I’m wondering what the easiest/simplest way of getting a standard light “smart” in 2021. We need something that’s reversible because we rent. I’ve seen that Hue is coming out with a gadget that can be added in the wiring line to make any switch smart but I’ve heard little about that. It sounds like things that other companies have had out for awhile.
I’m also intrigued with Brilliant. We do have some smart lighting in some lights with switches and my understanding is that it allows smart lights to stay smart and still use the switch while making “dumb” switches smart. Has anyone actually installed this and how difficult would you say it is? I have basic knowledge of wiring and have wired outlets, lights, etc (but I’m not an expert).
Lastly, are there any other options that you can think of to accomplish this goal? I’d be open to any ideas. These types of things change so quickly I wondered if some of the folks here had ideas I’ve not yet even heard of. Thanks so much!
Why not just go the route of using smart light bulbs? Sengled offers Zigbee bulbs that do not repeat a signal and will turn on when power has been cut at the switch and then returned to the on position. They have various styles to choose from.
@Nameless, it’s a very fair question - and a great idea. I really should have said in the OG post but was trying not to make it too long.
We rent right now and some of the fixtures just don’t have an easy way to get a different bulb in it. In the kitchen, we have a weird recessed can light with a strange bayonet base. I’ve been looking for a smart bulb in that type for 7 years. Also, we have a long row of fluorescent up lighting on one wall, and a few fluorescent under cabinet lights in the kitchen. We also have a vertical recessed fluorescent bulb in our entry nook just outside our front door, and three overhead light fixtures in the bath, kitchen, and entry that were recently switched to an overhead LED. We also have the vanity lights in the bathroom. Those might be able to be switched out - I can check those but the rest we’re out of luck on. Which is why I’m looking for a switch based option or something outside the realm of smart bulbs. We also have some ceiling fans I’d like at least basic control over (off/on) since I don’t yet know of a way to control speed. But since it has it’s own switch, off/on should at least be doable.
That’s probably TMI, but it’s the reason I’m looking for alternatives to grabbing a smart bulb. I really wish that would work! It would be way less effort. I just don’t know of smart alternatives for so many of these.
It depends on what you mean by “easiest.“ but probably the easiest is just to get one of the smart switch covers that fits over the existing switch and physically move the existing dumb Switch. These are battery operated devices, no wiring required, and an able-bodied person can install them in about one minute, literally. And they can be removed just as quickly.
They are popular with renters who are not allowed to change the wiring in any way, but also functional for people with other situations. I have a couple of them just for switches where I didn’t want to pay somebody else to swap out a Mains powered Smart Switch for the existing dumb switch, like our utility closet.
The following are for US style switches.
Third reality has a zigbee switch cover that looks a little odd, but not inelegant. It adds to smartthings just as an on/off switch.
I actually have mine added to an echo show that has a zigbee Hub inside so that it gives me voice control even when the Internet is out. so we use these to create a lighting pathway from my room to the front door. But then the only integration with smartthings is one way through Alexa routines. Most people in this community would just add it to smartthings where it will show up as just an on/off switch
Ecolink has a similar zwave Device that looks like a regular light switch. It comes in either rocker or toggle style and in either single or double gang. US only. Again, it just fits over the top of the existing dumb switch and physically moves it. Works out of the box with smartthings, but of course since it’s zwave you do have to have a SmartThings hub.
switch-bot is a tiny actuator which works like a robot finger and can again physically move an existing switch. The bot itself is Bluetooth, and then you also need their Wi-Fi mini hub to get integration with smartthings or IFTTT or Siri shortcuts.
I don’t use these for light switches, but I have a bunch of them at my house and use them as button pushers on the blender, the DVD eject button, etc. I wrote a review of them. (The topic title is a clickable link)
They’ll be a little trickier to setup than the first two options because they don’t just fit over the existing switch so you have to get the placement right. But I mention them because they’re the only device of this type I know of that would work with smartthings in a hub-optional configuration.
Because all three of these options have a motor that physically moves the dumb switch you will hear a little noise when they are operating. Not as loud as a garbage disposal, but definitely noticeable.
Mains Powered Options
So those three are the easiest. But if you just want a regular light switch, as long as you have a neutral wire at the switchbox swapping out a smart switch for a dumb one is pretty easy. Maybe a 15 minute project if it’s the first time you’re doing one. These also have the advantage of generally being no louder than a regular physical switch.
zwave options. Either zooz or inovelli are good US zwave brands that will give you a lot of help if you need it. Both are popular in this community. They are budget priced with the latest Z wave technology. They do require custom code to get access to all the features, though, but the manufacturers provide it.
Inovelli has their Black Series on sale right now because it’s older technology and they are discontinuing it in favor of the newer Red series. (All the switches are white, despite the names.)
I doubt if you would need more than half a dozen switches for an apartment, but if you did need A lot, both companies will offer a small bulk discount if you ask about it.
I myself use Lutron Caseta Switches. These are a little more complex solution, though, because they use their own proprietary protocol so you also need to get their “smartbridge”, but once you have that there are cloud to cloud integrations with smartthings, Alexa, and Google home as well as a local Integration with homekit and you can set up all of these at the same time if you wanted.
These are very well engineered with a bunch of patents, solid, reliable, and fast. I like them very much. but they are definitely not budget switches. Home Depot and Amazon both carry them, but it’s unusual to find a discount.
The other issue with these besides their requiring the extra step of their own bridge Is that the original Integration was done several years ago by smartthings staff but in the current Business model it’s supposed to be the device manufacturers that do the integrations. so no one has updated this integration for a couple of years (for example, it does not support the Lutron Caseta fan switch which came out 2 years ago).
Lutron says it’s up to smartthings, smartthings says it’s up to the Lutron, and it just seems to have fallen through the cracks. So I tend not to recommend this for smartthings-only implementations anymore because I worry about the future Integration. The motion sensor introduced in the line last year doesn’t work with smartthings, either.
But since you arealso using HomeKit, I will mention them, because they work great with both Homekit and Alexa. And they work OK with smartthings but one of the Z wave options would probably make more sense if you only had smartthings.
If you are looking for a budget choice for a hub-optional smartthings set up, I like the Meross brand. WiFi. These do require a neutral wire at the switch box, but otherwise are a pretty straightforward wiring project. They work well with both smartthings and HomeKit and can be connected to both at the same time. As well as working with Alexa. They also have good safety certifications.
They are frequently sold in a two pack and often have coupons on the page at Amazon, so check the prices as the one you see just with the product title might be for two or even three switches.
I like this brand and have a lot of their products, I just don’t use their light switches. Only the ones with the HomeKit logo will work with HomeKit, but both that model line and the slightly less expensive no HomeKit line will work with smartthings.
As @Jepajo mentioned, the hue device is kind of the opposite of what you were asking for. It’s designed to let you use your existing dumb switch to control hue bulbs which are connected to a hue bridge. It doesn’t control the current to the lighting fixture with dumb bulbs. So that’s what’s new about it. Other in wall modules like the Aeotec let you keep your existing dumb switch, but control that particular circuit branch just like the dumb switch did.
As far as brilliant… From the beginning, this has been a company which overpromised and underdelivered, including in the area of smartthings integration. Search the forum and you’ll find a few threads about it, but I don’t know anybody who’s currently using it.
Sorry I’ve been slow to respond back to the awesome info shared in this thread. I ended up having to have two more rare surgeries that required a 4K mile roadtrip and it all came together pretty quick - which has rather monopolized all our time of late.
I’m truly sorry to hear that about Brilliant. It looks like such a cool solution but hearing that they’ve continued to overpromise/under deliver isn’t something I really want to invest in at this point - and I was seriously considering going this way (which would have cost a fair packet). I’ll definitely look much more closely before allowing it back on my shortlist. I really appreciate you saving a lot of money and aggro. I also liked that they are HomeKit compatible (but once I dug into that, I learned that it isn’t at all what it seemed either - it basically let the light been seen by HomeKit, and nothing else…which seems to fit exactly what you’re saying this company does with the overpromising/under delivering. That disappointing.
I also REALLY appreciate you sharing more about the Hue add-on that’s just getting released. I had no idea it worked how you said it did - which is exactly opposite of what I’m looking for (and how I thought it worked). You’ve saved me twice.
You know, it sure seems like it should be easier to integrate standard lighting into smart home stuff. But it isn’t. I wish I could just find some smart bulbs for the additional lights I’d like to control. But they’re all really weird. Long Fluoro tubes, a really strange bayonet floodlight (that I’ve never seen before), and of course, overhead lighting. I’d also love an off/on for our dumb ceiling fan. I know it wouldn’t offer speed control but off/on would be great.
Thanks again so much for your help. I really appreciate it!
That’s cool. I do have the bulbs and hub but it seems my use is completely opposite (next poster after you, thankfully, showed me that!). I don’t so much care about using my existing switches, I want to be able to make my existing switches and dumb lights (the sizes/styles I can’t find a smart bulb for), to be able to be integrated into smart home and have smart control. Seems this Hue device isn’t it. But I’m glad it’s working well. I can see a lot of folks would love that, esp with families/kiddos/non tech folks that can’t stop using the light switches.
@JDRoberts, as ever, an incredible post with amazing resources. WOW! So sorry it’s taken me too long to respond. Ended up in multiple surgeries again that all came together really fast and sort of took over life the last several weeks.
I will absolutely be going through your post with a fine tooth comb and gleaning every little bit I can. Maybe I could make one of the really easy switches might work for my use case. But I wanted to thank you so much for putting together such an incredible group of resources into your reply. It’s been hard for me to find much info on this and you really helped. I can’t get over all of your knowledge on these types of things. It’s truly amazing - as is your willingness to take the time to share it with us in the community. We’re super fortunate - and I wanted to thank you again for that.