New to Smart Things switches or bulbs

Hey guys,
My wife and i just purchased a new house in Hollywood Fl. The house has been slightly updated but we want to make it into a smart house. We figured smart things is the way to go.

The first venture is lighting, what’s better bulbs or switches? I am cable of wiring the switches however being the house is an older home I don’t no what I’m working with in regards with wiring, and space in the junction boxes. I say space because in my previous home the Belkin Weemo light switches were to large to fit.

The goal is to get the home to be very automatic, wake up coffee starts, motorized blinds rise and what not. Come home garage door opens lights turn on Ac turns on etc. eventually we’d like to set up the echo to add voice control in the house.

Any how starting with lighting.

Switches or bulbs and why

Since you’re not comfortable with home wiring, I’d suggest initially getting bulbs (Hues in particular) for a few reasons.

  1. You want to get your feet wet while staying inside your comfort zone.
  2. If you do decide to move to switches, the Hue bulbs will always come in handy due to their pretty colors.
  3. They work quite nicely with both SmartThings and the Echo (speaking from personal experience).

At the end of the day, however, I think switches tend to be a much better choice.
As much as you want to automate things, you’re certain to run into situations where you want manual control of your lighting, and nothing provides that like a nice tactile switch.
Also, visitors to your house will not need a primer on how to work the lights :smile:

You can replicate the behavior of integrated switches with Hue lights, but it tends to be finicky.

Hey Zac,

Switches - Anyone can operate and not mess things up. Critical in my household for the FAF(Family Acceptance Factor)

if you have bulbs, your setup will get messed up the first time someone flips the switch and turns your setup off. Also needing to use a phone(or tablet) to control your lighting is an issue.

All you need is a neutral wire in the box for most switches to work.


What switches would you recommend

There are a variety of ways to go about this, but know that having bulbs and switches is possible without having things getting messed up.

My lighting is predominantly HUE (you can search my other posts for why I feel these are best). They are hard wired, and the switches installed are simply auxiliary switches that only send events to SmartThings. The advantage here is that you can have ANY switch turn on ANY lights, without having to worry about wiring constraints.

You can even have the same switches do different things based on what time of day, or multiple things based on multiple taps (tap on once for scene 1, tap on again for scene 2, etc.).

I personally went with switches because I wanted to always have local control. I looked at ST as augmentation or secondary control of my lighting vs. primary.

My wife is by no means a Luddite, but she’s also not one who likes to be on the bleeding edge. If I went with bulbs and they weren’t going off easily, she’d just flip the switch and be done with it. She wouldn’t pull out a tablet or anything to turn them off. And if the power is cut from the switch… well, the smart bulb becomes dumb quick.

I’ve have a bunch of GE/Jasco switches and generally I’m happy with them. I would tend to avoid Evolve just because I’ve had some pairing issues with them in the past, but once paired they work okay.

Levitron and Cooper switches work well too, but they tend to be more expensive than the GE/Jasco.

Most Z-wave switches are more of the decora/paddle type, which some people really do not like. I have heard that there’s one now that’s more of a “standard” flip switch, but I haven’t seen/used it myself.

what about the Cree connected bulbs? is that still the same problem with it being “messed up” by someone flipping the switch?

Yes, a Cree bulb would be messed up by turning it off at the switch. It would drop off the zigbee network, and would have to be re-included, which can be a pain…

To clarify…

Bulbs don’t always drop off the network (if manually shut off at switch) and have to be reincluded…but it can happen if the switch operation mimics the reset sequence of the inclusion.

Not to step on toes but this confused me as a newb so felt further explanation might be appreciated by the op :slight_smile:

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So what exactly am I looking for when I pull out the existing switch? White wires going into the switch or white wires I can hook up to a neutral from the wave switch to? Any have a video or a photo explaining this?

Check out the first post in this thread.

+1 for switches if you feel comfortable wiring them up. I just got done with the monoprice switch, which was pretty easy once I understood the module better. The drawing provided was a bit poor and I’m not an electrician so things didn’t line up perfectly.

Bulbs if you fear electricity more than a healthy respect for exposed wires while pressing a configure button on the dumb module… I got around that with my device type the second time though :wink:

is there anything smart bulbs CAN be used for then? I bought 3 Cree Connected bulbs since they were only $15 a pop. Can I use them for lamps or will I have the same manual switch sync issue?

Sure, use them in lamps – that’s what I do. Just don’t turn the lamps off, use lighting automations instead.

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Ditto. I have some GE Link bulbs that I use purely through automation. It’s a really simple way to get into lighting, and in some places it’s perfectly fine.

Bulbs are easier to get started with (simpler to install) and mostly cheaper, I believe, but switches seem like they’d make for a more seamless experience. With a smart bulb, you can’t turn off the wall switch or lamp switch at all if you want to be able to control the light with SmartThings.

The catch with switches is that they mostly need a neutral wire (a third wire in the switch box that provides power to the switch no matter the switch state), and not all houses have that. Whether your house has neutral wires generally depends on the age of the house (or the age of the wiring if it was added or redone later). The only smart switches that don’t need a neutral only work with incandescent bulbs, because they need to trickle a certain amount of power through the circuit to keep the wireless radio in the switch active, and only an incandescent can take that low level of power without actually lighting up.

I would say go with switches if you or someone you know is comfortable doing the wiring.

Ok so pulled out of my switches to start converting everything. Good news I have the need white neutral wire! Confusing news… I have a red wire? Its was a three switch I’m assume the black is the hot the red is the 3 way and the white is my neutral?

If you JUST have three wires, then it’s likely that:
Black is line (from breaker box)
Red is load (to light fixture)
White is neutral

But it’s honestly nearly as likely that things are different… it really kinda depends on who was doing it and how they felt at the time.

Are there just the the three wires? Not a fourth?