SmartThings Community

FAQ: 2019 UK options for light switches with smart bulbs?

Hi All

So I have already made the jump, some years ago to smart bulbs. A combination of hue and other cheaper brands.

So I have the issue of having UK switches that once turn off render the smart bulb useless.

Are there any smart switches that can be used (that can replace the original switches) that might go some way to solving this issue?

I have 2,3 and 4 button switches.

The best solution I’ve found when you still want both switch and bulb to be smart is a bit of clever wiring. You wire the bulb to always be on (bypass the switch), then wire in the smart switches with nothing attached to the Load terminal. (Attach the Line, Neutral, and ground wires only), then use the Smart Lighting Smart App to mirror the light to the switch.
It’s a kludge. It’s not elegant. It works.

What smart switch is good?

I thought that suggestion was not legal in the UK? It’s allowed in a number of places in the US although there are some specific local code issues in some jurisdictions.

There are multiple options for this available in the UK now. It depends on exactly what you want to accomplish.

If your hue bulbs work with a hue bridge and you just want a parallel means of control, Then the new “friends of hue” kinetic energy switches work very well, look just like regular switches, and are neither battery powered nor mains powered so you can put them anywhere. :level_slider::bulb:

See the following discussion thread (the topic title is a clickable link)

IMG_5535

There are several different brands of these, and most can handle two separate groups of Lights, so although they are expensive, they may be able to replace two switches of other types. Some offer four individual buttons, So if you set your lights up in scenes, that might also work.

image

Beyond that, the 2018 FAQ still applies, there’s nothing really new since then. So take a look at that: ( The topic title is a clickable link.)

And here’s the buttons and remotes FAQ. Any of the battery powered options will work fine, because the wall switch will communicate with the hub and the hub will communicate with the bulb.

Each entry is marked as US or UK and Mains powered or battery powered, so read carefully to find the ones you want.

Each post should usually have a link to a discussion thread about that particular device.

If you have any follow on questions, please take them to the discussion thread for that individual device, don’t post them in the FAQ itself. We try to keep that one to just one or two posts per device.

Or you can come back here and post questions as well. :sunglasses:

Thanks for the above. I will take a look at them all!

Do you know of any light switch replacement that is zigbee based? Kinda wanna remove the old switches (something like lightwaveRF)

I can see why that might be an issue, but wasn’t aware that it might violate code. Are you aware whether the type of light socket that has a pull switch or turn switch is allowed? It seems to me that might be the way to still have a switch that kills power to the socket without having a switch on the wall that wrecks automation.

Sorry, I’m confused.

First, switches of that type are generally not usable by kids or people in wheelchairs and don’t meet all building codes for that reason.

Second, we don’t want to kill the power to the bulb. We want the smart bulb to always have current. We just want something that looks and feels like a switch on the wall for convenience.

Philips has been working on exactly this issue for their hue system for Some time. As has Osram.

Both have decided that the best option is a battery operated or kinetic powered zigbee switch. There is also a move towards smart switch covers which will fit over the existing switch as yet another option.

Both of these are discussed at length in the FAQ linked to above. :sunglasses:

I’ll confess, I’m trying to figure out the logic of building code. (That may be the problem right there.) I’ll likely read through the code to see if there’s anything that states a rationale.
My original thought process was “Why wouldn’t it be OK to “hot-wire” the bulb?” The only answer I could think of was that, if for some reason the bulb needed to be physically shut off, there would be no way to do this other than the breaker box. Since the standard operating procedure for working on either switch or socket is to turn off the breaker, I don’t really see why one needs another means to kill power to the bulb. Killing power to the bulb is exactly what I meant by “wrecking automation.” Of course you don’t want to do that, but, if that is what is actually required by code, what else can you do?
I can see that turn switches might not be reachable by kids or folks using wheelchairs, but pull switches can always be within easy reach of any users.
The only other thought is that when the house changes hands, the new owners are unlikely to know that the socket is hot regardless of the switch. That could pose an issue. I’ll grant that. The “smart switch covers” seem to be a reasonable solution for that as it’s clear that there’s something else attached to the switch.

Pull switches can present a strangulation issue for children, which is why the safety restrictions generally require that they be relatively short. This is a very real issue and is the same one that applies to cord for window coverings. The alternative is a stiffer material which cannot form a loop, which is often used, but whileit may work well in a bathroom, it’s almost always in the way in other rooms, particularly for a ceiling fitting.

People in wheelchairs don’t necessarily just have the loss of their legs. Many of us, myself included, are quadriparetic and do not have much use of our hands. Pull cords may be impossible to use regardless of the length of the cord: really anything that requires a grip.

Just as another example, I require that each room in my home have at least one switch which is dog friendly. :dog:

image

not my dog, but mine knows the same behavior

Switches which just require a push can be pushed with an elbow, the arm of a wheelchair, or even backed into.

Here are some of the UK regulations:

Safety codes sometimes go too far, no question, but in most cases they are there for a reason. It’s a reason that may not matter much to most people but may matter a very great deal to some.

I have myself written a project report to This forum about How, before we had added home automation, some of our lights would stay on all night because I needed a pathway of lights through several rooms when I was going to bed at night. Although my assistance dog could turn light switches on and off, I couldn’t send him back two or three rooms before to turn the light off there. And a nightlight wasn’t always sufficient for me to determine if the path was really clear as we were going through.

So for me, one of the very first use cases for Home Automation was to be able to, with one switch or with voice, to turn on a pathway of lights through several rooms and then turn them off again once I was in bed. :sunglasses:

But while my own preference is for voice control most of the time, we do have switches on the walls right where people would expect them to be, because we also have a lot of people coming through the house. We are three housemates, each with our own friends and family who visit, and I also have health aides who come from an agency and do not always have smartphones and may not ever have been here before.

Switches work well for everybody, it’s just a matter of choosing the right device to protect the smart bulbs. But there are more and more of these devices coming on the market every year. :sunglasses:

To my question on the switches. Is there any options for a replacement of the actual switch.

Seem to only have found lightwaveRF ones

The lightwave RF switch doesn’t help with your original question, because it also cuts the current to the smart bulb. Turning off the lightwave RF switch still leaves the smart bulb unable to hear the next network command exactly the same way a dumb switch does. So useless as you described in your first post. :disappointed_relieved:

Basically any switch which cuts the current on that channel leaves the bulb’s radio without power.

So you need to choose a solution which doesn’t cut the power.

As the FAQ linked to above explains, in the UK, this leaves you with the following options:

  1. Cover the existing switch with a device designed for that purpose

  2. put a child safety lock on the existing switch and put a battery operated or green power switch next to it

  3. Cover the existing switch with a small box mount and put one of the other smart switches that doesn’t control the channel on top of that

These three methods all leave access available to the original switch.

Or, if allowed in your jurisdiction:

  1. tie off the line inside the wall so that the bulb remains always on power and then use a SmartSwitch in place of the original dumb switch, but wire it so that it does not actually control the current to the smart bulb. It just sends radio messages to the hub. The problem is that I don’t believe this method is legal in the UK. And if there are jurisdictions where it is legal, it means there is no way to turn the smart bulbs on or off if your home automation system is not working.

I am not aware of any smart switch on any protocol available in either the UK or the US which allows you to Sometimes cut the power to the fitting and sometimes not through normal operation of the switch.

If you’re asking if there are other all in one mains-powered smart switches that work with smartthings for the UK, yes, there are. But none of them act any differently with a smart bulb on the same channel than a dumb switch would.

Interesting. I hadn’t considered dog-friendly switches. (Undoubtedly paddles :slight_smile: )
I also hadn’t even thought that someone might actually leave a line hanging from a pull switch in a traffic area. In a time way before smart switches, etc. I remember rigging a pull switch for some folks that had small children. We ended up using conduit to route it over to a wall where it was out of the traffic path and in reach of both the kids and parents.
I also helped a friend of mine with some access issues he had with his then-current home. Part of that was that he did not have the use of his legs at all, so all the switches needed to be moved down within reach. The other aspect was that he needed switches that were more forgiving of random hand movements. Paddles worked fairly well for him. I can definitely understand how important a dog-friendly switch could be.

1 Like

Hi. Sorry to hijack this thread but I’ve been keeping an eye on the UK smart light switch scene (or lack there of) for years now.

So disappointing that still very little exists for the UK market and what does exist isn’t particularly stylish.

Any way, I just had an explore behind the light switches in my home (moved in not that long back) and discovered that they have neutrals. Great!

Are there actually any more switches available in the UK if you have a neutral or not really?

At first i was really pleased but now I’m thinking it isn’t going to really make much difference to me as I’m in the UK and there still just isn’t much available.

Ideally I’m after 1, 2 and 3 gang glass touch light switches which provide always on power to smart bulbs.

1 Like

Yes, there are quite a few additional options. Start with the selection from Vesternet.

