SmartThings Community

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

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#42

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.

GE is due to release Zwave plus versions of most of their switches in December 2016.

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 SmartThings worked with Lutron, it would be an easy choice – – I don’t think anyone makes better switches than Lutron. But there’s only indirect integration through IFTTT, and that’s too much lag for a lot of use cases. So then it starts getting complicated again.

(edited to update an official cloud to cloud Lutron/SmartThings integration was announced at CES 2017 for release early this year. Since it’s cloud to cloud, it won’t be as lightning fast as a local Lutron mplementation would be, but it will probably be faster than using IFTTT. So this becomes a good retrofit option for a switch-box without a neutral, assuming the integration actually gets released.)

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.

As it is, I’m waiting until May to put together my candidate list for my phase 2, which will probably include switches, because I keep hoping that one way or another Lutron will get back on the list.

Meanwhile, I’m using smart bulbs, which I’m really happy with for the places where I’m using them. And we do most of the control by voice with echo. But there are some existing ceiling fixtures where switches would make more sense. So we’ll get to that eventually.

Not a very complete answer, but there it is.

There are a lot of forum threads on lighting where you can get different people’s opinions on different switches. :sunglasses:


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(Seth Staggs) #43

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.


(Jim) #44

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.


(Jane) #45

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


#46

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?


(Jane) #47

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?


#48

They both work with SmartThings, although you will need custom code to make the Homeseer ones work, and then they aren’t officially supported.

And you bring up a good point that we hadn’t really discussed in this thread so far, which is that only some devices are officially supported. There are lots of other ones that will work, but may require custom code, and then SmartThings support won’t help you with them if you do run into a problem.

You can see the devices that are officially supported on the compatibility list:

If you want to stick only to those, your choices will be between Leviton, GE, and Enerwave.

As detailed in the discussions above, the GE are the “good enough” choice for most people, and very popular. They are a value brand in the Z wave category, and frequently much less expensive than other brands.

The GE are also one of the only brands that have a toggle rather than a rocker, again, as detailed above.

The Leviton are a better engineered brand, and among other things can dim lower than the GE. But they do have an unusual form factor, as mentioned in the posts above. So not everyone likes those. Also they are noticeably more expensive.

If you just want a simple switch that SmartThings Will officially support, GE is fine.

BTW, Home Depot in Canada does carry a few z-Wave switches, typically Leviton and GE, but selection does vary from store to store.


(Jane) #49

Thanks I just checked homedepot.ca to see what they have. This is what I found. https://www.homedepot.ca/en/home/p.z-wave-wink-compatible-switch-white.1000818247.html From the reviews, it looks like these work with ST. What do you think? I just noticed these are Leviton.


#50

That should be fine, it’s a good Switch. :sunglasses: Just be aware that as with all of the Leviton classic Z wave switches, it’s not a rocker where you press the top for on and the bottom for off. You always press the bottom on that switch. Most people don’t care, but some people prefer a traditional rocker.


(Jane) #51

I don’t think I care except that it will be one of a dual switch. The other switch will be normal as I have a hues bulb connected to that one. I wonder if Leviton makes the same type of switch that isn’t zwave?


#52

Just updating the thread for locks. :sunglasses:

Most people using SmartThings get Z wave locks, in part because then there’s no issue with Wi-Fi interference which allows you to boost Wi-Fi signal near the front door for cameras or Wi-Fi video doorbells without running into a problem. But most of the big lock companies also makes zigbee versions of their smart locks if you want one. As of this writing, February 2017, none of the Bluetooth locks are compatible with SmartThings.

Form

There are two main kind of zwave smart locks for homes: keypad locks, which replace the existing deadbolt and have a keypad on the outside of the door where you can enter a code, and retrofit locks, where the exterior piece is the same as always, and there’s a piece that goes on the inside of the door and fits physically over the existing turn bolt so that it can be turned.

Keypad lock on the exterior side. It replaces the existing deadbolt

Keypad lock on the interior side

Interior with retrofit lock. It fits over the existing turnbolt. The exterior will look the same as always.

Both can be opened automatically or from your phone. The big difference is that the keypad lock enables someone, such as a child who lives in the home, to open the lock from the outside without needing either a phone or a key. But for those who live in apartments or subdivisions which require that all exterior door locks look the same, the retrofits are a good option. Also, some people just prefer them aesthetically.

You can get a keypad lock which just replaces the deadbolt, or one that has a built-in lever handle as well.

If you live in the UK, there are also some keypad locks that are much thinner and designed to fit European doors.

keypad lock features

There’s an FAQ for Z wave/zigbee keypad locks that covers different brand features , so I won’t repeat all that information here. Just follow this link:

2017 did see the release of the August pro, which is the only lock which can be used with both SmartThings and HomeKit, so if you’re looking for that particular combination, that’s another one to consider. It’s a retrofit lock so that there is a piece that fits over your existing deadbolt turn the key on the interior, and the exterior looks the same as it always did. No keypad unless you buy a separate accessory device. So it will be good for some use cases, but not others.


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(Cody Farmer) #53

breaking and fixing is half the battle lol


#54

There is a good discussion of Siren features in the following thread:


#55

And two discussion thread on motorized shades that work with SmartThings:


#56

Adding a discussion thread specific to humidity sensors:

And one just for temperature sensors:


#57

Adding a discussion thread specific to high load electrical equipment like water heaters, things in the 30 amp range.


(Tim Slagle) #58

4 posts were split to a new topic: Kodak Camera Experience?


#59

Looks like we haven’t ever added this to the thread yet. This is the FAQ that lists all of the remotes and buttons that have been confirmed to work with SmartThings. Some are wallmount, some are handheld; some are battery operated and some are mains powered. But it’s a pretty simple FAQ: just one post per device with the region, name, picture, a brief description, and a thread to discussion threads if any in the forum. :sunglasses:


#60

There aren’t a lot of options for ceiling fan control that work with SmartThings, but there are two good ones and one that is OK if the other two don’t work with your wiring. See the following thread:


#61

Detailed discussion of leak sensors: