There are many different smart lighting options on the market. All will perform the basic function of a lighting system — illuminating your home. However, the feature that makes a smart lighting system truly "smart" is the added amount of control you have over the lighting system via your smartphone.
And if you're looking for a smart lighting solution that is easy to install, cost effective, and possesses a number of impressive features, the Philips Hue system may be just the ticket.
Energy Efficiency Can Be Beautiful, Too
A starter kit for the Philips Hue runs about $180, includes 3 smart bulbs, and a bridge that connects the bulbs to your home.
The bulbs themselves are nothing short of engineering marvels. A single 8.5 watt Philips Hue bulb has enough lighting power to replace a 60 watt conventional incandescent bulb. The Hue bulb is also designed to last for 15,000 hours without burning out. Compare that to incandescent bulbs - which top out at a lifespan of 1,500 hours - and Hue bulbs become even more appealing.
In other words: with Hue bulbs installed in your home, each bulb uses around 85% less wattage than incandescent bulbs do. And the Hue bulbs last 10 times as long.
The lifetime savings you could incur - assuming you run both bulbs run for 15,000 hours - are substantial as well. If you live in a city like Philadelphia, where the cost of a kWh is around 10 cents according to the EIA, the money you could gain through energy savings using a single Philips Hue bulbs over the course of its lifetime is around 80 dollars. Not bad, right? The bulbs only cost $45 through most online retailers. They pay for themselves almost twice over just in energy savings.
And don't forget, a single Hue bulb will last 10 times longer than a conventional incandescent bulb. When you factor in the cost of not having to replace any of those bulbs - around 3 bucks a bulb - that's an extra 30 dollars in total savings. That leaves you with $107 in savings on energy and replacement bulbs.
Factor in money saved on energy, and that leaves you with a lifetime net profit on a single bulb of around $60. That's right you can actually make money by using Philips Hue bulbs over incandescent bulbs.
Not to mention they look REALLY cool when you place them inside of an old drumset in your living room.
Easy Setup Through WiFi
Installation and usability of the Hue system is a veritable walk in the park.
The light bulbs themselves fit right into conventional incandescent sockets, so installation of the bulbs is - literally - no more difficult than screwing in a light bulb.
The technological device that allows the Hue bulbs to connect to your wi-fi network is known as the "Bridge". The Bridge requires a bit more technological prowess to install than the bulbs do, but not by much. Simply plug the bridge into an electrical outlet, connect it to your wireless router via an ethernet cable, then download the app to your smart device. The on-screen instructions will have you up and running in a matter of minutes.
Worth noting: the ethernet cable needed to plug the bridge into your router is not provided with the Hue starter kit. Make sure you have one on hand before beginning installation.
The smart device app that you will use to control the hue is intuitive and has a good user interface. The bulbs themselves are capable of changing color, and the out of the box light schemes that the app can control are many and varied. Everything from rosy pink "Savannah Sunset" to cool blue "Arctic Aurora".
There are a lot of third party lighting scheme apps that exist for the Hue system for both IOS and Android. We tested a paid app called iConnect Hue1 for the Apple iPhone and iPad. This app offers a wider range of control over your color schemes than the Hue app does.
Like any forward-thinking technology, Philips Hue supports a host of integrations with other smart devices.
Connection with the Amazon Echo smart speaker is as easy as asking Alexa to locate the Philips bridge. There are also a growing number of IFTTT integrations that you can use to put the Hue on autopilot. We've been road testing this recipe to turn lights on at the same time every night, and so far so good.
The Philips Hue lighting system is at its level best when controlled via the app. Conventional light switches will turn the bulbs on and off, but can't control any of the cool features. This is probably why Philips also has a smart switch called the Tap2 - cost is around $40, - that allows you more control over the bulbs without needing to access the app.
Bottom Line: The Philips Hue lighting system is affordable, easy to install, and integrates well with other devices. Its energy saving attributes will also help you to save on electricity over time, and the reduced need to replace the bulbs is a welcome evolution.