Can I Link or Connect Smart Switches/Dimmers?

Good Afternoon,

Newer ST user and I’ve thought I read on this topic, but can’t seem to find it again so I’m reposting.

Anyway, I have built a home and have a SmartThings hub for working toward making my home smart.

When the electric was done, the porch lights, eave lights, and coach lights(for two different garages) were all put on their own switches/circuits for a total of 4 independent switches in 4 locations.

My wife enjoys coming home, now that days are getting shorter, to all sets of lights on. I have ordered one GE smart switch, but stopped as I was not sure what I want to accomplish can be done with that solution.

What I am looking for, is the ability to physically turn on/off one switch, but have it turn on all 4 of those circuits. I have tested the auto time on/off within the smart things app, and with more switches feel confident to program as such, but there are times we will want to turn all of those lights on and it would be nice to not have to go to the front door(eaves and porch), my garage, and hers.

I was looking at the homeseer ws100+ as my understanding this could be accomplished with a double or triple tap(maybe double tap for eaves and porch, and triple for all 4?). Can I do this with the GE switches, too? what about the like $17 “add-on” switch?

As you can tell from my lack of terminology I’m new to this, but appreciate any help you can provide.

Thank you so much, in advance.

Welcome! :sunglasses: There are a number of different ways to do it depending on the exact details of what you want to accomplish.

First of all, you will need one smart device, probably a smart master switch, for each separate circuit. There has to be something that controls that circuit.

Once you have that, you can then set it up so that either the switches are grouped so that turning anyone of them on always turns all of them on, or you can choose switch models which allow for single tap/double tap/Triple tap options. In which case, you could set it up so that the double tap on the hallway switch turns on both the hall and the front porch light, for example.

Switches that support different tap patterns

There are a couple of different brands of switches which will support multiple tap patterns, including the homeseer and the newest GE switches. You only have to get one of the pattern recognizing switches for each place where you want to be able to do the double tap. But you still need to have a smart master switch on every independent circuit.

Or a multibutton battery power device

Another alternative is just to put a simple smart master switch on each independent circuit and then to get one or more of the battery powered multibutton devices to allow for your different zones.

Remotec makes an eight button device which is very popular as each of its buttons will support tap, double tap, or long hold, giving you up to 24 options for each device.

IMG_2378

One of the nice things about adding the battery powered device is that they tend to be much more intuitive for visitors. But different things work for different households.

Three way setups

The add on switches don’t work in the same way, and are not used for grouping lights. Instead, they are designed for “three-way set ups” wheretwo switches control the same light. (Instead of one switch controlling two lights).

For example, if you have one switch at the top of the stairs and another switch at the bottom of the stairs and you want each switch to turn on the same overhead light. That’s called a “three-way” in the US.

In that kind of set up you have one smart master switch which controls the circuit, and then you use the add on switch to give you control from a different physical location. With smart switches the add on essentially acts as a remote control for the master. So it doesn’t sound like that fits the requirements you’ve described. :sunglasses::level_slider::bulb::level_slider:

Summary

So there are several different options depending on exactly what you want. If you want to always group some switches together, then you don’t need to use double tap, you can just create a group where turning on any one of the group will turn on all of them.

If instead you want to be able to turn on each one on individually but also have an additional option to turn on a group, then you can either go for a double tap pattern switch or you can add the battery operated device. :level_slider::bulb::bulb:

Oh, and there is one other alternative. You could put smart bulbs in three of the locations and the smart switch in the fourth location and then group those together. That way turning on the switch would turn on the lights in all four places.

It’s very important to know, however, that smart bulbs are intended to always have power available to them. If you start just flipping A regular switch on and off and it cuts the current to the bulb, they will work just like a regular bulb and turn on when the switch turns on, but the high inrush current each time the switch is turned on can damage the radio inside the bulb over time, significantly shortening the life of what is already an expensive bulb.

It’s OK if there’s just an occasional power outage, but you don’t want smart bulbs to have the power cut to them regularly.

So again, this is an option that will work for some households and not for others, particularly if you want to always treat all the outside lights as a group.

This is an option that some renters will choose, for example, because it could be done without any wiring. You actually don’t even need a GE Type wired switch, you could just use the battery-operated switches since the bulbs will have their own power. The trick then it is to keep people from using the old wall switches to cut power. There are a lot of ways to handle that, including just putting a childproofing lock on the old switch.

So that’s a no wiring possibility for grouping lights as well. Didn’t sound like something that would be of interest to you since you have already ordered one wired Light, but I did just want to mention it.

Here’s the FAQ for switches that work with smart bulbs:

Thank you so much @JDRoberts ! That was very thorough and helpful.

In response to your help, I have only one follow-up question(for now :slight_smile:): Would it be possible to group double/triple tap switches with one that does not support that function? For example, I have an older GE switch that I would put at the front door for the porch so it would group all 4 circuits(once I add a master smart switch) so when I used the switch, all 4 groups would come on; then put the multi-tap compatible switches in the garage so if I were washing the car, I wouldn’t need the porch and eaves, just the two sets of coach lights. Or, is it an all or nothing venture in which I need to scrap the older GE switch and get all the same for the 4 I want to group?

I do like the idea of the hard button remote, but we don’t have kids, and don’t often have guests(aside from when parents are house sitting).

With regard to the smart bulbs, our outdoor lights are exposed, and therefore we have those “Edison” style so that won’t work. I do like the idea though.

Thank you again!

Sure, the double tap function is just something that that particular switch does. It will send a special code to the hub when it recognizes the double tap pattern and then based on the automations that you have set up, the smartthings hub will send out instructions to the other devices. So the other devices don’t have to have double tap capability themselves. :sunglasses:

What your describing is a “Scene Controller”

They had several on the market but for whatever reason discontinued them before releasing there new models which are still undergoing zwave verification/testing.

The "GoControl WA00Z-1 Z-Wave Scene-Controller Wall Switch “can control up to 10 z-wave lights or switches”. So you would place this in your garage and configure it so it will control your four GE light switches. Amazon Link --> https://www.amazon.com/GoControl-WA00Z-1-Z-Wave-Scene-Controller-Switch/dp/B01BKWG9XS

The use of “scene controllers” can be helpful in an all Zwave configuration which doesn’t also have a phone app, but just isn’t used very much with SmartThings, which is a multiprotocol platform.

Instead, any device can send a command to the SmartThings hub, which then can pass it along to any other SmartThings – controlled device.

This is becoming more and more common in homeautomation, which is why “central scene commands,” which are part of the newest generation of Z wave, are now becoming more popular – – even in an all Zwave set up, the central scene command works the same way SmartThings does, by passing the command to the hub.

I wanted to mention that because some of the oldest “scene controllers” can actually cause problems in a SmartThings set up because they do not keep the hub up-to-date on the status of the individual devices, and pretty soon when you open the app it doesn’t show you what is actually happening in your house. Also, many scene controllers can only talk to nearby Z wave devices, they can’t include devices on the far side of the house or devices of other protocols. That’s why so many of them have now been discontinued.

For example, the particular device that you linked to would be unlikely able to control all the devices that the OP mentions in their first post, because it’s pretty likely that at least one of them will be more than one hop away.

Also, I don’t know if you noticed, but that device is battery operated and is a smart switch cover which is really intended to be used for smart lightbulbs, in this case Z wave light bulbs. That’s important, because it would not be able to control the first circuit where it was installed. So if you went with that device you would still need 4 smart hard wired switches, plus the battery-operated WA00Z in yet a fifth position.

Great for controlling GoControl z-wave lightbulbs
Easily controls on/off or dimming of Lighting
One switch can control up to 10 z-wave lights or switches
Mounts over any standard or decorator-style switch, or on just about any surface (simple self-adhesive mounting pads included)
No wiring. Batteries included

The WA00Z is a good device, and popular for the control of smart bulbs, but I don’t think it really matches the use case described in this thread. It’s not going to give you anything that you wouldn’t get from any other smart switch because of the way SmartThings works. And it’s just adding an additional device to the budget. You’re not going to use its scene control capabilities anyway, because it’s likely at least one of the other switches is going to be more than one hop away.

So to recap:

The original Z wave scene controllers were designed for control of other Z wave devices within a room or two of the controller and do not tell the hub about the change in status of those devices.

In contrast, one of the advantages of the SmartThings platform is that any device on the system can send a request to The hub, which can pass it along to any other SmartThings-controlled device, regardless of the protocol or how far away it is. And because the requests go through the hub, all the statuses are kept up-to-date. :sunglasses:

However, just because any device can send a request to the hub, it doesn’t mean they all do. In particular, the old style “scene controllers” can actually cause problems because they don’t talk to the hub, they try to talk to the other devices directly, which causes the mobile app to get out of date. So even if a device does have scene controller capability, you probably won’t use that with SmartThings.

Submitted with respect.

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