Are light switches necessary anymore?


(Chris Wynn) #1

I am about to begin a pretty big renovation on the main floor of my house. Part of this will be rewiring all of the lights, adding some, etc.

My question is, my plan is to go entirely smart bulbs and use tablets to control lights and everything. Do I even need to wire switches these days? Are there any general code requirements (I know they are different all over, just in general).

My problem with switches is someone turns off a switch and your light is suddenly dumb. Doesn’t feel very “smart” overall.

Is that ridiculous thinking.


(Patrick Stuart [@pstuart]) #2

Well. Check for bulbs that can restore last state when power fails. Right now most bulbs will turn on after power failure.

So add a whole house battery backup or generator.

Recently traveled out of town had a power failure. When I can home all my smart bulbs were on. Lots of wasted power where a switch or dimmer would have done me right.

I’d go with smart dimmers and switches or panelized lighting to be honest.


(Joe) #3

I’m not sure about code, but the selling your house may be difficult if you don’t have light switches.

Once I have all hue bulbs in my house I’m going to make an app that turns a switch back on if someone turns it off and then sets the scene and turns the bulbs back off. It’s kind of goofy, but also make it possible for me to sell my house if I decide to. This also gives me the option of putting dumb bulbs back in if I ever sell.


#4

@Chris_Wynn, I am no code expert, but I would imagine switches are required. I would be amazed if they weren’t.

There are good use cases for just using bulbs, and in my case it’s just for lamps. Yes, people manually turn them off, which causes the on/off state not to be right until they’re turned on again - or you have an app to turn them off after some type of event like no motion, timer, etc. @pstuart, that’s what I do (use motion sensors) to remedy bulbs turning on after a power outage when we’re not home. That’s how I keep things “smart”, but then again I have lots of motion sensors though…

I would also think that managing a lot of individual bulbs vs. a zwave/zigbee switch managing a group of bulbs would be a PITA, especially when SmartApps don’t behave like they’re suppose to. Plus, when your hub is offline for any reason, or there’s an Internet connection problem, how would you expect to control everything?

If for some reason codes would permit a “switchless” home, I still wouldn’t do it. Also, the person buying your home if you were ever sell it may not want all that technology, and you may have no choice but to put switches in anyway.

In my opinion, stick with smart switches/dimmers, and when the time comes, start looking for use cases for smart bulbs to compliment your setup and how you want your home to be “smart”.


(Geko) #5

Well, building code issue aside, let’s assume you have installed “always on” smart bulbs. Then one day you hub gives up ghost (or in case of SmartThings, you just lose Internet connection). Now you’re stuck with all your lights turned on and you cannot turn them off. What are you going to do? Unscrew all your smart bulbs? :smile:


(Cody Truscott) #6

This is probably a really stupid idea. Smart switches are far more versatile than smart bulbs.


#7

As others have said, not having switches means:

A) your house may not be to code
B) your house will be difficult to resell
C) your lights won’t work if your central controller goes down

If you like smart bulbs and tablets, great: leave dumb switches and put switch locks on them. If you’re doing a custom build out, you can even put the tablets on a case mount with the dumb switches inside the case. So they’re there for your Plan B, but aesthetically they’re invisible.

I used to strongly prefer smart switches. However, now that I have voice control with Amazon echo, I’m really happy with smart bulbs and have added a lot of them to the house. At this point, voice is the main way we control all our lights, and it’s rare for anyone, even a guest, to even walk near the wall switch. So it pretty much eliminated the problem of people turning off the wall switch. We can also use voice groups for all kinds of purposes. I have a “bedtime” group that lights a path from the livingroom to my room. :sunglasses:

I do really like wall mount tablets, but they tend to not work well for little kids and for people who do not easily read the language the tablet displays in. This might be older people who need reading glasses, or people who speak a different language.

I have a number of health aides who work in my house every month, and the voice control with Amazon works great, everybody likes it. I’m not sure that would be true of the tablet. Anyway, I think the tablets are a great idea. But I don’t think they make switches completely irrelevant.

