FAQ: Philips Hue and Other Smart Bulbs - What sort of light switches to use with them? (Long FAQ)

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(Sean Brandt) #1

Thinking on a big move to Hue lights, the real question is - what switches to use with them? If they’re all automatable via ST and other devices, do I really want to put them all on controllable switches too? There’s the advantage that I can arrange to ensure those switches are on so that the the Hue bulbs would be too…but it also leaves open the ability for folks to just turn them off and leave them off.

Hmm. Thoughts?


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(Bobby) #2

I use regular toggle z-wave switches with all my zigbee bulbs. The advantage is that you can make sure you are able to turn the bulbs back on when you want it, even if someone has flipped the switch.

Also, the switches MAY run locally whereas the hue ( if you are using hue hub) are not. So if the Internet goes down, your hue bulbs will stay on, unless you get off the couch and turn the switch off. I like to have back up for all my automations. Thank you ST for raising me this way, but you never know what poltergeist runs wild, so if one automation fails, I have a back up.


#3

This is often discussed in the forums, and there’s no one right answer. Depends very much on how your household will use them.

1) Voice plus switch locks

In my house we want to be sure that there will be switches that work when the Internet is down, but we’re not real worried about the aesthetics most of the time.

Our primary means of like control is voice using echo. So hardly anybody goes near the switches as it is.

We just put childproof locks on the switches that need to stay on. They act as reminders but can still be used in an emergency.

2) Philips Hue Dimmer Switch as a parallel means of control

We also have a couple of the new battery powered Phillips Hue dimmer switches, for example in the guestroom, because they’re very intuitive for guests to use.

SmartThings does poll the hue bridge about every five minutes, so even though it won’t know that the Hue dimmer switch was used, the status will synchronize again in about five minutes, which is good enough for us.

These are relatively inexpensive, available in both the US and Europe, and easy to set up and use, but You must have a Hue bridge to use these with bulbs that are also controlled by SmartThings.

3) Smart Switch Covers

A more integrated alternative to the Philips hue switch is a smart switch cover. It’s a battery operated device, which means it will not act as a repeater. The idea is that it fits over the top of an existing switch. You leave the existing switch always powered on, so that there is power to the smart bulbs. But the cover has its own buttons that you can use to send a wireless signal either to the bulbs or in some cases to the hub to instruct the bulbs to turn on and off.

If the device allows you to send a signal to the hub, it may be possible to use it as what SmartThings calls a “button controller” like the Aeon minimote, which would mean you could then use the buttons to control devices of a different protocol then the switch cover itself, or maybe two arm/disarm smart home monitor, etc.

And again because these devices are battery operated, some of them can also be used on the nightstand or to create a virtual three-way or again to arm/disarm smart home monitor without having to cover an existing switch.

Two of these have recently come on the market.

The first is the Osram Lightify smart switch. This is a zigbee device. A new community-created device handler has just been released for it.

The second is the Nortek Z wave smart switch cover which is being sold under several brand names, including domitech and go control. It is brand-new, but a community member already has a button controller device handler for it which is reportedly working well. :sunglasses:

These both solve the problem of household members turning off smart bulbs at the switch. :sunglasses:

4) The Mood Cube and other options

If you look at option two in the UK lighting FAQ, you’ll see a lot of different options for controlling smart bulbs. These all also work in the US.

5) removing access to the old switch

Some people keep existing switches but put a nice box over them. They just like the look of it better. They may also put a networked switch next to the box for every day use. This can be a good choice for smart bulbs which will be primarily used with automation and where you just want to keep people from turning the power off at the switch.

6) Smart Zwave on/off switch plus smart bulb

You can combine a smart switch with a smart bulb, but then obviously you’ve doubled your device cost. That’s worth it to some people to make sure everything stays in synch because it gives them more control over the look from the decorating standpoint. It’s just a personal choice.

