Hm. I guess I still don’t understand. I don’t want a switch that will communicate with the lamps themselves – I figured that the switch (like the motion detector, or the presence sensor, or the door-open sensor) would communicate with the ST hub, which would then control the lamp.
I could easily configure, for example, a battery-powered motion detector (Zigbee or Z-wave or anything supported by ST) to turn on a lamp. Why is a switch functionally any different?
Put another way, why is there no wall-mounted MiniMote?
In most residential homes with home automation, there are three primary use cases for wall switches:
to provide capability for people who don’t have access to the main controller. Guests, children, workers. Not all of these people necessarily even have smartphones. Or if you’ve misplaced your control device, like you need to turn on the light to find your phone.
to speed up response time for lights, in particular (people hate standing in the dark waiting for a light to go on)
to provide manual backup in case the HA system goes down
Of these, case 1 works fine with a switch to hub to device configuration. This is also what motion detectors can do, although not as reliably as a switch.
Case 2 greatly benefits from the switch being a local controller. Super helpful in multistorey homes or homes with lots of interference spots.
Case 3 requires that the switch be a controller. Although that doesn’t have to be a networked controller, a plain old wired switch works well with zwave, but not zigbee or any “always on” protocol.
So it just depends on what you need.
As to why ST hasn’t gotten someone to make a minimote in wall panel form, no idea–sounds like a lot of people would use it!
Thank you, I think it makes sense now. If I understand correctly, a switch doesn’t work like the motion detector… it performs the switching function directly on the line power, then reports to the ST hub what it’s done… it doesn’t rely on the hub to turn the lamp off.
More or less?
Alas, it feels like a hub-based solution would work fine for me – there’s hardly any perceptible delay when I use my ST app to switch a light in my setting. And our wiring is old, so the wall switches won’t work.
I’m in the same boat, old house wiring, no neutrals. I’d love a stick-on z-wave switch that would work with the button control app like the aeon minimote does. For the time being, I simply bought a minimote and velcroed it between my light switches on the wall. Wife loves it, now she can control a scene from a button, rather than having to take out the app (which is very slow). We have it right inside our front door, we hit it on the way out and it turns off the whole house.
Because it’s cheaper, easier, safer, and more reliable to just power the switch from the circuit it’s controlling. And generally NOT a good idea to put batteries inside a closed box with a live circuit that has extended wiring. It’s possible for fire to travel along the wires inside a wall. So a battery device is usually kept separate from those wires, just in case.
The only reason we have a use case is because we want to keep the radio powered while the circuit itself is off. That’s so the radio can hear the next “on” command from the network.
It’s possible to do that without using batteries, in fact it’s quite easy if you only want to control incandescents. That’s how the old GE switches worked, and it’s how the current Cooper models work that don’t require a neutral. It’s just tricky for other engineering reasons if you want to control LEDs or CFL’s.
As with many other light switch issues, the Lutron company has poured a ton of time and money into research on building better light switches, and they do have a modern RF switch, the Lutron Caseta, which can control LEDs and doesn’t require a neutral. It’s actually some pretty amazing engineering. But it’s also patent protected, and not available to other companies. And of course it still doesn’t solve the issue for people who are not allowed to replace a light switch. It’s not battery-operated, and it doesn’t work with SmartThings directly.
So if you don’t want to replace a light switch, regardless of the neutral wire issue, you have the following choices:
One) use a smart bulb, put a switch lock on the existing light switch, and use any of the several battery-operated choices for controls which do work with SmartThings. I personally really like the smartenIT 3 toggle switch, but there are other options as well.
Two) wait six months until the switchmate, or some similar competitor, is available. This is a Bluetooth switch that fits over the existing switch, very similar to how the August lock works.
I’m very impressed by the early engineering specs on this, and it’s one of the very few devices that I have supported early in a kickstarter or indiegogo campaign. It’s available now for preorder, but it’s still several months away from shipping.
This is going to be kind of ugly, it’s a big box that fits over the existing switch. And there’s no telling exactly how or if it will integrate with SmartThings until The Bluetooth radio is actually turned on in V two and the switchmate is actually shipping. But it’s a no wire, battery operated mechanism that will operate an existing switch. (Notice, though that the battery device is not going inside the switchbox where the live wires are.)
If you’re handy, you can build your own switch toggle which is a mechanical device that literally just flips a switch on and off. They’re not that hard to build, but they are ugly. Then you need to add a thingshield to it so that they could talk to SmartThings. And of course you would need one for each switch. so that’s another possibility if you really need something right away. But I think most people would choose option one instead of this.
Those are pretty much the only three options that don’t require doing something with the existing wiring. And one of them is still in pre-release development.
Except, of course, in the case of houses with no neutral, of which there are clearly a lot – in that case, it’s impossible unless you allow a tiny load through the circuit at all times, as you mention:
But, of course, incandescents are obsolete tech – why would I want to use them, even if I could buy them illegally somewhere?
Really? This is a thing? You can’t have tiny Li-ion batteries in proximity to house wiring? Maybe this is the actual answer to my long-standing question. Just curious, though: how does the Caseta get away with it? Or my alarm company, which has a honkin’ big battery right in the powered switchbox?
Thanks for mentioning this – I hadn’t heard of it and it’s a tricky one to find. Googlers, look for Smartenit ZBWS3B.
I still don’t feel like my question has been answered; as an engineering challenge, this feels completely basic. Unless, as you say, there’s some fire code thing with the battery being near a wire.
I was looking for a battery powered z-wave input module and found this discussion.
I agree with Graham Charles totally.
Looks like no one has an answer - as there should be one!
And there is one - but why so rare I don’t know
Found this at Home Depot yesterday: Lutron Connected Bulb Remote
Says Wink Hub required, but the package and Lutron indicate it’s Zigbee (not on the web listing). The description says it controls Cree and GE Link bulbs directly, and the spec sheet says the same generically – I didn’t know Zigbee could do that, can someone explain how to set that up - maybe that’s what you need the Wink hub for?
Previous Lutron products used their proprietary Clear Connect system, which Wink had support for, but this one seems to just be Zigbee, so it seems like it should work with SmartThings. My current use-case is well-served by the controller I hacked together from a key-fob and mechanical buttons, but I’m tempted to get this if it can provide easier dimming control.