Can smart bulbs be externally dimmed?


I’m planning to buy 6 Sylvania Lightify recessed light inserts (RGBW) for my living room.

I want to run them on a Cooper Z-Wave dimmer that is LED compliant: , which I am starting to put all over my house.

My initial plan is that on/off/brightness would be handled with the Z-wave dimmer. This way I can use the physical switch on the wall (or with SmartThings/Alexa), like any other light in my house. The only time I want Smartthings/Alexa to talk directly with the bulbs is if I want to change the color or set color scenes.

Can this be done or will I screw up the “bulbs”?


It will screw up the bulbs. Smart LEDs should not be matched with any dimmer, smart or dumb, that controls the current to the bulb. You will burn out either the dimmer or the bulb because they will confuse each other.

Instead, the bulbs should remain always on full power (although they may look like they’re off). But you can then match them with a wall switch which doesn’t control the current load to the bulbs. This can either be an auxiliary switch which is not wired to the load or it can be a battery operated switch.

That way the switch talks to the hub and the hub talks wirelessly to the bulbs and everything works fine.

See the following FAQ (this is a clickable link)

BTW( and this is discussed in the FAQ) as it happens, Cooper makes a battery operated dimmer switch that looks exactly like their regular switches and would work very well for this purpose. They even make a special face plate so you can put it side-by-side with a regular switch if you like. :sunglasses: It will look like a dual gang switch, but it’s actually one mains power switch in the wall and one battery operated switch on the surface of the wall. The only thing is I’m not sure if it comes in the same color options.

Alternatively, you can still use the same Cooper switches you were intending to use, just don’t connect them to the load. Then the same thing will happen. The switch talks to the hub and the hub talks to the bulbs.


Yes, I already have the battery powered RF9500 Slave in my bathroom, which controls an RF9501 Master. I basically installed it so my 2 year old has a bathroom switch she can reach. I have several RF9501 and RF9540-N Masters around my house and they talk to smarrthings.

I had a feeling someone would come along and tell me this, which brings me to my next question, as you suggested. My options are the
RF9500 Battery Dimmer Slave
RF9542-Z Wired Dimmer Slave
RF9517 Wired On/Off Slave
RFWC5 5-Scene Selector

Now, from what I’ve heard and experienced with the 9500 is that it’s difficult to get the 9500 to work with anything else but another Z-wave device. I’m not sure if any of the above Slave switches will connect directly to Smartthings in order to do my bidding. Can you confirm I can use them?

The 9500 is not a good choice, BTW. I don’t have it connected to smartthings, it’s simply associated with its master switch and then the master switch is connected to smartthings. The 9500 is battery-powered, so it’s is unable to establish a 2-way communication with smartthings, it just goes to sleep and smartthings can’t seem to get a read on its status.


There are a number of community members using the 9500 without any master. So I’m not sure what the problems are that you’ve run into, they are not typical. You don’t use them with direct association, you just pair them to the smartthings hub.

Pair it close to the hub, make sure it’s working, then move it to the desired position and run a Z wave repair so that it knows who its true neighbors are.

Here’s the original thread where people are talking about using the 9500

I believe @whoismoses and @Lgkahn have both used these.

The RFWC5 does not currently work with SmartThings. There is a community member who is trying to get it to work and just released a beta device type handler this month, but it still has some glitches. You can follow that effort here:

As long as the other devices act as a multilevel zwave switch, they should be able to be used as a dimmer remote without a master. That would apply to the 9542. You can still use the 9517 without a master, but it’s just a binary on/off switch. You can’t get dimming from it.


Hmmm, well, I had 2 problems. 1) I could not associate the 9500 with the Z-wave network without giving it a master to connect to (although, now that I think about it, I may have solved this when my minimote came in). 2) ST could never read or keep up with the state of the switch, because it’s battery powered.

In any case, Disappointed the RFWC5 isn’t an option, I would probably just use the 9542-Z, because I have a wired gang box to put it in and I don’t have to mess with batteries. Would this work?


The fact that it’s battery powered shouldn’t have anything to do with it. There are many battery powered devices that work just fine with smartthings, including, as you mentioned, the minimote.

Where the confusion may have come in is that the 9500 is not a switch itself, it’s a remote that is supposed to control something else. So it doesn’t have a status of “on” or “off.” Again, in this it’s just like the minimote.

The status would be shown for the device that it is actuating. So if you have a master switch, you should see the master switch change from off to on when you press the 9500.

In the use case that we are discussing, you would see the smart bulbs change status from off to on. The 9500 doesn’t really have a status other than active.

As far as the 9542 – z there are definitely some community members using it specifically to control smart bulbs ( via The smartthings hub as we discussed, not through controlling the current load)

(Jimmy) #7

Just disconnect the load from the z-wave switch and connect it directly to the line. Then use a smart app to control the bulbs via the switch.

