New to HA - what do I need?



I am very new to Home Automation and considering getting a Smartthings Hub. I want to start with controlling my front porch lights to automatically turn on when its dark, and turn off when there’s light. What do I need besides the hub?

I am assuming I need a smart light switch? If so which one? Do I need any special kind of bulbs?

thanks for the help!


Hi there!

Welcome to the SmartThings Forum!

The simplest solution would be to switch out your in-wall switch with one of these.

That’s a switch from GE that uses ZigBee. It can talk to our hub so that you can control it remotely and schedule it to turn on/off.

That switch should also support whichever bulbs you have now.

Depending on your light setup, you could change the bulb(s) instead of changing the switch. One example would be the Cree bulb, though I don’t believe it (or any similar ZigBee bulbs) are rated for outdoor use.

Let us know if you have any more questions, or feel free to email and they can help you get started.

(Dawn Fairbro) #3

Just an FYI… My Wink bulb and Fibaro motion sensor have been on my covered porch for about 6 months… they have worked great for that purpose. :smile:

(Bobby) #4

What is a “Wink” bulb? You mean GE Link? These are rated for outdoor use. I have them too out on the porch and they are working great with ST hub!


Do GE Link Bulbs work with the smartthings hub? If so, would I just need the bulb and not swap out the light switch?

(Greg) #6

Yes and Yes. 12345678

(Dawn Fairbro) #7

Yes, Link Light, sorry about that… :frowning:

(Tamara) #8

As said, you only need one or the other: smart bulbs or smart switches. There are pros and cons to both.

Swapping the bulb is simpler to get started (who can’t screw a bulb into a fixture? :wink:) and generally cheaper. The downside is that if it’s a circuit with a switch, that switch has to stay on for you to control the bulb from SmartThings. If someone flips the switch off then the bulb will lose power and no longer be visible to the hub. You’d need to turn it back on from the switch. The same goes for a lamp switch if you put the bulb in a lamp. You need to stop people from using the physical switches for things to work most smoothly.

Using a smart switch is more involved because you have to mess with electricity, and they tend to be more expensive than a bulb, but they eliminate the above problem. People can use the app, automated rules in the app, or the physical switch interchangeably without losing the ability to control it from SmartThings.

Aside from cost, the issue that many run into with smart switches is that most (all?) of the ones meant to be used with CFL or LED bulbs require a neutral wire. This is because the switch needs to maintain constant power in order to keep in touch with the hub. (Don’t ask me to explain a neutral wire, but basically it’s a third wire in the box hooked up to the switch that allows the switch to always have power, even when the circuit is switched off.)

I don’t know exactly when neutral wires became common, and it might vary by area, but many older homes, including mine built in 1961, lack a neutral connection. I guess from what I’ve read, in some cases there might be a neutral or wire that could be used as neutral in the back of switch boxes but not yet connected to the switch. If not, then new wiring would be needed, which would probably not be cheap. You can search the forum for more people’s experiences with neutral wires. Anything beyond a simple one for one swap is beyond my comfort level, electricity-wise, so I only know what I’ve read (and I didn’t understand all of it at that). I’d like to get an electrician out some day and tell me what options I might have. Some day.

As far as I know, smart switches that can work without a neutral only work with incandescent bulbs because they can run enough power through the circuit to keep the switch active without lighting up the bulb. But CFL and LED use much less power, so that’s not possible because the threshold of lighting the bulb is much lower. I think I’ve read some people say that if you have enough bulbs on a given circuit, such that the load is sufficient to trickle power, it could still work, but that’s about where my eyes start glazing over.


Makes sense…thanks for the detailed explanation. I am leaning towards the switch route just because there are 8 outdoor bulbs that need to be controlled. My home was build in the mid 90s, so I am hoping there’s a neutral available.

Another question: How do I control my garage door using smartthings?

(Greg) #10

you need a tilt sensor (ST multi works great) and a relay (LFM-20 works great)

I understand there are some changes and people can’t set up new instances of the shortcut button. However I still have the one I set up.

(Tamara) #11

I believe there are smart bulbs rated for outdoor use. But my personal recommendation would definitely be to go with the switches if you can. Good luck!

(Fast, Good, Cheap...pick two.) #12

Patience…lots and lots of patience.