In Praise of the Philips Hue Tap Switch

Controlling your smart home is so much easier when it all fades into the background and 'just works'.  Having the ability to use a smart light switch such as the Philips Hue Tap switch makes so much more sense than opening the app every time.  Here, I discuss how this works, and why you should get one too.

The Philips Hue Tap switch (which I'll henceforth refer to as just the 'Tap switch' or 'Tap'), is a fantastic way to control your Hue lighting.  Sure, the Hue app is great, and I've got no complaints about it's ease of use, or functionality. However let's face it - the humble light switch has a lot going for it.

Walk into a room, flick the switch - light comes on.  It's so easy.  Who want's to substitute that for a convoluted process of using a smartphone?  As easy as an app might be made, a light switch will always be the gold-standard for simplicity and ease of use.  The developers of most well-rounded smart light systems will usually agree, and that's why the likes of Philips make two wireless lightswitches of their own.

There's the Philips Hue Dimmer switch, which i've had not expeirence with so far, and then there's the Tap switch - which we're using everywhere (well, everywhere where we have Hue lighting).

First, it's completely wireless.  You just stick a baseplate on the wall, twist on the tap switch, and you're good to go.  It sticks on using command-strips too, so it's just as easy to remove if you want to reposition it.  Once installed, you can also twist the Tap switch off if you want to keep it with you as a remote control.

Second - and this is the magical part - it's totally battery free.  By battery free, I don't mean rechargeable.  I mean it has no requirement for batteries, recharging, or power of any kind! It generates it's required power through the mechanical action of you pressing the button.

You might be curious if that limits its range.  It does not.  We use tap switches in the top bedroom of our three storey house, and the signal reaches to the Hue bridge downstairs on the ground floor.

Setting up the Tap is easy.  You do this from the 'Accessory setup' section of the settings page in the Hue app.  There, you can add new Tap switches, or reconfigure existing ones. When you configure a Tap switch, you'll see a representation of the front face of the switch.  Tapping on each 'button' in the app lets you assign your preferred scene to that button, for any room of your choice.

The default behaviour of the Tap switch, is that each time you press a button, the assigned scene is activated.  Pressing the button again however, does not turn the lights back off.  So, usually you'd need to have at least one button assigned to the 'off' scene.

However, many would prefer to use the switch as a 'toggle' (one push = on, second push = off).  Philips have thought of this too, and you can add this functionality through the use of the Philips Hue Labs section, using the 'Tap Toggle' formula.

What about dimming?  Hue Labs comes to the rescue here too, with a simple 'Tap Dimmer' feature.  Using this, you can assign four brightness levels to your preferred button on the Tap switch, with each push of the button cycling through these brightness levels.

I've got them setup in every room where we have Hue lights installed.  That's the Living Room, Kitchen, and Main Bedroom - in fact we have two in the bedroom, one just inside the room on the wall near the door, and another over the bed!

They have prooved to be extremely reliable, and have ensured we maintained that push-button, light-switch-simple control over our lighting as we transition to a Smart Home. This sort of thing is -frankly- just essential.

Of course, the installation of a wireless lightswitch like this can sometimes clash with existing switches in your home that are hardwired into your lighting circuit.  People come up with various ways to get around this.  There are covers you can buy to stop you accidentally turning the power off to your smart lights.  Some people go as far as removing the light switch altogether, and replacing it with a blanking plate.

There are of course lots of other ways to remove the need to accessing the app to control your lights.  Schedules & routines, motion sensors etc - however as a bare minimum, you'll always want a lightswitch, and for us - the Tap switch is just perfect for our needs.