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

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.


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.



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.


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.