(Scott Ainsworth) #8

Don’t count the RFWC5 out. With due respect for JD and his experience, I disagree with the statement about it not working with ST. I have two of them up and running with the above mentioned DH. It needs further testing by other users but the basic use is sound. ST knows when a button/indicator is on or off (no levels at this time). ST can configure the device with scenes and associations for activating Z-wave devices.

It looks like the bulbs your are planning to use are Zigbee devices. None of the Z-wave devices you talked about will directly control them. You will have to go thru the hub as JD has suggested to control them unless you get a Zigbee control device (JD may be able to point you to one).


Osram makes a battery operated dimmer switch that can work directly with ZLL bulbs and some community members are using it that way. But most people are using it to talk to the hub, so the protocol doesn’t really matter. :sunglasses:Also, it looks really different than the Cooper’s, I don’t think the OP is going to be interested.

As far as the Cooper RFWC5, the OP is specifically looking for dimming control. That is a feature of the RFWC5

Individual scenes have the ability to be brightened or dimmed by simply pressing the scene’s corresponding button

My understanding is that no one yet has this particular feature working with SmartThings. Has that changed?

(Scott Ainsworth) #10

That has not changed via ST. Dimming works fine with Z-wave devices setup with Z-wave scenes via ST. So the device works as designed. We cannot yet determine which button is held in smartthings. So using it to tell ST to dim another device does not yet work. It does work to tell ST to turn devices on and off.

(Mark) #11

I’ve been using a 9500 paired to ST without any issues for over a year. The 9500 acts like a button controller and with smart lighting I can set it to toggle a lamp that I plugged into a z-wave switch. Now I have a lamp controlled by a wall switch.

(Eric) #12

I’m using the Cooper RF9500. I have zero problems. Actually I have about 12 of these installed. When pairing with ST you have to keep hitting the button ever .5 - 1 second until it pairs.

This is the DH I use. With this DH it act just like a regular dimmer.


The fact that it’s battery powered shouldn’t have anything to do with it. There are many battery powered devices that work just fine with smartthings, including, as you mentioned, the minimote.

After reading up, I have no doubts of the 9500, it is convenient, but I prefer something hard-wired, even if it’s still going through the ST hub, that’s why I’d rather have the 9542-Z.

I would probably not use the 9500 because I don’t like changing batteries. Also, it’s too tall to fit in a standard gang box and it appears to be very fragile. The idiot who sold me one off Amazon used a thin bubble wrapper, and it was “Some assembly required” because I was too lazy to send it back.


For the moment, I want a polished product that my girlfriend isn’t going to flip out when she can’t turn on a light. I will probably look into the FRWC5 in the future, I still have a lot of lighting automation to do.

I don’t really mind if the Z-wave switch doesn’t communicate directly with the bulbs, so long as the ST hub can do the logic behind me pressing the switch and something happening. My only fear is that the ST will be down (let’s say for an update) and suddenly I can’t turn on any light in my house.

(Eric) #15

I’m going on a year, never needed to change a battery.

The left and right switches are the RF9500…

This is true. Once installed it is fine, but you can “break” it prior to install.

This has happened to me… Not often though…


Correctomundo, I’d rather stick with my Aspire switches.

The RF9542-Z has 3 buttons: On/Off, Dim, Bright. I’d imagine that ST could put together the 3 commands to let me brighten/dim the bulbs from the switch.

If I went with the FRWC5, I would simply set 5 scenes:
Full Bright Warm White
50% Bright Warm White
20% Bright Warm White
5% Bright Warm White
I would control colors and other scenes through the app or Alexa. I imagine that is within reason.


The battery operated switch doesn’t go inside the switch box (battery operated devices shouldn’t be put inside a wall because they outgas). Instead, they are surfacemounted on the wall. But you can fit the wall plate over them and they will look like they’re inside the wall. And you can put them right next to another switch which is inside the wall and use a double or triple gang and you won’t notice any difference. So it’s just a matter of getting the right switch plate cover.

All of that said, it does sound like for your purposes the 9542 would work better. :sunglasses:

As far as working when SmartThings is unavailable, that’s definitely trickier, particularly when you’re working with two different protocols. If you feel it’s important to plan for that, then you probably need to leave the bulbs on their original switch, lock that one, and add a second smart switch which doesn’t control the load. We do that at my house, but we don’t worry very much about the aesthetics, just the practicality.


The problem is that the scenes that the RFWC5 controls are using specific Z wave commandsets that only work with other zwave devices that are also “scene capable.” I’m not sure that it currently would work with any zigbee devices, but @sainsworth can confirm one way or the other since he is the one writing the code.


Ah, one reason for that. You used the Aspire wall plates, I went for more conventional stainless ones:

I can promise the battery operated one won’t fit.


If you use metal plates, you may find that you have difficulty getting signal through to the radios inside the switches. You will definitely reduce the range of each switch.

It’s a personal choice, but it is something to be aware of.