Some Thoughts on the Current State of Home Automation


I've been running Hue Smart Lightbulbs in my house for a couple of years. The basic idea is there's a hub that connects to your home network and then communicates with light bulbs or other devices over some sort of wireless protocol. Prior to 2018, Hue used an older variant of the Zigbee protocol called ZLL or Zigbee Light Link. While some bulbs from other manufacturers used ZLL and would work with the Hue system, other bulbs used a different Zigbee variant called Zigbee Home Automation or ZHA.

As you can imagine, this created great confusion and made it very difficult to determine which devices could interoperate. Thankfully, the folks in charge of this realized it was a problem and unified the protocols for Zigbee 3.0. The result is that any device that claims to be zigbee 3.0 compatible should be interoperable (although there are still a bunch of caveats).

When Philips upgraded the Hue system in late 2018, they upgraded the system to Zigbee 3.0, which opened up lots of possibilities for using third party devices. The great thing is that this upgrade was done across their hardware - any existing Hue hub now supports Zigbee 3.0, and the same goes for the existing bulbs (I think).

Beginning State

When I first set up Hue in my house a couple years ago, I had a very simple setup: the Hue hub and two light bulbs. Even the most basic bulb cost more than $20 so it quickly got expensive to upgrade your whole house. Also, bulbs aren't very convenient without wireless remotes, because someone will just turn the power off to the lamp or fixture and then your bulb is no longer on the network. Thus I also purchased a Hue wall mounted remote to control the bulbs. So really to make a useful system, you need a remote in each room and hue bulbs in every fixture. That's expensive.

This all worked just fine, but it wasn't really a comprehensive system. Also note that there weren't really many different kinds of Hue devices: there were a few types of bulbs and and remote switches and that was about it.

Finding out about Zigbee 3.0

In 2018, I found out about the move to Zigbee 3.0 for Hue systems, so I wanted to find some third party devices to use. In particular, I wanted a smart outlet I could use with my Hue. I tried a couple different ones from Sylvania and GE that other people thought might work. No luck. I finally found one on Amazon: the 3A Nue Zigbee 3.0 Smart Plug. This plug worked just fine with Hue, once I understood how it operated.


One thing that continually annoys me is there are very few options for overall Hue light brightness. Basically every light is "60 watt equivalent". In my case, I have a living room lamp with a very bright normal led bulb. I wanted to keep that bulb in that lamp - thus the solution of finding a zigbee 3.0 outlet.

How it Works

One thing that confused me about the 3A outlet is that it does not appear to Hue as an outlet. Instead, it shows up as a non-dimmable light. This makes sense in the context of Hue but it is confusing.

Once you put the outlet in pairing mode by holding down the switch on it

Default Power-On Setting

Zigbee 3.0 Remotes

ZHA vs ZLL vs Zigbee 3.0

Other Brand of Lights

Talk about hue vs other lights and firmware upgrades

talk about default power on behavior for hue vs non-hue bulbs

Hue Remote Dimmers

Advantages of Hue

remote access firmware upgrades default power on behavior control

Future Plans


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