Feedback: Philips Hue wall switch module or how to make home automation invisible

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How do you make your home automation system accessible to everyone? At Philips Hue, the solution is called the wall module, a microcontroller for traditional switches. And it works pretty well.

An easy and inexpensive way to experience the joys of home automation, connected lights have been a small success in recent years. Among the crowd of players now on the market, Philips is still one of the most important with its now well-stocked selection of connected Hue bulbs. The manufacturer continuously releases new models with all possible technologies and shapes. Recently, Philips even unveiled battery-powered or rail-mounted lights.

But the company does not only offer bulbs. A whole galaxy of accessories completes the Philips catalog, which seeks to adapt to all possible needs and uses. Presence sensor, piezoelectric switch, TV box …: The number of gadgets orbiting Hue bulbs is impressive. Among them, there is one discreet but whose applicability is nonetheless obvious: the Philips Hue wall switch module.

Philips Hue Wall Switch Module



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This is how the price table works

Presented at CES 2021, this little box was released immediately in France, although stocks remained at zero for a long time. Now available at almost all electronics retailers, it sells for € 45 each or € 80 for both. Always a fan of connected bulbs, the author of these lines has procured three boxes to control his eight bulbs and three connected contacts. And believe it or not, it’s probably the best home automation purchase in years.

What are Philips Hue wall switches used for?

Unlike most Philips Hue connected switches, these wall modules are more geared towards do-it-yourself builders as their installation requires little electrical work. Not too bad if you know how to hold a screwdriver, but it can delay.

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These modules will actually slide behind any “classic” switch located in your home and will allow you to control your connected bulbs as if you turned on the light normally. No need for a remote control, application or anything: Once the modules are installed, your connected bulbs can be controlled almost invisibly. The obvious advantage of this solution is that your bulbs will never be disconnected from the power supply again.

illustration contact

The module is installed behind a standard switch like this, and will make it “smart”.

© Les Numériques / Corentin Béchade

Because yes, one of the problems with connected bulbs is that they always have to stay on, otherwise they will no longer be able to function properly. It is possible to turn them off from the app, but the microcontroller stored in the bulbs must remain on to receive on and off orders. If you turn off your ceiling light with the wall socket, it is no longer possible to control it from a smartphone, as the electrical circuit that drives it has been disconnected. With Philips Hue modules, you no longer have to worry.

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As we explained above, these small modules slide behind your traditional switches and will somehow “translate” the movement of the switch into an order that can be understood by the bulbs. The most obvious use is of course to turn on and off the connected bulbs from the switches built into the wall. But it is possible to proceed by setting scenarios or by asking it to turn on several bulbs at the same time.

Installation diagram of Philips Hue modules

Installation diagram of Philips Hue modules.

© Philips

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Therefore, once connected to the switch, this box will act as a kind of closed circuit dedicated solely to controlling your lights. The normal electrical installation always allows the power to pass to prevent your bulbs from being disconnected from the power supply. The installation is not terribly complex if you have a basic knowledge of electricity (a 5th grade in physics and chemistry is enough).

Philips is aware that the installation of this accessory is a little more complicated than that of connected switches, such as Smart Button or Dim Switch, and Philips provides very well-designed instructions in each box. You can also consult it on the internet if you want to know what awaits you.

No more gifted with his two hands than anyone else, your managed to install three without too many problems. Here is the procedure to follow:

  • Turn off the power before any handling! That’s obvious, but it’s getting better
  • Remove the cover around your switch (the plastic part around the moving part). It is usually enough to pull it or pry it with a flat head screwdriver
  • Remove the two screws that secure the plate in place
  • Carefully remove the plate from the wall
  • Remove the wires connected to your switch by pressing the pressure mechanisms on each connector
  • Plug the two wires into the included connection terminal, also called a car body (this will create direct current up to your bulb)
  • Install the car body with its two wires in the bottom of the built-in box (plastic part integrated in the wall)
  • Install the wires that come with the Hue box in socket “1” on the box
  • Then install the end of the exposed wires on the switch, in the same connectors where the previous wires were (with one wire on connector L and another on connector 2).
    • If in doubt, follow the diagram indicated on the switch (the slash represents the position of the switch)
    • If the installation is done correctly, a small light should light up on the back of the Hue box
  • Put the switch and the housing back in the flat-mounted box
  • Screw the plate on
  • Cut the cache again

Illustration tools

All the necessary tools for installation are supplied with the module (except the screwdriver).

© Les Numériques / Corentin Béchade

There you go, after turning on the power, you can configure the box. This is done in the same way as with all other Hue accessories, ie. by going to the Settings tab in the Hue app and then pressing the Add Accessories button in the Accessories menu. Then select Toggle switch, go back and forth on your switch until it is detected by the app, and exit the setting by specifying which bulbs the box should control.

Simplified home automation

The great advantage of these accessories is, as written above, that they make your home automation installation invisible. Instead of having to use smart contacts and snub your traditional contacts, you can combine the best of both worlds with nothing more than a screwdriver and a small half hour of your time. No more contacts or reach for your phone to turn on the light.

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For despite all the talk from Philips about the usability of its ecosystem, it’s ridiculous to have to teach a guest to turn on. Hue modules have the advantage that they are very intuitive once installed. If someone comes to your house and tries to turn on the light switch, there is no way they will cut off the power to your bulb. As for the author’s installation, each module also controls multiple lights. By pressing the switch that has historically been assigned to our ceiling lamp, we thus turn on the four bulbs in our living room at once. Ditto for the two bulbs in the kitchen or those in the bedroom.

In short, the Hue module makes life easier if you have many bulbs in your home. In addition, it can be used perfectly with other connected contacts located elsewhere in the room. So wherever you are, you can turn the light on and off without asking questions. The most demanding users can even go so far as to program scenarios that can be activated by performing multiple round trips on the same switch. To be completely honest, the feature personally seemed a bit of a gimmick to us, as it is rare that we decide to light up our entire living room in pink or blue. The basic use, as a simple switch, more than justifies the investment in our opinion.

Error, price and conclusion

It happened, almost two or three times in more than eight months of use, that the module did a bit by itself and did not respond immediately when the switch was turned, which took a few short seconds to understand. Nothing too bad, as incidents of this type are rare. Since the modules are not connected to the electrical circuit, it is a small button battery (CR2450) that drives them.

Philips promises at least five years of battery life, which is enough to install the gadget and completely forget about it afterwards. Replacing the battery is also very easy to do, requiring only a Phillips screwdriver.

It’s left to talk about the price. At a minimum of € 40, the modules are expensive, much more so than other connected switches from Philips. No matter how practical they are, Philips wall switches should therefore be reserved for those who have the means, and especially a lot of bulbs at home. From two to three bulbs in a room, it is worth considering the comfort and practicality of the gadget.

To sum up, if you have the funds, you have a small collection of Hue bulbs at home and you want to make your home automation installation as simple and intuitive as possible, these wall modules are made for you. The small “wow” effect when you turn on four bulbs at the same time with just a single touch of a switch is worth the time to install them.

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