FAQ: How to add a second wall dimmer without wiring?

wallswitch

#1

I’m looking for a solution to the following problem:

Our kitchen is rectangular and has two entrances on opposite sides of the room. Unfortunately, only one entrance has a wall dimmer to control the kitchen lights. As both entrances are used relatively equally, we’d like to have dimmers at both entrances to avoid having to walk across a dark room to turn on the light (causes more accidents than you’d think). We could obviously install 3-way dimmers to solve our problem, but after a long renovation, we’d prefer a solution that doesn’t involve fishing new wires every which way and paying expensive labor costs for an electrician to do this. We also want the two dimmers to work with ST. After some research, we believe the Lutron Caseta with Pico Wireless Remote Kit would solve our problem, as we could replace the already wired dimmer with the caseta dimmer and install the pico remote as the second dimmer at the opposite entrance. Based on these forums, however, the Lutron kit does not appear to work with ST. Can anyone think of a solution to our problem that would give us a second dimmer without actually having to wire it?


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#2

Depending on the exact details and your personal aesthetics, this could be very easy. Or quite difficult. But there are several choices if you’re in the U.S., and one for the UK.

project parameters

Here are the things that matter besides budget. (The costs on the solutions I’m going to list vary from $25 total to several hundred, but some people are happy to pay a lot more for aesthetics, so that part is just an individual decision.)

A) is any level of lag acceptable? Could you use an LED under cabinet strip that comes on with motion instantly in combination with waiting 2 or 3 seconds for the overhead lights to come on?

B) will you use smart bulbs? Or only dumb bulbs and a smart switch?

C) must the auxiliary have full control? Or would it be OK for it to have settings like 50%, 75%, and 100%?

D) how quickly do you need the status update from the switch back to smartthings? this affects two different things.

First, will it drive you crazy if you open your phone and it says the light is off when you can see the light is actually on, when you know that that status will update presently?

Second, do you intend to run any other logic off the auxiliary switch besides turning the master-controlled lights on?

For example, some people have a smart switch send a message to the hub so that it’s not just the kitchen lights that come on, but maybe the hallway lights in the next room. Right now, it’s not important what the other thing might be, it’s just important how quickly the hub needs to know that a person physically tapped that switch.

Obviously, like aesthetics and budget come there’s no one right answer to these. Different people will have different priorities. But they will affect the possible solutions.

philips dimmer. $25. fast, easy, and limited

If you get smartbulbs, Philips Hue makes a $25 dimmer switch that is very similar to the pico remote. It comes with a wall plate, or you can use it as a handheld remote. Battery-operated. It can toggle or dim a single group of up to 10 smart bulbs that are also controlled by SmartThings. No lag.

The main deficiency right now is it doesn’t fully integrate with SmartThings, and it doesn’t send the status back to the hub when the switch is tapped. Which means SmartThings still thinks the status is whatever the last master command is until it gets around to asking the master if anything is changed which could take a few minutes.

These went on sale in late September, almost immediately sold out everywhere, and will be in wide release in the U.S. on November 1. Best Buy, Staples and similar stores should carry them, as well as Amazon and other online retailers. Pretty much anyone who carries the Phillips hue bulbs. (The UK wide release is scheduled for November 30, and it’s available in Germany now.)

This one is mine. It’s on my refrigerator so my service dog can use it. (I’m quadriparetic with limited hand function.) The wallplate for this model also has magnets on the back giving you more options for easy placement. :sunglasses::dog:

2) $250 Cooper Aspire RF9500. nearly perfect, but expensive

Cooper makes a battery-operated switch called the anywhere switch for just this purpose. Cooper Aspire RF9500. Comes in several styles and colors. As long as the master is a smart switch, you can use dumb bulbs with this. The switch will talk to the SmartThings hub, and the Cooper line is one of the only ones that supports “instant status update” which means that communication is very quick. If you get the matching Cooper master, you will have full control with the dimmer. If you match it to a different switch, controls may be a little bit limited. Very well engineered, Cooper switches usually come with a five year warranty, although I haven’t checked this particular model lately. You will need some custom code to make it work, but there are community members using it.

The biggest downside is the cost. Depending where you buy it, Cooper switches can easily cost $200 each. Also Read the description carefully: the faceplate is usually sold separately.