You can also look at the list of officially certified devices for the EU. It’s just that some of them may not actually be sold yet as certification can occur as much as a year before market release.

https://products.z-wavealliance.org/regions/1/categories/5/products

Some of these might require custom code to work with SmartThings, but you will see that the selection is broader if you have a neutral wire.

Also, in most of these cases you can purchase separate covers in different colors and materials if you want something nicer looking.

The following are @AdamV ‘s photos, he generally purchases the covers from a German stockist. See the discussion in the following thread:

[Release] Z-Wave.me, Popp, & Devolo Wireless wall Controller & Key Fob (EU), with button controller dimming apps and CoRE integration

:sunglasses:

Thanks for a very quick and useful response! I’ll have a browse

1 Like

I forgot what thread we were in for a moment, but just to be specific, you would need to get the battery operated versions in order to leave the power always on to the smart bulbs. So I guess I’ll leave my previous post up, but it doesn’t really answer your specific question.

If you don’t want to use a battery powered device, one good UK alternative for leaving the power always on would be the one that @robinwinbourne Suggested in another thread.

Use a dual Fibaro relay (not dimmer) behind any momentary switch that you like and you can set it up as a dummy switch that does not turn off the current to the smart bulbs. See the following post as there are a lot of small details involved.

You wouldn’t be able to get dimming from the wall switch, but you could do scenes like “50% brightness“ which might be enough, it just depends on what you need.

UK regulations require that there is a method of switching off all lighting circuits, be it in the same or immediately adjacent room, be it an adjacent fuse board, or a physical light switch.

The isolating light switch can be what I call a ‘fish key’, typically used for testing emergency lighting circuits, but it must still be in the same or an immediately adjacent room.

image

Unfortunately the double relay option I posted the other day, linked to by @JDRoberts above, won’t meet regulations either… that advice was given for a second switch position, not the primary one. Also, that relay method won’t give you scenes or dimming… just on/off control, with large delays and unreliability at that!

You could theoretically use a Fibaro dimmer 2 module. They allow for two switch inputs per module, switch one controls the load, switch 2 can be used just for sending scene ID’s via single, double, triple click and hold / release events, thus programmatically controlling your smart bulbs.

You would need to power the load via the dimmer module, connect switch 1 to a ‘fish key’ to allow for isolation of the load, disable the dimming capability via the parameter settings (to avoid damage to the smart bulb), and use the switch 2 terminals with a retractive / momentary switch for scene control.

Grid systems like MK would be perfect for this, take a double gang face plate and install a fish key switch and retractive switch side-by-side.

They also come in different gang combinations… but they are certainly not the most attractive of switches.

One problem you will face is the initial calibration of the dimmer modules, as when they first power up the dimming level fades up and down a few times which could damage a smart bulb, this is automatic and unavoidable! Dimming can be disabled thereafter but not in the first instance. You would need to calibrate with regular LED bulb(s) of the same wattage, and then swap over to the smart bulbs after disabling the dim function, manual fine tuning of the calibration would probably still be required via parameter settings.

Another problem will be if you have a traditional 2 wire system at the switch? In a 2 wire install the Fibaro Dimmers draw a tiny amount of power through the bulb, which won’t work for with a smart bulb. You would need to install Fibaro bypass modules at additional cost (£9 per circuit). If you have a neutral at the switch, this won’t be an issue.

Whilst I appreciable you have already invested in smart bulbs… you are now looking to spend the same again, probably more, to double up with less function and more complexity and 100% reliance on the cloud… why not just sell the smart bulbs on eBay / gift to friends / relatives. Buy smart modules and use them as they are intended, to switch the load directly, instantly and locally.

Like you my first foray into home automation many years ago was with a stack of Wemo smart bulbs… a huge mistake which I came to regret… I compounded the problem by buying a stack of Wemo wall switches but I eventually bit the bullet and sold them all on eBay, for an ok return. I upgraded to a proper ST system using Fibaro dimmers throughout, and life is great.

The only place I still use smart bulbs are in roof spaces, triggered by contact sensors on loft hatches, but to be honest I could just as easily use dumb door switches to achieve the same thing.

1 Like

Excellent post, thanks!

I have to admit my own favourite method for providing wall switch control for smart bulbs is still just to put a box cover over the existing switch that can be lifted up for access and then put a battery operated switch or kinetic energy switch or Tablet on top of that.

It puts the switch right where you want it to be, it’s easy to change out in the future, and I think it looks OK. But what do I know?