Logistics of Hue Lighting + HomeKit + ST

Hi All,

I apologize up-front as this is going to be a bit long winded. It also involved HomeKit, which I know isn’t supported by ST. However, I’m trying to figure out the logistics in getting HomeKit to work with my lighting AND smartthings, separtely.

I’ve been into HA for about a year now, primarily using SmartThings and Z-Wave/ZigBee. I’m totally invested in the Apple EcoSystem, so being I was buying Hue Lights, I figured I’d give HomeKit a whirl. It took me a bit to understand how to configure your HomeKit Rooms/Zones, etc since you have to use Third Party apps and cannot do it via the Hue App or a Native Apple App.

With that said, my setup will be primarily using the SmartThings Hub v2 (I know it doesn’t support homekit). However, being my Hue Hub does have HomeKit, I’d like to integrate that as well.

I successfully have two rooms setup - Living Room and Dining Room. The Dining Room has a few bulbs in a fixture assigned to it and the Living Room has a single lamp. All seems to be working fine thus far. I tell Siri to turn on/off my Dining Room lights and magically, they listen!

However, since I’be been researching, tinkering and installing HA systems for about a year for Friends and Family, I know a few “Gotchas”:

The lights should be controlled via a Smart Connected Light Switch rather than controlling the individual bulbs for On/Off functionality. At some point, someone will use the light switch (guests, etc) while passing by. Therefore a Smart Light Switch ensures I never lose remote control over the lighting.

With that said, I’m trying to figure out what Light Switch to use in my dining room that will allow local control of the lights but will also always allow Siri/HomeKit to be able to control the lights. From the looks of it, I can only see one, maybe two options.

Option 1: Remove the current dumb switch completely and hardwire the lines. This will always keep the circuit on. Then, I use the Phillips Hue Dimmer switch to control the lights. This would be controlling the bulbs rather than the circuit, but it would allow Siri to always work and should allow ST to keep control as well due to Hue Integration.

Option 2: The only light switch that I see which is HomeKit and ST compatible is the Belkin WeMo. so I could swap my switch with this; I think. I’m assuming since it’s HK compatible, I would be able to manually turn off the switch AND still be able to use Siri to turn the circuit on. [EDIT: I may be wrong. I saw the WeMo listed on Apple’s site as compatible but I see nothing about HomeKit?. Plus, I’m assuming I’d need their bridge].

What would you do in this instance? Are there any other options? Is it dangerous to have the circuit always on for the lights? I’m guessing not since outlets are always on, but I want to be sure!

Thanks!

Personally, I’d get an Amazon Echo and forget about HomeKit for now. Maybe this time next year you can revisit it once it’s better fleshed out. Echo will give you voice control, ability to group lights and integrates with both ST and Hue (although I did see there were some issues with Echo and the new Hue Hub).

Then you could replace the switch with a generic zwave switch if you want. It’s a shame to double up on HA like that (and costly), plus it might not work as well because you wouldn’t have control of the bulbs until they get power and reconnect with their hub.

To directly answer your question, I might consider an amended option 1. Hue Dimmer Switch is great, and from all accounts works really well with Hue Hub. But I wouldn’t wire the switch always on. I don’t know enough to say how dangerous it would be, but it’s been mentioned on here several times that it is most likely against code. Outlets always have power, but they don’t draw power themselves; whereas your light fixture does. You could always look into a switch guard to make sure no one flips the physical switch. Then, you’re definitely safe and your bulbs will stay powered.

Thanks for the reply!

In regards to this statement:

But I wouldn’t wire the switch always on. I don’t know enough to say how dangerous it would be, but it’s been mentioned on here several times that it is most likely against code. Outlets always have power, but they don’t draw power themselves; whereas your light fixture does.

While I see the point, this would essentially be no different than an Alarm Clock plugged into an outlet or any appliance for that point. (Such as a Hue bulb in a lamp that is always left on and controlled via ST/Hue App). The device would constantly be drawing power/trickle power. Seems to be the same thing to me in regards to the light fixture.

I did run this by a few people at my job today in Facilities; they stated it shouldn’t be against code or an issue at all.

However, I am going to look into the possibility of getting HelloHomeBridge working on a Raspberry Pi 2. That may solve the problem completely, allowing me to use a Z-Wave light switch and a HomeKit bridge.

It depends on your local jurisdiction. The codes vary a lot in this matter.

Some townships are concerned that someone who is going to change a ceiling fixture will turn a switch off at the light and believe that powers off current to the fixture. These townships generally have a requirement that ceiling fixtures have a working switch and cannot be always powered on.

Other townships assume that people who are going to actually replace the fixture know enough to turn off the circuit at the breaker. So it’s not that there is one right way or the other, you have to check with the requirements for the actual building where you’re working. It’s not an issue of operating safety under normal circumstances, it’s just an extra layer of protection for DIY people. There’s a lot of code stuff like that for residential homes.

