Looking for advice on my first project: entryway smart lighting

Hello all! So I’m brand new to the SmartThings community (well i’ve been a lurker for some time lol) but am now registered and am super excited to contribute as much as possible!

I ordered my v2 hub a few days ago and am eagerly awaiting it to arrive. In the meantime, I’m in the middle of planning out my first project: entryway smart lighting.

I have a light switch box comprised of a 3-way switch for my entry way, a switch for my street side lamp and garage door lights, and a switch for my porch light. The porch and street lamp switches will remain on/off, just want to smartify them. For my entryway, however, I plan to convert that to a dimmer setup with LED dimmable lights.

Technically, I feel ready. My only problem right now is I am lost in the maze of what switches to buy, that is where I would greatly appreciate any feedback/suggestions on what to go with.

For the dimmer setup, I’m leaning towards the GE 45613 Z-Wave Wireless Lighting Control Three-Way Dimmer Kit (currently selling for $61.95). Totally open to any suggestions, pros/cons, other feedback on this.

The other two switches are for outside (porch/garage sides and streetside lamp) lights that I want to convert to smart on/off smart switches… thinking GE Z-Wave Wireless Lighting Control On/Off Switch, In-Wall, 12722 (currently $36.27 a pop) And also very open to recommendations for this also.

I’ve also considered the ZOOZ Z-WAVE PLUS ON / OFF TOGGLE SWITCH ZEN23 - 2 PACK as they are selling for $49.90 (+ shipping?) for the pair which would be a significant savings… but quality/performance is very important to me as well and I don’t want to sacrifice too much to save a few bucks. From what I’ve gathered so far, these Zooz pole switches aren’t quite as high a quality build as the similar GE Z-Wave Wireless Lighting Control Smart Toggle Switch, In-Wall, White, 12727 selling for $36.99 right now. Still, quite a bit difference in price makes me really consider it. However, I’m also intrigued at the fact the Zooz switches are Z-Wave Plus while I’m pretty sure the GE switches are only Z-Wave. Not sure how many advantages I would be getting there vs giving up…

I’m very anxious to get this first major step in my smart home project accomplished before our week vacation in a few weeks (for obvious reasons) and so greatly appreciate the help provided here!!

Welcome! :sunglasses:

Actually, I think the Zooz and the GE may both be built by the same manufacturer (Jasco) and are just rebranded. I haven’t looked that up to be sure, though. But they appear to be similar quality. The difference is that Zooz are newer and are using a zwave plus chip. But GE has a Z wave plus model certified, currently due for release in December. I think they’re just letting stocks of the older models sell down a little first.

(edited to update @TheSmartestHouse has corrected me below, Zooz switches are not made by Jasco.)

The biggest advantage of zwave plus is significantly longer range.

The following thread discusses the features of different brands. The light switch discussion starts around post 35. It should answer most of your questions.

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Welcome, and you’re going to have fun! You’ll also find that @JDRoberts is a fountain of information!

I have a suggestion. Before you buy any switches or Z-Wave devices, grab a screwdriver and take a peek inside the wall boxes where the existing switches are. Make sure there is a neutral present. Most in wall Z-Wave devices (not all) require a neutral and many houses don’t bring a neutral everywhere.

There are devices that do not require a neutral, but you’ll want to know this before you order.

I initially installed Z-Wave switches about 7 years ago in a remodel project. I used Leviton and am generally happy with them. Newer devices are mecu better than my older ones. They have better range and also can signal events to the hub so they do not have to be polled. Other improvements also. So if you’re not familiar with devices, try to buy new and ideally “Gen 5.”

Also, have a look at micro switches and dimmers. Very handy gadgets!

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“Gen 5,” “Series 500,” and “Zwave Plus” all mean the same thing. :sunglasses:

The Series 500 chip is the 5th generation of zwave, and is marketed under the catchier name “Zwave Plus.”

Generations 3 and 4 are now collectively referred to as “classic Z wave.”

Per spec, all generations of Z wave are backwards compatible, and the SmartThings V2 hub is Z wave plus, so you can mix-and-match both classic Z wave and zwave plus devices on your account.

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Thanks @JDRoberts! Great info, much appreciated. :slight_smile: I’ll definitely read through the linked thread completely. As for the Zooz and Ge being the same, according to: https://community.smartthings.com/t/experience-using-zooz-z-wave-plus-on-off-toggle-switch/49289/13?u=simmeltron, it sounds like the builds are a bit different. Sounds like nothing that would make the Zooz a deal breaker for me, however, especially considering the price difference.

@helios, thanks also! And rest assured, I’ve already opened up the switch box and confirmed the big fat neutral wire bunch was there. :wink: I’m certainly intrigued by the switches that instantly report back to the hub… I’m brand new but imagine getting quite creative down the road and possibly wanting to trigger an event on the switch being triggered manually.

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And instant status update is definitely faster, but not so much faster that it will matter for most use cases.

Without instant status, it might be three or four seconds. Maybe as much as 15.

With instant status, it’s intended to be between 300 and 500 ms.

But remember that’s only the amount of time until the hub knows that it happened and takes other action. If the switch itself controls the current load to a light fixture, that light still comes on immediately.

But let’s say that you want to turn on one switch and have both the overhead light come on and a table lamp on another circuit, and a fan.

With instant status, all three should happen very quickly, although you can’t necessarily predict the exact order between the table lamp and the fan.

Without instant status there are two other methods that can be used for similar result, association and central scenes. Would either of those methods there may be a slight “popcorn effect” where the overhead light comes on and then a beat or two later the other devices start.

Whether that bothers you or not really depends on your own personal aesthetics plus the exact use case.

If the lights are in different rooms, you probably won’t even realize that that was a very slight lag.

For some people, even a longer lag is acceptable. I have one set up in my house where a table lamp comes on immediately and then the overhead lamp comes on about a second later. It works fine for us because you don’t have the sense that you’re walking into a dark room, the table lamp comes on immediately. But I know there are some people who would find that really annoying.

So I’m not saying don’t get instant status switches – – a lot of people really like them. But you will have to pay extra if you’re getting the true patent (those are only available currently on the Leviton and Cooper devices). So you just have to decide if the extra cost is worth it to you.

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By “LED dimmable lights” do you mean you’re going to put in a 3 way dimmer, or are you going to use Z-Wave bulbs?

I have a similar setup as yours — a 3-gang box for the street-side lamp, front porch, and front entry. If you have a HOA that requires the street-side lamp to be on at sunset thru sunrise, then I WOULD NOT recommend ST to “smartify” that light. The system is too unreliable for that light to be turned on and off EVERY DAY by ST. I use this Honeywell programmable digital switch (RPLS740B1008) to control that light:

Works EVERY time for the four years that I’ve been using it: supports Daylight Savings time, no batteries, saves program settings in the event of a power outage, only need to re-set the time if the power outage lasts longer than 3 hours (only been tested for ~35 mins.) So far, it’s kept our HOA gestapo (that drives around the community in the evenings) from sending me nasty-grams that my street-side light isn’t working. I haven’t physically touched that switch in over two years (had to adjust the time because it loses 1 minute in two years).

I think the Z-Wave switches you’ve mentioned are great for the other lights. I have the paddle version of the GE 12727 installed in strategic locations around the house — very reliable switches for me as are the dimmer switches.

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I agree with @elf. Determine your use case. If it is just on a timer a semi smart switch is probably good enough and often cheaper that a zwave one.

I have a bunch of the $12 motion switches in my house in areas where I only need motion triggers (bathroom/closets)

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Ahh ok, thanks @JDRoberts, this is great to know. I’m sure I should be just fine with a little delay if I want to trigger another smart action somewhere else with the press of the switch. The wow factor will still be plenty for the wife and kids (and me) :wink:

Again, super awesome to know about. Once I get my hardware hooked up I will certainly look into playing with associations and central scenes. :+1:

I guess overall, instant status of the Leviton and Cooper devices won’t be what would make me pull the trigger on them then if I can still achieve basically the same effects with possibly a slightly longer delay.

One thing I am very interested in, however, is the different programmable features that various switches offer. As I understand it, some switches offer higher degrees of customization (ramp up time vs instant on, ramp down time vs instant off, max and min brightness setting from the switch itself, brightness level upon turning switch on (default setting vs just going to the previous setting, etc). These are all things that I would most likely definitely care about when making my final choice. However, I have only read here and there about which switches support certain programability and what switches don’t support that feature. Is there a discussion, or document, that goes over these features, or lack of features, in more detail??

Haha… excellent question @helios. So, what is currently wired up is a true 3-way switch (not a dimmer), with one switch at my front door and one at the end of the entryway going to my hallway. So what I want to do is install a dimmer switch (the “master”) at the front door and have the “slave” in my hallway gang box. I have read this other great post by @JDRoberts which does an excellent job of explaining the “3-way concept” with smart switches. So that all makes total sense, however I’m still not 100% on how I am going to go about wiring the new smart 3-way dimmer setup. I guess it ultimately depends on what hardware I decide to go with, correct? (a non RF slave that requires the traveler wire to communicate with the master or a complete wireless communication method where traveler wire would not be needed?) Still kinda fuzzy there but I’m sure it will make sense in time.

Ok, that was the loooong winded answer. Short answer, yes to 3-way dimmer, no to Z-Wave bulbs. (Wife wants an actual control at the entryway so she can control the dimmer the old fashioned way… .still working on selling her on the extra convenience (and expense) of the wonder of smart dimmer switches… once it’s all installed and running she will see the “light”) :smiley:

Thanks for the suggestion @elf! I hadn’t considered this actually but it’s a great alternative! I am curious though as to why you say that you’re not confident ST would get the lights turned on every day? Just more complex system so higher chance of something going wrong? Or something else?

I do actually live in an HOA but they’re pretty laid back overall and I don’t believe that is one of their rules requiring lights to be on every night. Guess I better confirm that though!

