Recommendations - Automated Lighting


Just received a Google Home for the holidays and am looking for recommendations for smart ligting, as a way to get started. I’m looking at the Smartthings Hub and pairing it with Osram light bulbs (without the Osram hub). I have a few requirements, this needs to be wife approved and have to make it work for my mother in law who is in the house each day with my kids. So, I just have a few questions:

  1. I’ve read a lot about the Zigbee issue with Osram bulbs, is there a number where this becomes an issue. I’m starting very small (3-4), is that enough to cause the issue?

  2. Should I get the Osram hub? Does this help alleviate the issue?

  3. Should I just get a philips hue system and wait on the Smartthings hub until I’m ready to add other devices to my home?

Thanks, in advance, for any answers you can provide!


  1. Any of these bulbs can cause the problem. It’s just the more, the merrier (as in more potential issues). There is talk of a fix slowing the messages down as a potential solution.
  2. No. It does eliminate the problem, but only because the Osram hub talks directly to the bulbs and no longer functions with ST.
  3. I have both Osram and Hue. I am having some trouble with motions (possibly related to Osram). Both sets of bulbs work fine and have their pluses and minuses.

( i’ve moved this to projects so you can get individualized answers based on your specific requirements. :sunglasses:)

A zigbee home automation device can generally only belong to one coordinator. The Osborne Gateway doesn’t have any integration with SmartThings. So a bulb either belongs to it or to smart things, not both. Some people get the gateway just so they can update the firmware on their osram bulbs, so if there ever gets to be a fix for the “buffer overflow” repeater issue, then the gateway might be useful then. But not most of the time.

Hue bridge is a different design. It has an open API and the bridge itself will accept requests from partner devices, including SmartThings. The hue bridge forms its own mini-network with any device is connected to the bridge, and they all seem to repeat fine for each other. So right now, the safest way to avoid the dropped messages problem with zigbee bulbs is to use ones that are attached to a hue bridge.

Most people who get the hue bridge are very happy with it. The only downside is that then you have another device. But it’s reliable and flexible and works with many different device partners including, for example, Amazon echo. :sunglasses:

Thanks for moving the thread, wasn’t sure exactly where it fit!

One of the reasons I’m looking into the Smartthings hub, is that it is supported by Google Home. I really don’t want to get the hue bridge and a Smartthings hub and since I may add z-wave devices later on and I thought it made more sense to get the Smartthings hub and bulbs that work with it to start.

I would avoid smart bulbs altogether. There is no way your wife or mother in law will be happy with no physical control of the bulbs. Start small with smart switches.

@navat604 (Who is one of the community’s electrical experts) makes a very good point, you will generally need to have some kind of switches.

That said, people like smart bulbs for two main reasons:

One) they don’t require any wiring

Two) they can change colors or color temperatures (cool white to warm white)

There are a lot of different switches that can be used with them, including many battery powered options so again, no wiring. Phillips themselves offers two different switches that work with their bridge, but there are many different options. So it’s no longer true that having a smart bulb and you won’t also have a wall switch that controls it. You can have both.

At our house, voice has become the primary means of light control for everyone, both the people who live here full-time and visitors. But we do use some switches as well.

The issue of which is better, smart switches or smart bulbs, is one of the longest standing in this community, and you will find passionate advocates for both positions. But the short answer is that different things work for different people and different use cases. Choice is good. :sunglasses:

If you’d like to read more about switches, the following threads are good:

What issues am I going to run into with Switches and an older home. House is from the 70’s and was renovated by the owner before we bought it. Not completely sure they did things to code (in fact pretty convinced they didn’t) I’ve looked in one switch box and I only see 2 wires, no ground (that I can see) and definitely no neutral wire. Do any of the switches work without a neutral wire.

I do anticipate that voice control will be the main way that my wife and mother in law will access the lights, but don’t think that switches are a bad idea. I’m all for having choice.

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There are a number of options for switch boxes that don’t have a neutral. One of the best, Lutron Caseta, is unfortunately not currently compatible with smartthings, although there are a couple of possible workarounds.

That said, very exciting news just today, because the Lutron booth at CES 2017 had a smartthings hub on it! Now confirmed officially, for release “soon.”. :wink:

That would be a fantastic integration which many people have been asking for since SmartThings started, and basically solves the retrofit issue if it happens . :sunglasses:

I’ll post a couple of links in a second.

The current situation

The future!

