Bulbs, switches and sensors, oh my....what to buy (device class features FAQ)

Smart LED Bulb Features

Smart LED bulbs are also typically Wi-Fi, Z wave, or Zigbee. The Zigbee bulbs use one of two profiles: zigbee lightlink (used by bulbs that connect through the hue bridge) or zigbee home automation (used by bulbs that connect directly to the smartthings hub). For various technical reasons, the zigbee bulbs are the most popular but there may be specific use cases where the Wi-Fi or Z wave is more appropriate.


Note that many of the older Zwave and wifi bulbs are A21, not A19. They are the same shape as a conventional bulb, but significantly larger, and will not fit all fixtures.

But the newer GoControl zwave bulbs are about the same size as a Hue.


Bulb brightness is measured in “lumens.” 800 lumens is typical for a standard bulb is about the same brightness is an old 60 W incandescent. But different models do vary. The original Hue lux white only bulbs were 600 lm. The new Hue White bulbs are 800 lm. LIFX bulbs are 1000 lm, more like an old 75 W incandescent.

A dimmable bulb can have the lumens adjusted, but the lumens listed for it will be the brightest it can get.

White or Multicolor

Bulb colors are usually white only or multicolor (typically described as “RGB” or “RGBW”-- " RGB" is a bulb that can mix the colors of red/blue/green together to make literally millions of color shades. “RGB W” adds the ability for these bulbs to also be a true white. )

Color Temperature

Bulb “temperature” is on a numeric scale and represents going from warm white to cool white. ( or warm green to cool green, etc.) Warm colors have more yellow. cool colors have more blue. 2700 is a pretty standard lightbulb white. The higher the color temperature, the bluer the light. A few brands, notably Osram Lightify, allow for adjustable color temperature, but not many.


Indoor or Outdoor

Most smart LEDs are indoor only. A few are also rated for outdoor use in sheltered positions. However, even the ones rated for outdoor use are usually not rated for use in fully enclosed fixtures. So you need to read the specifications carefully.

Built in Switch

The Sengled Element zigbee bulb is on the official “works with SmartThings” list and has a built-in on/off button which some people like for table lamps. It is color temperature adjustable from cool white to warm white, 800 lm, and generally sells for about $18.

Note that there are multiple models in the “element” line – – only the “element touch” has the button.

some brand notes

GE links are really cheap, but have a known firmware flaw which can cause them to need to be reset every few weeks. To some people the cost savings is worth it. Others find it annoying. This flaw is the reason they are not on the official “works with SmartThings” list.

Cree bulbs have a number of different models that are designed to handle heat dispersion more efficiently. This can be a plus. However, there are some complications in the way Zigbee clusters were implemented which may mean they don’t have quite as many features as some of the other bulbs when connected directly to the SmartThings hub.

LIFX bulbs are probably the brightest smart bulbs you can get, but they also run very hot.

Osram lightify bulbs are very nicely engineered and work well when connected directly to the SmartThings hub. You do not need the lightify gateway for every day operation. However you do need the Gateway if you want to update the firmware on individual bulbs.

Philips Hue white bulbs are significantly cheaper than the previous Phillips generation. Best Buy almost always has them for $15 or less. (For some reason the Amazon price tends to be higher.) They are also brighter than the lux bulb. Although they can be connected directly to The smartthings hub, you can’t reset them after you’ve done that unless you get a separate device, usually the lutron remote or the Philips remote. so SmartThings support currently only recommends using them with the Hue bridge. At $15, they are a very good price.

Using the Philips bridge lets you also use other third party services and apps.

Sengled is so far the only smartbulb with a built-in on/off button.

IKEA Tradfri bulbs are excellent zigbee repeaters for SmartThings, including for the inexpensive xioami sensors which do not work well with most other brands of repeaters. If you buy these directly from IKEA they will cost much less than from other retailers, even Amazon.

Strimlight is an interesting, if expensive, WiFi bulb which can also act as a speaker, so popular for teens.

TCP uses its own protocol. There was a SmartThings integration, but it has had some issues from time to time. Verify that it is currently working before making a purchase.

I probably left something out but those are the main bulb features.


Only for now because I only plan on staying in my apartment for another couple months. I don’t want to replace switches and sockets until I know I’m going to live somewhere for a lot longer. That definitely sounds pretty cool though.

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Wow, awesome, thanks for the response @JDRoberts

Like I mentioned before, cost and aesthetics aren’t big deals for me. I don’t have a house, just a small apartment, so I’m not planning on buying an army of smart “pocket sockets” or bulbs.

