I’m knocking two rooms, of a sixties house, into one and adding extra wall plugs. My intention is to make, what will be my main living area Smart and to be able to create a bit of an atmosphere. At 70 ish I’m also thinking of a few years down the road. I live in Ireland.
Two rooms knocked into one means two ceiling lights, each with their own on/off switch. So my first thought was Smart wall switches connected to smart lights but I soon discovered it’s one or the other. In your view which is best? I See the ceiling lights as been my main source of light so I’d like as much control as possible here. Electrics are not a bother my nephew is an electrician.
The new room is quite long and my thinking would be to add a number of standard / table type lights to help create ambience, I feel that this maybe where the mood will come from. I have a few Smart plugs that I can use with the old wall sockets. I also have an Alexa and an iPhone.
I had to sit down when I saw that the initial cost of Smart lights can be, £65 and up - just to get started! I do see other cheaper lights; makes me wonder if it’s the name you’re paying for?
Given the above would you have any suggestions. I’m assuming it’s not that difficult to do the above but as you’ll appreciate I don’t want to start and discover rather than make the system Smart I’ve made it Confusing, hence my homework !
Budget, emm not to sure but I could do the work over the next nine months or so.
Sounds like a fun project! I’m sure you’ll get a number of responses.
With regard to smart switches and smart bulbs, It doesn’t have to be one or the other, but you should not use any wall switch, smart or dumb, which directly cuts the power to the smart bulbs. The radio inside the smart bulbs can get damaged if that power cut occurs too often. (Two or three times a year because of power outages it’s not a problem, but every day as the regular means of control is.)
There is a solution, which is to get a switch which does not directly control the power but instead sentdo a message to the hub which then sent a message to the bulb. While leaving the bulb on power all the time.
Sometimes these switches are battery powered, sometimes they are Mains powered, sometimes they are “battery free“ which is a very fancy technology that captures the kinetic energy of the switch push to operate the radio.
There are some very nice switches of this last type specifically made to operate with a hue bridge. They are called “friends of Hue“ because they are made by other companies, including some quite well-known lighting companies.
In Europe there are four or five companies making these in different styles and Colours, and they look quite nice. Busch-Jaeger, Gira and Senic, Niko, and Vimar are among the companies participating in this program in Europe.
There are other options as well, including battery powered switches from multiple companies. The Aeotec Wallmote is available in both the US and Europe and is quite popular.
Remotec also makes a multi button device available in both the US and Europe which people like if they want to have multiple different scenes. Each button supports press, long press, and double tap so you end up with 24 possible functions from an eight button device. So in your case, you could have one button that turns the ceiling lights on and off together, another button for just the left light, A third button for just the right ceiling light, the fourth button for one of the sets of table lamps, etc. it’s up to you, but it’s a nice option to have.
Safety codes for wall switches vary significantly from country to country. There are a couple of US FAQs in this forum, for example, which may talk about tying off the power so that the mains-powered switch is bypassed. In the US, that is legal in most areas it all rooms of the house except the attic.
UK safety code is very different, however, and requires that there be a mains-powered switch that directly controls the ceiling fitting in each room. They may be even more requirements for a WC. You can still use the other types of switches as additional switches in the room, so what most people end up doing is putting a childlock on the existing switch and then putting the smart switch anywhere they want it to be. Or even putting a small box case over the existing switch and putting the smart switch on top of that. Samotec and Iyoki both might cover plates for this purpose which are sold through Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.de
They sit over the existing wall switch, so that it is still available if needed. Or they can just be surface mounted to the wall if you want them in a different position so that everything will match.
I don’t know what the safety codes are for wall switches in Ireland, so that’s some thing you would have to check.
Anyway, that’s a rather long answer to just one part of your question, but I wanted to bring it up right away. There are a number of people, myself included, who do combine smart switches and smart bulbs. This can be done for multiple reasons, but most often so that guests have a simple intuitive way of controlling the smart bulbs in a room.
As to why one would use smart bulbs instead of just smart switches, It’s usually one of two reasons.
the person wants the Colour changing effects of the bulbs
The person wants to divide a room into different lighting zones even though all are on a single circuit branch.
In my house, we have quite a mix depending on the exact use of the lights in any particular room. We do have some smart switches with dumb bulbs, and we do have some smart switches of a different type with smart bulbs. Originally we had some smart bulbs without smart switches, but we are three housemates with quite a few people coming through the house in normal times and it just did not work out well for us. But we wanted to keep the smart bulbs because of the colour changing features, so We added the additional smart switches for those.
Regarding cost, there are three different reasons for the wildly varying costs you see right now in Home Automation.
safety certifications. Many very inexpensive Chinese devices do not meet European safety standards. Speaking just for myself, I never wire anything into the mains which doesn’t have strong safety certification. Saving a few euros isn’t worth risking a house fire in my opinion. but I am quadriparetic, so fire safety is a major issue in my house.
These same devices generally also have better reliability and performance than the knock off‘s.
Advanced features. Different devices offer different features and companies that do their own research and development do normally cost more.
Just as one example, one of the biggest complaints about smart bulbs is that if there is a power outage, when the power is restored, the lights will generally all come on. This can be quite annoying. The reason is understandable: they want to make sure that if the home automation system fails, the regular light switch will still work to turn the bulbs on and off. But it’s still annoying.
Philips Hue, One of the companies that does its own research and development, has a solution: their app allows you to set the power outage behavior for each individual Bulb. You can either have it come back on to the default, or you can have it restore to whatever the previous setting was when the power was cut. And again you can do that for each individual bulb. So if you would like to have one in the room of a light sleeper maintain its previous setting while having the hall light turn on, you can do that. But these bulbs are considerably more expensive than some of the other brands.
The name. Yes, sometimes the increased cost is just a reflection of marketing and brand strength.
I am on a limited budget and I use home automation for very practical reasons (I use a wheelchair and have limited use of my hands). So I just look at each individual device individually. I do pay more to get better engineering, particularly safety standards, and I sometimes pay more for a specific device which has a particular feature that I want. But I don’t pay extra for brand-name or to make sure that every switch in the house is the exact same shade of ivory.
Just noticed that you said you have an iPhone. Apple HomeKit is another home automation option to consider. The hue system works well with it, so all of the “friends of Hue“ switches that I mentioned will work.
Apple is having a big event today and so the site has an “updating“ page at the moment and I can’t link to it. But it might be worth considering. At present they don’t have a multi button device like the remotec, but they do have all the other device classes and it’s an excellent quality system that’s quite easy to set up. I do use this in my own home. So just something else to look at.
I want to highlight one more thing what @JDRoberts hasn’t brought up before, when you are trying to choose between smart switches and bulbs.
I don’t know what colours you will be using your newly designed “double”-room, and what furniture do you have there and generally what level of light you will require, but many time smart bulbs tend to provide less brightness than what is available from dumb bulbs (talking of LED bulbs) Due to this, you might need more bulbs to use or just to use smart switches due to the needed level of illumination.
It is worth to check some Youtube videos of smart bulbs, how they compare to each other.
I am a big fan a Philips Hue bulbs, and I think they have really good colors, but have to admit, the brightness is a bit of an issue time to time. For ambient background is perfect, it definitely can set the mood in a room, especially, if you have a Philips TV what might be compatible with it out of the box and support their Ambilight solution. (That is a really fancy thing…)
Anyhow, it is worth to consider what kind of fixtures are you going to use, how the light is going to be distributed. Some brands has bulbs with directional sources, like the LIFX Original bulbs, some can be used in any fixtures as they work like a normal bulb.
(Of course, if you have any problems with your vision, then it is a must to consider how much light you will need for reading or any other situation, to do not ruin it further…)