Simple Smart Home Light Switch Hack

The best way to bypass a simple light switch so your smart home products, like light bulbs, fans, remotes etc. will always have power and waiting for SmartThings, Alexa, Google commands.

“Black wires painted white…” Priceless. :scream:

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Very well-made video and very clearly presented. :sunglasses:

However, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with your statement that this is the “best“ way to handle the situation for several different reasons.

  1. code in some jurisdictions requires that some switches always operate from the wall switch. This is most commonly for attic lights. So you need to check on that before beginning this kind of project.

  2. doing it this way means that there is no “Plan B“ if your home automation system itself is failing, like the smartthings hub acting up. Or the SmartThings cloud being unavailable. So I think the “best“ solution should have an alternative means of control for those cases. But that will cost more since you will likely have to add at least one additional device. Or you will have to use a child safety lock, which you mentioned is being ugly, but some of them are quite nice. And you can always hang a picture over the switch if you want to disguise it all together.

The following community FAQ discusses various options for handling the desired “always on“ situation.

FAQ: Looking at a good Wall Switch for my Hue Bulbs (2018 Short FAQ)

  1. If you do want to hot wire a switch, and it does meet the other requirements as noted above, using a wire nut should be fine. I defer to the electricians in the community if I’m wrong on the following point, but I would expect your little U-shaped connector to be a code violation in most places. And in any case it’s going to have all the usual problems of a backstab connection. That is, it can come loose over time which can lead to arcing. (That’s particularly a problem because you’ve still allowed the physical switch to move, so every time it does so there’s a higher probability of the connector shifting positions.)

https://www.handymanhowto.com/electrical-outlets-side-wire-versus-back-wire/

There’s also a higher probability of a DIY person forgetting to turn the power off, opening the plate, and getting a shock from the connector.

So I really like the style of the video and if it had been limited to nutting together the wires with a brief mention of the possible issues described in this post, I think it would’ve been a really excellent tutorial on this particular method of hot wiring.

I think it’s a method that many people will choose, although I would still disagree on the “best.“ But “good for many people“ would take care of that objection.

JMO :sunglasses:

You can just nut them but it wouldn’t be as easy to undo. It would be very difficult for the jumper to come loose. I have been doing this for years with no issues but I am not an electrician just an normal guy solving problems.

The reason I took the cover off before turing off the power was to demonstrate how to use the non contact voltage tester a must for any electrical work.

I thought Taking the cover off was just fine within the context of the video. And I especially like the full demonstration of the use of the voltage tester tool and the emphasis on checking all the switches in the box. As I said I like the entire structure and presentation of the video, very high-quality. :sunglasses:

My point is just that if somebody forgets to turn the power off before they take the cover off, I think the U-shaped connector presents more of a hazard than a wire nut would.

You are correct! Thanks for your input :smiley:

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My solution to this issue:

  1. ‘Decorator’ switches rather than simple toggle.
  2. Packing tape. Tape the switch ‘on’.
  3. Cover, using a cheap smartphone with Velcro or those Velcro-like removable strips (forget what they are called).
  4. Smart bulbs in all fixtures controlled by that switch.

The smartphone functions as the switch. Hue lights allow widgets, IFTTT allows widgets, Sharptools allows widgets. Set up the home screen of the phone with widgets to do your most common tasks associated with that switch. These things are available for $15 nowadays if you look around.

If the automations become unworkable for any reason, you remove the phone and take off the tape. Voila, switchable lights.

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3M Command Strips are one brand. Commonly used for picture hanging. These come in many different sizes and strengths. We use them at our house for wallmounting sensors. :sunglasses:

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Or… just use a smart switch/dimmer. Problem solved as long as you don’t need color bulbs. :wink:

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The OP mentions a smart switch as an option in the video, But just doesn’t go into details since the video is focused on hotwiring the dumb switch.

It’s a good video, very detailed, but already almost 10 minutes long, so I think smart switches would be a different production.

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Yep, I totally understand the OP’s requirements/intention. I also feel that it was a great video.

I like @Glen_King’s simple, effective solution as well, as it leaves all of the wiring intact, and the switch functional should one need to power the fixture off to replace a bulb safely.