I’m mostly asking just to see who’s had the best experience and personal use with the different brands. Me personally, I have loved the WEMO Insight pocket socket…up until I started experiencing overheating issues, and now I’m having issues with connectivity…like you mentioned, this may happen with WIFI connected devices (maybe it’s a DHCP thing…?). I’m trying to see who has had any problems so I know what to avoid. I’m considering the Aeon labs one because the controller is built inline with the cord, so it doesn’t block your outlet…though, it does have a 90 degree plug, which still makes it a bit of a pain (in my case). But can’t always get what you want.

Based on your brand specific notes, it sounds like I made the right decision with the Osram lightify bulbs…I have had zero problems with them and I use IFTTT, Echo, timed events and routines, and never have issues. I guess I’ll stick with those bulbs for now.

I’m deeply curious about this topic as well. My wife bought me into the ecosystem for Christmas with three WeMo switches, two WeMo outlets, and the SmartThings Starter Kit. My thoughts and questions below:

Light Switches

The WeMo switches have been good so far, but:

  • They don’t support dimming or 3-way switches
  • They are a single on/off button
  • So the Double Duty SmartApp doesn’t work, because the command toggles on every press

From what I can tell, the GE Z-wave multi-way dimmer switches (which I don’t own) are well-liked. Questions I have:

  • Can they be used for Double Duty?
  • They seem to have a pair of buttons, one for On and one for Off (this is good)
  • Do they suppress redundant signals? (this would be bad)
  • Are they reliable?
  • Is there a more well-liked option?

Motion Sensors

  • Is there a recommended brand/type of multi-sensor (motion and light, preferably) that doesn’t break the bank?

Door Locks

  • Schlage seems to be the big fish in the pond. Are they worth the price?
  • Monoprice makes the cheapest z-wave lock I’ve seen. Has anyone tried it?
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In my opinion, I would say don’t go cheap on the locks…I mean, it’s a matter of security.

But I’m curious about the multi-sensors too. I keep going back and forth as to why the SmartThings multi-sensor would be cheaper than the dedicated temp/humidity sensor? Maybe barometric pressure sensors are more pricey, I don’t know.


Monoprice devices are cheap for a reason. :wink:

For locks, your choices are Zwave or Zigbee. The biggest problem with Zigbee in a fixed location is potential interference from boosted wifi. If you want to run wifi cameras near the door (or a wifi video doorbell), then Zigbee could be a Problem. So Zwave tends to be more popular just since it avoids that issue.

The 3 brands on the official compatibility list are Kwikset, Schlage, and Yale. Most locksmiths would recommend Yale or Schlage. Kwikset is cheaper, again, for a reason.

See the following topic for a feature comparison:

Know that regardless of the brand you select, the only officially supported features are lock and unlock. Not setting custom codes or time schedules or anything else. You can still use these features by entering them on the keypad of the lock itself, but not from your home automations.

However, there is custom code available in the community that is very popular that will let you do full lock management. Works with both Schlage and Yale.

Also, no matter what brand you pick, if you choose a Z wave lock, it’s best if the repeater device closest to the lack ( typically a pocket socket or light switch) supports “beaming.” This improves message processing to the lock.


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I’m still very new at this (July)… Here is a list of components I am using.

Light Switches

The WeMo switches are awesome! When ST isn’t workin correctly, you can go directly to the WEMO interface which is bulletproof and natively works with Amazon echo… As stated above: They don’t support dimming or 3-way switches- best price 38 bucks.

Many of us have recently gotten deals on the GE Z-wave switches. They work very well as long as ST is working. Dimmer and 3 way functions available. The deal ranged from $9-17/ switch. Search lowes on this site for more info on the deals

Motion Sensors- I have ST sensors they are really nice, highest quality, aeon is the next level down still quality product, go control/monoprice cheapest option that is the least reliable but still functions OK. This is almost identical for door sensors (I don’t have aeon door sensors)

Aeon labs smart plug- inexpensive very well built 2/49. These are running Christmas lights, etc.

Door Locks- haven’t done them yet. The family uses the garage door. The front door has a large, ornate lock set.

Cameras- not sure I see the advantage of linking these to ST. The lag added makes this nearly unusable. I just bought 2 Kodak cameras that use insecure cloud storage… Not integrated into ST but IFTTT cApable

Interface into your home theater harmony remote

Voice command - Amazon echo

Sonos - sound/voice notification.

MyQ garage doors

sky bell- video doorbell

Good advice above. Not everything works for everyone… Buy from Amazon , return what doesn’t work. Find a product you love, stick with it.

