Is there a really smart dimmer out there?


(Aud) #1

Hi all,

I had a few Lutron dumb dimmers (Maestro MACL-153M). They have a single tap button to turn lights on/off, and tiny buttons on a side for brightness control. For a while they met my needs, but they were dumb - no zwave of zigbee. I shopped around and based on positive reviews got GE 12722 smart dimmers. Then I realized how much of functionality I lost.

Here’s what dumb Lutron could do what’s out of reach for smart GE:

  1. Start at preset brightness level, not at the last level before turning off
  2. Double tap to get to the maximum brightness level
  3. Configurable minimal brightness - actually I have never encountered a dimmer which claimed to be LED friendly and didn’t have this - until this GE
  4. Configurable dimming speed - that is mentioned in manual, but it can’t be adjusted via dimmer directly or ST app - is every buyer expected to write code to adjust dimming speed?

I consider these above absolute must have, but if it was just that, i’d be not gaining much. I don’t see much use of controling lights from the phone.

My vision is rather modest - i have 3 rooms/dimmers on 1st floor, and I’d like to have some kind of action on each dimmer which would turn all 3 rooms lights on/off. E.g. single press down turns off just dining room lights, and double tap (or tripple tap, or longer hold, or quick up/down, or anything else) turns off lights everywere.

So here is my two part question:

  1. is there a smart dimmer out there at least as smart as the dumb one i had,
  2. is there a dimmer which could send ST-identifyable special events, like doubletap or trippletap

Thanks!

Audrius


(Ben W) #2

I don’t know of a dimmer switch that can do that. Most dimmers can’t handle double tap commands, since they send repeating commands. I actually prefer to start at last brightness.

Alternatively you can install a secondary zwave switch like the Aeon Minimote. I use it in the bedroom and have presets for certain brightnesses and control multiple sets of switches. For the most part I don’t even use switches anymore, mostly motion sensing to turn on lights.

BTW: The GE does have configurable dimming speeds with a custom device handler (which you can switch back to the default once configured) You can also set the size of steps which can be used as a minimal dimmable for button presses.


#3

There was some work being done with the new Homeseer dimmers https://community.smartthings.com/t/homeseer-hs-wd100-and-more/44129 that might be of some use to you. I’m still in a holding pattern seeing how things go with them before jumping in with some Cooper Aspires


#4

Lutron is probably the best in the world at switch technology, whether they are networked or not networked. They hold a bunch of patents, use proprietary methods, and offer many features that other brands don’t have. But there’s no direct integration with SmartThings. Anyway, it’s not surprising if you find the other brands don’t have all the features of a Lutron device.

That said, there is a pretty wide variance in what features different Z wave switch manufacturer offer. Industry definitely has a good/better/best model, with GE being in the lowest tier. They are value switches. Lower prices, shorter warranties, and fewer features. Good enough for many projects, but you won’t find advanced features on them.

Double Tap

Double tap is tricky. Many Z wave switches do offer this in a local installation, but once you add use a cloud architecture as SmartThings does the problem is the lag time in transmitting the commands makes it very hard to do the precise timing that most double tap options require. There are a couple of custom Smart apps that you can read about in the forum that used to be very popular and did work for double tap with the GE switches, but these stopped working a few months ago for many people after a platform change.

As it happens, Homeseer just released a new line of Z wave switches last month that do have both double tap and triple tap options. Instead of trying to repeat commands to the hub, these switches capture the tap pattern at the physical switch and then send a different code to the hub for different patterns using the “central scene” zwave command set. Some community members have them and they reportedly work well. I’m honestly not sure whether they have the other features you asked about or not.

Many features, much higher cost

With the exception of double tap, the two switch lines that fall into the “best” category (but also cost much more than GE switches) are the Cooper aspire line and the Leviton Vizia high end models. These offer many additional features, like a panic mode where you can flash all the lights, various kinds of ramp rate options, etc. you just have to look at each model to see what it offers. The Cooper has a five year warranty, which is reflective of its engineering quality.

Both these lines are widely available from places that sell Z wave devices, but again, the price is going to be much higher than the GE price.

The GE are definitely good switches – – they just aren’t “best” switches. And Lutron is the best of the best. So it’s not surprising if GE falls short by comparison. :sunglasses:

I will add a couple of links in a minute on features and sources:

Features by device class (switches are after sensors):

Finding suppliers:


(Aud) #5

Thanks a lot for quick and in-depth replies!

Clarification: i meant configurable option to start at either preset brightness or last brightness; i believe which option works better in individual case depends on how frequently you need to be outside of your default brightness. In my case, 9 times in 10 i need ~60% brightness; only when kids read in the living room they bump it up to 100%. When I turn lights on next time, they are back to comfortable 60%.

Great tip re Enhanced-Dimmer-Switch - thanks!

Somehow I missed Homeseer HS-WD100+ when shopping around. It looks quite promising! As for price - I paid $41 for GEs, and this one is $45 not really that much more expensive.

Cooper Aspire and Leviton seem to be in $60-$100 range, and don’t seem to offer much more than GE (besides that GE doesn’t really qualify to be LED dimmer - without minimal level setting it makes retrofit recessed LEDs go into zombie-apocalypse-like random blinking mode).

Also I noticed that most of smart dimmers on top of standard zwave or zigbee have their proprietary wireless connectivity, which probably bumps up the price and is a waste when used with ST-like system.

Thanks again. I’ll probably get HS-WD100+ and see what I can get out of them.


(Ben W) #6

Length of warranty is not a good measurement of quality. There are plenty of cars that offer 10 year warranties and I would not call them quality cars.

I looked at a few switches and the GE ones are solid, they work near 100% of the time with ST. I am actually surprised by how many leds are not dimmable below 10%, my $13 for a pack of 4 costco Leds easily go down to 1-2% (the light is slightly wavy but still usable).

The Homeseers are interesting, but rarely touch a light switch anymore, only when a ST rule fails. Does ST support Scenes?


#7

ST doesn’t use zwave scenes because they want to be a multiprotocol platform, which is why you could press a button on a minimote (zwave) and have it control some zigbee lights, a wemo switch, and a Logitech Harmony activity. And change the mode. Effectively a scene, but not using the Z wave scene command. Also, because in zwave scenes the initiator device speaks directly to the end device, they all have to be within one hop of each other.

However, while zwave scenes have been around since the beginning, Z wave “central scene” is a newer command set. In the original Z wave scenes, the scene controller sent commands directly to other z wave devices in the same room. With Central scenes, the switch sends a code to the zwave controller ( in this case the smartthings hub) and what happens next depends on the specific programming.

This is very similar to the “button controller” logic that smartthings used for the minimote.

So in the case of the homeseer switches, the switch sends the scene ID to the hub, and community members have written custom code that captures that scene ID and then does something with it. So it’s not identical to a Z wave scene, but then a zwave scene couldn’t change a mode or run a routine or do something with zwave devices on the far side of the house. SmartThings can do all of those. :sunglasses:


#8

Home Seer line is intended for the “better” tier, and those are usually around $45

Shop around for the GE switches. Because they have the GE brand, they are also carried at a number of big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes. People have gotten them for as little as nine dollars, although a price of around $35 is more typical once you apply coupons and stuff. This is one of those cases where Amazon is not typically the lowest price on a specific item. The main point is that the GE switches are frequently on sale and the prices vary a lot.

We have a category in the forum for deals where people post deals that they have seen. You’ll often find GE switches posted there, sometimes it really good discounts. :sunglasses:

https://community.smartthings.com/c/devices-integrations/deals

#9

Just as an example of advanced features that a lot of people won’t care about:

The Cooper master dimmer has a feature where if you press and hold the switch for two seconds, it comes on to full brightness without affecting any of the preset levels.

it also allows you to individually set values for highest and lowest, which can really reduce Flicker with some bulbs.

It has separate programmable values for ramp rate and fade rate.

but it’s an older switch, and it doesn’t support central scene commands.

So different switches, different features. Just need to find one that you’re happy with. :sunglasses:

http://www.cooperindustries.com/content/dam/public/wiringdevices/products/documents/spec_sheets2/AspireRFSmartDimmerSystemMasterSpecSheet.pdf


(Ben W) #10

The GE dimmers are also a couple years old now (2ish), wondering what is around the corner.

I hate chasing latest tech, it is so expensive, and yet so addicting.


#11

So true! The next round will be zwave plus as a minimum requirement for zwave manufacturers, I think. Especially for light switches, since it makes it much easier to pair in place. Beyond that, who knows? It would be nice if central scene commands became more popular, as it gives us a lot more options for SmartThings, including, of course, double tap. :sunglasses:


(Paul) #12

Does this thread provide anything of interest?


(John Crighton) #13

I have fibaro dimmer 2s all round, and they do everything you mention and more. They’re an in wall module though, rather than a switch.

I have also made S2 on the fibaro a smart switch.

This means I have one module with two switches on the front. S1 is a full function dimmer for the main ceiling light, and S2 is a toggle switch for a smart bulb in a lamp.


(Kevin) #14

HomeSeer is running a sale right now,15% off their switches (and a bunch of other crap), bringing the price down to $37-38/switch depending on how many you’re buying. I decided to jump in and trust the community reports that they are working well. Have 16 switches/dimmers/3-ways sitting on my couch waiting for me to have some free time.
http://burl.co/6251547


(George) #15

The Cooper Aspire RF9540-N can do #2 as mentioned by @JDRoberts (hold, not double tap), #3, and #4. I can add #1 to my DH for this dimmer, but that will probably disable #2 (need to play around with it to see if I can distinguish the messages).