New Home Advice Sought - To many lights - too little wall space

Hello,

I’m helping my parents who are building a new home. They’ve run into a bit of an issue with light switches.

They have very limited wall space in their floor plan. This has created a situation where they need a lot of light switches but do not have the wall space for them. In some cases, there is room for one gang box but a need to control around around 6 lights. To add onto this, my parents would like the ability to dim any light.

So, how to do this?

There does not appear to be any product as simple as a 6-light controlling dimmable z-wave switch which we could buy. So how should we got about doing this?

There are some possibilities, but we need the answers to a few questions first. :sunglasses:

First things first: what country are you in? The device selection does vary somewhat.

Next, why are you only considering zwave? Just curious, as there are some other options.

And third, how much control do you need of each light? That is, could it just be on/off or do you also want dimming from the wall switch? (It will be a lot simpler with just on/off). You could still do dimming with, say, voice control like Amazon Echo or from a wall-mounted tablet or with an app.

Finally, and this goes back to question one, US building codes in most jurisdictions would not allow the kind of set up you’re describing, that is a situation where there isn’t enough wall space for wall switches for each circuit branch.

There have been some people who wanted to accomplish something similar but they were using smart bulbs and wanted to create different lighting zones in a room which is only been designed for one or two. Imagine a large basement family room which originally had one switch that controlled six or eight recessed ceiling lights, but now they want to break that up into different Lighting zones without rewiring. So in that case there’s no issue with the number of wires in the box.

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Also, one more question: are you willing to consider a non-conventional shape? For example, the following:

The six gang is about 12 inches wide, and to make it to US code you can’t fit it all in a single gang, there is A limit to the number of wires you can have in a single gang space.

But this approach is a popular option provided you’ve done the appropriate wiring in the wall.

Canada. (Can purchase from USA if necessary).

I am using z-wave by default since that what I put into my own home. I’m open to other possibilities if it turns out there is a better solution elsewhere.

Dimming would primarily be controlled via app. (Right now we are thinking a wall mounted tablet.) It would be nice to control dimming via the wall switches but I’m assuming that’s a lost cause.

There doesn’t seem to be a question in there.

I am open to the possibility that smart bulbs are part of the solution here.

Yes, we’d be willing to consider a non-conventional shape.

Firstly, just to be clear, there is no wiring yet. So that can be adjusted for whatever the right solution is.

Secondly, in at least one position in the house we cannot fit more than a single gang box.

Given your questions, I’m thinking the case is that we cannot get away with having so many actual light switches in such a small area. Instead, the best we can do is have some sort of remote there controlling lights where the “real” switches are elsewhere?

The reason I asked the question about the building code is I didn’t understand how you were going to get the construction approved in such a way that you would even have that particular problem to begin with. I guess I’m still confused about that unless things are quite different in Canada, but typically they have equal to or higher safety standards than the US when it comes to electrical work. So I suppose the question is have you run this past a licensed contractor or architect yet, it just seems unlikely that you would be allowed to build something that would cause the problem you described.

Are you intending to control six different light fixtures in the room? Or multiple bulbs in one fixture, but maybe two or three of those? That determines how many wires there will have to be in the wall if you are willing to use smart bulbs.

Tagging @tgauchat in case he has any thoughts to add.

Ok, so more full background here. My Dad talked to his (fully licensed) electrician. The electrician quoted my dad $25,000 additional to install a Lutron system. My Dad didn’t really want to spend that amount of money for that and asked me to look into the differences between Lutron and the SmartThings systems that I used. After researching the differences and apprising him of it, he concluded that Lutron was not worth the money. But then it falls to me to give advice on what kind of z-wave devices he needs.

I understand that the electrician was going to install something like this: https://www.amazon.ca/Lutron-Rrd-w6brl-wh-Product-6brl-Keypad/dp/B00609SG4C/. I gather that such a device doesn’t actually control the lights, but instead sends a signal back to a central command system which controls the lights. As such, the wires for the lights would not even go into the box, so there was no problem there.

There is a mix of interior and exterior lights, each switch would be controlling multiple physical lights.

Ok, so, we cannot have one gang box controlling so many lights. So either:

  1. We have have multiple gang boxes, perhaps stacking one of top of the other.
    a) Six is too far, but how many circuits can we control from a gang box?
  2. We have a z-wave key panel which can turn off/on the lights, but the actual controlling switch is elsewhere.
    a) What happens if the internet is out, does the key panel stop working?
    b) How reliable is this? I’m going to hear about it if it doesn’t work perfectly.

