Home Assistant <> Philips Hue for large installation

Hi all,

I was wondering if anyone has experience with Home Assistant <> Philips Hue integration for a large installation (500+ Hue accessories / bulbs). I’m currently around 200 and planning to add many more.

I have ran into performance issues with HomeKit <> Philips Hue that make HomeKit practically unusable (e.g., light state fails to update, automations don’t execute properly, scenes fail to be set, etc.). So far the Philips Hue app works well enough, but isn’t set up well for multi-bridge control.

I’d be especially curious about those of you who have similarly large installations to learn about your setup, performance, etc. What’s working and what’s not? Is Home Assistant even a good choice for this, or should I consider other automation systems?

Any advice / input appreciated!

HA (Home Assistant) will not be the issue. You can easily switch 400 lights on and off with it. The protocol / hub you are using will be the main issue. Zigbee can be slow at some time. And then you have the Hue bridge which isn’t the fastest bridge around. I personally use the Hue bridges only for connecting and rooms / zones. Nothing more. To keep things snappy. For HA I use an old Intel NUC i3 with 2GB RAM and a SSD. Which is overkill it usually uses about 12% CPU and 8% RAM.

Thanks frits. Can you describe your setup more? How many Hue bridges and total lights? Any performance or latency issues you’ve noticed?

When you say you only use the Hue bridges for connecting and rooms / zones, what are you using HA for? Scene activation and automations? Is Zigbee the only Hue-compatible protocol, or do you use a different one? If the latter, how have you set that up?

Aside from vanilla Philips Hue, I’m not too familiar with highly customized setups but willing to learn more about them and invest time in them if they’ll be the right approach for a snappy and reliable large scale installation.

I have two hue bridges and about 80 or so lights on them. I have a conbee USB ZigBee stick for all buttons, door window sensors and other zigbee stuff. So my hue bridges are only relaying messages. Scenes are in HA not in the hue bridges.
All automation is in HA.

The most snappy system is a wired system. But you probably choose hue because of the same reasons I did. Wired is impossible. So the next best thing. ZigBee is pretty fast. So expect reaction from a HA automation turning on a hue light through the hue bridge within 30ms. Which is fast enough for me. If you turn on more then one light at the same time, use a room or zone in the hue bridge. Otherwise they will not turn on at the same time.

Thank you. Do you have any articles you could point me to so I could learn more about this setup? Although I’ve used Philips Hue extensively, I know little about the relation of Hue, ZigBee, Conbee and Home Assistant, so it’s hard for me to have a clear mental model.

When you say wired system is most snappy, would that consist of just wired ethernet from router to Hue bridges? Or are you referring to different smart lighting products altogether that don’t rely on wireless communication with individual bulbs (e.g., like a hardwired smart Lutron light switch)?

Read up a bit more on Zigbee and Home Assistant so have a better idea now.

When using a Zigbee gateway with HA (like the Conbee USB dongle), does that communicate at all with the Hue bridges? Or since it’s Zigbee does it communicate over Zigbee directly with the Hue light bulbs? If so, how would controlling multiple lights simultaneously in a room work? Would the Conbee still send the commands to the Hue bridge over Zigbee, which then relays them to the appropriate lights?

Let’s start with a little basic zigbee knowledge. Zigbee is a mesh network, which works with one gateway/controller/coordinator. Coordinator is the official term for the thing we call hue bridge. Every network can only have one. Then you have repeaters/routers. Those are devices (mains powered) which route the signal through to other devices. Routers can have multiple functions besides routing, like a light bulb. Not all routers are able to route the whole zigbee protocol, like some light bulbs. Because there is a subset of zigbee called ZLL (zigbee light link) which is what Philips uses for their lights. This is complicated and although Philips uses ZLL for their lights, the light bulbs of Philips tend to route the whole zigbee protocol. But be aware of the posibility that some (other brands) light bulb will mess up your network.

So if you setup 2 Hue bridges you create two seperate networks. If you place a conbee stick in your HA machine you create another network. This can be meaningfull, but most of the time it does more harm then good. Because every Zigbee network uses it’s own channel. Those channels are for a great deal on the same spectrum as Wifi 2.4ghz. So everything is fighting for their space on that spectrum. The more you place on it, the more likely interference will be. I choose to use 2 Hue bridges and one Conbee stick. But I will not go for a third Hue bridge. Because it uses to much of that spectrum. If I choose to expand I’ll choose to go for a second Zigbee stick. So one conbee and one other. Because the zigbee sticks can handle more devices then a Hue bridge (63 max bulbs). A stick can handle up to 200 devices. The reason I didn’t go there yet is a long story though.

So if you are talking about 200 and more devices. You must have at least 4 Hue bridges to make this work. Sadly the Hue bridges are known for slow reaction time if you go further then about 45 devices per bridge. So to make your network faster, I would invest in a good coordinator. Silicon labs has a chip (EM250) which can handle thousands of devices. The only thing is that I can’t seem to find a USB stick with that chip. But maybe Silicon Labs has other chips / USB sticks as well that can handle those numbers.

I hope this information helps a little. Good luck.

Thank you! That’s helpful.

So does this mean if I go with just Conbee sticks I could have a Philips Hue setup without any Philips Hue bridges at all? I would just create all rooms / zones (I believe they’re called Groups in HA?), scenes and automations in HA?

Is there any info regarding the amount of spectrum a Hue bridge uses vs. a Conbee or EM250? Or is that purely based on the number of max device supported per controller?