3 SmartenIT 3 Toggle. fast, easy, dim limited to presets, looks different

SmartenIT has a $50 battery operated 3 toggle switch which is my personal favorite for many similar situations. Fully integrates with SmartThings, so you can use it to change modes, run a routine, or change a set of lights. But these are just toggle switches. Each of the three has an on and off. So you can use one for on/off, one button for 50%, and one for 75% or whatever, but it’s not full dimming control. And it’s not going to match your other switches.

4 “Earth to Lutron. Come in, Lutron.” Dual control systems, might have lots of lag.

It’s true that Lutron doesn’t integrate directly with SmartThings. One reason I’m not putting a photo in the section, because I don’t want people to jump on thinking Lutron devices work with SmartThings. They don’t.

But, both SmartThings and Lutron Caseta have IFTTT channels. (But the Lutron wall remote is not part of it.)

Which means if you have a Lutron Caseta light system in one room, it’s pretty easy for SmartThings to send a request to the lutron controller to change the level of the lights. Except that request has to go by Internet! (So out to the SmartThings things cloud, over to the IFTTT cloud, over to the Lutron cloud, back to the Lutron controller at your house, over to the Lutron switch.)

So it could take some time for the message to travel all the way around and the lights to actually change. And if you push the button on the Lutron remote, it could take a long time for SmartThings to know the lights had changed, or it might even never know it. And you probably have to set up virtual switches in your SmartThings system to represent the Lutron switches, which can get complicated.

You can improve some of this somewhat by adding yet another controller into the mix, but let’s not even go there right now. You can’t fix all of it.

These limitations make Lutron Caseta a very easy way to add control of window coverings, because usually nobody cares if it takes the curtains 30 seconds to start moving. But they care a lot if it’s a light.

So I mention this option, because it does exist, but it really doesn’t solve your particular problem for most people.

5 Tablet dashboard

Another option is to use an inexpensive tablet as a control center dashboard in that place. Then you could change all kinds of things, not just the dim levels. This is another one that might be combined with motion activated under cabinet light strips. Cost for the tablets vary a lot, although you can find android tablets for about $50 that will work fine. Or if you just want a couple of buttons on it, a $20 Wi-Fi phone. Aesthetics are a big issue for some people, but that works both ways. Some people love this idea. So this is one of those where some people want to do soon as they see it and some people are like “just not what I want.”

Smarttiles.click is A third-party dashboard app, developed by a member of the community here, which is free to try and then you donate if you like it. Fully customizable, works in any web browser. Very popular for this purpose. There’s even a forum topic just on different mounting solutions people are using for it.

6 and remember those motion activated options. They could be combined with one of the above, or just used on their own as safety light

Adds cost, but a lot of people love this approach.

7 and then there’s the one we use at my house: echo for voice control of the lights, including setting dim level. “Alexa, turn kitchen lights on to 80%.”

My favorite. :sunglasses: fantastic integration between SmartThings and Echo and works from anywhere in the room. Echo costs $179 but can do many different things. We have one in our living room that controls lights in several rooms, but coverage depends on your exact floorplan.

So, a number of choices depending on your answer to the first set of project parameter questions.


(Michael Barnathan) #3

Lutron just came out with a Zigbee-based Pico remote, which may or may not be supported yet, but stands a good chance of support in the near future. I would prefer these over the Clear Connect based Pico remotes in new installs. (I would prefer non-Lutron remotes over both, just to support companies that embrace open standards).

(See Lutron Connected Bulb Remote)

I’m working on a massive teardown and reengineering of the Wink Hub as a Lutron bridge that will enable SmartThings-Lutron integration as well, but I very much doubt ST, Wink, or Lutron will like me distributing that beyond my own personal use for my Caseta Wireless system.

And then some of us are also awaiting this:


#4

I suspect SmartThings would be very happy if you did. :wink: I agree the other two, not so much.

That one’s been “coming soon” for about 18 months. Which is better than their window film which has been “coming soon” for three years.

Aeon makes a lot of popular midrange Zwave devices available for many countries, and a lot of SmartThings homes use some of them.

But they also have a really weird marketing strategy, where they announce the device, actually get it fully certified by the z-wave alliance, and then sit on it. Then sometimes they’ll do a partial release, like they did with the doorbell, where retailers got about 50 of them, they sold out in an hour, and then nothing for literally months. Or years.