The codes for most office buildings don’t care whether the lights are always powered because they assume professionals are doing the work anyway.

As far as other switch options to use with smart bulbs, take a look at sections 2 and 5 under the UK lighting FAQ. There’s a pretty extensive discussion of various options to use with smart bulbs that might give you some other ideas. All of these and a couple more are also available in the US. (This is a clickable link.)

Back to the original question…

I’m quadriparetic, use a wheelchair with limited hand control, so voice is really important to me. I currently do use three different voice methods: Amazon echo, HomeKit, and voice text IFTTT. They all have pluses and minuses. To me it’s kind of like having a minimote and having a wall switch both as options for the same light. Choice is good.

HomeKit compatible wall switches

As you noted, the WeMo is not HomeKit compatible at this time. The wall switch that is is the Lutron Caseta. You have to get the HomeKit version of their bridge. They also have some plug-in modules. I don’t have these myself, but all the reviews say they working well.

I believe the only devices which integrate officially with both HomeKit and SmartThings is the Philips Hue 2.0 bridge. The iHome plug-in will integrate officially with echo and homekit, but via wink, not SmartThings.

Lutron/SmartThings Integration

There’s no direct interface between Lutron and smartthings, but each does have an IFTTT channel, so you can get indirect integration that way. It works fine, except you’re going out through three clouds and there is some lag. Also, smartthings can be either the “if” or the "that,"but Caseta can only be the “that” so you can’t turn on the Caseta switch and have anything else happen in SmartThings. But you can schedule something to happen in SmartThings and have the Caseta lights go on or off. Also you can’t poll the Caseta lights from SmartThings.

So what does that all mean? Essentially the Caseta switches become a parallel means of control, just like the Phillips dimmer switch would be. SmartThings won’t know if they went on or off if someone uses the manually. But if someone turns off the lights with the Caseta switch, you will be able to turn them on again from SmartThings.

Advantage Echo

We find that the biggest advantage of Echo is that everyone can use it and you don’t have to take out a device to do so. It’s just always there. This has become the primary means of lighting control at our house. We left the old switch is in place for emergencies, and we put childproofing switch guards on the switches we wanted to leave powered on as a reminder. And with echo available, hardly anyone ever walks near switch. It works really well and covers multiple rooms in our house.

And then we have a couple of strategically placed Phillips dimmer switches for manual control in some situations. These don’t integrate with SmartThings, but because SmartThings does poll the hue bridge every five minutes or so to get bulb status, it doesn’t make that much difference. It will figure out what the lights are doing eventually. Please also have the advantage of being totally intuitive for guests.

Advantage HomeKit

Homekit’s biggest advantage is better security. So I do put my lock on HomeKit but not on echo. As far as lights go, I prefer to use echo, but I can use homekit if I feel like it. Also, I can ask HomeKit if something is on, which I can’t do with echo. We have some use cases where that fits. I can use HomeKit on my Apple Watch from the yard, and echo can’t hear me from there, nor would I want it to.

Future plans

I’ve put off making my own decision about switches for a while because I expect it by the summer of 2016 there will be a lot more choices available. So I’m not going to start making my candidate list until late spring.

For now, echo as the primary light control mechanism and HomeKit as a voice back up for some situations, plus a few manual switches for guests is working well for us . But everybody’s needs are different.

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Option 2: The only light switch that I see which is HomeKit and ST compatible is the Belkin WeMo.

Just for the record, my experience with WeMo and ST integration is that it works about 50% of the time. I finally gave up on trying to use WeMo switches in automated actions with ST because I just couldn’t depend on them to work. That especially sucks for me because I have an old house with old wiring (no neutral wires) . WeMo switches don’t require the neutral wire but pretty much every Z-wave switch does.

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You can run into a terminology issue here.

The Belkin Wemo in wall light switch does require a neutral wire.

http://www.belkin.com/us/support-article?articleNum=8185

The Belkin Wemo Insight Switch is a plug in “pocket socket” which does not require a neutral.

So when people talk about a “WeMo switch” they may be talking about the plug-in.

If you’re only going to use incandescent lights, there is both a GE and a Cooper Z wave switch that do not require a neutral. But they don’t work with LEDs.

Another option is to use an in wall micro relay and use it at the light fixture, not at the switch. This is very common in Europe.

Otherwise, as far as I know the most popular in wall light switch that does not require a neutral is the Lutron Caseta. It does not integrate directly with smart things, but there is an IFTTT channel for indirect integration. That can introduce some lag, so it’s not appropriate for all use cases. But it can work fine if you’re just looking for things on a timer since the difference between coming on at 7 o’clock in coming on at 7:15 may not be that big a deal .