Smart bulb interaction with dumb light switches?

@thingsur That makes sense, but unfortunately I do not have fixtures for a lot of bulbs, so I will be using them at 100% most of the time anyway. BTW, I got the bulbs last night and the indeed work as the GE Link and others do. Someone has even created a new custom device type for them and I have on/off and dimming now working. :smile: I will pick up a couple more.

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Now I could be wrong here but it you have a smart bulb on a dumb switch it will turn on and off by the switch but if the switch is off then you can’t control the light remotely. So to use it the switch would have to stay in the “ON” position all the time.

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Yep I just bought a dozen Cree Connected bulbs from HD and got them on my new ST hub last night. I was worried (as was my wife) how they would react to physical dumb switch toggles. Here are my findings:

If my physical (dumb) switch was OFF: ST hub cannot activate them (turn them on or dim them) at all, period - they have no power except to run the radios for ST to detect their state

If my physical (dumb) switch was ON: ST hub can activate them (turn them “Off” / “On” or “dim” them)

If my physical (dumb) switch was ON and I have them ST state of “Off” or “On” or “dim” and I toggle the physical switch to OFF, they all go off. when I turn the physical switch on again they all go on full power.

I agree with everything TheNate1 said except for the part about the bulb radio working with the physical power switch off. The bulb radio won’t operate without power to it…unless I’m missing something (like dimmer switch that still lets a trickle of power through).

Yes this is the problem with smart bulbs, you need to keep power going to them. However the advantages to using them versus a zwave wall switch are:

  1. If you have more than one light on the switch you can control them independently.
  2. If you want to use LED bulbs but don’t have a neutral wire they will still work. I believe most zwave switches are now requiring neutral wires, and the zwave dimmers that don’t usually have issues with LED bulbs.

I can see someone designing a zwave or zigbee switch specially for smart bulbs as they are getting popular. It would keep power constantly on for the smart bulb(s) and the switch itself would not interrupt this. Instead the switch would become a virtual switch that would trigger Smartthings actions.

Centralite recently announced a battery operated zigbee switch you stick overtop of your existing wall switch that looks interesting. I would love to see Smartthings support this when available, but ideally someone comes out with a hard wired switch like I describe in my previous paragraph.

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Hi Paul,

This is exactly what I have been looking for, it seems like an obvious thing. So, I also hope we start seeing more of these come to market.

I’m new to Smartthings and home automation so please excuse my ignorance or if this has been answered elsewhere, but I have a related question to smart lights with normal or “dumb” switches.

Here’s my scenario. I have a hall way that I want to use smart lights in. This hallway has 2 switches (3 way) and I want to control the lights in this hallway independently (hue, brightness, etc). If I turn on the lights via switch, I can use my Smartthings to control the light. if I toggle one of the 2 hallway switches the lights go off and Smartthings will not be able to control the lights until I toggle one of the 2 3-way switches.

My dilemma is this. If I leave the hallway switches in the “ON” position so I’m able to turn the lights on/off via app, my wife (who is arguably not as tech savvy and will not always use an app to turn on lights) will have to toggle the light switch twice in order to get the lights to come on, and will again, use the switch to turn them off, and again, I lose control. :frowning:

Is this solved by getting both smart switch AND smart lights in this case? or will I still run into the same issue?


Since getting into ST I have toyed with the idea of losing my light switches entirely, and running smart bulbs from a tablet control center. Why buy an expensive smart dimmer when a cheap tablet does the same thing - plus a whole lot more? Why buy a battery operated Zigbee switch when a tablet can perform that function?

Imagine building a new home, and what you install near the entrance to each room is not a series of switches but a USB power outlet. You hang a $50 tablet on the wall, and that tablet controls all lights, fans, TV, audio etc. You can take it off the wall and put it on your bed stand at night so all the controls are right there for you. It also takes voice commands of course, and tells you in spoken language if there’s a water leak developing or a refrigerator was left open…

Despite the current difficulties with the ST platform, we are at the bleeding edge of this movement. And it is (difficulties aside) mostly working!!

I would say to the developers who have gotten frustrated, I understand your pain. But please, return to development if/when the issues get resolved.

I would also say to ST management: GET IT TOGETHER. Right now, in the wake of the Wink failure, it would be very bad to see ST become unworkable. You have a big opportunity here. Get the platform fixed, and let’s all move forward together. Freeze development for a time if you need to do that to get it fixed, say “we will accept no new programs or devices for the next three months while we track down and correct the current issues”.

But I’ve drifted… Back to lighting. IMO the big issue is lamps. Rather than screw-in smart modules, I would like to see replacements for the entire lamp switch/socket. They should have at minimum two items: one touch control for on/off, and one slide control for dimming. Obviously you would then only need dimmable LEDs, which are far cheaper than smart bulbs.

The following FAQ thread discusses the issues and options and should give you a number of ideas for ways to solve this very common problem.
( this is a clickable link.)


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I might have missed this reading through this thread, but can someone explain to me why the lights can’t just use a quick on/off toggle of the hard switch as a toggle of the on/off state of the bulbs??

I used X10 switches for lamps for years (since about 1998) and if the bulb was ON, I could quickly toggle the lamp switch off/on and the bulb would go out but the switch would still react to remote control (since it still had power). If the bulb was OFF, I could do the same action (toggle hard switch off/on) and the bulb would turn ON.

This seems like such a simple firmware feature for any bulb. Is it this way so that I’m forced to buy additional hardware (tap switches, etc)?? If the toggle had a half second window on it for it to function this way, it seems like it would stay good in all situation but a quick power interrupt to the house (which is rare).

I’m looking into the API to see if I can “hack” my Phillips bulbs to make them function this way.

Or did I miss something? And by-the-way Phillips…this is the ONLY reason I haven’t bought another 40+ bulbs for my house… Physical control is such a basic activity requirement for ANY smart home product…


interestingly, Domitech has just added this exact feature for their new Z wave plus light bulbs. I think right now they’re only available for sale in Europe, though, but they have gone through certification on the US zwave frequency so we can hope they’ll be available in the US as well in the future.

We’ll have to see what happens if this takes off, i’m pretty sure that for some technical reasons this is easier to do with a Z wave bulb than a zigbee bulb, because I’m guessing Phillips specifically would’ve already added it to the Hue line if they could. I don’t think you’ll be able to hack a Philips bulb to do it, but you can try.


Thanks. The “conspiracy theorist” in me says that some business decision overruled the tech folks because the technical person in me can’t see a sensible technical reason why this isn’t possible except for poor technical design which I find unlikely. In the mean time, I’m seriously considering ditching all my Phillips bulbs for this singular reason. Integrating new technology into our lives is supposed to make it EASIER which means existing Activities (i.e. using a hard switch for lights; lamps specifically) must be supported as they are not likely to disappear anytime soon. Would also be great if the bulbs enabled a touch action to toggle the bulb on/off. I know I can buy plug adapters that enable that functionality. I fully suspect the original thought to enable a hard switch on/off toggle is a simple firmware update but would love someone from Phillips to set me straight otherwise. (and btw…if its not possible, I’m most definitely ditching for a product that does support)

I’m totally FOR the addition of tap switches, etc to support scene lighting because that is an added capability. However, adding a soft switch for every lamp that uses a Phillips bulb borders on ridiculous and seems to be a clear lack of insight.

Would love to hear from Phillips on this… should I stay or should I go. Love the bulbs, hate the loss of simple capability.


If you want to hear from Phillips, you should ask them, they’re pretty responsive on their own forums:

Now that the Domitech zwave bulb exists, it’s easy to frame the question as “When will you add this feature?” :wink:

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These types of decisions definitely can originate from different roots:

  1. Sometimes even the most complex device has major features designed by just one or two individuals who overlook things or have a myopic perspective, such that they don’t consider the “real-world” use cases – they are engineers and/or product managers; not consumers. And, even in mega-corporations, these decisions are not peer-reviewed.