This will still work like a regular light switch even if the hub is not available. However, you are cutting power to the bulb and the settings may not be what you want when it gets turned back on with the switch. Also, you won’t have Dimming at the switch, just on off.

7) Wall mount dashboard

A lot of people like the look of a wall mount dashboard. You can get a $20 Wi-Fi phone for this, or use an inexpensive tablet. This doesn’t control the load to the light, but that could be a good thing.

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There is a topic where community members post ideas and photos of their dashboard projects. Very cool stuff.

8) networked switch that does not cut power to the bulb

you can also use any networked switch that does not control the load the bulb is on and have the bulb follow it. Again, you’re using two devices so your budget is going to be higher, but it does give you a lot of style options. The switch can draw power from a different circuit, or be battery-operated.

The only thing is it will not work if your hub is not working. So if the Internet goes down, you might not be able to turn your bulbs off. But you can get dimming at the switch this way if you get a switch with those features. There are a lot of different styles that will work for this.

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As mentioned, some people just add these to the existing set up and use a child lock or a box over the original switches. Other people prefer to replace the original switch or put a blank plate over it.

The button list has more details on these options:

9) Hotwire the bulbs, bypassing the switch

In most US jurisdictions it is legal to wire power to be always on to a ceiling fixture, but there are a few where it is not to code because they are afraid that someone will turn power off at the switch, not at the breaker, and then immediately start unscrewing the fixture to replace it. and electrocute themselves. So if you are thinking about leaving the power always on, you need to first check your local jurisdiction.

The biggest issue with this option is that if your home automation system is unavailable, you may have no way to turn bulbs on and off. Since after a power outage most smart bulbs come back on to full brightness, this could be a problem if your Internet is still out but your power comes back on. But again, it just depends on how your household uses the bulbs.

So there are many different options that can work, it just depends on your own needs and preferences.

but not a smart dimmer switch that controls the load for a smart bulb

The one thing you really don’t want to do is to use a smart dimmer switch with a smart bulb that is controlling the power to the bulb. It just creates a really complex set up, and you are in danger of burning out either the bulb or the switch.

Summary

So either you just leave the existing switch and add an alternate means of control or you use a smart on on/off switch to control the load to the bulb, or you put a networked switch/button/dashboard/switch cover on a different circuit (or batteries) to essentially act as a remote to the smart bulb. Some of these may have some synchronization issues but depending on your use case that may not matter that much to you.


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(Cody Truscott) #4

Accessory switches from Linear work fabulously — you wire the circuit as always on, but then use SmartThings to handle on/off/dimming thru an app.


(Larry) #5

Just thought I’d let you know. It says accessoriy switch and needs master,. But it is only stated that way as it has no load output, only ground , neutral and line.

Which makes it perfect to control hue lights from an in wall location.

You simply wire line to load permanently.

It will pair with a Cooper master as stated but also pairs with St, and it has instant on status.

http://www.westwayelectricsupply.com/cooper-wiring-rf9542-zdw-dimmer-aspire-rf-decorator-accessory-for-rf-mstr-neutral-white.html

So no need to okay more for the expensive master.


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(Matthew) #6

Anyone know if this switch will pair directly to ST? With this I could wire light on all the time and use this as the control switch for the bulbs. Cuts the cost in half of a real switch and the Cooper.


#7

See the first bullet point in the product description:

Requires a master switch to be installed - this is NOT a stand-alone switch!

Although it says Z wave, it’s not actually a Z wave switch. SmartThings will not recognize it at all. It’s basically just a wired remote to the matching master switch (which does have a Z wave antenna). So it can’t be used in the fashion you suggest.

Instead, you have to get one of the auxiliaries suggested above which does have their own zwave antennas.


(Matthew) #8

Ok thanks that is what I was thinking, but just wanted to validate.


