Having house rewired - any tips / advice on how to integrate Smartthings (UK)

I wish there was something that looked more like a traditional light switch. Both LightwaveRF and Lutron are push-button jobbies.

I need this both for WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor), and also because we have an elderly relative with brain problems who stays with us, and who needs very familiar looking controls.

I reckon if someone made a traditional UK lightswitch which fitted shallow backboxes and which worked with ZigBee or (EU flavour) Z-Wave, and two wires (natch) they’d sell like hot cakes.

Are you listening MK, Crabtree, Contactum, Telco, marbo, BG, etc. ?

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IMO fit deep boxes, the deeper the better and a neutral as it will give you more options. I would also wire some cat 6 if you can. Even Cat 5e is OK as it will support 1Gig at up to 100M, which its plenty of bandwidth. The cat 6 cable is not expensive compared to the total job cost and it again it gives you options. I ran 2 ports to each room and still found I could do with some extras. Especially some AP points the ceilings.

I have Fibaro 212 dimmers working fine with standard MK logic pus switches. For me the system had to work just like it did before. I’m happy with how it works and how it looks.

I

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Speaking as someone who bought and converted a 3 bed semi in the UK, with automation in mind:

Deep backboxes - very important. 47mm would be great. I have some of these in extended areas (loft/back of house) but these boxes would start to affect the other side of some of the original internal walls if fitted everywhere. 35mm boxes can hold a module and a flat face plate, but it’s tight.

Neutral to light switches - not absolutely necessary. If you have the opportunity of running them, great. If there are some places you can’t run them, or it’ll mean pulling plaster off where you weren’t going to then don’t worry about it. There are modules like the Fibaro Dimmer 2 which are (imho) some of the best out there. They don’t require a neutral and offer some really great features. I have used Fibaro Dimmer 2s and chrome plated retractive switches throughout the house.

Electrical sockets - I like you have looked around for a solution. Lightwave RF was the only one available. I was uncomfortable in the thought of investing, as it’s a fairly closed protocol and doesn’t work without some fudging. I considered the reality of what I might need switches like this for, and went for standard (nice looking) outlets instead, and use the ST outlet adapters where necessary.

With heating, the jury is still out. I have three zones (water, CH and underfloor) which need dealing with, and things keep changing in this arena, so I still have dumb thermostats for the moment.

ETA: Smart bulbs work nicely with Fibaro Dimmer 2s, you can connect a second switch to send commands to a smart bulb from a normal switch. This is great for outdoor bulbs.

Outlets

There are a number of pocket socket choices available, and as long as you’re OK with the aesthetics, these work just as well as wiring the in wall outlet itself. Also, the newest generation of zwave plus, which came out in 2015 allows for somewhat smaller devices and this has added even more pocket socket options. Zwave plus also has the longest indoor range of any of the typical protocols, which is nice also. At my own house, I just use pocket sockets.

If aesthetics are more important to you, the same Inwall relays that can be used for light switch can also be used for a networked outlet. In fact, in home automation a networked outlet is the same device class as a wall switch, it just has a different form factor. But it has on, off, and on some models dimming. Most have a physical pushbutton as well for manual control, although it’s often a bit awkward to use. But it’s there.

Since the relay is inside the wall, you can use any outlet faceplates you like. Again, though, it’s better to stay with plastic to allow the single through. And in particular, avoid metal outlet plates or frames.

Thank you for all the replies. Lots of very useful information. I’ll have a chat with my electrician re deep back boxes and neutral wires to lights.

I agree re sockets - realistically I’m not sure what use I’d have for having smart sockets at every outlet.

Fibaro looks great but still relatively expensive.

Currently I am thinking of having fibaro dimmers fitted at each light switch (around 10 switches). I’d really appreciate some further info / opinions / advice however:

  1. My current lights are standard non smart lights. These consist of traditional light bulbs / fittings and also gu10s ib the kitchen. Although I’d love smart bulbs everywhere this is prohibitively expensive. So ideally I will go for a combination but keep the majority of bulbs as standard. Combining these with the fibaro dimmers - would this still work as a “smart” solution when combined with smartthings. Particularly the gu10s as these seem to be harder to find in smart form at a cheaper price.

  2. My other question is regarding the dimmer function - I’m keen to replace all my bulbs with LED Bulbs. Would the dimmer function still work - I am aware that traditional dimmers do not work with all LED Bulbs.

  3. I’m still undecided re network cabling. Any other opinions appreciated (thanks to those who have given so far)

  4. any suggestions re external flood lighting on the house and the best way to wire this in - again would a smart swifhc and standard light be the best way to go?

Thanks again! Much appreciated!

Never use a dimmer that controls the current load to a smart bulb, whether that dimmer is smart or not. Basically you need to allow a smart bulb to control its own current draw and you leave the current on the circuit on all the time. Otherwise, you will eventually burn out either the bulbs or the switch, and can start a fire. You’ll see a lot of people who said they have done it and it was fine, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe.

You can use a smart dimmer on a different circuit (or battery powered) and have the smart bulb “follow it” through wireless commands, and these work very well. There are battery powered Devolo and Popp switches in the UK that works very well with smart Bulbs and with SmartThings thanks to a custom device handler by a community member.

Or you can just use the Phillips hue battery powered dimmer switch which is available from Amazon.co.uk and is also very popular. It doesn’t have direct integration to SmartThings, but it works is a parallel means of control, and the status will get updated in smartthings the next time the bridge is polled, within five minutes. We use these at our house in the guestroom as an intuitive means of control.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Philips-8718696506943-Personal-Lighting-Wireless/dp/B0148NMVX8

Both are good choices if you want a wall switch with smart bulbs. :sunglasses:

Or you can use a smart dimmer like the Fibaro with dumb dimmable bulbs, and that also works very well. You may have to experiment to find just the right brand and model of dimmable dumb LED to work with the Fibaro without flickering, but it should be doable.

Just don’t use any dimmer to control current flow to a smart bulb.

I really don’t think the bulb is the right place to control a bulb. It ‘fights’ with the switch. Much better to have control in the switch itself, working in tandem.

Personally I would not use smart bulbs. Their biggest advantage I can see is that you don’t have to make any adjustments to your standard wiring. Great aftermarket fit for plug ‘n’ play instead of a single bulb. If I look at my house I only have 2 internal bulbs where that would work. The rest are multi-bulb fittings, GU10s and low voltage down-lighters.

The disadvantages of smart bulbs are that they are expensive, there are limited options and you will find they don’t play well with the people in your house. For them to work you need to leave the switch on all the time and it will take a long time for people to get used to that. I retrofitted a couple of external lights with PIRs months ago and I still find the switches turned off. Maybe it was all my years of moaning about turing lights off :wink:

If you have the opportunity to re-wire then do it properly and fit the modules. That way you can use standard switches so the system works just like it did before, choose any lights you like and have the automation. The only thing stopping me rolling out the whole house is the fact my back boxes are not deep enough and its not politically a good time to suggest messing up the decoration for something the better half doesn’t want to begin with.

If you have the opportunity to wire in some network cabling then also do it. Twisted pair has many uses beyond networking. Its quite handy to extend some AV or get power to a remote module.

This has probably been asked many times, but is there a light switch available anywhere that has built in z-wave/zigbee functionality, so no modules required?

Many people like smart bulbs for the color changing abilities, not necessarily turning blue or orange but in particular those that can change color temperature from cool white to warm white. Rainbow colored ones can also be nice for notifications, like blue if the laundry is done and orange if the gate is left open. So again, different things work for different people.

While it’s true that the issue of keeping power to the bulbs used to cause a lot of conflict with people turning power off at the switch, over the last year a number of devices have come out to address exactly this issue, in particular the two battery powered switches that I already mentioned. These work well to offer an intuitive control on the wall while still keeping power to the bulb. There are other options as well, including voice control.

I think we all have different levels of WAF (wife acceptance factor).

Actually, that’s sexist. There’s a HAF too, eh @Mavis ?

P.

Just to clarify what you mean by “no modules required.” If you mean not needing a separate in wall relay like The Fibaro, the market has been Limited in the UK and EU by the fact that most switch boxes don’t have neutral wires and most of these switches do require neutral wires to keep the radio powered.

If you do have a neutral at the switchbox, there are some zwave ones, such as those from Devolo ( these look the same as the battery powered model I’ve already mentioned, but they also come in a mains powered version). TKB also makes a popular line.

Vesternet has a reasonable selection. Note that most of these will require custom code to work with smartthings. There are as yet none on the official compatibility list for the UK, I believe. However, most of the ones that use zwave can be made to work.

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Indeed. Many people use FAF ( Family acceptance factor) for this reason when speaking in general terms rather than of their own household.

In my case, because we have three housemates, various friends and aides coming through, I use xAF, where X stands for “anyone but me.” :wink:

Different people have different opinions on this, but in general, yes, I think most people find it easier to use the standard bulbs and smart switches for outdoor floodlights . The main reason for this is the standard bulbs tend to work better across a wider range of temperatures and humidity conditions. As well as working better in an enclosed fixture. (Many smart bulbs are not rated for outdoor use as well as not being rated for use in a fully enclosed luminaire.)

My general rule of thumb is 1-2 lights on a circuit can use connected bulbs. More than that and you should consider looking at a connected switch so they all turn on/off together. However, this is going to change if you are looking for color changing features, etc.

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But even with 1-2, the connected bulb and the dumb switch won’t play nicely together.

True - it is a habit to break (and most families prefer not to have duct tape over a switch). I don’t know of any switch protectors/covers for the UK

True, so it just depends on the exact set up.

For example, any place where it’s appropriate to use sensors mean lights come on automatically before anybody thinks about going to the switch. Many people now have sensor lights in closets – – Open the door, the light comes on. There’s no reason to even look for the switch.

It’s also hard to explain how much voice control changes switch use until you’ve lived with it for a few weeks, and I know the Amazon echo is not yet available in the UK. But there are a number of other voice control options, Including apple’s HomeKit, and again, once that’s in place there’s no reason to go to the switch most of the time. Add a battery powered obvious switch like the Phillips hue dimmer and you’ve handled visitor needs as well.

For example, pathway lights become very popular. At our house, I use voice to turn on “bedtime” which lights smart bulbs in three rooms: living room, hallway, and my bedroom. After I’m in bed, I use voice to turn them off again. Never went anywhere a near switch.

Of course, you can use exactly the same voice options with smart switches so it’s not that that’s a benefit of bulbs over switches. Rather that it just removes one of the negatives of bulbs so that if you do have a reason to use them, you can more easily.

All of which is to say that these days I make the smart bulb versus smart switch decision on a case-by-case basis primarily looking at two factors:

One) cost and effort of the project

Two) Quality of the light needed for that specific location. That includes the question of using the color or color temperature features of a bulb, as well as obvious issues like already having installed fixtures with fluorescent tubes.

From the beginning we’ve had some community members who passionately argue for smart switches and others who passionately argue for smart bulbs, but for most people there’s no one right answer. It just comes down to the details of each specific case.

BTW, from a planning point of view, I think it’s worth considering ensuring that there’s an outlet available in every bedroom and most common spaces for a voice control unit, whatever it ends up being. For discussion of some options other than Echo, see:

You don’t notice them as often in UK stores as in the US because they’re not generally in the child safety section. They tend to be off with electrical supplies and tools. They’re also often smaller and their intended use is often less obvious. However, switch locks are available for the same uses as in the US: particularly keeping freezers, pumps, generators, and medical equipment from being turned off accidentally. Also as in the US, available in different styles and materials.

Here is a popular one that is generally sold as 4 switch guards for £5. (The black oblong is the switch lock in this photo, but they also come in white,)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Switch-switch-prevent-switches-leaving/dp/B00I3GLL9W

There are several available at Amazon.co.uk.

There are also UK community members who have designed switch covers that fit over an existing switch and then you put one of the two battery powered switches that I’ve mentioned on top of that. These can look very nice. Here’s one:

@PailOckenden definitely HAF here! And I am finding it increasingly difficult to hide my purchases - he didn’t believe me when I told him that the customs charges on 2 Hue bulbs were incidental as the bulbs were free gifts! Unfortunately he is at home all day so sees exactly what gets delivered.

We had the sitting room replastered so took the opportunity of putting in the wiring for the TV on the wall - have an Amp so just the one HDMI. Also hard wired surround speakers in the 4 ceiling corners. I also put in 2 CAT6 cables and used Euro Modules for my various sat & aerial connections. I was surprised at the number of things I have plugged into the CAT6.

Light switches throughout the house are LightwaveRF because I like the look of them but have normal and LEDs in the ceiling lights (mixture of GU10 & E14 Golf - gradually changing the E14s to LEDs) I found it was best to pay a bit more for the Megaman LEDs after experimenting with others.

I have LWRF wall sockets in the hall (originally used to lock the socket that my router was plugged into - but I now have a 'comms cupboard which is a shelf in the hall cupboard that I had some electrical sockets wired in) and in the kitchen (just the ones at bench height, not for the appliances).

I indulged in Philips Hue for 3 sitting room lamps which I use in the evening - 2 lamps plugged into LWRF plugins timed through LWRF to come on in the evening then dimmed later in the evening with a Hue routine. I also have a LWRF mood switch on the wall (as my original light switch is behind the door) and this operates both the lamps and the ceiling light manually.

Heating is Honeywell Evohome which I love.

SmartThings is more my plaything. I took part in some testing/marketing so didn’t buy my starter kit. I have one of the lamps mentioned above plugged into a plug in socket timed to come on at dusk -30 and off at 11pm and I have a Hue bulb in another decorative lamp which is setup with a SmartApp to forecast the weather. I have also set up apps using my Sonos to play various tunes depending which family member arrives home!

I do like the fact that with ST you can have lots of different things connected to it rather than committing to just one brand.

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