SmartThings Community

Looking for Light Switch w/UI Separtaed from Switching

(Jef) #1

Hi, all.

I’m looking for a specific light switch with specific features, with the first being the one I haven’t found:

  1. The UI and control are separate. That is, if I push “light up/on,” it sends the command to a central system (presumably smartthings), which then decides what to do, including not turning on the lights attached to that same switch. So, if I wanted, I could have the kitchen switch control the bedroom light.
  2. No neutral wire required (old house wiring).
  3. Dimmer.

Apologies if this is answered elsewhere. I’ve searched around, but if there’s a common way to describe this design, I don’t know what it is.

In case you’re wondering why or have any clever alternative solutions: at least one room in our house has two sets of lights controlled by two separate switches, which are on opposite sides of the room and wired separately. We never want to control just half the lights. So ideally I’d put a smart switch in each spot, and program each switch to control both sets of lights. This would get me us more reasonable control without needing an electrician.

Appreciate any help–thanks!



Ouch! I just reread your note and saw that you said “no neutral wire required.” That really limits the options, and now I’m too tired to rewrite the whole thing.

Your basic options are going to be to put an in wall micro at the ceiling fitting, where you will almost certainly have a neutral, and then use battery powered devices for the wall switches. Or use smart bulbs and the battery operated switch. Or use Lutron Caseta switches which don’t require a neutral. So the basic ideas are the same but the specific devices are going to be different and you won’t have many choices there except for the battery-operated part.

I’ve edited the note below to add a “no neutral wire required” choice under each of the options, but taking out the original suggestions is more work than I can do today, so just read carefully and it should be clear. Sorry about that!


Your situation

The use case you describe, switches on different sides of the room that each turn on two lights is different than the feature set that you asked for, which is a switch that doesn’t turn on its own light until told to by the hub. That is, there’s going to be a big difference in device selection if you want to sometimes have the switch not turn off its own light.

That said, sure, there are multiple ways to do this depending on the exact details.

  1. if you want to always have two switches, each of which controls the load to a fixture, work together as a group…

Any switch controlled by smartthings can be set to “follow” any other switch controlled by SmartThings. :sunglasses: You can do that with the official smart lights feature or in several other ways. But basically you’re just saying whenever switch A comes on, turn on switch B, and whenever switch B comes on, turn on switch A.

In your case, since you want to switches that don’t require a neutral, that will probably mean Lutron Caseta switches.

  1. if you want zone lighting from a single switch, so that sometimes pressing that switch turns on just Light one and sometimes pressing that switch turns on just Light two and sometimes pressing that switch turns on light one and two together…

You can do this if you’ve selected the correct devices. Anything that you want to control will have to have some smart device telling it when to turn on and off. That might be a smart switch, it might be a micro hidden in the wall, it might even be that the light itself is a smart bulb, but each individual light will have some networked control device.

Now you need to get a switch with different touch patterns.

If you have a neutral wire at the switchbox, then you have more device choices, in particular The homeseer switch can do single press for the load it controls, and then either double press or triple press which don’t turn on the load it controls, but instead send a message to the hub which then passes around whatever messages are needed to get the results you wanted. This is fairly close to what you described in your first post, but not a perfect match.

For example, suppose you have two of these switches in a large kitchen. One at the entrance to the kitchen controls the load to the overhead lights. The second controls the load to the light that’s over the sink. Now you can set it up so that a single press on the light by the entrance to the kitchen turns on the overhead lights. A double press turns on both the overhead lights and the sink light. And a triple press on that switch turns on just the sink light.

And you can set it up so that a single press on the light by the sink turns on the sink light. A double press again turns on both the overhead lights and the sink light. And a triple press on the sink switch turns on the overhead lights but not the sink light.

Obviously there are a lot of different ways to set this up. The only thing is that with these devices, a single press always turns on the load that that switch controls. That will happen even if your hub is unplugged. That is what most people want to, because that way the switches are very intuitive for guests and will work like regular light switches even if your home automation system isn’t working. But this isn’t exactly what you asked for.

If you have a neutral wire

The homeseer switches look exactly like regular rocker switches, which means the double tap and triple tap features are not intuitive. They have to be explained to someone. But when used for zone lighting, they tend to be really easy to remember, and they are popular for that purpose. Oh, and though although I didn’t mention it, they have the same tap pattern at the bottom of the switch so you can use that for off for the zones as well.

This video from the manufacturer shows the switch being used for zone lighting:

You can talk to people using the Homeseer switches in the following thread

The newest GE lights also support single tap and double tap, but not triple tap.

if you don’t have a neutral wire

An alternative approach for the same type of use case is to get one of the battery powered multibutton devices and put it wherever you want it to be. And that way you don’t need a neutral wire. You still have to have some other smart device that controls each individual load. But then you can have the buttons do anything you want to, including any combination of lights. These have the advantage that they’re usually more obvious to guests because you can actually see that there are multiple buttons. The remotec 90 typically costs just under $50 and is available in both the US and the UK and is popular for this kind of device, but there are quite a few others listed in the buttons FAQ as well.


With the battery operated devices you have truly separated the UI from control of the light, but the thing is it will take two devices to do it.

  1. if you really want to be sure that the switch itself never turns on the light, but that the instructions always go to the hub first…

This scenario is most commonly used with switches for smart bulbs, as it prevents people from turning off power to the bulbs. In your use case, you would have to add an additional smart device to control the fixture itself, probably a micro in the ceiling fitting.

If you have a neutral wire

With a neutral wire, you could just replace the existing wall switch with another wall switch which does not control the load. Typically this would be an auxiliary switch which was designed for a virtual three-way. You have to choose one which does have a radio in it so that it can communicate to the smartthings hub ( rather than the kind that depends on physical traveler wires to connect to the master switch). But there are a couple of brands that do this. The most popular now is probably the linear/go control accessory switch. It’s widely available and works well.

If you don’t have a neutral wire, look for battery powered options

Since you don’t have a neutral wire, you would probably need to Use a smart switch cover which fits over the existing switch. That way you can leave the existing switch always on and use the smart switch cover, which is battery operated, to send messages to the hub. Again these are popular for use with smart bulbs.

The Sylvania smart dimming switch is a popular battery powered option:

Just remember that if you use this type of option, you still have to have another smart device with the radio to actually control the light coming on and off. If that’s a smart Bulb, then you’re all set. But if you’re using dumb bulbs, then you’ll have to add a smart micro in the wall.

Or you can blank off the existing switch and use the Cooper 9500, which is a battery powered switch. This looks very nice, but typically costs more. And again, you’ll still need a second smart device to control the light.

Also, if you use this option, it may be that if your home automation system isn’t working the switch won’t turn the light on and off. There are some ways around that depending on the exact protocol that you pick, but it’s an issue to be aware of. People often don’t care about that problem if it’s a switch they are using to control smartbulbs in table lamps, but if it’s a ceiling fixture you may want to give thought to what will happen if your hub isn’t working. In fact one of the reasons people will choose a smart switch cover is because then the original switch is still available underneath if needed.

Although in some ways this is closest to the description in your original post, it’s not quite the same because of the requirement that you buy that second device that does actually control the current.

So there you have three different options, and there are probably a couple more those are just the ones that came to mind first. They all require slightly different devices and end up with slightly different results, so I’m not sure which would be the best match to what you’re trying to accomplish but at least that should give you some ideas. :sunglasses: