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

@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…

there are some battery powered switches that would work. You would also need to replace the kitchen switch with a dimmer or replace the kitchen bulbs with smart bulbs.

http://www.cooperindustries.com/content/public/en/wiring_devices/products/lighting_controls/aspire_rf_wireless/dimmers/aspire_rf_battery_operated_switch_dimmer_rf9500.html

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The plan is to install all LED bulbs in the kitchen (only 2 bulbs). Then I wan to use a completely random light switch, that doesn’t even go to the kitchen lights (it actually goes to a plug that is never used…ever). I want to install an in-wall dimmer switch in that light switch, and use it to control the brightness of the kitchen lights as well as to turn them on and off. Because the placement of the kitchen light switch is in a terrible place, and that other switch is in a perfect place.

That’s what I mean when I say “data only” it does not perform any physical dimming or switching…all it does is send the signals to the ST hub, and the actions can be managed from there.

That switch above should be able to do just that. You will need a physical way of dimming your kitchen lights in order to control them. Whether that is a zwave dimmer that replaces your current kitchen light switch or replacing the bulbs with smart bulbs.

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You could put smart bulbs in the kitchen, two bulbs are pretty budget friendly, even the hues…

You could then either cap off the offensive light switch our just ignore it.

Then use a remote button controller, like a Minimote to turn the bulbs of and on via a smart app.

Such as… (on a Minimote)
Button 1 - lights on at 25%
Button 2 - lights on at 50%
Button 3 - lights on at 75%
Button 4 , lights on at 100%

Also, you could go from 25 to 100 by pressing the appropriate button.

And a second press on each button would turn the lights off.

And you also have the use of the long press on each button.

This remote could be mounted on the wall, and you can use multiple remotes, one by each door.

This would give you a huge amount of flexibility, and could probably be done for less than $100.00, if you get the hues and one remote.

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The Cooper 9500 is one of the most popular choices, as it looks just like a regular switch.

There are lots of other options:

Or you can also use a $20 wifi no contract phone and use SmartTiles (.a very popular 3rd party customizable dashboard for SmartThings that runs in any web browser)

www.smarttiles.click

By the way, the distinction you were trying to draw is between a “load controlling” switch, which controls the amount of current sent to the light, and one that works just as a “remote” or “wireless controller.” The wireless controller may be wired into mains power on a different circuit, or be battery operated.

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I’m not the OP, but I gleaned a lot from this thread. I’ve read through it several times now, trying to store it all away. Based on this and some other research, I have purchased:

With these – and the Schlage smart lock I picked up in the clearance/returns section of Home Depot today – I’m looking forward to expanding my smart setup and (hopefully) writing some code soon!

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I’ve learned quite a lot as well.

I ended up ordering 3 more OSRAM Lightify Tunable White 60W bulbs, the SmartThings pocket socket, the Aeon Labs Z-Wave minimote, the SmartThings motion sensor and the SmartThings multi sensor…mainly for the temp sensor. I’m going to play around with the minimote to see if I can use that for the kitchen lights instead of the normal light switch. It will also be nice to be able to set up some rules like when I go to sleep to shut off everything…same for when I leave the house.

I’ve been really happy with the OSRAM bulbs and don’t really have a need for color right now. The only time I can see wanting color would be for notifications or something.

This thread hadn’t really gotten into wall switches, that’s a whole different topic.

You should never use a dimmer switch (smart or not) to control the current load to a dimmable smart bulb. You can burn out the switch. A dimmer switch controlling current to a compatible dimmable dumb bulb is fine.

You can use a regular binary on/off switch on the circuit with the smart bulb. Or a dimmer switch on a different circuit (or battery-operated) to control the bulb remotely.

See the following topic. It was started for Hue bulbs, but most of it applies to any smart bulb.

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There’s a light switch FAQ on dimmers that are not on the same circuit, it should give you some ideas:

You’re right, I just misspoke. Thanks for the correction, I fixed mine. :sunglasses:

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I use the GE Z-Wave Smart Dimmer (in-wall) and I find they work fabulously. Pushing the top part of the switch turns on the light, the bottom turns off the light. Holding the top brightens, holding the bottom dims. The switch returns to the last dim state when you turn it on.

My wife didn’t like how hard you needed to push the switch to get it to operate. It takes more than the normal amount of pushing to activate the switch than a normal wall switch. I don’t find it a problem. Installation is easy if you have a common (typically white) wire in the box, it requires rewiring if you don’t. I have an old house, so in places I had to pull a white wire from the junction box to the switch box and I have a 3-way installation for which I didn’t install the GE dimmers because a) I don’t want to take the time to figure out how to install the system as 3-way and b) there isn’t enough room in the box for the wires needed to install it.