Specifically with regard to smartthings, it’s just not reliable enough yet to turn over all light functions to it if you don’t have a Plan B.


(Patrick Stuart [@pstuart]) #8

Don’t forget to look at panelized lighting solutions. If you have the budget for it. It maybe exactly what you want. Switches are replaced with keypads and motion sensors that trigger scenes.

All lights are home runned to a panel and the panel circuits are smart. SmartThings has no known solution for this, but all the big guys in HA do. crestron and Control4 have probably the best panelized lighting systems. Not cheap though.


(Keith Croshaw) #9

Honestly I’d much rather automate switches than lights… Less points of failure.
Nothings worse than 3/4 of your lights working…


#10

And Switches are a Must for most Girlfriends/Wife (s)…You Pick! As Most are NOT and I repeat NOT in the mood to find that S@#T ST APP on their Smart Phone and click a light off! Drives my Wife Up The Wall!


(Cory S) #11

I prefer smart bulbs over switches. Switches in theory are the better way to go…but I have had more trouble with the switches than any other smart device in my house. 2 out right died, which was pleasant being when a dimmer dies you cant turn the lights turn on, and you can’t turn them off…and it was 2am,…in our bedroom. Talk about plummeting WAF.

Several others require deleting them from ST and repairing them on a regular basis (which means removing them from a dozen apps and reconfiguring them) Smart bulbs also have a better chance of being supported in tandem by third party devices (like the echo, or HUE hub) I love the echo voice commands but they are worthless when it turns off half the lights in the kitchen (the hue bulbs) but leaves on everything else which is switch controlled.

We are moving to a new house in 2 weeks and I just got done swapping out all my zwave switches with dumb ones. I have a box of 15 of them, and I probably wont put but 5 of them back in the new house. I will remove the switches, wire nut the wires together, and put blank faceplates on, then attach Hue zigbee switches to the front of the faceplate. When we sell the house someday I’ll simply reverse the process…like I would anyway if I had zwave switches installed.


(Michael and Jessica) #12

If there is one thing that Star Trek has taught me it’s this; ALWAYS have a manual backup for your systems. ALWAYS!


(Patrick Stuart [@pstuart]) #13

Seriously? No air gap at the dimmer to disconnect the load? I thought all load bearing switches and dimmers were required to have air gaps?

Maybe that’s the difference between good dimmers and cheap dimmers? All of my zigbee dimmers have airgaps and pulling the tab disconnects the load to the dimmer.


(Cory S) #14

At the time I either didn’t know about them, or it was 2AM and I thought I had been swatted and was thinking straight :stuck_out_tongue: But, that’s true you could pull the air gap in that situation. I am also curious to see if the zigbee dimmers (which werent around when I bought mine) are more reliable.


(Patrick Stuart [@pstuart]) #15

They were around, just sold through dealers (and ebay) Control4’s zigbee dimmers have been out for 10 years.

The GE / Jasco ones are not as good, but I can tell you I have about 100 zigbee control4 dimmers, keypads and switches in my house, not a single failure in over 5 years at the device level.

I use the double tap top and bottom actions to trigger events in the room. Double tap top to turn on last used audio or video in each room. Double tap bottom to turn the room off.

This alone is why there will always be at least a keypad in every room, probably a dimmer or switch so I can shut off the load as well.

Almost went with panelized lighting, but the house was already wired up before I bought it. Retrofitting panelized lighting is insanely expensive.


(Paul) #16

It might be okay by the “letter of the building code,” but your local electrical inspector has the final say. Even if you made it through the permit review process, I would be shocked if your inspector would sign off on a house with no light switches. Sure, you can file a complaint if you disagree with something the inspector says, but generally it’s not worth it. Filing a complaint will just hold up your whole project.

Plus, with switches, you still have the option of controlling the lights from a tablet. Oh and when the next great LED bulb comes out, you can just swap it out for the dumb one you have.