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Battery-Powered Contact Sensor Features

There are many different brands of battery-powered contact sensors, operating on many different protocols. There are zigbee ones that use the Zigbee home automation profile and work directly with SmartThings. There are proprietary Zigbee sensors which cannot talk directly to SmartThings. There are zwave versions. There are security system versions using 433 MHz which cannot talk directly to smart things.

Sometimes a manufacturer will make identical-looking ones in several different protocols, so you have to read very carefully to make sure you get the one you want.

It’s also really common that someone moves into a house that already has sensors set up from a previous security system that they want to try to use with smart things.

It is sometimes, but not Always, possible to rig some kind of integration with some of these legacy sensors. You will find topics in the forum that discuss that. It’s not necessarily easy and may require additional hardware pieces.

All of these are often called “door and window sensors.”

For the rest of this note, I am only going to discuss sensors that can be integrated directly with smartthings. So that means zigbee home automation profile, zwave, or sensors like the kumostat wireless tag which have a cloud to cloud interface.


Pretty much all of the sensors are what are called “magnetic reed” sensors. These have a thin piece of metal (the reed) which gets pulled by a magnet to close a contact.

These sensors vary hugely in build quality. Cheaper ones have less powerful magnets, cheaper cases, flimsy battery holders. They can be very finicky in getting the magnet placed in exactly the right position to close the circuit. They’re still usable for many purposes, but it’s important to understand why one sensor might be $17 and another one might be $40.

If you intend to try to use a sensor outdoors (in a sheltered position) or on something that has more of a gap, you will probably want one of the more expensive higher-quality builds.

If you just want one on a cabinet door, a cheaper one may be fine.


As always, Z wave plus will have a longer range then older zwave.

Zigbee sensors tend to be smaller with better battery life. Zigbee also tends to transmit better through rain, so if it is often chosen for sensors which are transmitting in outdoor spaces, for example to report if shed door was left open.

And Z wave is limited to four hops per message while Zigbee can do up to 30 which means if you have a really big house or if you have a lot of architectural features that you need to bounce signal around, zigbee might be better.

But then we always come back to the Wi-Fi issue. Wi-Fi doesn’t interfere with Z wave, and it sometimes can with zigbee. So a lot of people just find zwave easier to work with as long as the maximum distance from the hub is no more than 200 feet.

form factor

There are two common forms. Surface-mount have two rectangular pieces, one with the radio and the reed and one with the magnet.

Embedded have a tube that goes inside the wall and a small contact piece for the other side.

Triangle shaped window sensors have become more popular in 2016, and are intended to be a little bit less bulky. They are normally less than half an inch tall and are intended to fit in the corner of the window. Aeotec makes a popular version.

Sensative has just released a new line of very thin strip sensors which are nearly invisible on the door. They are weatherproof and can be painted.

Other reports

These days many sensors include a temperature sensor as well. Some even have a lux sensor also. However a cheap contact sensor probably has a cheap temperature sensor so it’s pretty common for these temperatures to be off by five or 7°.

Other Uses

Some models have “dry contacts” which are unused electrical contacts inside the sensor case. This allows you to wire other devices to them, in effect adding A Zwave or Zigbee radio to the other device. Some typical projects utilizing this would be pressure mats or doorbells. If you’re going to do this, you’re probably buying the contact sensor for that specific project, so you can investigate model options at that time.

brand notes

Aeotec has several different models in different shapes with different features, including a tubular model intended to go into the wall, the thin triangular model for window corners, and a regular rectangular style. All have different features and are quite popular.

Fibaro sensors come in several different colors and have a good quality temperature sensor.


Lowes iris devices come in two generations. The first generation is not compatible with SmartThings. The second generation, which uses the zigbee home automation profile, is. These are quite inexpensive and include a temperature sensor, although there are a number of forum reports that the temperature is not very accurate. Some community members have also reported that they seem to go through batteries very quickly. This line has been discontinued, but you still see them for sale secondhand.

NYCE sensors. Again, the first generation is not compatible with smart things. The one that uses the zigbee home automation profile is. These are very small.

Kumostat wireless tags. These do not connect directly to smart things, but there is a cloud to cloud integration or you can use IFTTT. They are significant because they have a much longer range than Zigbee. Customer service on these is reportedly terrible, with people having a really hard time doing returns if they happen to get a bad device. But the general quality is good, and if you pay with a credit card you could have your credit card refuse to pay on a defective item. Search the forums for more information. You will need to buy their Ethernet manager as well as any individual tags. Most people won’t need to consider these, but they do fit the bill for some specific use cases. Reports temperature and humidity as well as open/close.

