Physical switch for smart bulbs?

I’m very new to this whole thing, so please don’t kill me for posting a dumb question! I want to add smart bulbs to a room (mostly because I like the idea of shifting color temp as the day goes on). I’m planning on getting the Sylvania 73742 adjustable white lights and the Smartthings hub. I want there to be a “normal” dimmer switch with on/off on the wall, but as I understand it you can’t wire smart bulbs up like a normal light…they need always on power and a switch would have to talk to them via Zigbee.

So this is where I’m totally confused. I’ve found a small handful of switches “for smart bulbs” (e.g., Runlesswires, C by GE switches, etc.), and a whole ton of “smart switches” for dumb lights (e.g., Lutron Caseta).

What would work? I want a consistent look and feel throughout the house, regardless whether the room has smart bulbs or dumb bulbs. Help me please! Thanks in advance.

The basic concept is that some newer smart switches have the capability to not cut power to the bulb by disabling the built-in relay, as you want a smart bulb to be constantly powered. They still function as a switch, sending input to the hub, which in turn sends the command to the bulb to turn off or on, etc.

I have the Inovelli Red. Here is their description of that function:

Smart Bulb Compatible (Disable Internal Relay)
Control your smart bulbs by disabling the internal relay and sending a Z-Wave Central Scene Command. For example, if you have a Philips Hue or LIFX bulb that you want to control via a light switch. Normal switches will cut the power to the bulb, rendering it useless. With your Inovelli On/Off, you can disable the internal relay (so it won’t shut power off to the light bulb) and have the switch send an On/Off command to the HUB (and in turn the light bulb) when you press up or down on the light switch. In addition, if you want to change the color of the bulb or the dimness, you can double/triple/4x/5x tap the switch and it will send a color or dimming command to the HUB (and in turn the light bulb). Below is a real-life example with the internal relay disabled:

https://inovelli.com/shop/smart-light-switches/zwave-smart-switches-gen2/z-wave-on-off-switch-neutral-required-scenes-notifications/#firmware

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Not a dumb question at all, it’s one that gets asked two or three times a month in the forums. Consequently there is a forum FAQ that describes the options, so that should help. :sunglasses:

FAQ: Looking at a good Wall Switch for my Hue Bulbs (2018 Short FAQ) ( also applies to other brands of smart bulbs)

(Although it says Hue in the title, it applies to any brand)

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Thanks for the feedback. The Inovelli switches certainly look interesting. That said, the options are pretty limited (e.g., no matching adjustable fan switch).

Looking at the long FAQ, it seems like I could potentially use any smart switch (e.g., Lutron Caseta) and just have the bulbs hard wired to be always on…set the bulbs up to follow what the switch is doing. Is that right? If doing that, are there any issues with the switch not having any actual load on it?

First rule of Home automation: the model number matters. :wink:

Some switches will work fine, some won’t.

We used to use the classic zwave version of the gocontrol auxiliary switch because, like the newer Inovelli, it’s designed to bypass the load. But it was replaced with a zwave plus version and some people have reported the mirroring doesn’t work well with that specific model.

(And, btw, the Lutron Caseta fan switch does not yet work with SmartThings. :disappointed_relieved:)

So the answer to your general question is maybe—it depends on the model.

Blah it’s all so convoluted it’s crazy. Really frustrating and has me wondering if I just forget all this and stick with dumb bulbs/switches. I wish there were a clear list of which switches work with smart bulbs and which don’t. And the Caseta fan switch not working with ST sucks :cry:

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The most elegant solutions currently available are for bulbs which work with the hue bridge.

At our house we use the Lutron Aurora switch covers. They don’t look like anything else, but they do look and work like a traditional dimmer, and guests are very comfortable with them. (Push for on/off, spin to dim up or down.)

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They install in about 5 minutes, no wiring required, and we’ve been very happy with them. :sunglasses:

They don’t work directly with SmartThings that I know of, but they’re an excellent parallel means of control.

Oh, and I agree that the Caseta fan switch not working with ST is annoying. :rage:

Thanks again for all the suggestions!

Any clue about the Honeywell 39351? It’s listed on Smartthings as a supported device, has a decent aesthetic IMHO, and has a matching fan switch that is also listed on Smartthings…

I didn’t see anything in the literature that indicates that the relay can be disabled, so you wouldn’t want to use this with smart bulbs.

FWIW, Inovelli will have a “matching” fan switch (2 of them, actually) in the not too distant future. It’s undergoing testing now.

https://inovelli.com/zwave-switches/#scene-enabled

:astonished: that’s awesome. Looks like I have my plan. The first room doesn’t have a fan anyway, so I can do that one and then once the other switches come out move onto the other rooms.

It’s hard for me to believe these are the only decent options for smart bulbs without using something brand specific, but they do have a good aesthetic and aren’t very expensive so whatevs. Thanks!!

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FWIW you can bypass the relay of any smart switch with the wiring external to the switch, including the Honeywell 39351 mentioned above. Just connect the load wire directly to the incoming hot in the junction box rather than connecting it to the load terminal on the switch. Since the relay doesn’t handle any current when wired this way you wouldn’t need a fan rated switch to control a fan, any smart switch would work.

