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Smart bulbs aren’t cheap, and Hue doesn’t make the cheapest smart bulbs. There are tons of smart home gadgets you could be buying, so is Philips Hue worth it? Or should you spend your money elsewhere?
In this article, we’ll take a look at several pros and cons of smart bulbs in general and Hue bulbs in particular.
4 Reasons to Buy Smart Bulbs
Smart Bulbs Reduce Energy Costs
Smart bulbs use roughly 80% less power than incandescent bulbs.
The energy savings largely come from how smart bulbs produce light. They use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) instead of the heated filaments found in traditional light bulbs. LEDs produce less heat, so an 8- or 9-watt LED bulb can deliver as much light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb.
If you run your bulbs 12 hours per day, that could save you $0.08 per day per bulb. If your home has 40 bulbs, that’s a savings of nearly $1200 per year!
And that’s just the energy saved from a dumb LED bulb. Smart bulbs can save you even more by helping to ensure that your bulbs are off when you aren’t using them. The more often you accidentally leave your light bulbs on, the more money a smart bulb can save you.
Smart Bulbs Last Longer
Hue bulbs have a lifespan of about 25,000 hours. That’s nearly six years if you run them for 12 hours per day. For comparison, incandescent bulbs typically last about 1,000 hours.
The lifespan of other smart bulbs and non-smart LED bulbs are also generally in the 25,000-hour range. Even the cheapest smart bulb brands should last upwards of 10,000 hours.
Smart Bulbs Have More Lighting Options
Smart lights come in a much wider variety of styles than old incandescent bulbs. You can easily combine setups that use any of these lighting types:
- Standard bulbs
- Light strips
- Lighted wall panels
- Light bars
- String lights
- Table lamps
- Light projectors
Combine that with the variety of colors and light warmth options available with these bulbs, and the possibilities are virtually endless.
Most smart bulbs, including Hue, also let you dim the bulbs, use them together in scenes, or even sync your lights to music or TV shows.
Smart Lights Offer More Control Options
Most standard bulbs are turned on and off with a wall switch. You could add a smart switch or a more complicated control mechanism, but your options are generally limited.
Every brand of smart bulb has its own control options, but you can generally expect most or all of the following:
- A smartphone app
- Voice commands
- Wall switches
- Sensors (gesture control, motion detection, etc.)
Some of these options might require additional hardware. But that hardware will integrate with your smart home system for multiple use cases, rather than the single-use options you’ll generally have with dumb bulbs.
For example, a motion detection sensor that triggers your light bulbs can also be used to activate your thermostat and turn on your TV.
2 Reasons Not to Buy Smart Bulbs
Smart Bulbs Are Expensive
I almost took this off the list because smart bulbs have gotten a lot cheaper in recent years. You can buy some for as low as $10 each, and Amazon will sometimes throw in a bulb for free when you purchase an Echo or other smart home devices.
But even $10 is expensive compared to the cost of a $1 incandescent bulb. If you want to replace 40 bulbs across your home, that’s $400 for cheap smart bulbs or $40 for incandescent—not an insignificant difference when you’re on a budget.
Some smart bulbs are even more expensive, especially if you want a quality, color-changing bulb that integrates with your preferred smart home system. You could end up paying upwards of $40 for a single bulb!
The cost savings of a smart bulb will offset that price eventually, but that doesn’t make the initial investment any easier. At a savings of $0.08 per day, it would take nearly two years for a $40 smart bulb to pay for itself.
Smart Bulbs Don’t Work With Manual Dimmers
Most dimmer switches are made with incandescent bulbs in mind. They work by decreasing the electrical flow to the bulb, which isn’t how smart bulbs and other LED bulbs dim.
You don’t necessarily need to replace your dimmer switches to install smart bulbs, but you’ll definitely need to leave them in the fully-on (not dimming) mode. And if you or others in your home do activate the dimmer, it could cause your Hue bulbs to flicker.
You can buy a special dimmer switch for your smart bulbs (like this one from Hue). They are really just remotes that hang on your wall, though. Unless you want the extra remote, you can get the same functionality from the Hue app on your phone.
4 Reasons to Buy Philips Hue Bulbs
Philips Hue Has a Wide Range of products
Even by smart lighting standards, Hue has an incredible variety of lights to choose from. You’ll have an easier time setting up scenes and routines if you stick to a single light brand, so it’s best to go with one that has quality options in every category.
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Other brands are catching up, but Hue still dominates the smart lighting market. No matter what size or shape bulb you need, they probably have it. That’s not something I can say about most other smart lighting brands.
As always, there is one exception here. Philips has yet to release a panel lighting product. For that, you’ll need to go with either Nanoleaf Elements or the more budget-friendly Govee Glide products.
Hue Integrates With Most Smart Home Setups
You can easily add Hue to any of the major smart home hubs or voice assistants. It also directly integrates with smart devices from a variety of manufacturers.
Here’s just a short list of the Philips Hue integrations:
- Amazon Alexa (Echo)
- Apple Homekit
- August Home
- Google Assistant (Nest)
- Home Assistant
- If This Then That (IFTTT)
- Logitech Harmony Hub
- Microsoft Cortana
- Samsung SmartThings
- Vivint Smart Home
- XFINITY Home
- Yale Home
You can also sync Hue directly to your gaming, audio, or TV setups.
