How To Re-Program the Hue Dimmer Switch to Do Anything with Your Lights

The Hue Dimmer switch is a great way to add physical controls to your Hue lighting system but is, alas, a bit rudimentary. Thanks to a handy little app, however, you can teach the Dimmer Switch a bunch of new tricks–like set any scene with the click of a button.

Why Would I Want Do This?

In mid-2015, Philips released the Hue Dimmer Switch, a wireless and battery-powered physical switch intended to recreate a light-switch-like experience with the Hue system. The switch features a profile similar to a contemporary light switch, a wall plate (to which the switch is held magnetically), and four simple buttons. When using the default Hue software the functionality of the switch is pretty limited. You can assign a single scene to the switch and then buttons turn the light on, brighten it, dim it, and turn it off.

A lot of Hue fans were happy with the new switch because it was a significant improvement over the physical design of Philip’s previous Hue switch, the Hue Tap, but were disappointed in the lack of advanced functionality. The Tap might have been clunky with annoyingly loud kinetic-powered buttons, but it did allow you to assign four functions to the switch via the four large buttons.

Fortunately for us, third-party tools can reprogram the Dimmer Switch and reassign the buttons. Even better? You’re not just getting 4 buttons for 4 functions like the Hue Tap offers. You’re getting 4 buttons with16 different functions, because it supports not just button presses, but press-and-hold too as well as secondary button presses for all states.

This means that the “On” button on the Dimmer Switch no longer just has one state (pressed) but four states (first press, second press, first press-and-hold, and second-press-and-hold). Even if you use 2 of the potential key states just for on and off, that still leaves 14 total potential lighting states for you to play with.

If that seems like a confusing number of potential combinations, don’t worry. We’re about to walk you through setting it up. With a little wrangling you can have all the design benefits of the Dimmer Switch with quadruple the versatility of the Tap switch.
What You’ll Need

To follow along with this tutorial, you’ll need a handful of things, most of which you likely have already if you’re interested in this article.

First, and most critically, you’ll need an iOS device. The application required to reprogram your Dimmer Switch, iConnectHue ($4.99), is currently iOS only and required iOS 7.1 or higher. While five bucks is a reasonable price to reprogram your Dimmer switch to do exactly as you wish, iConnectHue is way more than just a switch programming tool–you can check out the full feature list on their site. (Sorry Android users, you’re out of luck for now.)

Other than that, the only requirements are the Hue hardware. You’ll need, at minimum, the Hue Dimmer Switch and the Hue system (bulbs + bridge). If you’re just getting started with the Hue system and you need the Switch, Philips now offers the Switch in a starter package ($35) that includes a single white Hue bulb. This starter package saves you $5 over buying the switch and the bulb separately, so we highly recommend it. If you need help setting up your Dimmer Switch, check out our guide here.

With your Hue hardware set up and the iConnectHue app downloaded to your iOS device, it’s time to teach your Switch some new tricks.
How to Configure Your Dimmer Switch

Although the process of configuring your Dimmer Switch isn’t difficult, it takes quite a few steps, and is a bit different than the normal Hue setup process. First, you’ll need to link the new app to your Hue bridge, and manually re-create all your scenes. Then, you’ll wipe the Dimmer Switch to start with a fresh state, and re-assign its buttons. So start thinking now about how you’d like to take advantage of that whopping 16-potential-button-combinations.
Step One: Link the Bridge

Launch the iConnectHue and it will immediately start searching your home network for the Hue bridge. When prompted, press the physical button in the center of your Hue bridge then select “OK, I’m done” when you’ve done so.

You’ll be prompted to take a tour of the apps features–given that the features are numerous and you want to get your five bucks worth, we recommend checking it out. After the tour you’ll see the main control screen as pictured below.

It’s important to note that while the general GUI will look the same for everyone, the actual content of the control panel is dependent on your Hue light system. In our case, we’re running the test for this tutorial on a simple three-bulb system where all three bulbs are located in the same room as the Dimmer Switch (and the Dimmer Switch is, in turn, currently programmed the “official” way to control just those lights).

Although they are grouped correctly with the dimmer switch, “Dimmer 2” isn’t a terribly intuitive group name so we’ll change that immediately: you can rename any group by pressing and holding on its name.
Step Two: Manually Import Your Scenes

The next order of business is getting your lighting scenes from the native Hue app into the iConnectHue app. While it sure would be nice if we could just click a button and import them all, the manual import process is actually really painless.

You don’t need to recreate all your lighting scenes from scratch–you simply need to trigger them with the Hue app so the lights are on and in the brightness/color state you wish to copy and then give that current configuration a name in iConnectHue.

For example, to copy our existing “Movie” scene we use for watching movies (wherein all the bedroom lights are off except for the bias light behind the TV), we would first open up the Hue app and trigger the Movie scene. Confirm that the lights are in the state they should be (as iConnectHue will simply copy whatever the Hue bridge reports is the current lighting state).

In the iConnectHue app, tap on the little circle labeled “presets” in the upper right hand corner. Note that the light indicators on the control panel, seen below, reflect the light configuration we just described (the nightstand lamps are off and the TV light is on).

In the preset menu, tap on the entry for “Add a new preset” under the group you wish to add the preset to.

Repeat the process as many times as you need to for your scenes. Remember you don’t need to import every lighting scene you’ve created–only the ones that you want the Dimmer Switch to invoke.

Step Three: Wipe the Switch Clean

Once we’ve imported our lighting scenes, the next order of business is to wipe our Dimmer Switch presets clean. Now, to be clear, you do not have to perform this step. However, if you do not wipe the presets from the switch then they will show up in the iConnectHue app as “Unknown presets”. They’ll still work just the way they did before you started this project but it’s annoying to 1) not really know what the preset is unless you always remind yourself that it’s the old default and 2) you can’t adjust them. It’s much better to wipe the switch completely clean and then if you want the old presets to exist along side your new fancy button configurations you can easily add them back in.

To wipe the switch’s existing presets we just need to hop into the Settings menu. To do so tap on the menu icon in the upper left corner and select “Settings”.

Select “Bridges & Devices” at the top of the list.

Select your switch from the device list, as seen below.

Here is the interface where all the magic happens, and where we’ll be spending the remainder of the tutorial.

To reset your switch, tap on the “Wizard” icon in the upper left corner and then select “Clear switch settings”.

Step Four: Reassign the Buttons

Now that we’ve cleared the way for our fresh configurations, it’s time to start assigning buttons.

Before we dive into configuring the Dimmer Switch to perform new tricks, let’s first highlight how to make it do all its old tricks. By default, the Switch turns the lights on with the top button, brights and dims the lights with the middle button, and turns off the lights with the bottom button.

If you wish to restore that default functionality and then build on it with additional tricks, simply activate the setup wizard as we did in the last section of the tutorial and select “Set up new” instead of “Clear switch settings” in the wizard.

This will automatically configure all four buttons to function exactly as they did before we reset them but with an added bonus: they are now properly labeled and you can edit their configuration.

In the screenshot above you can see how what was “Unknown preset” when the setting was inherited from the original setup of the Dimmer Switch is now labeled “All groups on” with an assigned fade time.

Now let’s take a look at how to add a new and unique function to the Dimmer Switch. Because there are so many potential combinations, we’re simply going so show you how to do one (which teaches you how to access the menus) and then share a little worksheet you can use to keep track of populating all your other buttons.

To add an action simply select the button you wish to edit on the interface like so:

Select the button function want “Initial Press” for a light click, and “Hold” for a press-and-hold push.

Then, finally, select “Add new action” under “Button # Actions” to associate an action with that button press. You can also add in a secondary function in the “Button should do more on another push” section. In this fashion you can assign one function to the first press and one function to the second press.

When you select the “Add a new action” entry, you are presented with the following options:

You can load a preset, switch which group of lights the Dimmer Switch is controlling, turn lights off, change the group to a different color, adjust the group brightness, or force the group to blink.

Select “Load preset” and then pick which preset you wish to associate with the button press you previously selected.

And there you have it: a new function (in this case pressing and holding button 1 to trigger the “Movies” scene in the bedroom) is associated with your Dimmer Switch button:

To really maximize the button magic, you’ll want to associate different button presses with different scenes, colors, or whatever else your heart desires. While entering all the button combinations is pretty easy, keeping track of all of them while you’re working in the app can be a hassle (we’ll admit that midway through working on our configuration we outright forgot one of the combos we intended to include). With that in mind, we’d recommend printing this handy little fill-in-the-blank list to help you brainstorm what buttons you want to assign to what.

We’ve labeled the buttons by the name used in iConnectHome as well as the symbol/function represented on the physical buttons.

Button 1 (On):
First Press:
Second Press:
First Hold:
Second Hold:
Button 2 (Brighten):
First Press:
Second Press:
First Hold:
Second Hold:
Button 3 (Dim):
First Press:
Second Press:
First Hold:
Second Hold:
Button 4 (Off):
First Press:
Second Press:
First Hold:
Second Hold:

You certainly don’t need to use all 16 potential options, but the above list will certainly help you decide and plan out what each button should do (and how many functions you wish to assign to it).
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