Start Here: VFAQ: Connected Light Bulbs vs Connected Light Switch

I want to start connecting some recessed lights to smartthings…just curious what approach is better. Using a standard dimmer switch with connected lights or using a z wave switch and regular lights?

Here is a thread on the same topic.

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I faced this same issue in my kitchen. I have five recessed lights. 4 of them connected as a group in a three way switch configuration and one on its own switch above the sink.

Going with smart switches would have required a 3-way switch set up as well as another smart switch. Easily over $100.00.

I decided on 5 ge link bulbs at $15.00 each. Not a huge savings but it gives me the benefit of individual bulb control or total group control.

I have had no problems with the bulbs in the recessed fixtures, and the fixtures are metal, but have no lenses. I do have two bulbs in closed recessed metal fixtures in the bathroom and I also have no problems there.

So if you are wanting individual bulb control and to save money, I recommend the bulbs.

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It’s a great question, much discussed in the forums. I don’t think there’s one clear answer, it tends to come down to your own specific needs and personal aesthetics

The following topic tends to come down on the side of bulbs:

But this next topic, equally active, tends to come down on the side of switches:

Both topics should be helpful to you.

Also, if you are interested in combining smart switches and smart bulbs, this next topic should be helpful:

My opinion is it’s all about local control. Places where I want local control like bedroom, home theater and main kitchen lights have switches.

I have a kitchen spot that was never used because of switch location, I put a GE bulb in and used a ST app to slave it off of my kitchen switches and motion. My porch light is a GE and completly automated now for sunset, early morning when it’s dark(wife leaves early and when we come home. So no need for the switch. I have 2 more floor lights same thing never used much now automated with GE’s.

Last but not least cost. Back room 3 bulbs each switch., cheaper to do switches, single fixture cheaper to do bulbs.

I have used z-wave switches around the house. However, not being an electrician (far from it) I did have had some difficulties with properly wiring three way switches. Also, in some boxes it seems that I don’t have enough space to place the Z-Wave switch (because box is full of wires from other light switches). Hence, my question, would a smart light bulb be an easier and better solution? If I have a smart light bulb with the dumb light switch, does the light switch always has to be in the “ON” position for the smart bulb to work?

Thank you.

Yes :smile:

There’s a number of discussion here already on the switch vs. bulb debate.

I generally fall on the side of switches, but there are some disadvantages to them. Don’t worry too much about the wiring of 3ways. People are usually helpful on getting it sorted out for you here. If you do decide to go that route make sure you take good pictures of the old switches before you disconnect them. These are usually very helpful when people are trying to assist you.

Also note that nearly all wall switches require a neutral line so you’ll want to verify that you have those in the boxes where you want to put a switch (generally look for a bundle of two or more white wires tied together).

Finally: Don’t worry too much about extra wires. Yes, it can be a tight fit sometimes, but I’ve always been able to squish in the switch with the wires. Even in single, double, triple and one quadruple gang box. Even when there were many different wires in the back. Screw and/or tape 'em up good so they won’t touch each other in the bare spots of course, then just keep bending/pushing/squishing (with the breaker off!) and you’ll be able to get fit it all in.

Would it make sense to pin one of those topics at the top? It seems to be the most popular question.

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All switches from now on here. Even gonna get rid of the Hues. Too many people that live or visit here need that function.

Cost / length of intended residence / comfort - ability W/DIY projects / single or multi residence

These are all the things I see one would / should take into consideration when making the switch vs. bulb decision.

What I like about going w/bulbs first is you get your feet wet (so to speak). If you decide to graduate to switches later you can use the bulbs in lamps or even sell them.

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If color is not important, then the decision is a no brainer from the maintenance perspective, at least. Why dealing with 8 individual connected devices, when you can maintain only one. Add cost into the mix and you’re done! One high end switch would come in cheaper than 8 connected bulbs and is far more reliable too…

I also have 8 - BR30 bulbs in my living room / kitchen area. I put GE dimmable LED bulbs in all the cans and then added the GE Z-wave switch to control. Put a dimming switch for the living room and the on/off for the kitchen since we don’t dim the lights for cooking. Use Alexa to turn them on/off and set the dimming level. Works great.

