Every now and then, you might run into a problem with your Hue smart lighting system that seems unsolvable, a veritable ghost in the machine. Before you reset your individual bulbs or even your entire system, try one of these apps.
The Hue App Is Great, But Simple
As a long-time Hue user (my original first-generation bulbs are still going strong after ten years!) I can say with confidence that the Hue app is really great. It’s easy to use, the UI is polished, and 99.99% of the time, anything you need to do with your Hue system can be done with the app.
But the simplicity and super polished UI are actually a bit of a limitation when things go a little wonky with your Hue system. You’ll quickly find yourself running out of troubleshooting options and faced with kludgy fixes like manually resetting bulbs and fixtures or even resetting your Hue Bridge just to solve seemingly phantom problems.
For example, here’s one of those phantom problems right from the smart lighting test bench that is my home. A few months ago, I bought some new Hue bulbs.
As part of that process, I moved some old bulbs around, putting the new brightest-and-best bulbs in a more prominent location and migrating the older bulbs to outdoor fixtures—because colorful smart bulbs are super easy holiday lighting.
Shortly after, I ran into the weirdest problem. The old bulbs would turn on at random. I’d come home from running an errand and notice that a porch light would often be turned on (and to a strange color like deep red or bright pink).
Yet when I looked in the Hue app, nothing seemed amiss. Every bulb was in the right room and zone. No random bulbs or bulbs were paired with Hue switches in ways I wouldn’t expect.
If I were only using the Hue app to troubleshoot this problem, it would seem like my only solution would be to reset one or more bulbs or even, barring that resolution, reset my Bridge.
Anyone reading this who is already heavily invested in the Hue ecosystem knows exactly what a pain that would be. Nobody with smart bulbs and fixtures all over their home and garden wants to waste a whole Saturday afternoon dealing with a system reset.
Third-Party Apps Unlock Advanced Troubleshooting
If resetting my Hue Bridge wasn’t a palatable option for me, what was? The best solution for troubleshooting Hue lights isn’t nuking your system and starting fresh, it’s turning to the myriad of excellent third-party Hue apps on the market to dig in deep.
The Hue system was the first really polished off-the-shelf consumer smart lighting system to market. As such, it attracted all the early adopters—which includes folks who like to tinker and tweak everything about their smart homes. Third-party apps sprung up to fill that void and offer more granular control over the Hue system.
While the ability to add in cool scenes like simulated thunderstorms or other neat smart lighting parlor tricks is really cool, what’s even cooler is seeing the raw data and entries on the Hue Bridge. The ability to do so is exactly what helped me solve my lighting issue with no resets.
By loading up my Hue Bridge in the popular hueDynamic app (available for iOS, Android, and Windows) I was able to locate the phantom problem immediately. The problem was also visible when I viewed my Bridge using iConnectHue—another great, but unfortunately iOS only, app.
My specific problem? The Hue Bridge software had the misbehaving bulbs grouped together into a room grouping I didn’t recognize. This grouping was visible only in the third-party apps (or, if you’re inclined to roll up your sleeves and read documentation, using the Hue developer debugging API).
The group had an odd name
A.bedroom1 which isn’t a valid user-created name, so there is no way that I created it at any point. This mystery room was some sort of remnant of an old room that had been removed from the Hue app but with a corrupted name and zero presence in the official Hue app.
Some of the old bulbs that were changing to seemingly random colors outside my home weren’t changing randomly. They were changing whenever somebody triggered scenes in a current room where the bulbs had formerly been. The scene change would change the scene for the phantom
A.bedroom1 and color the bulbs blue, red, pink, or whatever the scene called for.
By deleting the phantom room from my Hue Bridge, I was able to instantly resolve the problem without having to reset a single bulb or, thankfully, reset my Bridge.
I describe the problem here in detail not just to highlight how useful third-party Hue apps are in the troubleshooting process but also in the hope that by the magic of internet search, someone with the exact strange but hard-to-pin-down problem I experienced will find this article.
This isn’t the first time apps like hueConnect have come to my rescue over the years I’ve been using Hue lights, either. Several times over the years, I’ve run into a situation where despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get first-party Hue bulbs or compatible third-party bulbs to pair properly with my Bridge. In every case, I was able to do so using the forced adoption methods available via the Hue Lights iOS app (if you don’t have access to an iOS device, you can also force adoption using the Java-based tool Hue Lamp Finder).
So if you’re a Hue fan who has never dabbled with any third-party apps before, I’d strongly encourage you to download a few and play around with them now. Later, should a phantom problem appear in your otherwise smoothly-running Hue system, you can dig in and troubleshoot without resorting to pulling your hair out and performing a full reset.