(Larry) #9

the cooper rf9542 auxiliary are really zwave compatible … so those are good for your case


#10

This discussion was just what I was looking for. One quick question in terms of wiring
So I get that the line, neutral and ground need to be connected to the switch. Load does not need to be, but it needs to be wire nutted to the line.
Would the following be the right way to do this? Wirenut the load and the line, and pigtail another wire from that wirenut into the line terminal of the switch?

Thanks


#11

I want GE lights (12722, 12723, 12724) and I love them. I am going to finish the house this weekend but I wanted to get a little more detail on this statement.

I would like to use a dimmer in almost all cases that myself, or a future home buyer, might want them. But in some cases I would like to use Philips Hue bulbs. What are the concerns? Would 100% dim not be the same as a normal on/off switch?


(Larry) #12

you cannot dim smart bulbs as mentioned previously… they don’t work when not getting full power or shut off. That is why you use switches that are zwave or zigbee and the cuirent to the bulb is always on… If you use ge switches you don’t connect them to the load… you wire the load always on…


#13

You reiterated exactly my confusion. :smile:
My question is maybe better put like this:
“Do Philips Hue Bulbs function exactly the same with a dimmer at 100%, than they would powered by and on/off switch?”

I’m only a partial noobie, so I do know the functionality won’t be improved. The question is merely putting in a dimmer switch for $3-$5 extra so when I leave the place (and take the bulbs and likely leave the switches) there will be a dimmer for the buyer (more value).


(Larry) #14

As long as the dimmer supports led bulbs . Many don’t support a low load circuit


#15

@Navat604 or one of the electrical experts can answer better, but I’ve always been told that a smart bulb changing the current draw on a circuit with a dimmer switch can damage the dimmer switch. There’s no problem if the switch is just an on/off switch. But if it’s a dimmer the switch itself will get confused as the bulb changes the current. But again, I’m not an expert in this area, so hopefully someone who is will chime in.


(James) #16

When I first installed my smart bulbs they were on a dimmer switch. All of the lights flickered. It was very annoying. I have since replaced the dimmers with regular switches and the flickering went away.


(Ray) #17

That’s really depend on the dimmer. Some dimmer actually dimming by changing the AC frequency and not voltage. So your hue bulb won’t be too happy and most likely burn out over time or buzz/flicker.
Most smart dimmers also have ramp rate for up down. This is extremely bad for non dimmable LED/CFL/smart bulbs.
So 100% for dimmer switch sometime is not really the same as just on/off switch.


#18

I have this setup. GE dimmer switch with auxiliary switch, 4 overhead GE smart (dimmable) LEDs. The bulbs are wired in series with the Neutral. This lets me control each bulb separately, which I do often (it’s a large room). I can dim all at once by dimming the switch, or dim any one bulb. Performance seems to be fine, no flicker. BUT, the bulbs tend to forget who they are periodically, and I have to on/off the switch 5 times to reset them. I believe this is because of the power cut at the switch, but it only seems to happen after a few days. I was going to write an app that powers the switch on then exercise the bulbs daily, see if that helps. I didn’t think of this before, but i need to change my routines to switch bulbs and leave switches powered. That should still let me turn on lights manually with a double tap. i also need to figure out this virtual switch thing.


(Tim Slagle) #20

8 posts were split to a new topic: Wiring for Cooper 9542 to allow hot wiring smart bulbs?


(Brian Salyer) #21

So I have HUE bulbs (BR30) throughout my entire basement with a normal dumb switch. If I did replace it with a GE In Wall switch, I am still in the same boat with the cutting power because my wife refuses to use the app because I do not have a motion sensor or contact sensor to trigger.

So my question is, after that long setup, if I do a GE switch, I can use @bravenel Rules Machine to them trigger the HUE bulbs to dim, change colors have certain ones off (by the TV and creates a glare), etc.? If so, I have read a lot about the dimmers and bulbs in RM, but still am a bit confused about which section does what. Can you recommend a good post regarding this?

As always, @JDRoberts, you and others are the lifeblood of this community.