With most other brands, once it gets through the certification step, it’s put into production and available for purchase. But not Aeon.

Not sure what their sales strategy is but I suspect a guy named Godot is involved. :sunglasses:

Thanks for the link to the “Lutron connected bulb remote” topic as well. It is very similar to the Phillips Hue dimmer remote in 1) above, similar price, similar limitations with SmartThings at the current time. Community members are working on adding additional functionality to both these devices, so hopefully at least one will succeed. If these integrated as well as the smartenIT 3 toggle, that would be awesome! But we’re not there yet.


#5

Thanks for the thorough reply! To answer your questions:

A - Lag is one of those pet peeves. Maybe we could deal with 1 second, but we’d strongly prefer instantaneous
B - Our entire kitchen is lit with dumb recessed lights already. We would be open to smart recessed lights if they weren’t too expensive (<$10 ea, we have 4)
C - Full dimming control is not necessary
D - Not essential to update instantly. We mainly want the ST integration to automate lights turning on and off when we’re away

In response to your suggested options

1 - Phillips Hue Dimmer - We like this option, since it would essentially replicate the lutron kit. The only drawback is we’d have to buy 4 hue downlights, which im finding around $50 each.
2 - Cooper - athis is great, but pretty pricey
3 - SmartenIT - Affordable and provides a solution, but I don’t like the aesthetic of 3 switches, or having to remember which switch is which
4 - Lutron IFTTT - The efficacy of this would all depend on how long it took the on message to arrive. Much more than 0.5 - 1 seconds is probably the max we could do.
5 - Tablet - This is a really neat concept. My main concern is there aren’t outlets on that wall, so unsure how I’d power it
6 - Motion Activated - We actually bought one of these for the foyer. We’re going to install it tomorrow, and based on our experience, we may end up having motion activated kitchen lights
7 - Echo - We have an echo with a remote and are excited that it integrates with ST. But our echo is in another room and even in that room, it sometimes has trouble hearing us, so we’d prefer not to rely on it for turning on kitchen lights, since we’d use them very often.

Overall, great suggestions. We like the hue dimmers and the motion activated options the best. Thanks for the insight.


#6

If the zigbee based pico remote was supported by ST, this would be awesome.

I saw the Aeotec switch in another thread, but didn’t realize it’s been “coming soon” for 18 months. What a shame.


#7

On powering a dashboard device:

Walmart sells some $20 Wi-Fi phones that you never have to activate on the phone and they will work on your local Wi-Fi to run the dashboard. So, there are some people who get two of them and just swap them on and off a Velcro patch on the wall and the charger stand. It’s a $40 solution if you like the aesthetics and don’t mind swapping the devices when they need to be charged. :sunglasses:

For some people, it will be worth it to have a plug put in to be a charger for the dashboard device. If you checked the topic linked to above you’ll see a lot of different solutions.

As far as the downlights, Osram has a new line just coming out which is less expensive, white only, which might give you some more options.


#8

Pico uses Lutron’s proprietary frequency protocol, not Zigbee.

Their zigbee remote is their new “Lutron Connected Bulb Remote” which looks very similar to the Phillips hue dimmer switch.

Community members are working on improving integration for both of these, but are not there yet.

Integration with the pico remote would require full integration Lutron. I Don’t see that coming for a long time, but you never know.

Integration with the connected bulb remote, the zigbee device, is much more likely.


(Michael Barnathan) #9

The system that uses the Wink Hub as a bridge is now finished and up at https://github.com/quantiletree/SmartWink. It seems to be working fairly well with my Picos at home, though I make no claims that it will be easy to get working on anyone else’s network :smile:. That still won’t help you with the Zigbee remotes, but I’d imagine support for those will be much more forthcoming than the Clear Connect ones seemed to be.


(Greg Rawls) #10

I am dumb founded that there is not an easy ST wireless switch


#11

It does seem odd that there aren’t any on the official compatibility list. If you’re willing to use community created device handlers, though, there are several choices.

Over the last six months or so several new devices have been introduced to the marketplace, so you now have a choice of quite a few. And if you really just mean “wireless” in terms of radio frequency rather then “wireless” to mean battery – operated, there are even more options. :sunglasses: But even if you just stick with battery-operated options, there are least five now.

See the following:

Batterypowered options include: