Not sure if this is right area but here goes. I’m in process of building out a dedicated home theater room and I’m wanting to automate all the lighting. Rope lights, recessed lights, sconces, and regular overhead house lights. Of course I want to control them all independently and have them be dimmable (except the house lights). I have a smartthings hub coming and I have framed walls and will be wiring everything up new in the room.
My question is, can I just use a tablet to control everything without installing switches? I’d assume I’d need all bulbs to be smart but not sure past that. Or if anyone has done something similar can you point me in the right direction. I’ll be hanging drywall over Christmas so I’m wanting to get an idea on what boxes and wiring i need to pull into the wall by the entrance, then I can wire the lights up via the attic later.
Thanks, and if I haven’t given enough detail, please let me know and I’ll explain best I can.
Are you in the US or the UK? The options are somewhat different.
First, a Plan B for times when the home automation system is not working
If you are in the US, you will probably need to put one wall switch in just so you have a way of turning the room lights on and off if your home automation system is not working. You can plan not to use that Switch for everyday use in any of several ways, most commonly by just putting a child safety lock on it, or by making it recessed with a cover over it, or by putting a smart switch cover over it which is a battery operated device that has its own buttons, thus allowing you to turn the lights on and off without actually cutting power to the smart bulbs.
But in particular if your theater room is at the bottom of stairs, you will want some kind of manual switch available for emergencies, and you may be required by local safety codes to have that. (If you are in the UK, you will be required to have a switch in almost all situations.)
The following FAQ discusses some of the various switch options, including the smart switch cover.
now back to plan a: the tablet controller
So once you have your Plan B switch somewhere in the room, preferably close to the base of the stairs if there are stairs, then you can go ahead and design your plan A tablet controllers.
Many people do this, and there are a lot of different ways to do it. Probably the most popular is to use the third-party dashboard app, action tiles. You will have to pay around a $30 license fee per smartthings hub, but what you’ve done that you can install it on as many different devices as you like, including phones and tablets. It just runs in a browser. You can customize which devices show on which tablet and some of the other choices like color and tile size.
(SmartTiles was the early free version of action tiles, and you will see a lot of references to it in the community, but that version is no longer available.)
There’s even a thread in this forum where people describe the different kinds of tablet mounting options they are using with action tiles. Most of these would work with any dashboard option
There are some other free dashboard options which are worth taking a look at. You can find those on the quick browse lists in the community – created wiki in the project report section on the list for “dashboards.” But I think most people end up choosing ActionTiles.
One other option which is very popular is the remotec 90. This is a $45 eight Button battery operated device where each button has three options: tap, double tap, and long hold. So a total of 24 options. This could make a nice auxiliary controller, particularly if you want something which isn’t glowing in the dark, an issue in many home theater set ups.
And more home theatre ideas
You should also look at the project reports list for audio video projects: there are some cool home theater set ups there.
A few other thoughts to add are Echo or Google voice control would like be a good addition to the setup. I have my living room set so when I say “Alex, turn on watching TV” it sets lights a certain way and disables my motion sensors from adjusting them. I have no experience with it, but in reading others usage, a Harmony hub sounds like it also might be put to good use in your setup.
I concur with wanting a switch, in addition to emergency usage, ST can be flaky sometimes and anything running in the cloud is internet dependent,
Thank you all for the quick and detailed responses. Yes I’m a bit overwhelmed on the lighting, I have no issue wiring things, it’s just what to wire :).
I might be off base on how everything works, but in my head it should work like this. If I use all smart switches then I can run regular bulbs and lights everywhere and then conceal the switches with a tablet holder. Or if I just wire the one or no switches I would have to get all ‘smart’ bulbs etc? Is that correct?
My plan is to run conduit down my wall where I’m putting my gang box for the outlets, then I can wire as much as my hearts content to it. It’s an upstairs room, so any wiring not in the wall directly is very easy to do in the attic. I plan on running around 5 wires down the conduit into the attic then they are ready when I get to wiring the actual lights into the stage,etc. My equipment rack is in a separate room so hopefully I don’t have anything but romex to run in the room itself. The attic will handle any cat6 or hdmi’s I need.
On edit: I have a harmony elite now which has the hub. Not sure how to use that portion though as I’ve never messed with it. Figure I’ll use it as well once I wrap my head around everything.
If you plan out the room lighting and pop up a quick sketch and how you like it to operate, we can give you more refined advice. My basics are to have a wall switch for each lighting type/group, then decide later which wall switches will be smart and which will be dumb with smart bulbs. Just use deep gang boxes since smart switches can take up a lot of room. Other general ideas that I adhere to are: 1) Use smart switches, not bulbs unless you want/need finer zone control than the switch wiring (example below) 2) Specialty lighting (rope, color) will always be smart bulb style and not a wall switch.
My room is currently very simple with a single wall switch that controls 6 recessed lights. Eventually I’ll add led strip lighting when I add risers and theater seats. Since I use the room for mixed use (TV/movies), I used a dumb switch and smart bulbs in each of the 6 recessed lights. I then created a few “Scenes” using various apps that change lighting depending on what I’m watching or doing (idea 1 above). An “All On” for getting settled, cleaning, and non-TV watching. One that turns off front two near screen, but keeps the rest on and dimmed for things like Sports (keeps screen nice and dark, but good amount of room light). One that turns off front 4 and only keeps back two on dimmed for more casual watching with the little one if light is needed to multi-task. And of course, All Off for the good stuff. Another tip: if you lengthen transition times for slow dimming, I think it minimizes the apparent sequential effect of ST sending commands to each smart bulb.
The Harmony will be nice, but I haven’t found a good way to integrate it with ST that makes much sense. I did have my Sport Scene trigger the Watch TV activity, but then I found myself using that lighting for other purposes. I use the same lighting for Movies from lots of sources, so I couldn’t attach an activity to that lighting scene. And unfortunately you can’t easily configure the Harmony to trigger ST devices with individual commands, so no bringing up the lights when you hit “Pause” and dimming them back down on “Play” unless you really get hacking.
I think and please correct me if I’m wrong, that I’d be good just putting the box in the wall and run the amount of wires I need for the lighting, then when I get to the actual full on wiring/setup would be the time to worry about switches and things. I know the zones I want so I know I need wires for A - Lights above screen B - Recessed Lights on both sides C - Sconces D - Rope and riser light E and F overhead lights in rear and arcade area of theater. I want to be able to control each area individually through smartthing controller and all dimmable of course.
So if I run 6 wires for switches and one hot from the attic (gonna run all lights on one circuit cause LED), this should cover me until I get to the nitty gritty of actually hanging all the lights in. I just want to make sure I’m ok to proceed with that and not missing anything I’ll need for the automation aspect.
Thanks again all, this has been super helpful so far.