only how the Hue Dimmer Switch works, but how the Amazon Echo has changed in recent years.
The Philips Hue Dimmer Switch is a device used to control the functions of Philips Hue smart lights. These functions include dimming, changing light schemes, as well as switching the smart lights on and off.
The Hue Dimmer Switch doesn’t require a wired installation (it is battery operated), so it can be mounted wirelessly to any wall in your home. It also has a removable faceplate that can be removed and used as a remote control as you move about your home:
It is Hue Bridge enabled, making it possible to use with the Hue Bridge to control your Hue lights. It also supports other non-Philips Hue lights (that are Zigbee compatible) also via the Hue Bridge – this is the benefit of Zigbee based systems.
But if you want to scrap the $50 expense of a Hue Bridge, can you instead pair the Hue Dimmer Switch directly with an Amazon Echo device?
The answer to this question varies depending on which version of Amazon’s Echo you’re operating.
Former Echo generations, such as those in operation circa 2018, don’t have this option. Since these Alexa products such as Amazon Echo use Wi-Fi to connect to other devices, and Philips Hue products use the Zigbee protocol, connecting the two together just isn’t possible without some significant tech know-how in order to circumvent the barriers.
In addition, many report that the bulbs can only directly connect to one hub at a time – whether this be the Hue Bridge, Echo, or Hue Dimmer Switch.
In short, with previous Echo generations, a direct pairing between the Hue Dimmer Switch and the Amazon Echo hasn’t been possible.
Now enter newer Echo devices such as the Echo Plus, and the 4th generation Echo. These Alexa-enabled devices now include a Zigbee chip which facilitates the pairing of Zigbee devices, such as the Philips Hue, with Amazon Echo.
In these newer devices, in order to connect a Hue Dimmer Switch, you would simply open up your Alexa app, and begin the process to connect a new device, just you would any device. Select that you’re adding a “Philips Hue” device, and follow the prompts to connect your device.
You may first need to hold the “ON” button (i.e. the round “O” button) for 10 seconds before doing this, but otherwise it has been proven to work:
When searching for the device you’re trying to add, the Echo will pick up on the Hue Dimmer Switch, and you’ll then be able to label that device as your Dimmer within the app.
But… is there any benefit of this? Can you actually trigger routines from a button press, or configure the Dimmer Switch within the Alexa app?
While Alexa, via newer versions of the Echo can add the Hue Dimmer Switch, that’s just about it: it will be listed as a device, but it won’t offer much functionality beyond this.
Because the hub (a.k.a. the Echo) is what controls the activity of the other devices, the same won’t be true the other way around.
Just like your lights can’t control their hub – whether it be the Hue Dimmer Switch, or the Hue Bridge – the same would be true when it comes to the Dimmer Switch triggering Alexa routines.
In other words, whilst various smart devices can trigger Alexa routines (such as when Ring cameras detect motion), it’s not possible to trigger an Alexa routine when a button of the Hue Dimmer Switch is clicked.
Equally you can’t re-configure what each individual dimmer switch button does from the Alexa app.
Connected properly, however, Alexa should be able to control the functions of the Hue Dimmer Switch – i.e. so that it is usable without owning a Hue Bridge. You just can’t configure anything beyond that.
If you happen to be using an older version of the Amazon Echo (i.e. without the Zigbee chip), are having trouble pairing the Hue Dimmer Switch and newer generation Echo, or just want to see what other options are available, here are a few alternatives you can consider.
Designed specifically for use with all things Philips Hue, the Hue Bridge makes controlling your Hue lights across different platforms easy.
You can use the Hue Bridge to not only connect your Echo to the Hue smart lights, but to the Hue Dimmer Switch as well. Doing this eliminates a lot of the hassle people tend to run into when attempting to connect the Hue Dimmer switch directly to the Echo. Using the Bridge also helps achieve that streamlined smart home operation.
In addition, it allows you to control more lights (up to 50), and offers a wider range of options for controlling your lights, and integrating them with hubs you may already be using for other smart devices in your home.
Using a Hue Bridge also presents another advantage – updating. The Hue Bridge enables you to update the firmware on your smart home lights more efficiently. Without it, you may run into update challenges.
This is quite possibly one of the simplest options available; this is especially convenient if you’re not running too many smart lights.
The Hue Dimmer switch can handle up to 10 smart lights by itself – more if you decide to add the Hue Bridge. To do this, go to a Hue light and hold down the ON button of the dimmer switch for 10 seconds:
Using the Dimmer Switch in this way makes operating your lights simple and still offers a wide range of options for customizing the light schemes in your home, without requiring the purchase of a separate Hue Bridge or Zigbee-enabled Echo device.
With this option, you can purchase and install a smart light switch that’s compatible with Alexa. There are many available, and installation doesn’t require a lot of effort. It also means that you don’t then need to buy a smart light bulb – the smart switch will control everything for you. Or you can choose to have both smart switches and bulbs, it’s up to you.
While there are many wireless options, there are also some in-wall options available. These require installation by a qualified electrician, so be sure to choose what’s best for your particular situation.
There are a few smart light switches available that can make it easier for you to control your Philips Hue lights through the Echo. However, when choosing a switch, make sure it’s also compatible with Zigbee. Without that compatibility, you’ll be running into the same problems as those with older Echos would.
If you opt to connect your lights to the Amazon Echo hub with the use of the Hue Bridge, you can use voice commands via Alexa in order to control your lights. For example, you can say “Alexa, set my Living Room light to 50% brightness” to dim it 50%.
This option would eliminate the need to use the Hue Dimmer Switch at all – essentially eliminating an extra ‘middle man’ from the smart home equation.
Whether you go the route of the newer Amazon Echo so you can connect the Hue Dimmer Switch, or you decide to forego the extra steps and just use the Hue Bridge, streamlining the function of your smart home and lights is possible.
Manufacturers are constantly making updates to their devices’ compatibility. So while it may be more difficult to connect Zigbee and Wi-Fi devices now, this could very well change in the near future.