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Some Philips Hue Lighting Tips

I got back to Vermont and on my list was putting in some HomeKit gear for this house. I chose Philips Hue for lighting because I may want to take it with me to another location which is why Philips might be the choice for those that are renting or transient.

Right now, the best bargain in Philips Hue is the starter kit that includes the hub and two white bulbs. Grace was laughing at me because I also bought some color lights, light strips and other cool Hue gear. But in this article I want to go over the initial set-up of a Hue system and how to group your lights.

First step is to take the hub and connect it to your router. I have an Airport Extreme sitting on a shelf with a growing collection of hubs (Arlo, Kevo and now Philips). Fortunately, I haven’t filled up all the ethernet ports on the Airport Extreme so after running the power cable I just plugged in the ethernet cable to the Airport. The next step is to screw in the light bulbs. In this case, it took a couple of aging hippies to screw in a bulb.

Once you have the bulbs in place make sure they are switched on. Next, download the Philips Hue app from the App Store. Once you have the app, you can have it search for the hub. Once it finds the hub you are set to go. Press the button on the hub and the app will find your newly installed bulbs. You are done and you can use the Hue app to control your lights but what you really want is the Apple Home App and Siri to control them.

One thing to be careful about is naming. I started out naming my lights hallway for the hallway lights but Siri, HomeKit and Hue will be confused if you have two hallways or like me two houses with hallways so Grace and I spent a little time arguing about what the most appropriate name should be. For Siri or for Amazon Echo you want to make these names easily understood and usually one word.

So your lights are now connected and you can dim them and turn them on and off with the Hue. Next, in the settings section of the Hue app activate HomeKit and Siri. This will allow the lights to be controlled by the Home app. Since I also have an Amazon Echo in my house, I also went to the Alexa app and had the Echo also discover the lights. Once this is done you have a lot of control over your automated lights. You can turn them on by asking Siri on your iOS device (or Alexa). If you have set up your Apple TV as a HomeKit hub you can turn the lights on and off remotely, too.

You can also create scenes and automations. Things like having the lights come on at sunset or off at a certain time. You can also use geo-fencing so the lights come on when you arrive home and turn off when you leave. That works great if you live alone but is a bit annoying to your housemates otherwise.

So, I put in five Hue colored lights in our living room which actually used to be the Small Dog offices before we outgrew it. It sort of got the name “west wing” because it was west and no relation to the White House. So, as I was adjusting these lights I found that it was a real pain to have to adjust the color of each light individually. I could tell Siri “Turn west wing lights to purple” and that would work but if I wanted to fine tune the colors I needed to group all the lights together so they act as one light. I could not find out how to do this. I googled, I downloaded 3rd party apps but I really wanted Siri to control them as one.

So, I was up at our S. Burlington store and asked Erich to demo some Smart Home gear in our new Home Automation section. By the way, if you have not been into our S. Burlington store lately you should check out all the cool renovations that were done while I was in Florida. Anyway, as Erich was demoing he casually mentioned grouping. I said “whoa!” and had him show me. The googling was wrong, there IS actually a very easy way to group your Hue accessories if you are using HomeKit.

To group your accessories you simply go to the home screen of HomeKit and press on one of the accessories, i.e. a light. That gives you the control screen for that accessory. You can dim and turn on and off and adjust color for colored lights. There is also a “details” button. Press that button and you have more options including naming the light, assigning it to a room, toggling whether it is included in HomeKit favorites and if you scroll down you can group it. Clicking on “Group with Other Accessories” button will allow you to choose which lights go together. You can then name that group and you are ready to go. Instead of five individual lights, I now have one button for all the west wing lights.

I have a lot of fun setting up Hue lighting and it is very simple and very versatile but thanks to Erich for solving my grouping dilemma!

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