Keep in mind that regardless of how you bypass the relay, you’ll need to create rules/automations to tie the commands sent from the switch to the bulbs you want to control. Depending on how these rules are created and what DTH your switch is using, there’s a potential to lose control of the bulbs if you lose internet or the ST cloud goes down. It’s also worth noting that the smart bulbs you mentioned (Sylvania 73742) will default to an on state if they lose and regain power for any reason. A quick blip in the power will result in your smart bulbs coming on at full brightness and you’ll have no way to turn them off until the hub reboots, which can be really annoying if it happens at 3 am to the lights in your bedrooms (ask me how I know this :rage:). If your rules controlling the bulbs aren’t running locally then you’d also be waiting for internet to be restored and your hub to be connected to the ST cloud before you could turn the lights back off.

For these reasons I only use smart bulbs that can return to previous state after a power outage in bedrooms, and I also try to avoid lighting controls that don’t run locally.

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I had some worry that not wiring to the load side of the switch would cause issues. I know some dimmers have minimum loads, but I guess that’s for them to be able to actually cut enough current to low wattage dumb bulbs for them to actually turn off?

What kind of setup do you suggest for both lighting controls that run locally as well as bulbs that return to previous state after power loss that are the same form factor as the Sylvania’s I mentioned? I’m totally new to all this so pretty clueless.

That’s correct, the minimum load is for completely cutting current for low wattage bulbs, which doesn’t apply if there’s nothing connected to it. It doesn’t need anything connected to the load terminal to register button presses and send that info to the hub, which is all the switch is doing if the relay is bypassed. Because of this, it doesn’t even need to be installed in the same circuit as the light fixture, it can be installed anywhere.

I haven’t kept up with things all that well over the last couple years, so I don’t know everything that runs locally now. I do know that the smart lighting and smart home monitor apps run automations/rules locally, so you should be safe sticking to those. It’s also important that all of your devices are assigned stock DTH’s in order to run locally, so don’t use a custom DTH for your switches or bulbs. Switches and bulbs are generally pretty standard across all manufacturers, so there’s rarely a reason to use custom DTH’s for them.

The only bulbs I know for sure have an option to control/edit the power restore behavior are the Hue bulbs, and I think they may require being connected to a hue bridge to enable that feature. My solution to this issue is simply to eliminate smart bulbs from bedrooms wherever possible and instead use smart switches with dumb bulbs. I do have a couple of smart RGBW bulbs in bedrooms, but they’re in lamps that are plugged into smart pocket sockets that restore to the off position regardless of previous state. The pocket sockets serve double duty as zigbee repeaters to strengthen my mesh on the far ends of my house and to make sure my color bulbs don’t wake me up after a power outage.

There’s also this solution. I haven’t tried it myself, but it should return all chosen bulbs to previous state after a power outage, though likely with a slight delay while the hub boots up.
https://community.smartthings.com/t/release-smartbulb-power-outage-handler/49650

No worries, I’ve been tinkering with HA and SmartThings on and off for a few years now, and I still feel pretty clueless half the time. HA really can be a really complex and convoluted rabbit hole, especially for those of us integrating switches, outlets, and sensors that aren’t officially supported by ST.

That reminds me of another issue with the Sylvania bulbs that I learned the hard way. They will sometimes allow zigbee end devices to connect to them, but won’t reliably pass on messages coming from them. More on that here: https://community.smartthings.com/t/inexpensive-smart-bulbs-2019/148212/14?u=minerjason

Ugh I picked the Sylvania because it’s officially supported and in the form factor I need (recessed can retro). At this point I’m not too worried about the repeater issue but maybe I’ll have to deal with that some day. I can’t justify $35/bulb for the Hue variant, plus the bridge.

Also, I was planning on having my ST hub connected to a UPS (all my networking gear is on a sine wave recreating UPS, as I live in the boonies and don’t trust the incoming power to be clean). Not sure how that affects the whole power loss thing.

I looked at that Sylvania retro kit option, but skipped it after reading some reviews. A lot of people complained about it showing a dim light even when turned off. You might consider smart BR30 style bulbs for your can lights instead of a retrofit kit. The Sengled bulbs are really reliable and very affordable, but they don’t act as repeaters so they won’t extend your network. They won’t pretend to act as repeaters but drop messages and cause endpoint devices to drop off like the Sylvania though. I know a lot of people really love the Hue bulbs, and they make a BR30 too, but it’s a bit pricey (~$21/bulb for white). The Hue bulbs don’t require the bridge to work with ST, but that might be the only way to expose the options to edit the power restore state.

The UPS would help with power loss in that there wouldn’t be a wait for the hub to reboot. This means the power outage smartapp I linked above might work really well for you.

I have a room with Hue bulbs and use the Smart Switch by RunLessWire. Prior to that I was using a Zwave switch with complex rules to try and keep the lights on as much as possible but it wasn’t too effective. What I like about this new setup is that it reacts instantly and that it works even if you don’t have internet access. The trade off is that the lights are now wired permanently.

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Already got the Sylvania’s from Amazon, so we’ll see how they go. If they suck, they go back. Benefits of Amazon. I saw the ‘no off only dim’ reviews but assumed it was because of dimmer and/or setup issues. I guess we’ll see. I don’t want BR30s because the retro kits look MUCH cleaner…push comes to shove I’ll use the Hue ones if I have to, but again, $35/bulb is really painful. Now I guess the question is whether I can put the ST hub in my basement where the switch has lots of open ports or if I have to put it in my upstairs rack where I’m nearly out of ports.

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