Dumb light switches + control panel?


(John Roguetech) #1

I would like to keep my dumb light switches for a variety of reasons from power outages to electrical maintenance to house resale value. I haven’t yet invested in much but a handful of Hue dimmer switches, but I’d like to use SmartTiles (or similar) touchscreens. I’m thinking of recessing the dumb light switches and mounting removable tablets/smart phones over the them, but really not sure how to proceed. what’s everyone else doing? Ignoring the light switches? Removing them? Covering them up? How?


(Dan) #2

Most people simply install ‘smart’ light switches that permit 100% local control, just like your current ‘dumb’ switches. This allows anyone to operate the switches regardless of what your home automation system is doing (especially when it is offline!)

You can still add touchscreen controllers if desired.

Of course, this precludes the use of Smart Bulbs…


(John Roguetech) #3

Thanks for the quick reply!

But it doesn’t solve most of the issues. There’s still no hard off for maintenance, less control in a power outage and would not be able to leave them behind if/when I move. There’s also the issue of confusing controls for guests. Even if it wouldn’t matter, they’d not know - use the switch or panel?

Perhaps most importantly for the short term, it increases the cost. In addition to tablets (maybe $50 each x about 8), there’s smart switches (maybe $30 x about 20). The $50 x 8 for tablets will be difficult enough of a hump to get over (and LED controllers and strips, some color bulbs, motion sensors, etc.) .


(Dan) #4

I understand where you’re coming from. There are some pretty big threads discussing the pros and cons of smart switches vs smart bulbs. If you haven’t read those, that’s a good place to start. Also, some folks really love the Lutron solutions, especially the Pico remotes that can fit into a standard switch face-plate footprint.
That may provide a somewhat familiar physical ‘switch’ for users, while still being a completely ‘smart solution’. Not sure how you’d hide your old physical switches though, if you decide to keep them. As Mike Maxwell in the Hubitat forum about his current setup (Lutron Pico remotes with embedded aeon relays in place of his old switches.)

Personally, I believe guests will find smart switches much simpler to use than smart bulbs + tablets. People have muscle memory to reach for a physical switch to control lighting. Using a touchscreen may even require some people to put on glasses to make sure they tap the correct portion of the screen.

As for…

My GE Z-Wave switches all have an small air-gap switch embedded in them to allow for safe maintenance. Not sure if all switches have that feature though.


Selecting Smart switches and remotes for new home
#5

Different people do different things, depending on the needs and preferences, including aesthetic Preferences, of their own household. :sunglasses: See the following:


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(John Roguetech) #6

Can’t you just give me the one best choice for what I need for my household configuration at my price-point, with detailed instructions?? (j/king)

Thanks much for the links. Will read.


(John Roguetech) #7

Much good info. Thanks.

Did not know that. I think that would solve all but my most trivial concerns, aside from price.


#8

People typically choose smart bulbs over smart switches for one of three reasons:

One) they want color changing capabilities which are only available with the bulbs

Two) they want to create zone lighting in an area where all the fixtures are on the same switch

Three) they are unwilling/unable to do any wiring work at all

Absent that, smart switches are often a good choice. Many households, including my own, use bulbs for where smart bulbs are needed and otherwise use smart switches. :sunglasses:


#9

Also, I forgot to mention, if you would like to see what kind of options people have used for mounting tablets, look at the quick browse lists in the community – created wiki, go down near the bottom of the page to the project reports section, and look on the list for “dashboards”. There are several threads there discussing various wall options, some with pictures. :sunglasses:

http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=How_to_Quick_Browse_the_Community-Created_SmartApps_Forum_Section


(Dan) #10

Same here. Smart Switches where possible, and a few Smart Bulbs in table lamps and a floor lamps. The smart bulbs are primarily controlled via automations (motion detection or time-based schedule.) If the smart bulbs need to be manually operated, we primarily use Amazon Alexa voice control. I find that more convenient than pulling out a phone or tablet, although I don’t have any phones/tablets mounted as kiosk stations throughout the house. So, as they say, YMMV.


(John Roguetech) #11

Most of my bulbs have already been replaced with smart, though most of them are white only. But we’ve just moved, specifically to a more open-plan house (from a small apartment), so where two Philips dimmers were “good enough”… now there’s no good place for those few we have, and using voice control is way too awkward, even short-term. I really don’t want to buy three or four more dimmers without a long term plan in place. Too many options with too little money to experiment. I’m getting desperate, and the WAF is sinking fast :frowning:


(John Roguetech) #12

Sounds like everyone is telling me that smart switches are the no-brainer solution, and add on to that as I feel necessary. I thought smart switches with smart bulbs was redundant, but I think I’m understanding why that’s not true.

So, now I just need to figure out which ones to get…

Assuming above is correct, thanks everyone for getting me on track!!


(Nathan Curtis) #13

Smart switches WITH smart bulbs ARE redundant and actually not recommended by most smart bulb manufacturers.

So basically you just fell into one of the ‘religious war’ arguments of smart home design. It’s right up there with Beta v. VHS, Linux v. Microsoft… :slight_smile:

Personally I’m on team smart switch. :slight_smile: (I have 35+ GE Jasco ZWave switches installed, I only use smart bulbs where I HAVE to.)

IF you install switches and want to keep the smart bulbs it can be done with a relatively easy hack (bypass the switching part of the dimmer / switch when you install it and use smartlighting’s mirror function to actually control the light)


(John Roguetech) #14

I’ve had a few self-reinforcing erroneous ideas, including the big one of bulbs versus switches. The other is that I love my color bulbs, and kept getting stuck on being team bulb, when I’m team color bulb. Also, I plan to either change to or add LED strips, and kept thinking I’d need a separate controller for them. I’ve realized that’s wrong-headed too. They’d be too cumbersome to use without adding a separate switch or (depending on application) wiring into regular smart switch. (And, still haven’t completely grasped that I’m now a homeowner! :sunglasses:)

Starting my search for switches momentarily. Will be looking at all the recommendations and linked threads already mentioned.

I will want a switch brand that has a wired and unwired model that look the same… And I’m thinking, maybe?, having a matching dimmer model and one only on/off (such as for closets, utility room, maybe garage, etc.). If these requirements are neither standard nor unavailable, I’d certainly appreciate suggestions to get me started.


#15

The links I already gave you should be enough to get started on devices. But we will also throw in the device class FAQ if you want to look at switches that you would use with dumb bulbs, not smart bulbs. The discussion of light switches starts around post 40 in that thread

But here’s the critical bit that you may not have yet internalized:

Most smart bulbs are intended to always be on power. It will say that in the manufacturer’s user guide. That’s so the bulb can hear the next “on” command from the network even if it appears to be off.

If you put these bulbs on a regular switch, either a binary on/off switch or a dimmer switch, which changes the amount of current that the bulb receives, then the next time you use the switch to increase the current you can have a problem because of something called “inrush current” where the current is very high when the switch first activates. Overtime this can damage the radio inside the bulb and significantly increase the cost of what are already expensive bulbs.

If you just have an occasional power outage two or three times a year, that won’t be an issue. But if you are using the switch to vary the current to the bulb multiple times a week, you will probably reduce the lifetime of the bulb by 25% or even more.

And you should never put a dimmable smart bulb so that it is controlled by a dimmer switch (smart or dumb) that varies the current as you can also burn out the switch itself and create a safety hazard.

If you want to put it on a binary on/off switch (smart or dumb) that just operates as a relay you won’t have the same safety issue, but you will reduce the working life of the bulb if you are using that switch a lot.

Fortunately, there are many different ways to add a switch, either on/off or dimmer, Which doesn’t itself vary the current flow to the bulb, but instead just triggers a network instruction to the bulb to make a change. That’s what you’ve been doing up to now with the Phillips hue battery operated dimmer switches.

There are other battery operated switches you can get. There are switches that fit over the top of the existing mains powered switch. There are also mains power switches Which do not control the current “load” to the light fixture but just use a radio to send a message to the hub which then sends a message to the bulb. Or, as @nathancu Mentioned, you can even in some cases wire a switch model which was designed to control the current load so that the load itself is bypassed.

So in general a GE smart switch, which does control the current load, would only be used with dumb bulbs, not smart bulbs. However, some people do wire it in such a way that the switch is not actually controlling the current to the smart bulb. You can do that, and it will be to code in most places in the US except attics, but It’s important to understand that if you choose that particular method you will lose one of your other requirements, because the switch will not turn the bulbs off unless your home automation system is working. Precisely because it is not controlling the current directly.

All of these various options are included in the discussion is that I already gave you the links to. I just wanted to give you a heads up that you can’t just take a regular GE smart master dimmer switch, wire it into the wall Following the directions in the user guide, screw in a smart lightbulb, And get good results. Because then you would have a smart dimmer directly changing the current to a smart bulb, and that is not a good idea.

But read the threads I’ve already given you the links for, and you will see a lot of different possible options.


(John Roguetech) #16

Good advice. Many thanks for saving me from disaster!

I think I understand. Something of a quandary for me, what with having mostly smart white bulbs that are largely redundant. Invest in smart dimmers using the HA system to send a command… Or ditch the white bulbs and get smart dimmers to control the current, perhaps later to regret it either way. I could see the smart dimmer on HA having it’s advantages (edit: scratch that… all I can come up with is error control, which would mostly only be needed for having smart bulbs to begin with), and smart dimmer on current having it’s own advantages (being compatible with any variable powered dumb-device). And a crystal ball might be nice to find out whether “smart bulbs” disappear as just a short-term solution for smart systems.

I’m thinking using one to send commands, since my long term goal is to switch to color bulbs. Any flaw in my thinking?

Aside from reading threads, is there a way to tell which approach any particular switch uses? Do they say “safe for smart bulbs” or something like that?


(Nathan Curtis) #17

IMHO smart bulbs aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Reasons I went switches:
Wife says the home MUST be controllable when the Internet is down. (meets the need, I just lose all my automatic stuff)
I really like the LOOK of the Edison style bulb (see pic below) I’m big on hiding the intelligence behind the home - it makes everything seem magic (yes I’m feeding my ego here, sue me)
I don’t want to have to give people who visit a manual. (One of my best friends has to go through a script of what switches to never turn off when he has guests)

That bank of switches controls that fan, it’s lights and the one directly adjacent to it. If I didn’t tell you it was under controll you’d never know.

I do have three table lamps in this room with smart bulbs and just make them follow whatever that switch on the far left of the three gang is set to. I have a few scenes that set color and mood lighting (dim fan lamps, bring up color bulbs) via voice if I need it.


(Nathan Curtis) #18

And no switch will say safe for smart bulbs. The only way to be ‘safe’ for a smart bulb is to not switch it. As JD said… NEVER dim it. That’s why people just bypass them if they’re on the same circuit.


(Ron Talley) #19

Smart Switches and when you are ready to sell, then remove them and put the dumb switches back in. When you move, you will still have your Smart Switches to install in your new house.

Tablets are great for controlling multiple things from one location. I have alot of them but honestly, no one really uses them because we also have Alexa in every location.

Smart Bulbs if you have issues with neutral wires or other reasons that makes it more economical to use them instead of Switches.


(John Roguetech) #20

I’ve started a new thread for options on remotes and switches.