About a year ago, I sold my highly automated home, and now I just bought a new home with no automation at all. This home is only 2 years old, unlike that last one, which was built in the 60s with metal electrical boxes and non-grounded outlets.
Last one, I used Leviton first generation Z-Wave switches initially, and pretty much stuck with Z-Wave. I really overdid it, with almost all the switched Z-Wave dimmers, Nest Thermostats, and other stuff. For this one I’ll probably just add some dimmers. I’m wondering what the best technology is now. I see there are WiFi switches, and of course there is still Z-Wave, and Zigby.
i’m going through a similar situation since we are moving. Frankly, it’s a bad time to try and make these choices If all you care about it SmartThings integration, i’d go with z-wave and zigbee devices since they have a nice bang per buck (maybe a little heavier on Zigbee since Samsung seems to be moving away from z-wave). But with Matter looming on the horizon (although now delayed until end of 2022) and carrying a lot of steam, it’s hard to not keep it in mind when making whole ecosystem choices. In a perfect world, we’d choose a technology that works with it so that we can use our home automation system of choice (SmartThings, HomeKit, Home Assistant, etc). But there’s no perfect balance IMO so far for affordable switches that have pledged to support Matter.
I agree with everyone that the possibility of Matter is upending device choices at the moment. Matter promises to make integrating different brands a LOT easier and it’s promoting widespread adoption of Thread, a mesh protocol similar in some ways to Zigbee and zwave, but with IPv6 support. Only SmartThings doesn’t currently support Thread (but should support Matter-compliant Thread devices eventually). So…complicated.
Here are some choices to consider, but different ones will work for different people.
the most futureproof choice in this “Matter is coming” moment: Lutron Caseta with a Lutron Caseta SmartBridge Pro for integration.
Really well engineered, Matter support is promised, offers SmartThings integration which is decent but with occasional glitches. Does not require a SmartThings hub. I use these in my own home. Available in lots of colors.
The biggest negative is the cost, which is usually $60 for a single dimmer switch, or $70 for a 3 way kit with one master dimmer switch and one battery powered auxiliary switch. Plus the bridge, which lists around $150 for the pro version and can handle up to 75 individual Lutron devices. These rarely go on sale, although if you’re buying at least 10 you may be able to get a small discount at the Home Depot contractor desk.
The Caseta switch, Caseta dimmer switch, Caseta fan switch, and Serena smart shades work with SmartThings. The motion sensor and other model devices do not at present, although more may once Matter support is added to both platforms. The battery powered Pico auxiliary switch will work fine with its own Master switch in a 3 way, but you can’t use it for anything else with SmartThings through the official integration. (Works great with Hubitat, though.)
As @ogiewon notes below, each SmartBridge can handle up to 75 Lutron devices.
My personal favorite switches for a bunch of technical engineering reasons, but costly.
Best current (March 2022) SmartThings integration is probably Zooz or Inovelli Zwave switches with a SmartThings hub, and both also happen to be moderately priced at about half the cost of a Lutron dimmer switch. Both are small companies which are fully committed to keeping up with SmartThings platform changes, of which we can expect to see a lot over the next few years. Both are taking full advantage of zwave advanced features.
Zooz is the house brand of The Smartest House retailer and has done a better job of handling supply chain disruptions over the last 2 years, but otherwise both companies have excellent customer support and an active presence in this forum. Both run occasional sales making good prices very good. Both may offer a small volume discount if you write and ask.
But…zwave itself is not yet onboard with Matter. And as @Automated_House noted, the new SmartThings dongles for their tv’s are only going to have Zigbee, no zwave. So there is some question about Samsung’s long term commitment to nonMatter technologies…
Best nonLutron compatibility with Matter. Hmmm….probably Thread, but only one company, Eve, has so far announced a Thread light switch, and it doesn’t yet work with SmartThings at all. So
I mention it only for completeness, but personally I’d wait before buying these until they work with SmartThings directly.
Best WiFi switch that currently works with SmartThings. Meross, which is very inexpensive, probably has the best current ST integration for an all in one design using WiFi. good safety certifications. They haven’t announced support for Matter yet, but will probably get there eventually because they already have a HomeKit version. Great prices, and they usually offer bundle packs at a discount.
There are some other brands to consider, including the Sonoff inline modules, so hopefully you will get other recommendations in this category.
Also, Matter might bring in a lot of New Wi-Fi candidates, but who knows when? Just as an example, Leviton had smartthings integration for their first generation Wi-Fi switch, but then dropped it for the second generation so that now you have to use Ifttt for those. But they are likely to have matter support in the future, which then would bring those back in once SmartThings also has matter support. So it’s hard to project what will be a good choice in the WiFi category for a year from now.
The WiFi router issue that @HalD mentioned is that different WiFi routers have different limits on how many WiFi devices can be attached at once, with some as low as 32 and many at around 50. However almost all of the gig speed routers have significantly increased this limit, most to at least 150, some as high as 250, so it’s less of an issue than it used to be. Still something to be aware of.
