I know lots of people hate on Philips Hue lights for being overpriced. Maybe they are. Maybe not. Personally, I think the number of lights they’ve sold tells the real story.
My guess is that if you’re reading this, you’ve already bought into the Hue system. You probably like the responsiveness, reliability, and well-developed app that comes with it. Maybe you’ve already built that awesome entertainment room and now you’re looking to chill out on the spending a bit.
I hereby give you permission to use some of these lower cost lights instead.
- Before you buy: Limitations of third-party bulbs
- Best Smart Bulbs Compatible with Philips Hue
- Standard A19 bulbs compatible with Philips Hue
- Recessed Downlights compatible with Philips Hue
- BR30 bulbs compatible with Philips Hue
- E12 bulbs (Candelabra) compatible with Philips Hue
- GU10 bulbs compatible with Philips Hue
- Outdoor lights compatible with Philips Hue
- Light Strips compatible with Philips Hue
- Which lights will not work with Philips Hue?
- Final Thoughts
Before you buy: Limitations of third-party bulbs
While I’m all for saving a few bucks (who isn’t?), it’s important to know what you might be giving up when you opt for a non-Hue bulb. Here’s a list of the potential drawbacks of using these third-party bulbs:
- Color Accuracy
Third-party bulbs may display a slightly different color than genuine Philips Hue bulbs. This can be problematic if you’re trying to match other lights in your smart home setup. To minimize the impact of this, I recommend sticking to one brand of bulbs in any given room, and definitely don’t install bulbs from different brands into the same light fixture.
Third-party bulbs might not respond as quickly to commands as genuine Philips Hue bulbs. This means that they sometimes take longer to turn on, off, or change color. In my experience, this happens infrequently with third-party bulbs, but often enough to notice. It almost never happens with Philips Hue bulbs.
- Dimming Capability
Another limitation of the third-party bulbs is their ability to dim. I have not found a non-Hue bulb that can offer the same level of dimming as the Hue bulbs. Genuine Philips Hue bulbs can dim down to almost nothing.
- Incompatible with Philips Hue Entertainment Feature
The third-party smart bulbs will not work with the Philips Hue Entertainment feature. This means that you won’t be able to synchronize your non-Hue bulbs with music, movies, or games.
- Incompatible with Apple Home
Third-party bulbs are currently not able to connect to Apple Home through the Philips Hue app. However, once the Matter upgrade for the Philips Hue hub is released, you should be able to do it.
Best Smart Bulbs Compatible with Philips Hue
If you’re looking for the best smart bulbs compatible with Philips Hue, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re looking for standard A19 bulbs, recessed downlights, or outdoor lights, this list has you covered.
Standard A19 bulbs compatible with Philips Hue
Philips Hue sells this shape of bulb at three different brightness levels: base, medium, and high lumen.
I found third-party substitues for the base and medium level brightness, but have not been able to find a compatible bulb with the same brightness as the high lumen Philips Hue bulb.
Recessed Downlights compatible with Philips Hue
Philips Hue makes two types of smart recessed downlights. The retrofit model is designed to fit inside an existing can fixture. Whereas the slim (wafer-type) model is a popular choice for remodels. The low profile and low heat of the LEDs allow these units to fit in spaces where conventional lights wouldn’t work.
There are lots of compatible third-party retrofit downlights, especially if you’re willing to order from a brand you’ve never heard of. Both GIDERWEL and GLEDOPTO are brands that I’m already familiar and comfortable with, so I listed products from them. However, I spent a long time trying to find a decent substitute for the slim version. I had to go all the way to China (via the web, not literally), but I am happy to report that another reputable brand Miboxer makes exactly what I was looking for.
BR30 bulbs compatible with Philips Hue
The BR30 bulbs are usually installed in a recessed fixture or in track lighting. They have a more directional light than the A19 lights above. They also require a larger heatsink because they are often installed in an enclosed space.
The options for this type of bulb seem really limited. I suspect it is because most people no longer use these in the recessed fixtures. Instead they opt for the retrofit style downlight as seen in the previous section.
E12 bulbs (Candelabra) compatible with Philips Hue
A candelabra bulb in the US is an E12 base (E14 in Europe). They’re usually used in small lamps or in chandelier fixtures. Even though they’re much smaller and generally put out less light than larger bulbs, they still cost about the same.