I agree with Bobby! It will cost you much less to set up a single z-wave switch/dimmer and you will have less things to manage in your ST app. The other advantage over have smart bulbs is that if you turn the lights off using a regular switch, you won’t be able to turn them back on remotely or using Echo. You will always have to make sure that your wall switch is ON. If you have a smart switch, it doesn’t really matter if someone turns the lights ON/OFF at the wall - you can always remotely control them :slight_smile: In all honesty, the only advantage in putting smart bulbs in your case would be the ability to turn them ON/OFF individually - might be useful if you want the ability to turn ON only a subset of your 8 cans.

What are the major factors when considering which route to go? Currently I have 8 main flood lights in recessed lighting in my main living area (BR30 I believe is the bulb type). They are all using standard bulbs. So I would need to get a dimmer + 8 led bulbs (although I supposed that would be optional but I would want to do that) OR I could get something like Hue White which has it built in.

Trying to understand the pros and cons of each. If color was important it would make the decision much easier with the Hue but since its not its a little tougher. Thanks!

Your post has been moved to the discussion thread for this topic. Just start reading from the top of the thread. :sunglasses:

Is there a problem with using a z-wave or zigbee on/ off along with Hues? My family badly wants switches and not additional ones pasted next to the original gangbox

Wiring Issues

There’s no technical problem as long as you separately provide constant current to the bulb.

The switch then acts exactly the same as a remote that you holding your hand. It sends a message to the hub. The hub sends a message to the bulb. The bulb hears the message because it has current even if it looks like its off. The bulb decides how much current needs to draw request.

In most places in the US this kind of wiring is legal. However, there are some townships where it is not. They want turning the switch off at the wall to cut current at the light fixture on the ceiling. The reason is that they believe that someone who might want to replace the whole light fitting might just turn off the switch on the wall, start unscrewing things, and electrocute themselves. Again, most jurisdictions believe people will know enough to turn off electricity at the breaker but it is not to code in all places unless the visible switch turned off the current to the fixture.

I honestly have no idea whether it’s legal in the UK to have current always run into the ceiling fitting or not.

If you allow the switch to kill current to the bulb (rather than ask the bulb to turn itself off), things can get out of synch

If your local safety codes, or your insurance company, or your landlord, will not allow you to wire a constant current to the fixture that holds the smart bulb, then the problem is that turning the switch off kills the current to the bulb. the bulb cannot hear the next on command. It has to be turned on at the switch again before it can be turned on at the bulb. This can create a lot of synch issues and maybe rules that you set up don’t run the way you expect the next time because the hub doesn’t really know what state the bulb is in.

Power Outage Behaviour

In addition, many manufacturers of smart bulbs have them set so that after power is cut completely, when the power comes back on the bulb comes on at full brightness. That’s sometimes surprising to people. Whether or not it’s a problem for you just depends on your own household. You can still turn off all the bulbs easily once the power is back on. But it might wake up the kids.

A lifestyle approach–and voice to the rescue

If you’re OK with the behavior that occurs after the power has been cut, namely the bulb coming back onto full power next time, a lot of people do just address this as a lifestyle decisions. They will only turn light off at the switch when they know that it’s ok to Make the bulbs out of synch. They just deal with a synch issues that occur.

At my own house, we solved the synch issues by adding an Amazon echo. If you’re in the US, the echo/SmartThings integration is fantastic. It’s now the primary way we control lights in our house. Everybody likes it, including guests, health workers, my housemates. We almost never touch the switch although the switch is there if we lost Internet.

I know voice is not currently available in UK, so that’s frustrating, but long-term that’s another thing to put into the mix before you start investing in switches. If voice would work for your household, it can solve a lot of issues.

So it’s just one of those things. For some households the synch issue is a big problem. But for other households it’s no problem at all. So there’s a lot of variation.

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Good point. I didn’t think about the power outage syndrome. I was just thinking that when we come home there really isn’t any reason for the lights to change color. Then we could set scenes manually if needed since in the house. Thank @JDRoberts

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To keep bulbs in sync, you can set up groups of lights (aka Big Switch) using the Smart Light app. I have GE Link and Hue on z-wave switches. When my wife flips the switch manually, the bulbs turn off too. I never lost connection to any of them and I force them to stay in sync.