New to SmartThings, lots of ideas. Need guidance (switch brand comparison)

I moved into a much larger home with great internet service so now I get to automate things, but I need guidance.

3-way switches everywhere, kids that dont turn lights off, and switches on the wrong side of the room (for us).

I bought the hub a few hours ago from Amazon and have been trying to lay out the initial steps on getting lights in the upstairs living room and stairwell, to be automated along with a few areas on the main floor. My kids leave them on all the time. My thought was the GE toggle switches. Will these work with 3 way switches? My plan is to initially install them at the bottom of the stairs (for stairwell) and at the top of the stairs (living room). The master is on the other side of the LR and thats where the other 3 way for the LR is.

Next, the laundry room is the egress from the garage, on the back side of the kitchen. So we have to walk into the dark laundry room to turn the light on. My thought was motion sensor for this room, but what if someone physically turns the light off via the switch? sensor is useless. So should I install a toggle there too? So Its always waiting for a command?

This is the beginning. If the toggle switch works with 3 way, Ill be spending way too much and adding them everywhere. Thats why I want to hit the big areas first.

Oh, and Ill be using Amazon Echo to turn them off…after I figure out how.

Thanks in advance.

They won’t work with regular 3 way switches, but they have their own add-on switches for this -

I’m afraid you will have to replace them all, but at least the add-ons are a little cheaper! :smile:

So…the add on AND the regular toggle will have to be bought to control one light? that slows my process WAY down $$$$.

I have 8-3 way switches on the first floor alone…

I feel your pain. That’s the reason I haven’t switched all of my switches over yet either. The builder put way too many switches in everywhere. The alternative (if you don’t use some of the switches) is to just put the zwave switch as the one that you will actually use and just disconnect the others.

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Thats not a bad idea, but Id rather keep them wired, in the event that we tuck the kids in and dont have our phones or the Echo remote with us. Ill jsut have to slowly roll it out, or shift focus to the standard switches in the home.

If theres only one switch, would you recommend the toggle switch or another switch type that is always “listening” for commands? Paddles arent out of the question, as long as they always listen, regardless of the state of the paddle.

This is the dark underbelly of HA. :wink: i too have pretty large home (by my standards) and my builder apparently never met a switch that he didn’t want to 3-way. This very quickly has become an expensive proposition. My approach was to first outline a series of specific sequences (kids wake up at night and approach the stairs, lights on at sunset, wife heads into the basement storage area) and then I started making purchases to get those done.

IMO, the switch issues are killers. The options are expensive (if you’re new to this), unclear, the toggle switches are non-standard, and you need to be an apprentice electrician to work out complicated 3-way issues (on your own). I’ve decided on a mix of switches and relays, and [against my usual instinct] am going slow.

Maybe someone else can chime in about if any of the in-wall switches (like this one work with 3-way switches. I’ve never looked into those.

Ive remodeled homes before so im not afraid of electricity.

Ive laid it out on paper what I want the home to be able to do, but financially I cant drop the coin until I sell my other house. So taking it slow is a must.

Ideally, if money wasnt tied up in the other house:

Single garage would open for me when I arrive, start playing music via Sonos in kitchen (dont have one yet), my presence would unlock the front door, and thats about it for my arrival. I could control house via Echo.

Wife shows up, the 2 car garage opens, kitchen light turns on for her entry to home, front door stays locked. Motion sensor in the upstairs LR turns that light on for kids. Probably use vibration/multi sensor in stairs to basement to turn lights on for kids to let out dogs.

Motion sensor in master WIC turns light on.

multi sensors in the typical areas, moisture sensors anywhere water could be.

All lights controlled.

Ill have to look at that link at home, @obycode. Theyre blocked here at work. Thanks for the link though!

I’ve been very satisfied with using Aeon Minimotes for this scenario… I 3M Velcro them to the lightswitch plate.

I would recommend you to use in the laundry and in common areas that are just for walking along (such as halls) this motion sensor switch which is cheaper than the connected ones:

One is for a single-pole switch and the other works for a 3-way installation, so it could be useful for the stairs, for example. They are not connected to ST, but one thing I’ve realized is that the best automation is sometimes the easiest way possible. Obviosuly these wouldn’t work inside of a bedroom, living room or dining room.

The GE Z-wave switches are very good and easy to install, take a little bit less space than the Linear switches and their Add-On switch doesn’t connect directly to ST, which makes it ideal for when the hub or internet is down. What I recommend is, do one room at a time and don’t just go heads in for the whole house. That way you make the economic hit a bit more bearable and you won’t be all up to your head with pending work.

On the garage and door lock side of things, I’d recommend you to wait a little. There are still problems with the invite system for presence-based cell phone in ST. Don’t make your wife go against you if she can’t get the door open like you do. That would be the end of your HA dream.

If I did that, it would defeat the purpose of a remote…wouldnt it. The remote being right next to the switch?

That’s my “goal setup”, not my initial. I’m starting small, but want the right things, up front.

Not if the switch isn’t effective or not desirable.