Lutron is probably the most reliable smart lighting system out there, certainly more reliable than SmartThings. Did you look into their DIY line, Lutron Caseta? (They also have an official integration with smartthings.) The only question there is the size of the house as one of the reasons that it is more reliable is that it’s not a mesh system. They don’t work with the particular keypad that you linked to, but they do work with the four button pico, which is a battery operated device so you can put it anywhere and it gives you a lot of options.

Lutron runs everything locally Except third-party integrations like smart things or the various voice assistance. It’s very fast, very reliable, pretty amazing engineering (they hold a bunch of patents).

image

Because reliability is a very high priority for me, I use the lutron Caseta switches in my own house. So that’s one possibility.

I’m not feeling well tonight, so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail, hopefully other people will chime in. But just a quick mention of some other options:

  1. Leviton makes multi button switches that do work with SmartThings with custom code. Very expensive, about $150 each, but they are still popular if you need multiple buttons in a single gang form factor.

However, as you noted, these work by sending a radio signal to The hub which then send a message to you a device which is controlling that specific current branch. That could be a smart bulb or it could be a micro in the lighting fixture. Or a junction box.

  1. Remotec makes a battery operated 8 button zwave device and each button has press, long press, or double tap.

If you label the buttons, it’s very intuitive.

image

  1. Phillips hue smart bulbs combined with the new friends of hue battery free green power switches. Again you can put these anywhere. These were dim from the switch.

  1. if you get Z wave smart bulbs (not zigbee smart bulbs) There are some old generation zwave “local scene controllers” that can control them without ever talking to the smartthings hub. It means status might get out of sync in the app, and you won’t be able to put any rules on it, but some people are using these

https://www.amazon.ca/GE-45631-Wireless-Lighting-Controller/dp/B003OUWABU

There are some other possibilities as well, but I’m not Going to be able to finish this post right now.

The main thing to know is that the general solutions are:

A) get a multi button mains Power device. It won’t control multiple circuit branches, so the target devices will have to be either smart bulbs or each have their own micro.

B) give each device a zwave micro somewhere on the circuit, doesn’t have to be in the switchbox.

Take a look at the following project. It in England, but it will show how you can wire at the junction box instead of the switch.

C) get a battery powered switch. There are lots of variations on these, including the Lutron Caseta.

D) use Phillips hue bulbs with the Phillips hue bridge and the new green power battery free switches. This will be almost as reliable as the Lutron.

E) use a Wallmount tablet or wifi phone as a control center. @tgauchat can say more about those.

image

F) Z wave local scene controller with Z wave smart bulbs. I don’t like these with a SmartThings system because they’re really meant for Z wave only systems and they are at this point really old technology. But they’re cheap and will work for some people.

That’s all I can say for now.

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Here is a picture of one of the problem spots.

To the left we have an exterior door and to the right we have a turn in the wall and a window. In this corner there is only width to put one gang box. But ideally, we should here control sets of interior and exterior lights.

So, the options we are considering are:

  • Stack gang boxes (as you bring up)
  • Put actually switches elsewhere and a smart multi-button control here that controls them via a hub.
  • Use a micro to allow control of the lights by the hub without a physical switch, and use a multi-button here to control the lights via hub.
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Unless the Multi button controller is zwave and the controlled devices are zwave and you use either z wave direct association or zwave local scenes.

Or

Unless the multi button controller is Lutron Caseta and the control devices are Lutron Caseta

Or

Unless the multi button controller is friends of hue compatible and the end devices are hue bridge controllable.

Or

Unless the devices work with both smartthings and HomeKit and you use HomeKit for local control.

In any of these cases, the end devices will be controllable from smartthings and if smartthings is not available, the end devices will still work locally.

See post 7 above. :sunglasses:

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I’m afraid I can’t really comment on that. If it doesn’t run on electricity its not my department. :slight_smile:

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This is a fun one: I had it on an examination question once.

Vapour barriers were at one time required by building code in the US, but then the requirement was removed from code again except for very cold climates or certain kinds of commercial buildings or rooms with exceedingly high humidity such as indoor swimming pool or spa rooms.

Excellent article on the up-and-down of all this over time:

I have no idea what the requirement is in Canada, now, or if it varies by region.

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