Because of my wife’s concerns, I installed a Leviton Decora Z-wave Controls universal dimmer at another location. That unit has a single switch (on-off-on, etc) and a rocker switch that controls dimming. The rocker seems somewhat fragile, but I haven’t had it long enough to see if it will last. The switch requires less pressure to operate than the GE. Wiring was the same, although the Leviton has pigtails while the GE has terminals.

Both of these are Z-wave devices, so they act as Z-wave repeaters. I have decided in rooms that do not have Z-wave switches to put a Z-wave GE switched outlet, mostly to act as a repeater. I have absolutely no problem with connecting Z-wave devices in my house!

I would love to hear your opinion on wall switches as I’m looking at adding some basic light switches and fan control switches in my house.

I’ve installed about 25 of the GE in wall switches. I have 25 more to go. So far, I love them. I’ve had no problems with them, at all.

I like that I can turn the led on/off/never

I highly recommend them.

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There are so many different issues on zwave switches that people may not be aware of. Things like association groups, physical traveler wires, instant status, LED options, Minimum dim levels, ramp rate, A couple of network issues… And then there’s the whole issue of multi end point switches.

And zwave plus switches (any brand) will have a significantly longer-range then older zwave switches of any brand. Usual rule of thumb inside a typical U.S. House would be a maximum of 40 feet for the older zwave and around 60 feet for zwave plus.

Also, if the switch will be the mains-powered device closest to a Z wave door lock, it’s good if it supports “beaming” to help the lock gets its messages. Otherwise you may have to add an additional device like a pocket socket near the lock.

The “Good enough” easy answer

The shortest answer is that the GE switches are fine if you get a good price on them and you want a budget switch. There are some known quality issues with those, in particular, and an unusually high number of them seem to go bad about six months after they come out of warranty. But that’s still worth it to many people because even if they have to replace say 15% of the switches they originally bought, they probably still saved a bunch of money relative to the better engineered switches.

What works when the network doesn’t

The issue of physical traveler wires is more complicated. It limits the number of set ups you can do, but it also means that the auxiliary switches will still work even if The home automation controller fails. That’s important to a lot of people especially for lights in basement and attics where switch failing might be physically hazardous. The GE switches use physical traveler wires for three ways, which means even if the network controller is unavailable, the auxiliaries still work just like a non-network switch would.

Some of the expensive switches that use virtual three ways will also still work even if the controller fails, because they use a type of association. It’s the mid price switches where there is no physical traveler wire, but there’s also no direct association, where if the SmartThings cloud goes down the auxiliary might not work.

Dim Levels: How Low Can You Go?

Dim levels matter when you’re using a smart switch to control a dumb LED bulb and you want to be able to dim lower than about 30%. A lot of people are fine only Dimming a light between about 40% and 90%. And pretty much any dimmer switch can do that if it’s paired with the right bulb. But many of the available dimmer switches just can’t get LEDs below about 25%. (This includes the GEs) That has to do with the physics of how LEDs work.

There are newer switches, particularly some Levitons, some Coopers (and Lutron, but the Lutron are not compatible with SmartThings) which use a different design and can dim dimmable LEDs much lower. These are much more expensive switches. But some people will care about this feature a lot. The GE’s just can’t Dim any LED as low.

On the other hand, the smart bulbs can dim themselves very well, so you can actually get better dimming from a smart bulb and a dumb switch then you can from most smart switches and dumb LED bulbs.

Ramp Rate and Transitions

Ramp rate is another one of those features that most people don’t care about at all, but some people care about a lot. And again, a smart Bulb can generally offer a lot more ramp rate options than a dumb bulb, even a dumb bulb with a smart switch.

Doubletap

Double tap is a feature where if you tap a rocker switch quickly twice in a row it will cause something different to happen then if you just tap it once. People often use this for zone lighting, where a single tap will turn on just one light but a double tap will turn on all the lights in the room. But in most cases you should be able to assign pretty much any smartthings action to the different taps.

Many people don’t use double tap because it’s obviously not intuitive. Visitors won’t have any idea what to do. And it can even confuse people who live there! But other people love the feature.

Theoretically, you should be able to set up software that would process it double tap for almost any switch, and indeed there used to be a smart app they did just this. The problem, as mentioned higher up in this thread, is getting the timing exactly right is tricky in a cloud-based system.

An alternative method depends on the switch hardware. A few switches, although not many, can themselves recognize different tap patterns and just send a different numeric code to the hub based on the pattern detected. These generally work very well. Cloud lag doesn’t affect the operation at all.

As of May 2017, the only ST-compatible load controlling switches I know that can do this are the new Homeseer line and the newest Z wave plus models from GE. But I expect more switches may support this in the future.