In my case, I have a 3-Way circuit on a stairwell with lights at top and bottom. I replaced them with smart bulbs (GE Link) and never use the light switch except in case of SmartThings failure.

The biggest gain, besides connectivity / automation, is I’ve now improved the virtual circuit to allow higher granular control of the lights – i.e., individually.

Three-way circuits using connected switches don’t require traveler’s anymore. If you don’t want to pay the high cost of switches and get the bonus of 4 (8!) Buttons, the Aeon Minimote is a very cost effective solution.

Sure, it all comes down to exactly what you want to have happen when. “My use case is not your use case.”

If all you want is spotlighting that comes on in a particular zone when there is motion in the zone, then there’s no question that the nonnetworked versions will be cheaper. And can work very effectively.

Sometimes all you need is “Motion = Lights On”

We needed to add a second level of motion detector lighting coming from our front gate to our front door, because the ones we had along the roofline we’re not picking me up in the wheelchair.

So we added a line of four nonnetworked Mr. Beams gardenstakes. Very nicely engineered, good price, work perfectly for the purpose. If anything moves along that path at night, the beams light up. That was all we needed for that purpose.

But sometimes the rules are more complex

On the other hand, indoors we have a lot of different rules. Much more complex. For example, when the house is in “Night” mode, which begins at sundown, triggering the bedroom motion sensor turns on the ceiling light. But once we’re in “Asleep” mode, the same motion sensor triggers a soft night light, not the overhead light.

So we pay more to get networked lights with the possibility of more complex rule structures for those particular indoor areas.

Easy problem, easy solution

We’ve got a storage closet that we hardly ever use. So there’s another Mr. beams in there, not networked, comes on whenever the closet doors opened. $10 solution, works great.

More complex problems benefit from more complex solutions

Then there’s my whole bedtime routine. Because I’m in a wheelchair, I need to see quite a ways in front of me., As I’m getting into bed, my service dog needs to run back-and-forth bringing me things, or putting things away. This whole routine takes about 45 minutes, and it is helpful for both me and the dog if the bedroom light and the hallway light are on until everything is finished.

At that point, I use one voice command to turn off the lights in both the hallway and the bedroom at the same time. Works great, but does require that those lights be networked.

We have had other people bring up cases in the forums where they have a new baby, and they don’t want the motion detector to trigger the light when it’s time for the baby’s nap. So they go for networked devices because again, it lets them set different rules for different conditions. Not just “motion equals light on.”

So the same device may be used in different scenarios, and it is the needs that are solved by each scenario that determine whether the device needs to be networked or not.

What you have one scenario that needs a network device, it’s usually cheaper to use the same device for multiple scenarios, but again it just depends on the details.

Sometimes the best solution is a mix

In the same area where I have the nonnetwork path lights, I have one network tonight. It will also come on when there’s motion, which is good. But I have the option to turn it on whether there’s motion or not. This allows me to view the area in case I want to check to see if there were packages left, or if the gate is ajar, or after a big storm to see if the wheelchair ramp was blocked with debris, in which case I need to call my neighbor to come clear it before I can go out.

So I ended up with one networked light, and several nonnetworked lights, covering the same zone. I didn’t run out and replace the nonnetworked Mr. Beams. They work just fine. I just added one more networked device to cover a small part of the same area.

There’s no one right answer, it’s just a matter of what problems you need to solve. :sunglasses:

They actually are pretty easy to install, we have about 8 of them now in the house. They actually work as if the z-wave switch itself is a 3-way. I, like others here, had a bunch of 3-4 way switches that the electrician put in the house. While that was fine, and there was a switch near all the time, when I went to automate it became clear that this was going to cause an issue. In some cases I removed the secondary switches and replaced them with Sockets that were hardwired that offered an additional plug and usb chargers (in todays home who doesn’t have enough of those (SMILE)).

I’m facing the same issue… The only switches in my house that are NOT 3-way are the laundry, bathrooms, closets, back porch light, … and yeah, that’s about it. I have switches everywhere and it’s nuts! Especially with the OCD wife that insist that any group of switches (2 or more is a group) in the same gang box must all be pointing in the same direction (up or down). Can you see why I really want the toggle switches!!!

So, I’m about to order this and give it a shot. I’m pretty sure it’s going to work for my particular issue.

The price isn’t too bad. I use GE Link bulbs and when I put this in the dining room I will replace the 75.00 worth of smart bulbs in there. They can then go to other places! Like the attic!

I also use Echo to control my house. I love the thing so much I have twins!

Good luck and beware of the HA monkey… it sneaks up on your back and you can’t get it off… FYI… Since I found this forum… I keep answering my wife’s questions with… I haven’t been on FB in weeks!