In the case of gaming, Hue integrates with several Razer accessories to add reactive lighting. You can sync your lighting to your Spotify music setup directly in the smartphone app. And with the Hue Play, you can sync your Hue lights with the colors of the picture on your TV.
As with the product options, other smart lighting brands are catching up to Hue’s integrations. But they’ll be the leader in this area for at least a few years to come.
Hue Bulbs Have Both Zigbee and Bluetooth Connectivity
Smart bulbs need a way to connect to their hub or directly to other smart home devices. The most common connectivity methods are:
Wi-Fi is the typical choice for laptops, phones, and other devices that need lots of bandwidth and high speeds. However, it’s overkill for light bulbs. Wi-Fi consumes much more power than Zigbee, and Wi-Fi bulbs have to be within range of your router at all times.
Zigbee has a shorter range than Wi-Fi, but each new Zigbee device extends that range. Instead of needing to worry about the distance to your router, you just need to make sure that each bulb is within roughly 100 feet of the nearest Zigbee device (bulb, switch, or otherwise).
Older Hue lights could only connect via Zigbee, which is why the Hue Bridge was necessary. And if you had too many bulbs, you would need multiple Hue Bridges for a single home.
Newer Hue bulbs have Bluetooth as well as Zigbee. This allows them to operate without a bridge, drastically decreasing the initial cost of your Hue setup. You can buy a single bulb to try it out instead of having to buy the entire Hue starter kit.
Hue’s App Is Excellent
The ease of use of a company’s app can make or break your smart home experience. Everything about the Hue app is intuitive and incredibly beginner-friendly.
Rather than walk you through the entire app, let me just tell you about the Automations tab.
Most home automation apps throw you in the deep end. They expect that you already know what routines you want to run and how those routines should work.
The Hue app has custom routine options for more advanced users, but beginners are presented with a few simple examples: wake up with light, go to sleep, coming home, leaving home, mimic presence, and timer.
These cover the basics of power-saving, convenience, and security without offering an overwhelming variety. And each one walks you through a short, easy-to-understand setup process.
Did I mention that the app lets you sync your lights to Spotify music, a TV show, or a video game? Because even if I did, it’s worth mentioning again.
3 Reasons Not to Buy Philips Hue Bulbs
There are Bulbs With More Colors
For all you lighting snobs out there, Hue likely won’t satisfy you.
Is being a lighting snob a thing? I’m sure it is.
By changing the color and warmth, Hue bulbs can produce 16 million different shades of light.
LIFX bulbs blow that out of the water, with 550 billion shades in their color bulbs. That comes from a combination of the finer color resolution of LIFX bulbs and their maximum warmth extending to 9,000K instead of Hue’s 6,500K.
Some of you are probably wondering why anyone would need more than 16 million shades of light. Personally, I’m with you on that. Hue quality is plenty good for my taste, but I don’t want you to leave here thinking it’s the very best—because it’s not.
There are Cheaper Smart Bulbs
Hue color bulbs cost about $40 each. Hue white bulbs are cheaper, often selling for as low as $15.
Now compare that price to WiZ bulbs, from the same parent company as Hue, which sell for roughly $8–13 each. WiZ color bulbs are cheaper than Hue white bulbs!
I wrote an entire article on Hue vs WiZ bulbs, so I won’t get into all of the differences here. But basically, WiZ bulbs come in fewer form factors and don’t offer as many automation and integration options as Hue.
But if all you care about is having a basic smart bulb that works reliably and lasts a long time, Hue may be overkill. You can even connect WiZ lights to Alexa, so they’ll play nicely with the rest of your smart home setup.
You’ll Need a Hue Bridge Eventually
As I mentioned above, you can operate your Hue bulbs without a bridge, but there are some severe limitations. Eventually, you’re going to want to buy a bridge.
The bridge increases your Hue setup’s range and max number of bulbs. You can have up to 10 Hue Bluetooth bulbs in your setup. Even a small home will quickly outgrow that, which is why the Hue Bridge adds support for up to 63 lights per bridge.
You’ll also need a bridge to control your lights from outside of your home. The Bluetooth connection only works when it’s within range of your phone. And, of course, it requires that your phone’s Bluetooth be on, which can be a drain on your battery.
Most third-party integrations won’t work without the bridge, either. Just because a device says it works with Hue doesn’t mean it works without the bridge.
Amazon Alexa does offer a way to integrate Hue Bluetooth bulbs directly into your smart home setup. Other than the 1st-Gen Echo and 1st-Gen Echo Dot, all Echo devices can control your Hue bulbs without a bridge. That doesn’t eliminate the 10-bulb limit, but it does offer some amount of out-of-home control and some limited integrations through Alexa routines.
If you can afford the initial cost, smart bulbs are definitely worth buying. When you factor in the energy savings, they pay for themselves within 2 years in most cases and in even less time for budget brands. And compared to the price of a Roomba or even the cost of Alexa, smart bulbs are one of the cheapest first investments you can make in your smart home.
If you’re having trouble picking a smart bulb brand, Hue is an excellent starting point. If the price scares you off, though, WiZ bulbs are a good budget alternative. And if you want only the best, you may want to check out LIFX.