Sensative has a patent on their very thin strips which are intended to be invisible when the door is closed. These are particularly helpful for sliding glass doors where conventional contact sensors may not fit easily.

Xiaomi is a very large consumer electronics company in China that has their own home automation line. These are zigbee devices, but not certified for the zigbee home automation profile. However, a number of community members have verified that they do work with SmartThings, although the pairing process is pretty tedious. These devices are very inexpensive, typically about twelve dollars a sensor, and seem to be well engineered. They don’t have any frills like extra temperature or humidity sensors. And you may have to wait about a month for delivery. Gearbest will ship them to both the US and Europe. You don’t need the Xiaomi Gateway. The devices which have been verified to work are the contact sensor, the motion sensor (called the “human body sensor”), The humidity sensor, and the battery operated button.

As of 2020, the ring alarm system second generation zwave door sensors will work fine with smartthings hub‘s and are quite inexpensive. You can get a pack of six at Home Depot or Amazon, typically for around $105. or order individual ones from the ring website. These use the latest Z wave technology, including the S2 security features.

Zooz (The house brand for the retailer the smartest house) is another budget brand with the latest and greatest Z wave technology. Also excellent US tech-support and very familiar with SmartThings.

All other brands are pretty similar, with the understanding that cheaper devices probably have lesser build quality and shorter warranties. And are often bigger than the more expensive ones.

If you want very cheap reliable sensors, You can look at WYZE. These use their own proprietary Protocol, so you will have to have one of their $20 cameras as well. (Great little cameras, by the way.) The sensors are six dollars per unit bought in a pack of four. The integration is through Alexa routines so cloud-based and indirect. I wouldn’t use this for anything important, But sometimes you just need a cheap sensor and this is a good one.


I don’t know what kind of humidity sensor it’s using, but, yes, that’s the likely reason.

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I’m tired now, so somebody else can do motion sensors. :wink:


Good point…I just learned this the hard way. Bought some Philips e27 but they don’t fit my wall uplighters. Looking around to replace them and generally it seems many wall uplighters have this constraint.

I used to own a couple wemo light switches… they “can” be wired into a 3-way circuit but it takes a bit of messing around depending on the wiring you have in your house. Search on the wemo community forums and you will find a thread that MikeP explains it.


As JD and others have said, different things for different people depending upon the situation. I have a large number of devices, probably half zigbee and half zwave. Some are used as intended, and others, like the Ecolink open/close sensors, I’ve repurposed into a doorbell and lock sensors because they have dry contacts inside I was able to use.

As for motion sensors, I use monoprice, Ecolink, GoControl, PEQ, SmartThings, and Iris brands. By far, the most I have are the Iris motion sensors. They are made by the same company that make ST’s and PEQ’s, and can use the same ST default device type without a lot of work.

The first three I listed all have pretty much the same guts. All of those I have in locations where looks don’t matter because they are big and very visible. I also have them in outside areas, typically under eves or areas where rain won’t hit them directly. All are working great so far, some being there almost 2 years.

The monoprice/GoControl ones face down at an angle, and seem to take a little bit more motion to trip them than any of the others I’ve listed. They do have a very good range, and report temperature, but I have them mounted high (10’). They can be adjusted for a timeout, and also have jumper setting for sensitivity (pets perhaps) but I’ve not used the jumper for that. The Ecolink sensor faces straight out, and is like the other two except they don’t report temp (my model), and do advertise the sensor as pet immune via the same jumper config as the others.

The old PEQ’s are also large. There’s a post somewhere in the community where I posted a pic of the PEQ, ST, and Iris sensors side by side. I bought these because the deal was too good to pass up when Best Buy was unloading these at $19. I only have 9 of these, and I’m glad I didn’t get more. They work great and report temperature, but like I said, they are big and I wish I would have waited for the Iris sensors. They come with a mounting bracket, but it’s useless for mounting in a corner but I’ve been able to make that work.

ST’s sensors are small and flat, and come with a mounting plate and report temperature. They are also the most expensive, and I only have 3. Like the PEQ’s, they don’t mount well in corners. Because of all that I won’t be getting any more. They work great, but the form factor isn’t there for me. I have them sitting on door frames pointed into a room, and they seem to work very well. Be aware though - the design of the battery compartment is terrible. I’ve had to exchange 2 of mine already because the little plastic tab holding the coin battery breaks easily when removing the battery if you’re not careful. Also, the way the battery comes in contact with the metal tabs is poorly designed, and one of mine required a little fiddling to get the battery to make contact. If I have the opportunity, I’ll replace these with the Iris sensors.

