When you install smart lighting outdoors, you're going to want it to work pretty much automatically. In this post I run through how I've got things setup here, using Philips Hue White Bulbs, and some of the different ways to control things for outdoor lighting.
In my previous post 'Philips Hue to the Kitchen and Beyond Unboxing' - I outlined that we'd gotten hold of some Philips Hue White bulbs. Unlike their more sophisticated bulbs ('White Ambience' and 'White & Color Ambience'), The simple 'White' bulbs don't do colour changing, or colour temperature adjustments. They simply let you control brightness, and on/off within your Hue system.
However, the White bulbs are of course the lowest cost option, so they're great if you're on a budget. They're also perfect for areas of your home where you simply don't need all the added sophistication of colour. For us, exterior lighting is a perfect example of that. (There is a third model of Hue bulb, the 'White Ambience' bulbs, without colour, but retaining colour temperature adjustment for warm or cool whites).
So, we've installed three Hue White bulbs outdoors. One is installed by our side door, which is our main entrance to the house. Another is installed by a side gate that leads through to the main entrance. The third is located near the garage and driveway.
Like any lightbulb, Hue bulbs are not weatherproof, and Philips don't support the use of Hue bulbs outdoors. However, once installed in an appropriately weatherproofed exterior light fitting, they should be fine, and that's exactly what we've done.
We of course setup a new 'room' in Hue called 'Outdoors', and added the three bulbs, which was just as easy as the more sophisticated Hue bulbs. Now, we can of course control the lights from within the Hue app, using Hue switches like the Tap switch, or via voice assistant control.
Manual activation of exterior lighting is fine, but you're really going to want it work automatically. To that end, there are three primary methods I can think of you might want to use;
Time Based: You can use a routine to turn the lights on at a certain time, and then back off again later. This is easy to do with a Hue Routine, but perhaps better is to use the Hue Labs Formula 'Sunset to Sunrise'. This activates your chosen lights at sunset, and then turns them off either at sunrise, at a time of your choosing, or manually.
Presence / Geolocation: You could use the 'Home & Away' feature of Philips Hue to detect when you arrive home, or leave, and turn the outside lights on / turn them off. This can be configured to only activate after sunset. You can further extend this capability with a couple of Hue Labs formulas. 'Welcome home with auto-off' will turn the lights back off again after a delay period you choose. 'Multi-User Geofencing' ensures that if one person leaves but another stays home, the lights don't get turned off for that person still at the house.
Motion: You could of course use a Philips Hue motion sensor for motion based activation. This is the ideal approach since it's light sensitive, and can be configured to turn the lights back off again after a time period of your choice. The only downside is that the unit isn't weatherproof, and attaches magnetically, so you'd need a way to protect it from the elements and ensure it isn't easy to steal.
An additional motion based approach would be to use a different device to detect motion. For example, our Ring Video Doorbell Pro features motion detection. We could setup an IFTTT (If This Then That) service applet to trigger the outdoor lights if motion is detected on the doorbell. The downside here is IFTTT would do this even during daylight hours, and would not turn the lights back off again automatically.
For now, we're using time based activation using the Sunset to Sunrise formula, with time based 'off' at around midnight. However, I plan to play around with the other two approaches to see what else can work well. I want to try using a motion sensor in a Window to see if that will work, as well as presence and other methods, perhaps in combination. I'll report on that later.
What does it add? Well, our previous motion sensor activated lights were proving unreliable, so at least this gives us better control and -hopefully- more reliable exterior lighting. This will be useful as certain areas around the outside of our home aren't so easy to navigate in the dark!
We'll keep playing around with this stuff, but it's clear that it can be a useful way to have better control over your exterior lighting.