So if you really want to have double tap as a feature, I would look for switches that support that in the hardware itself.

Switch shape

If you want a traditional “toggle” switch, the only brands that I’m aware of are the GE and the new Zooz. However, it still won’t look quite like a regular toggle because instead of staying up for on and down for off, it always returns to the center position so it’s sticking straight out. This will be very noticeable if you put it next to a non-networked toggle.

Homeseer switches use a traditional “rocker” format, as do many brands including the GE rockers . These also return to the neutral position each time, but it’s less obvious.

Leviton’s zwave classic models had an unusual format that some people like and some people hate where only the bottom part of the rocker is used. So you always press down.

However, Leviton upgraded to their new “Decora Smart” line in 2017 with Z wave plus, which changed to the more conventional rocker where you press at the top for on and at the bottom for off, and a dimmer bar on the side.

http://www.leviton.com/sites/Satellite?c=Page&childpagename=LEV%2FPage%2FProductCategorySearch-OneColumn&cid=1469203767671&countrycode=US&d=Touch&packedargs=childpagename&pagename=LEV%2FDefaultWrapper

Back to the easy choice

So you can see why there’s a lot of different stuff to consider, if you want to consider everything. If you just want to get a decent switch at a value price and you’re OK with replacing about 10% of them in the year after the warranty runs out, then GE is an easy choice. They’re easy to find, they’re often on sale at the big box stores, they offer a choice of toggle or rocker, and the physical traveler wires mean they’re sometimes easier to understand and they work fine as non-network switches if for some reason The home automation controller goes flaky.

Plus everybody else goes “OK, GE switches, that sounds fine.” so building inspectors, landlords, other family members, electricians, all accept them easily.

On the other hand, if you’re comfortable With a lesser known brand from a small company, both Zooz and Inovelli are very popular lower cost choices for Z wave switches. Both use newer technology and both have staff members who participate in this forum if you have any questions. I myself would use either of these over the GE switches, I think they have better engineering.

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Lutron

Lutron is an excellent lighting company with their own patented technologies. (They invented the first analog dimmer switch.) there is an official integration with SmartThings which works well, but it does requiring buying an additional bridge device. And they stopped adding new models to it in late 2018, so while it does support the Caseta dimmers and switches, it does not support the fan switch or the motion sensor.

The Lutron Caseta dimmers do not require a neutral wire (More patents), which makes them very popular for retrofit situations. They’re available in white, black, or almond.


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my personal opinion is not the most popular choice

Me personally I like better engineering and more features and I’m willing to pay more for that. But that’s just me.

If I had the money and I had to pick zwave switches today, I would probably pick Coopers.

Or if I was going for style I’d use in wall micro relays and LeGrand momentary switches. This is one of @Mike_Maxwell 's LeGrand mods:

But again those are both expensive choices compared to GE.

2020 update:

I still like the looks of the Cooper switches, but if I were looking for Z wave switches today, I would also look at both Inovelli and Zooz. These are from small companies and have a lot of very interesting features, including scene control, and both are offered at lower prices than many of the bigger companies. Both are very popular in the community, and you can find many threads about them. Both are zwave plus with support for S2 security. Both also have the option to be used with smart lightbulbs by sending a message to the hub which then send a message to the bulb rather than cutting current to the bulb itself. So nice features at a good price.

As it is, personally I ended up going with Lutron Caseta switches, which I am very happy with. Excellent engineering, but they are more expensive than many of the other choices.

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I actually have alot of smart bulbs, however I have a couple of lighting fixtures in my kitchen that use bulb types that they don’t make smart bulbs for. Also I have 4 fans, so I want switches to control those fans and then also switches to control those lights so I can buy 4 switches for the fans and then 4 more switches for the lights instead of buying 12-16 more smart bulbs.

Great info here guys. Im new in all this too. So for i really like the monoprice dual relay module. I have one dual and one single which i bought for testing. And both are working great. Dumb switch completely smart lol. U get instant status and installation is a breeze. $26 for a dual relay is an affordable price to convert two dumb switches into smart switches. Now the single switch relay for $25 is a bit pricey.

The dual module require some coding. Thanks to community there is a github link with all the steps and codes. Piece of cake!

Thanks for the help guys! If any body need help with the wiring installation please me know.

What a bout the Leviton Switches that Smartthings has on their list? or Homeseer switches?

Those are both discussed in the wall switches posts upthread, starting around post 40. Did you have some specific question that wasn’t covered there?

Well I am just looking to put in a zwave switch to control our outside lights in the porch and on the garage. Nothing special but we just want to put them on a schedule. I was looking at this website https://www.aartech.ca/zwave-wall-switches and I was just wondering if one is better than the other and if they work with ST?