Automating Lighting with Philips Hue Motion Sensors

I’ve slowly been adding smart lights (Philips Hue) to my home and I do really light them. But with that said I think what most people find when they go down this route and you are not living on your own the idea of asking Siri or using an app to do all the lighting is not ideal in any way.

One option is to simply buy lighting controls but then you’re basically doubling up your number of switches. The “real” one that controls the power and then the Philips one. It does not feel like a good solution. Also, what feels more modern than simply doing away with the light switches.

So that’s where the Philips Hue Motion Sensor comes in. I’ve got a few of these for controlling lighting in the Bathroom, Hall and Kitchen. These felt like good places to start as it feels like these are rooms that tick the right box in that they do not need to be on all the time while you are stationary. Instead aside from a few tasks you will likely be moving. That will play to the sensor’s strength and hopefully not require leaving lights on too long or fiddling with controls.

The other issue I personally have is that I live in a 1 bedroom flat that is somewhat open. Especially in the case of the kitchen and living room areas.

It’s now been about a week of living with the sensors hooked up and I have had to do some tweaking. It’s all been fairly reasonable and nothing too painful. To date I’ve done everything via the Philips Hue app rather than HomeKit. I’ve want to stick to one method and the Philips’ method is simply there once you add the sensors.

Overall, I’m happy. They generally work well. They will certainly work better I suspect in larger and / or more clearly defined rooms. I would recommend them. There’s simply not much to say on the positive from. It’s a sensor that senses both light and motion. It’s fairly easy to set up the right combination to ensure they come on when they should.

They do exactly what you want and they are quick. I’ve not experienced any issues where there’s a delay between sensing and lighting.

There is also a nice little touch that the light dims slightly when it nears time to turn itself off as a warning in case it’s not what you want. I think this is a good touch but there is an issue with it too that might cause annoyance in some scenarios (see below).

I’ll go into more detail on the concerns / issues. I feel I might be able to get around these in HomeKit but currently I do not know if it will provide a similar or better experience.

So then, what are the potential concerns?

First, the Philips Hue app assumes there are only two phases of the day. In my mind this feels wrong. I live in an area that has winter and will have varying levels of sunlight but I can confidently say to it just do nothing between 9am and 3pm and be happy with that. But this does not mean I want the same lighting levels after 3pm all the way to 9am. I would guess this is a minor issue and can be solved via HomeKit. It just seems odd Philips is going to make the app and basically do the minimum to make it useful.

It does not work through some (all?) glass. Okay, you probably do not want things outside of your home triggering the lights. In many ways this makes sense. However, keep this in mind when you’re placing it in a bathroom, especially if you’re a night time shower person. Mine is quite close to the shower but I might as well not be in the room it seems. Perhaps it depends on the sort of glass or there is some weird distortion due to my curved shower cubicle. It may not be an issue for most people but it’s worth remembering this.

The motion sensing feels flat or filters out subtle motion to err on the side of not being annoying and going off all the time because, as an example, a plant shifted in the wind. Where this can cause a problem is if you’re trying to have the lights go off asap (setting the time off after last motion to 1 minute) after you’re done then you’re going to find yourself waving your hands in some cases to keep it on.

Generally it’s not an issue but I have hit it in one case - Brushing my teeth. The sensor is behind me more or less looking at my back as a brush my teeth using an electric toothbrush. Forward and backwards movements (i.e. subtly further away or closer to the sensor) are not picked up. Subtle left / right motions are more likely to get picked up. So it feels like the sensor does not see in 3D. This was expected.

The warning light change comes too quickly on smaller timeframes. Another issue with having your turn off time after motion lower is that it does the subtle dimming too soon. Having tried to use a 1 minute time, it warns me about 20 / 25 seconds into that minute. I feel the better option is give a full minute (or whatever time is selected) of light then tack on anywhere up to 30 seconds of dimmed warning light.

Again, with all of that said, I’d recommend them but as with most smart home items, you do need to understand their strengths and weaknesses and then see if that fits your situation.