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

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

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How to 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 gaggle of players now present on the market, Philips is still one of the essentials with its now well-stocked range of connected Hue bulbs. The manufacturer regularly releases new models with all possible technologies and shapes. Recently, Philips even unveiled battery-powered or track-mounted lights.

But the company does not only offer light 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 that revolve around Hue bulbs is impressive. Among them, there is a discreet one, but whose usefulness is nevertheless obvious: the Philips Hue wall switch module.

Philips Hue Wall Switch Module



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How the pricing table works

Presented at CES 2021, this small 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 bitten by connected bulbs, the author of these lines has acquired three boxes to control his eight bulbs and three connected switches. And believe it or not, it’s probably the best home automation buy in years.

What are Philips Hue wall switches used for?

Unlike most Philips Hue connected switches, these wall modules are more aimed at DIYers since their installation requires a little electrical work. Nothing too bad if you know how to hold a screwdriver, but it can put off.

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These modules will in fact slip behind any “classic” switch placed in your home and will allow you to control your connected bulbs as if you were turning 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 switch

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

© Les Numériques / Corentin Béchade

Because yes, one of the problems with connected bulbs is that they must always remain powered up or they will no longer be able to function properly. It is possible to turn them off from the app, but the microcontroller hidden in the bulbs must remain powered in order to receive the on and off orders. If you turn off your ceiling light with the wall switch, it is no longer possible to control it from a smartphone since the electrical circuit that powers it has been cut. With Philips Hue modules, you no longer have to worry.

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As we explained above, these small modules slip behind your traditional switches and will somehow “translate” the movement of the switch into an order understandable by the bulbs. The most obvious use is obviously to turn on and off its connected bulbs from the switches built into the wall. But it is possible to go further 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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Once connected to the switch, this box will therefore act as a kind of closed circuit, entirely dedicated to managing your lights. The normal electrical installation always allows the current to pass to prevent your bulbs from being cut off from the power supply. The installation is not terribly complex if you have a basic knowledge of electricity (a 5th grade level in physics and chemistry is enough).

Aware that the installation of these accessories is a little more complicated than that of connected switches, such as the Smart Button or the Dim Switch, 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, yours truly managed to install three without too much trouble. Here’s the procedure to follow :

  • Switch off the current before any handling! It’s obvious, but it gets better once it’s said
  • Remove the cover around your switch (the plastic part around the moving part). It is usually enough to pull on it or to pry it with a flat screwdriver
  • Remove the two screws that hold the plate in place
  • Carefully remove the plate from the wall
  • Remove the wires connected to your switch by pressing the push mechanisms on each plug
  • Insert the two wires into the connection terminal provided, also called a wago box (this will create direct current up to your bulb)
  • Install the wago box with its two wires at the bottom of the flush-mounting box (the plastic part integrated into the wall)
  • Install the wires supplied with the Hue box into socket “1” on the box
  • Then install the end of the bare wires on the switch, in the same plugs where the previous wires were (with one wire on plug L and another on plug 2).
    • If you have any doubts, follow the diagram indicated on the switch (the oblique line represents the position of the switch)
    • If the installation has been done correctly, a small light should light up on the back of the Hue box
  • Reinsert the switch and housing into the flush-mounted box
  • Screw the plate
  • Reclip the cache

Illustration tools

All the tools needed 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 the same way as with all other Hue accessories, i.e. by going to the Settings tab in the Hue app and then pressing the Add Accessory button within the Accessories menu . Then choose Toggle switch, go back and forth on your switch until it is detected by the app and finish the setting by specifying which bulbs the box should control.

Simplified home automation

The big advantage of these accessories is, as written above, that they make your home automation installation invisible. Rather than having to use smart switches and snubbing your traditional switches, you can combine the best of both worlds with nothing more than a screwdriver and a little half an hour of your time. No more multiple switches or reaching for your phone to turn on the lights.

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Because despite all the talk from Philips about the ease of use of its ecosystem, having to teach a guest how to light is somewhat ridiculous. Hue modules have the advantage of being very intuitive once installed. If someone comes to your house and tries to turn on the light switch, there’s no way they’ll cut off the power to your light bulb. As for the author’s installation, each module additionally controls several lights. Thus, by pushing the switch historically assigned to our ceiling light, we turn on the four light bulbs in our living room at once. Ditto for the two bulbs in the kitchen or those in the bedroom.

Put simply, the Hue module makes life easier if you have a lot of bulbs in your home. What’s more, it can be used perfectly with other connected switches placed elsewhere in the room. So wherever you are, you can turn the lights on and off with no questions asked. The most demanding users can even go so far as to program scenarios, which can be activated by performing several round trips on the same switch. To be perfectly honest, the feature personally seemed a bit gimmicky to us, as it’s 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.

Defects, price and conclusion

It happened, barely two or three times in more than eight months of use, that the module did a bit of its own and did not react immediately when the switch was flipped, taking 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 powers them.

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

It remains to talk about the price. At €40 minimum, the modules are expensive, much more than other connected switches from Philips. As practical as they are, Philips wall switches are therefore to be reserved for those who have the means, and especially a lot of light bulbs at home. From two-three bulbs in a room, it is worth considering the comfort and practicality of the gadget.

To sum up, if you have the means, 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 little “wow” effect when you turn on four bulbs simultaneously with just one flick of a switch is well worth the time spent installing them.

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