Imagine a chandelier with 8 different colored smart lights. For sure, it would be ridiculously expensive. But, I think some really cool scenes could be created.
GU10 bulbs compatible with Philips Hue
A GU10 bulb is commonly used as a spotlight for accent lighting. A little extra color can really make those accents pop. For that reason, the option to have a color GU10 bulb seems like a no-brainer.
Outdoor lights compatible with Philips Hue
If you’ve got an outdoor space you like to spend time in, adding a splash of color to the night scenes can have a magical effect.
In case you didn’t notice, Philips Hue has a whole line of outdoor lights and fixtures, too. And, just like the rest of their lights, you’ll pay a premium price to get the Hue brand.
There are a few alternatives from innr that will work with your Hue hub at a significantly lower price. However, they are not as bright as the Philips Hue lights and they cannot be controlled individually. For example, if you get the innr Spotlight kit with 3 lights, you can adjust the color and brightness of all 3 lights together, but not individually.
Whereas with the Philips Hue Lily kit, each light can be controlled separately. You can even set up scenes where the lights dynamically change color in a coordinated spectacle of light.
Light Strips compatible with Philips Hue
I know all you makers and DIYers (myself included) love a good LED strip. There’s so many uses and fun effects that can be created by putting lights in places where they usually aren’t.
Light strips can be purchased all-in-one like light bulbs, or can be “built” by assembling a controller, power supply, and LED strip light .
If your LED strip project does not require a lengthy strip, I recommend buying one of the all-in-one kits (like the innr and GIDERWEL options below).
However, if you are looking to do a large project (like LED strips circling a room), you can do a much better job by building your own. The main thing you need to worry about is to make sure your controller uses Zigbee 3.0 so that it’s compatible with your Philips Hue hub. I also recommend using a RGBCCT LED strip to provide the best color accuracy. I have several of the Gledopto ZigBee 3.0 RGBCCT controllers shown below installed in my home and they work flawlessly.
Which lights will not work with Philips Hue?
A smart light needs to use either Zigbee Light Link (ZLL) or Zigbee 3.0 wireless protocol to work with the Philips Hue bridge. That means any smart bulb that uses only WiFi, Z-Wave, or BlueTooth will not work.
Most smart lights are the wrong wireless protocol, so it’s fairly obvious that they won’t work. Here is a list of the ones that may be questionable:
Hey look, a Philips smart bulb! It must work with my Hue hub, right?
I’m sure there are lots of people that bought the Philips WiZ bulbs thinking they would effortlessly pair with their Hue hub. However, the WiZ bulbs are WiFi only. The Hue hub is Zigbee only. Therefore, they are not compatible.
I can confirm that Sylvania Smart lights are not compatible with the Hue hub in the US.
Apparently, they sell a different version in Europe because the Smart+ lights are compatible there. Because of that, you may read a blog post or review (probably written by someone in Europe) that states they are compatible.
But, you can trust me and iConnectHue. They are not compatible in the US.
The Sengled bulbs do use Zigbee, but are not compatible with Hue because they use the Zigbee HA (not Zigbee 3.0) standard. However, they will connect directly to Hubitat and SmartThings or other Zigbee hubs that support ZHA.
I’d love to tell you that Philips Hue bulbs are way overpriced and that you can easily spend half as much on a third-party bulb and get the same performance. But, in my experience, it’s not entirely true. That said, it doesn’t mean these alternative lights are not useful. In fact, I think they’re very useful and use them throughout my home.
The main areas I prefer the genuine Philips Hue bulbs are in the dining room and living room where I frequently use the dynamic scenes. With the Philips Hue bulbs you get smooth transitions and vibrant colors. With the “others”, you sometimes get clunky transitions and muddled colors.
Additionally, I prefer the Philips Hue bulbs in our baby room due to their ability to dim way down. When baby wakes up in the middle of the night, it’s nice to be able to turn the lights on to a faint warm glow. Dimming to 1% with the third-party bulbs, doesn’t get nearly as dim.
Other than that, I’ve found that I barely notice the difference between third-party bulbs and genuine Philips Hue bulbs. What has your experience been?