Didn’t you hear? Philips Hue light bulbs are all the rage. You can make them automatically turn on when you pull into your driveway, get them to glow in different colors if you’re hosting a party, and even color-wash your wall to match your TV’s output when you’re watching a movie.
Sure, they’re all cool features… sort of. But none of them exclusively require a Philips Hue system to achieve. There are easier, cheaper, and more practical options available.
In this article, I’m going to argue that Philips Hue smart lights are both overpriced and pointless. Keep reading to find out why.
Before I get into a more technical discussion, let’s take a moment to consider the price.
If you want to install Philips Hue smart lights in your home, the first thing you need is a Starter Pack. It contains three light bulbs and a bridge to wirelessly connect them all together. The latest third generation kit costs $200. Even the slightly older second generation will set you back $180.
“Ah,” I hear you say, “most of that money is probably for the bridge, and that’s a one-time purchase.” Sadly, that’s not the case. The three included light bulbs are the White and Color Ambiance A19 model. Individually, they retail for about $50. The three light bulbs in the Starter Pack are worth almost three-quarters of the purchase price.
You’re paying $150 for three light bulbs. Take a moment to do the math: how much would it cost to fill your whole home with the Hue system?
Go ahead and count how many light bulbs are in your home — I promise it will be more than you think. I have 54 in my house, not including exterior lights. If I want a White and Color Ambiance A19 Hue bulb in every socket, it will cost me $2,430.
And as for the one-time cost of the bridge? Forget it. You can only connect 50 lights to each unit. To fill my entire home with Hue, I’d need a second bridge.
Just for a laugh, let’s compare the Hue price with regular energy-efficient light bulbs. A pack of four Philips 60W Equivalent Soft White A19 LED Light Bulbs costs $7 at Home Depot. I could light my entire home for less than $100.
Less technology? Absolutely. But I think it’s safe to say most people would rather have $1,520 extra in their pocket and settle for standard light bulbs.
2. Electricity Bill
Let’s stick with the financial side of this discussion. Proponents of the Philips Hue system claim it will save you money on your electricity bill — if your home is filled with old incandescent bulbs, that’s probably true. However, the savings are decidedly less than Philips would like you to believe.
Let’s do the math. If you live in the United States, an incandescent bulb will set you back about $4 per year in electricity. A Philips Hue bulb will cost you $1 per year. At Home Depot, one Philips 60W incandescent bulb costs $2.23, and the less expensive white-only A19 ambiance Hue bulb costs $30. Lastly, one incandescent bulb last around 3,000 hours while one Hue bulb lasts about 25,000 hours.
Let’s assume an average home has 40 light bulbs in it, and each light bulb is running for two hours per day (some will be on for a lot longer, but most will be on for considerably less time).
- Incandescent — 40 bulbs x $2.23 = $89
- Hue — 40 bulbs x $30 = $1,200
- Incandescent — 40 bulbs x $4 = $160 per year
- Hue — 40 bulbs x $1 = $40 per year
- Incandescent — 3,000 hours lifespan / 2 hours per day = 4.1 years per bulb
- Hue — 25,000 hours lifespan / 2 hours per day = 34.2 years per bulb
Total Cost Over 30 Years
- Incandescent — $669 in light bulbs + $4,800 in running costs = $5,469
- Hue — $1,200 in light bulbs + $1,200 in running costs = $2,400
By switching from incandescent bulbs to Hue bulbs, you’d save a little over $3,000 in 30 years, or $100 per year.
To put this another way, it would take you almost a decade to break even, and that’s before you consider accidental breakages, power surges, and other things that might cause you to buy bulbs outside the regular replacement cycle.
Finally, how many people are still using incandescent bulbs? If you’re already running energy efficient LED bulbs, the savings are almost non-existent.
What about the bulbs themselves? What can they do?
We cover some features and tricks in detail in articles elsewhere on the site. You can control the lights from an Arduino and add a motion sensor, control them with your voice using Jasper, backlight your TV using the HueImmersive Java app, and even make your lights flash when you’re tagged in a social media post.
But have a look through those articles and at the Jasper and HueImmersive apps. What do they all have in common? That’s right: they don’t use the native Hue app. At best, you’ll need significant time spent with IFTTT to make them work. At worst, you’ll need to be a skilled Java programmer.
When you see articles and YouTube videos that deploy Philips Hue lights in weird and wacky ways, they almost always need some level of programming skill. The main Philips Hue app is disappointingly basic. It’s so basic, in fact, that it’s possible to list all its native features in a few short bullet points:
- Control all the lights in an individual room at the same time.
- Turn off all the lights in your home with one tap.
- Create lighting schedules that support your daily routines.
- Create scenes using different brightness and colors.
Frankly, you should expect more for $1,600. If you’re not tech-savvy, you’re almost certain to be left feeling underwhelmed and ripped off.
4. Long-Term Support
How long is Philips going to keep making the Hue range of products? Earlier, I said you could expect to save around $100 per year if you have a 30-year timeframe. But what guarantees do you have that Hue will still be a “thing” in 30 years?
If anything, it’s highly unlikely that the product line will still exist, at least in its current form. If Philips stops supporting the Hue app in 10 years, you’re essentially left with some very expensive energy-efficient bulbs. Yes, they’ll still turn on, but you won’t have any way to access their coolest features.
Obviously, you can make the argument about ongoing support for a lot of tech products, but there are very few tech products you will buy with a 30-year timeframe in mind. Ultimately, investing in Hue is risky.
5. Cheaper Alternatives
Lastly, remember the Philips Hue is not the only smart lighting system on the market. There are lots of alternatives out there, many of which have the same number of features but cost a lot less money.
For example, the Belkin WeMo system only costs $50 for a Starter Set, with each additional light bulb only setting you back $18.
TP-Link goes one step better. The company’s smart lights don’t even need a bridge or hub. They work with both iOS and Android devices thanks to the free Kasa app.
Lastly, check out the Nyrius Wireless Smart LED Multicolor Light Bulbs. They are Bluetooth-enabled and can be controlled directly from your device. Best of all, each light only costs $15. On the downside, you can only connect seven lights to the app, but if you want to introduce smart lights to a particular room in your home, it’s a more accessible and cheaper option than Philips Hue.
Do You Think Philips Hue Is Overpriced and Pointless?
I’ve made my case. I believe that the high cost and poor features make a compelling case for branding the Philips Hue system both overpriced and pointless.
But my mind is not set in stone. I want you to try to persuade me that I’m wrong.
Why are Philips Hue light bulbs an essential smart home item? Why shouldn’t I spend less money and buy an alternative system? Whether you agree or disagree, you can leave all your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Image Credits: Atsushi Hirao/Shutterstock