  2. Sometimes it’s the opposite of #1, and features are reduced to a lowest-common denominator due to too many cooks involved in the design and engineering; or, ahem, less than “astute” management overrides.

  3. and Sometimes it’s a very purposeful decision for good or evil. Hours or weeks of market research may have determined that the extra feature was confusing and would make the product seem defective. Or, bean-counters realized that they would sell more add-on remote switches (Tap, etc.) if they didn’t include a basic workaround.

If in doubt, I lean towards believing it is evil; but that’s just me being “anti-corporate”. All the above cases are equally likely, in my experience.

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That’s not always ‘evil’. Every feature you wish incurs a cost. Add enough features that you want, and eventually the bulb becomes priced higher than your wish to purchase it in the first place. I know that’s the case with me; if the Cree bulbs were $25 with that added feature, I would not buy them. Even at $15 I am still a bit reluctant.

You simply cannot divorce cost from the overall assessment. Heck, the very fact that you are on ST rather than a professionally installed and maintained system says you are quite aware of that fact :slight_smile:

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As an engineer, my general experience has been that, to quote an old saying, hardware is hard. If there’s a feature that would be useful, but there’s nothing in the marketplace that offers that feature at the desired price point, from what I’ve seen (and I’ve worked with some very large companies, Fortune 100 level) the reason is almost always that it would be unsafe to offer it, or it would be illegal to offer it, or it’s just not possible with current technology to offer it at that price point.

Eventually, new safety options are developed, or patents expire, Or new technology is invented.

But if there’s a market demand, companies want to meet that demand if they can do so profitably. :sunglasses:

I can’t tell you the number of times somebody has said “it would be so easy…” when there’s a hard engineering reason for why that isn’t true. I see this all the time in Kickstarter campaigns where people without an engineering background offer a product description without really having any idea of how they’re going to deliver it. And usually fail to deliver it.

If you live in a capitalist country and you’re just waiting to give your money to the first company that comes up with X, the odds are really high that there are a lot of companies trying to deliver X at that price. They just haven’t figured out a way to do it yet.

Hardware is hard. :wink:

Note, however, that that applies to the feature in general. If it can be done, some company will do it.

That doesn’t mean that every company will do it, because different companies have different philosophies and business models. A lot of companies are looking to make their money from investors, not customers, and their motivations are different.

If no one, not even Chinese knockoff companies, are making zigbee bulbs that work with ordinary light switches as toggles, there’s probably an engineering reason.

If some companies offer the feature but one in particular one doesn’t, there may be other factors at work.

In this case, it’s not that other companies do and Phillips doesn’t – – at present the feature is not available on zigbee bulbs. So my guess is there’s an engineering reason. We’ll see.

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I apologize… My answer was confusing…

Item #3 was in 2 parts… I consider this second motivation to be a little evil :smiling_imp:

Or, bean-counters realized that they would sell more add-on remote switches (Tap, etc.) if they didn’t include a basic workaround.

You can make the dumb switch smart by installing a zwave relay in wall switch behind it. They make zwave relays very small these days. Only you must not connect the zwave relay to the bulb(s) wiring. And you must wire the bulbs to continously have power on. (Independent of the dumb switch position) So the zwave relay will basically act as a sensor. Toggle the dumb switch and your hub will register the on off status. Once you have achieved this you can simply tell your hub to switch the lights on/off depending on the on/off status of the zwave relay. Would work great with hue lights and would solve the problem of them returning to default status instead of the last scene.

When the dumb switch cuts off power to the smart bulb, does it affect the mesh network? In other words, does the system keep on updating mesh network with every switch on/off?

If the smart bulb is a Zigbee repeater, then powering it off will screw up the Zigbee mesh network.

Sengled smart bulbs are designed as non-repeating Zigbee devices (known as endpoints). Thus, turning these off via a dumb switch will not hurt your Zigbee mesh network.