My favorite motion sensors are the Iris ones, and I have lots of them. They report temperature, and are very quick to respond to motion. While they don’t come with a mounting plate, their form factor is designed for any type of mounting conditions - including a corner. The backs are angled perfectly for corner mounting. They are also very small and light, and are not easily noticed in a room. The mounting tape provided is significant overkill, and only small pieces are needed. It does take a little bit of effort to include the device, but it works and the device works very well. The device will also quickly flash a green light when motion is detected. Some people may not like that, but I’m ok with it.

Hopefully all that info helps!


Vibration Sensors (Accelerometers)

In addition to the regular motion sensors, there are more expensive ones that also include vibration sensors. These are usually marketed as “multi sensors.”

Different ones will have different Added features. The vibration sensor itself will be used to detect when a large appliances running, like a washer. When there’s a knock or collision of some kind. Or when the sensor itself is moved, which is often described as a “tamper alert” if the device is marketed as part of a security system.

This last feature can also be used as a tilt sensor. One popular and very cool project is to put one of the sensors inside a wooden cube and then have each side of the cube trigger a different home automation event. Lots of variations on this in the community.

brand notes

The fibaro multisensor is very small and intentionally looks like a colored eyeball. Some people love this look, some find it creepy. Motion sensor plus temperature, light, and vibration. Its vibration sensor is used as both a tamper alert and an earthquake detector.

The Aeon Labs multisensor includes a lux sensor. It’s rated for outdoor use, but only if you disable the motion sensor, as it’s very prone to false alerts when outdoors. Still useful for light and temperature detection. Also a popular indoor motion sensor.

The SmartThings multisensor is very unusual in that it combines an accelerometer (tilt sensor) with a contact sensor. So it’s a two-piece device. It’s particularly popular as a garage door sensor where you want to distinguish between four states: open, Opening, closing, and closed. It does not detect motion of other objects nearby, but it does detect its own motion as its position changes. Also popular for the mood cube projects.


To be honest, from an engineering standpoint I’m amazed whenever any of the doubletap smartapps that use precision timing works in a cloudbased system like SmartThings. The problem is that the round-trip time just varies a lot. This makes it extremely difficult to capture a true double tap on the switch.

Because i’m quadriparetic I don’t use this feature at all myself, so I don’t have any personal experience with it. From what I can tell from just reading the forums, it seems to break, regardless of the app or switch you’re using, pretty often. Which again I put down to different processing times because of the cloud architecture.

It would probably be best to start a separate topic in the smart app section of the forum and just ask if people are successfully using any double tap smartapps at this time. (Look for answers from people other than the author of a particular app to get a full picture.)

Meanwhile, as of April 2016, there is a new line of switches from homeseer which offers both double tap and triple tap functionality that should work well with SmartThings because it uses an entirely different method. Instead of trying to precisely time events that are sent through the cloud, the switch itself determines if it’s a double tap or triple tap and then sends a single code to the cloud. this removes most of the problems with lag.


Holy crap everyone, thanks for all the responses, especially @JDRoberts. I was honestly only expecting to get maybe a few words at most from the responses. This has significantly helped.

I was expecting people to just say “get these, they were great, that’s what I use, don’t get these, they suck” haha!

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And that’s the great thing about this community. Those with the knowledge are happy to pass it on.
… And then there’s me! I know just enough to break stuff and pass on totally useless knowledge!


Yeah, this community is certainly different from many other forums I’ve been on. Usually when you post something like this, you get flamed and ridiculed. I was very hesitant to post at first.

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There’s not much of that in here at all. It really is a huge base of knowledge. I’ve learned a lot from a lot of people.

Use the search often to see if your question had been answered. And if you find a conversation about the subject, post in it about your experience too, even if the thread is old.

Check back often and be active. You can get all kinds of crazy ideas and inspiration from this place… I know I have.

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@JDRoberts, @fstbusa, @tlrdstd, @johnconstantelo

I’m reading up on the in-wall light switches. Do you guys know if there are any dimmer switches that are (not sure the best way to say it) “data only”…if that makes sense? For example…I install a dimmer light switch…and I set the dimmer to 50%…all it does is send the 50% brightness event to an assigned bulb…it doesn’t actually do any physical dimming.

Does that make sense?

The main reason I want this is because I don’t like the placement of the kitchen light switch, and we have another light switch that is in the perfect place, and it’s never used. So, it would be cool to install a dimmer switch in the light switch I want to use, but use it to dim and control the kitchen lights…