These are interesting options and I will be certain to check them out. What I really need to do is turn off the power and pull out the switch to verify what is in the box. I did a very quick look one day and I may have missed something.

That being said, I see it’s a Dimmer, does it also work as a just a on/off switch? Most of the switches I would be replacing do not dim.

I also like the idea of using it as a way to fix the grounding issue (nice suggestion)!!

Take pics of what’s in your switch boxes, what wires you have/where they go and post them here. That will help the experts here lead you to the promised land. :slight_smile:

I am reading your post regarding the Hue Bridge.
I am using Smartthings with wemo zigbee bulbs. I wonder if I do need to keep the wemo link on (the wemo equivalent to the Hue bridge)?

To avoid the lost zigbee message problem? I don’t know, I haven’t heard on that brand one way or the other.

Excellent thanks!

RE: Fixing the ground… it really doesn’t do that at all. If it is all EMT then you should have a grounded box/thus grounded switch. If it is not EMT and no ground wire is present then you can still hurt yourself or others touching the switch. If a hot wire gets broken or something comes loose and it touches the box/rear of switch it can make that switch live at 120v even if the control is using low voltage. Its always those unexpected situations that cause issues! So just be careful! Nothing replaces a true ground for safety!!

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That’s correct. Honestly, I’ve never saw a hot (Line) wire not going to the switch bow. And I saw a lot. It will be contrary to any electrical code for the last 30-40 years. Also be aware that electrical code requires you to bring installation to code for any modification/addition to current installation. If an inspection is done to the house, it will fail.
The code also requires that both the box (if metal) and device in it be grounded.
Remember, it’s always better and cheaper in the long run to do it right.

UK and Europe in general as well as any countries that have 220Vac are different. I jumped the gun and I assumed OP is in in US, as Google home is not yet available in other countries. This is what Google shows as availability today

@anon36505037 It’s absolutely correct for US also. Just that we don’t call wires common, but travelers. Switched hot wire is OK in the fixture, direct hot wire is not.

Updated to edit, because I screwed up… when I first posted, I hadn’t followed the whole discussion in detail, and didn’t realize that the issue was just the diagram labels. My bad. :disappointed_relieved:

As far as the devices themselves, everybody here probably already knows, but just to keep future people from getting confused, “common” and “traveler” are two different things in both the US and UK.

US Explanation for nonnetworked switches:

A three-way switch has three screws. One screw is colored darker than the other two. It’s called the “Common” terminal. The other two screws are called “Traveler” terminals.

Three-way switches have three terminals, with the one that is not for the two travelers being called the “common”. At the hot end, the incoming hot wire is connected to the common terminal. At the leg end the wire attached at the common is the one that goes to the light(s).

Networked switches usually come with a label on the traveler terminal telling you not to connect a hot line to it.

In the U.K., it’s a bit different. There are 2 typical ways to wire a multi-way (as opposed to the 8 in the US), but again in both you will use a screw labeled COM and it will carry a full load. It’s not the same as the traveler. The following UK site has good diagrams. Note in particular that there is no common terminal on an intermediate switch in a UK three-way, but obviously there are travelers.

Sorry if I confused anybody, again, that was my error, I didn’t realize you were just talking about the diagram.

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It really depends on your local jurisdiction and for most I believe there are typically long listed cases for exceptions and code allows for any repair or replacement of current carrying parts or any switch or control device without needing permits or bringing the installation to current code. When you think about it, this only makes total sense or else every one that ever did a simple switch replacement of an older home would be in violation. They basically grandfathered in the older homes that met code in their day.

@Patrick_Black So what did you decide to do? I didn’t see any subsequent posts or pictures with what you actually had and what you ended up doing for the wife and mother-in-law. I think @Navat604 gives you great advice to do switch replacement to smart switches when feasible or like @anon36505037 suggests as an alternative using a micro module like a Fibaro or Aeon Nano Dimmers (neutral not required) to make your existing switches smart. or @JDRoberts that gave you some good situations when using a smart bulb is the correct choice.


Only if you don’t do modifications.
All local codes are based on the NEC and they can be more restrictive, but not more lax. Up until 2011, the code didn’t really address “upgrades”. In 210.12 it basically says if you modify an existing circuit where AFCI is now required by code, you must bring the entire circuit to AFCI. This is for residential.
But that’s not the subject of thr OP.
The subject is to do it right and safe for the owner. I merely pointed to a possible future issue.