Since a number of people have said they wished they had researched the differences between different switch brands before purchasing them solely on the basis of price , I will just suggest that you read all of the following topic before placing your order:

@JDRoberts, Thanks for the link… good reading in there. What I took away from it is mostly the engineering problem causing the dropping off line. I personally was going to go with the GE switches because I can’t stand the WEMO in wall switch. I have 3 of those and have only installed one. The reason the other two are sitting is because of the way the installed one is constantly dropping off line. I do not have to reset it or anything, I just wait… or I just physically toggle the switch and it starts working again. It’s just plain out unreliable. I was really hoping for better from GE.

25 out of 29 smart bulbs in my house are GE Link bulbs. I have trouble with only 2. One is getting pretty bad about losing the network. It will randomly show up as a new “thing” in ST. The other one just randomly stops responding. I think tomorrow I’m going to take them both back to HD for an exchange. I’m hoping that fixes that problem.

So, to get back on track of the original posters post… The GE switches have a little problem that conveniently occurs right after the warranty and the WEMO switches just suck. What do you recommend? Yes, I am continuing my research, but it is obvious that you have performed a huge magnitude more research than I.


Brands are discussed in the other thread. Everybody has their own favorites. Sometimes it’s just a matter of preferring blue LEDs to green LEDs.


The GE switches are based on an older design, and they use traveler wires. Most of zwave switches now do not use traveler wires, instead the three-way acts as a wireless remote, Sending a message to the hub which then sends it to the master.

The newest GE switches require that the auxiliaries be on the same neutral as the master as well, which actually limits the number of three-way configurations they can replace. Just something to be aware of.

On the other hand, some people prefer a three-way that uses traveler wires because it means that the auxiliary switches will still work even if the hub is not operating. But you can get around that with Z wave direct association. So it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.

Not all switches support instant status update. That’s not necessarily a big deal, but if you intend to have one switch follow another that is not part of the three-way, like you want all the lights in a zone to dim to 50% at the same time, then instant status does matter.


Cooper switches have instant status and one of the longest warranties at five years. I also like them aesthetically. They have some interesting colors that the other brands don’t have. They are my personal favorite for rocker switches but they’re very expensive. (Rocker switches are easier for my service dog to use than toggle switches)


Leviton switches come in two different lines. The more expensive Vizia line has instant status update. The less expensive DX line does not. Both lines appear to me to be well engineered. I prefer the Cooper aesthetically, but many people prefer Leviton’s. They’re a nice quality switch.


For midway range switch, the Linears are very popular. They don’t have instant status, and the warranty isn’t as long as for Cooper or Leviton, but a lot of people like them. Evolve seems to be a similar quality, although I haven’t looked at them myself. Neither of these two brands support zwave association groups although some of the early marketing material said they did. That can be a problem for some of the specialty smart apps but not for everyone. Just something to be aware of.


Then we come to the low end switches. This is where you find GE And DragonTech. Neither offers instant status. (But they do both support association for one group.) The GE has screw connections. I think everyone else has wire nuts, but DragonTech may have screws as well. No reports so far of DragonTech having the dropping off problem, but they’re a newer brand.

Retailers carry GE because the brand has weight, and they’re very inexpensive. So people buy a lot of them. Many people are just fine with the idea that they may have to replace 10% of the switches they buy about 18 months in. They probably will still have saved a lot of money over buying Coopers or the high end Levitons. So most of the GEs work just fine. It’s just that they do seem to have A higher failure percentage once they’re out of warranty, but not a percentage which is out of line given the price you pay. That’s why it’s a personal decision. A lot of people who buy them will feel that they made a very smart purchase, even three years later after they had to replace some.

So it’s not that there’s one right answer. Because I use a wheelchair, “simple maintenance” is more difficult for me, and having a switch fail to stay connected is a really big hassle for me. I’m willing to pay more to avoid those issues. But if I didn’t have the physical challenges, I might be happy to save the money.

Different people, different preferences

That’s why it’s just a matter of doing the research with the perspective of what’s important to you. The right answer for me might not be the right answer for you.

Also, I tend to put stickers over all the LEDs, so I don’t care whether they’re green, or blue, or don’t match. Other people care a lot.

Inwall Relays with Legrand Faceplates

When it comes to looks, I am a sucker for the look of momentary switches using in wall relays. Not so much the Hong Kong style of glass front plates, but the LeGrand Adorne style. If you do this, you can use virtual or physical three ways. These are also very dog-friendly, which is important in my house.

Here is one of @Mike_Maxwell 's , he’s done a bunch of the LeGrand face plates. If I had enough money to do everything I want this is what I would do. But I don’t, so I’m not sure what I’ll end up with.

Also, new FAQ for the UK section on lighting control options. With the exception of the square switch plates in number three (which are an alternative To the more rectangular switches we just been discussing in this post), all of the options there have visually identical US equivalents. You just need to buy them from US retailers in order to get the US frequency of Z wave. Most of the alternatives in that post aren’t about three ways, but they are about lighting control. I think it’s worth taking a look at that as well for some additional ideas.

I’m not planning to replace my switches for another year or two. So I don’t know whether I will be going for Cooper’s, or momentary’s, or something altogether different. For now, like you, I control most of the lights by voice anyway. :sunglasses:

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