Ok, I better close this novel in fear of getting the TL:DR gong! Once again, thanks to you all for the wonderful assistance provided here!!!

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Just to be clear, all three reporting options:

One) “hail” (the Lutron patent method, licensed by Leviton and Cooper)

  1. " Association"

Three) and “central scenes”

are Z wave command sets which the manufacturer of the switch has included in its firmware. You can’t add them yourself later.

Typically a manufacturer will have chosen only one of these options, if any. A few manufacturers have more than one, particularly for multibutton or multi function switches where association could be particularly useful.

Any certified Z wave device has a “conformance statement” listed on the official Z wave alliance site and you can see exactly which command sets it supports. Note that these do vary by model, so you have to find the exact model that you are considering.

http://products.z-wavealliance.org

For example, here is one of the Cooper models. You can see that it supports hail. (Eaton is the company, Cooper is the division, and aspire is the model line.)

For some weird reason all of the Leviton devices have disappeared from the official site this week. They’re usually there, so I think this must just be a glitch in the site. They may be updating the list for their new Z wave plus models.

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Ahhh ok, this makes sense, thanks again! While I don’t know how their methods differ yet, I’ll definitely use http://products.z-wavealliance.org/ as a reference while deciding which way to go.

I’m tired now, but the following thread explains more about the different methods:

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Beautiful, thanks! Yep I’m fading too… going to give this a read tomorrow. Night all and take care!

Of course, 100% reliability probably doesn’t exist in the HA world, but the ST platform seems to have more than its fair share of problems. I’m not trying to scare you off of ST, but a quick search of the forums reveals a notorious history of ST user/community issues. The latest:

http://status.smartthings.com/


Personally, I’ve had no serious problems with ST, overall — just some missed firings of scheduled routines every now and then. But my automation needs are fairly simple and straight forward. Even so, it does get annoying when something doesn’t work when it should. For example, I have simple routines that control my landscape lighting — one failed to turn on my front landscape lights two days ago; one failed to turn off my backyard landscape lights three days ago. Those problems where probably related to the ST backend/server issues mentioned in the above threads.

Anyway, what I was sort of getting at in my first post was to probably avoid automating certain aspects of your home that may have severe consequences because of ST unreliability — if you fully automate your front door or garage door, you might return home to find an unlocked door or open garage door. Having said that, there are individuals (like @JDRoberts) who fully rely on HA, so yeah, needs vary.

Automate with ST, but your second job will be a baby-sitter. Of course, you probably can’t go wrong with automating lights first … maybe, hopefully, sort of :wink:

BTW, I need to buy more Z-Wave GE paddle switches and outlets :grin:

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Gotcha @elf, that makes sense. One thing that I have had in the forefront of my planning was the concept of local vs remote management dependencies. As I understand it, certain devices like the GE z-wave switches were local devices, so even if my wifi went down or the ST online servers were hiccuping (or vomiting), my schedules, routines, whatever you want to call them, would ultimately be managed (or at least stored) locally within my home network by the ST hub itself so I could have almost full assurance that triggers would be reliable. Perhaps I am over-simplifying how everything is configured, but I’d like to think I’m close. :wink:

I also am intrigued by front and garage door control management but definitely won’t venture there until I am much more educated in this wonderful world. As for my front porch and streetlights, I’m definitely going to fully consider something like the Honeywell programmable switch. It doesn’t appear to currently be any cheaper at the moment than the GE paddles or especially the zooz switches, but looks like a darn quality device regardless.

Thanks again everyone… Did I already say I love this community? :hugging:

So close, and yet so far…:wink:

I suspect that “local processing” doesn’t work quite the way you expect. (It doesn’t work the way hardly anyone expects.) For one thing, routines do not run locally regardless of the devices included.

Since I just put up two posts on exactly that topic this morning, I don’t want to duplicate them here. Just read the following post and then the one that comes right after it in that thread.

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Lol, gotcha, thanks @JDRoberts. I just read the Trouble with RBoy Lock Smart App thread and that makes sense.

Good to know that if I use sunrise/sunset as a trigger then it is now controlled via the cloud and not locally.

It’s also quite unfortunate that even if you are on your local home wifi, the SmartThings phone app cannot directly communicate with the hub without going out to the Internet. Would love to see that feature added, and then it would just ping back to the server when possible/needed with the latest changes made locally.

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Just to clear this up once and for all: Zooz switches are not built by GE / Jasco, they are manufactured in a different factory. They look very similar since there is not much room for design update when it comes to traditional light switches.
Zooz toggle switches will also work with GE add-ons for 3-way installation since the signal is transmitted through electrical impulse.
It will probably take some time before GE/Jasco bring their Z-Wave Plus line to market since they’re most likely waiting for big box stores like Home Depot or Lowes to start placing large orders, and these guys move sloooow as a rule.
As usual, let us know if you have any product-specific or manufacturing-related questions, we’d like to be as transparent as possible when it comes to functionality and sourcing of our products!

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Thanks for the correction, I’ve updated my post above. :sunglasses:

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