Cheap Wireless Remotes or Switches - No Neutral! (UK)

I can see this is a question that has been asked many a time, but I’m in the UK and in an old house with no neutral wires. I’m looking for cheap wireless remotes, buttons or switches to control my lighting via the ST hub.

The whole house is kitted out with LimitlessLED/MiLight/Easybulb bulbs. I am looking for a way to replace my existing in-wall switches (which need to be permanently on anyway for the smart bulbs to work) with a SmartThings compatible switch that can trigger virtual switches in my ST account. I have looked at some cheap Chinese bluetooth buttons but I’m not sure I’d get the range from the tablet ‘controller’. Traditional switches won’t work as we have no neutral and the ‘no neutral’ versions wont work because all our lighting is LED. I have considered using blanking plates to blank off my existing switches (and wire them permanently on behind the plate) and maybe using cheap Zigbee/Z-Wave remotes but not found anything under £40 - with 10 switch ‘points’ that soon adds up. Can anyone offer any advice here (also I’m in the UK!).

Thanks in advance!

It may sound odd, but because of the cost of an individual device radio, the least expensive option (if you’re going to have smart bulbs that are always receiving current anyway)i is often a Wi-Fi mobile phone with no contract. I don’t know what these cost in the UK: in the US one can buy them for less than €15. And they can replace multiple switches in some cases.

These are typically used with SmartTiles, A dashboard app that can be customized to show just the devices that you want. It does work for UK customers and is very popular. It works in any web browser, so it can work on most smartphones.

There is also a forum topic where people share ideas and photos of the hardware they’ve used with these dashboards:

As I mentioned, a somewhat unconventional approach, but can be much less expensive than the other options and gives you a lot of flexibility.

Considering all circumstances

The caveat with this approach is that if your Internet goes down, the telephone will not be able to control the bulbs at all. At my house, we keep the original switches in place but covered with a child safety lock to remind people not to use them. Then we use other methods for daily light control. If the Internet or the home automation system becomes unavailable, we still have the original switches as a fallback. So it’s just a matter of thinking through what you would want to have happen if the Internet were unavailable.

Other possibilities

As far as other possible devices, including remotes, see option two in the UK lighting controls FAQ.

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@JDRoberts Thanks for the reply and info. Ideally cheap mobiles would be ace (I have some easybulb/limitless/milight remotes if the net goes down)… BUT I hate seeing wires and none of my sensible switch locations are anywhere near a neutral. Cchasing walls is nigh impossible as we have oak beams everywhere - without neutrals I can’t even hide charging transformers in the back boxes to charge phones.

If only someone made an affordable Bluetooth, Zigbee or Z-Wave battery powered switch that worked with ST and could be stuck on the wall… the noDon button looks perfect… for my needs though @ £40 ($65) a pop it’s not ideal.

What do you reckon about these? Do you think with smartphone ‘bridges’ hidden in boxes (bluetooth so need to have a phone/tablet within range) they could work stuck to my switchblanks as battery buttons used with tasker? Seems to me it could be unreliable but to satisfy the missus and our budget I can’t see any other viable solution if I’m gonna go all out with a fully smart home?

Any better suggestions anyone?

@joshua_lyon is the author of sharptools, which is an app that is used to connect Tasker and SmartThings and is very popular with android users. He can speak better to the kinds of button options you just mentioned. I know there are some people who have done something similar, but I just don’t know the details.

Thanks @JDRoberts - I had heard about Tasker, it looks like a great tool. @joshua_lyon if you can offer any advice on using budget Bluetooth switches to control lights etc in SmartThings (and their limitations etc) then it would be very much appreciated! In particular something like;

@1bigwink - I’ve just bought one of these battery operated z-wave switches to test and a single paddle face plate for it - apparently they work with ST - I’ll report back when it arrives.

Here’s a community project that lets them work as dimmers etc - [Release], Popp, & Devolo Wireless wall Controller & Key Fob (EU), with button controller dimming apps and CoRE integration

I’ve also designed prototypes for a cover to attach to a uk light switch using magnets to mount a switch like this on top of a normal light switch, and for a frame so you can use any standard 1 gang blanking plate to do the same thing. I’ve ordered 3D printed prototypes and am thinking of running a Kickstarter to get them produced by injection moulding.

The thread for them can be found here - Design for a frame & cover to let you "replace" a light switch with no changes to electrical wiring needed

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Many bluetooth buttons including camera controls, media controls, and Flic buttons will integrate with Tasker. As you noted though, one of the concerns with this approach is the button is directly tied to whatever tablet or mobile device you have the button paired with.

If you have a dedicated tablet used for this purpose, then this isn’t an issue. For example, if you had a tablet dedicated to SmartTiles like @JDRoberts mentioned, you would be good to go. But if you plan on connecting the button to a mobile device (like your cellphone), keep in mind the impact this would have in usability for other users who might press the button while your phone is away.

At least one user has used the Satechi buttons which go for around £20.

Satechi bluetooth button or iBolt button and Tasker . Ideas/help welcome

I wouldn’t be surprised if you could get one of the cheap selfie camera buttons that only cost a few quid to work too. I haven’t personally used the button you linked to on Wish, but it’s fairly cheap if you wanted to try to buy one and give it a try.

The other challenge with bluetooth buttons is they often don’t provide the look and feel many users are looking for. That being said, a number of people are swooning over the Flic buttons which cost ~$40 shipped, so there are definitely others out there who like them!

The other approach would be to look for a Zigbee or Zwave button that meets your needs. There are plenty of wallplate buttons and switches, but as you mentioned they often start to get a bit pricey.

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Reporting back as promised.

The wall controller switch and single paddle faceplate for it arrived 10 minutes ago, and I installed the the device type I linked to in my earlier post.

I haven’t installed the smartapp from that thread as I don’t need dimming at the moment - just on/off

It’s up and working OK.

I’m using the “Smart Lighting” smartapp at the moment, and as I’ve got a single button faceplate on it, only buttons 2 and 4 will do anything, so I’ve got it configured as follows in the smart lighting smartapp (4 separate automations)

Automation #1 - Button 2 pressed
Turn ON the desk lamp power

Automation #2 - Button 4 pressed
Turn OFF the desk lamp power

Automation #3 - Button 2 held
Turn ON desk lamp
Turn ON power strip to desk (for my PC, monitor etc)

Automation #4 - Button 4 held
Turn OFF desk lamp
Turn OFF power strip to desk (for my PC, monitor etc)

I have a single LIFX Color 1000 bulb due to arrive later today so I can completely automate my home office (ones for the rest of the ceiling lights apart from the bathroom are going to be ordered at some point in the near future); so I’ll add that to the above rules.

It was being a bit temperamental though - on the “thing” page in the Smartthings app it was reporting button presses, but the sockets weren’t reliably going on / off as expected.

Not sure if that’s down to the smart lighting smartapp or not, so I’m going to install Rule Machine and test it with that.

Also, the Smartthings app has just notified me that that controller only has 1% battery left so maybe that’s not helping! Time to pop out and get a new CR2032 battery and maybe a spare!


New battery fitted to the switch and it’s nice an reliable at the moment - all expected actions are happening when switch is pressed or held :smile:

@TallNHairyDave Thanks for the info. Right now I think the Z-Wave switches look like my best option… I must admit I prefer the looks of the Satechi buttons that @joshua_lyon suggested but I think it’s going to turn into a headache in terms of keeping them all nailed to a Bluetooth device. Perhaps the switches immediately close to my controller though then these could be an option. Do you know if the Z-Wave switches have the repeater function on board - and can I just check that your light ‘status’ updates to on or off in Smart Things? Most of my lights are easybulb/limitlessled/milight at the moment and the one thing that really lets the existing integration down is that states aren’t saved - even if the lights are solely controlled via ST.

@1bigwink the z-wave button controllers don’t work as repeaters as far as I’m aware due to only being powered off of a CR2032 battery.

For my setup with LIFX bulb and ST sockets being controlled by the z-wave button controller, yes the state in ST is updated correctly.

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