I am just a KISS principle type of person. I have one hot-wired switch (wire nutted) powering a Hampton Bay Fan Zigbee Controller. This allows me to control both the FAN and LIGHT fixture via a Lutron Pico Remote that is fitted into the place of the old decora style dub switch. I just don’t like the idea of having a physical switch in place that has been neutered by a jumper wire. To me, that would be confusing since it is non-functional. I have just completed my conversion of almost every other light switch in my house over to Lutron Caseta. I am very impressed with how well these switches, dimmers, and fan controllers 'just work" without any issues whatsoever. I also like the fact that my “lighting subsystem” can be directly integrated with SmartThings, Hubitat, Amazon Echo, and Google Home without ever having to re-pair a single device should I decide to switch hubs.

But I am now way off-topic… The OP’s video was very well done. Just not for me… The Electrical Engineer in me would be bothered forever about having a non-functional switch! :wink:

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No one ‘needs’ colored bulbs. But I’ve now installed Hue color lights almost everywhere. They serve a myriad of functions, beside simply having nice colors.

You can do flashing lights in green for when your washer load is finished.
You can do flashing lights in red if your fenced-in backyard shows motion.
Etc.

As for my solution - it’s cheaper, and far more versatile, than a smart dimmer (I have a handful of those too, for chandeliers where smart bulbs are unworkable).

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Smart switch are definitely the best way and you can still have smart bulbs in addition if you need color. Switches are typically not cost effective. I have one that controls 6 bulbs just for 30$. Can’t beat that.

Some people do. Or at least have a very practical use for them.

For example, for people who are deaf, colored notification lights are very helpful. One of my favorite uses is for “light ringtones“ where the lights flash a different color for different people, just as those with full hearing might use different ringtones for different contacts. I really like that one. :sunglasses:

http://thedeafmama.com/smart-home-spotlight-deaf-1-philips-hue/

As I’ve mentioned before, we use ours as an emergency notification because when my housemate is playing video games he doesn’t answer his phone. So we change the color of the lights as the signal.

Different things work for different people. :sunglasses:

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https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Original-Xiaomi-Aqara-Smart-Switch-Light-Remote-Control-ZiGBee-wifi-Wireless-Key-Wall-Switch-work-with/32984778475.html?ws_ab_test=searchweb0_0,searchweb201602_5_10065_10068_319_317_10696_10084_453_10083_454_10618_10304_10307_10820_10821_537_10302_536_10902_10059_10884_10887_321_322_10103,searchweb201603_16,ppcSwitch_0&algo_expid=1c934865-08ce-45d8-b701-2518282b42fc-17&algo_pvid=1c934865-08ce-45d8-b701-2518282b42fc

Beaten…! :wink:

I only have Ikea smart bulbs (great Zigbee repeaters) in my house - all physical switches are hot wired and replaced with various types of Xiaomi wireless buttons which fits perfectly over the holes in the walls where the physical switches used to be. As a bonus you can place these buttons every where, without being limited to where the wires are running…
So there is no chance of someone accidental turning off the smart bulbs, and i can live with the 0.2 sec delay when turning the lights on/off.
I don’t actual use the buttons that much anymore, as i’m getting better at making smart routines and utilizing presence, motion and contact sensors. But as we all know - the wife also have an opinion… :joy:

As a backup i have also paired some of my bulbs with a couple of the cheap Ikea 5-button remotes, and have these stored away in a drawer…
(The Ikea bulbs can be paired with both ST and the remotes at the same time, so if ST goes down i can still control the bulbs)
But then again… I have only experienced a total down time of approx. 5 min. since i got my V2 hub 14 months ago… :crossed_fingers: The hub might have been down/restarted more than this, but at least not while i was at home - so the backup might be overkill… :grin:

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How much are the bulbs and can you control will Alexa?

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A couple of examples:
(Links points to the danish Ikea page)



They cost around 10$ each for the dimmable version.
The dimm+colour temp version a little more, and the colour changeable version are approx. 26$ each.
(price converted from Danish currency - prices might be different around the world)

Full Smart lighting range (Called Trådfri) can be found here (Danish):
https://www.ikea.com/dk/da/catalog/categories/departments/lighting/36812/

I have not tried with Alexa, but the Google/ST integration runs just fine…

That’s cool! If Google works, Alexa will work with SmartThings is just a voice assitant and the brain is SmartThings. I am actually looking to change the 6 lights to have 3 work at once because the stupid builder wired them all to one switch. 3 are over the kitchen and 3 are over the bar area. This looks like a good solution except my light bulbs are the large recessed type.

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