Also a WiFi device probably uses about 3 times as much power as a zwave, Zigbee, thread, or Lutron device, even when it’s “off.” Although that’s a big issue for battery powered devices, the total $ cost to operate the radio for a mains powered WiFi smart plug, for example, is still probably under $10/year, so you may not care about the extra cost vs other protocols unless, like me, your house runs on solar and you count every watt saved as a plus.
That brings us to Zigbee. Which weirdly probably has the most unknowns right now, although as a protocol it’s older than both zwave and Thread.
On the plus side, SmartThings did include it in those dongles, some models do work well with SmartThings right now, and it’s involved in Matter although no individual devices have announced Matter support yet except via a bridge because Zigbee itself doesn’t use IP addresses.
On the negative side, there are issues for multi gang devices with the new Edge architecture and voice assistants, there are some manufacturer-specific options that make shopping a bear, WiFi can still drown it out (probably why zwave has historically been more popular for low cost DIY install light switches), and a lot of brands don’t have the same safety certifications as the popular Lutron, zwave and WiFi brands, probably to keep costs as low as possible.
Historically Lutron has competed on precision (and usually patented) engineering, Zwave has competed on features, WiFi has competed on perceived simplicity, and Zigbee has competed on price.
As far as Zigbee brands…Inovelli has indicated they will be bringing out a new Zigbee line pretty soon, that will be worth looking at. GE by Jasco is probably the safest choice right now, with good ST compatibility and reasonable safety certifications. Only the GE line have tended to be expensive for Zigbee unless you can get them through a contractor channel.
Leviton makes a nice Zigbee line, but I don’t know if it works with ST now. And like the GE, it’s way more expensive than most Zigbee brands.
I would personally avoid anything Zigbee from Tuya, they have that manufacturer-proprietary issue, as do the newest Aqara models.
Bottomline: you can find dozens of super cheap Zigbee switches but a lot of them won’t work with smartthings out of the box and many don’t have good safety certifications.
BONUS OPTION: NO BATTERY, NO WIRING WALL SWITCH FOR CONTROLLING SCENES OR OTHER SMART DEVICES (REQUIRES HUE BRIDGE)
I really really like the EnOcean Zigbee battery free switches that work with HomeKit via a Hue bridge and have several, but they don’t work with ST, so not a candidate for your scenario unless you just want a parallel means of control. But amazing engineering. (HomeKit gives you even more features, but they work just fine with the android version of the Hue app, although again no ST integration except as a parallel means of control.) $79, but it’s a two gang switch.
Anyway, if you have a Hue bridge and you have a place where you just want to put a switch on the wall to control other devices connected to that Hue bridge (or HomeKit), this is a worthy candidate. For example, this is a great switch for manual control of outdoor LED strips connected to a Hue bridge.
Well, those are some of the protocol specifics, but I don’t know if it really helps. As others have mentioned, the whole industry is in flux right now waiting to see what will happen with matter support.
Personally, if I had to buy a bunch of light switches in the next few months, I’d get Lutron Caseta, but that’s just me. It would probably cost an extra $15 - $30 per switch, but it would be responsive, reliable, works with a lot of different platforms including probably the future Matter, is UL listed for safety, has great engineering, comes in several colors, doesn’t require the ST hub, and is widely available including at Home Depot. But other people might choose something else. Choice is good.
If all you care about it SmartThings integration, i’d go with z-wave and zigbee devices since they have a nice bang per buck (maybe a little heavier on Zigbee since Samsung seems to be moving away from z-wave).
Which Zigbee brands are you looking at for light switches? I haven’t yet found one with the right combination of price, safety certifications, and smartthings compatibility, but I may have missed some. GE/Jasco seems to have the best out of the box smartthings compatibility, but they are also among the most expensive Zigbee devices when bought individually at retail.
I have hopes for the new Inovelli Zigbee line, but it’s not available yet.
Jasco Enbrighten is what I use. Can usally get them for $35-40. Not nearly as cheap as something like Zooz, but better than $60 for Caseta. I did put in an Aqara Zigbee switch in our new house to test out. I’m using it with an Aqara G3 camera hub, but there’s custom DTH for SmartThings. Definitely cheaper at ~$30, and seem to work well, but I don’t like the pig tail form factor it uses.
Wow! Thanks for the amazing replies everyone! I need to do my research after reading these replies a few more times! I really appreciate the effort you all put into helping me! I’m sure I’ll have more questions as I read…
Jasco pays GE for the right to use their brand name. Looks like the same Zigbee device without the GE logo is over $20 cheaper as of this writing! As you note, Not as cheap as the Zooz/Inovelli Z wave switches, but definitely less than the Lutron master switch.
Simple question - Originally I was thinking of WiFi switches because I had not planned many of them and I was thinking I could avoid a hub. Are there any that can be used without a hub? If so, does this mean they would only work with an app while I’m home?
There are several WiFi switch options available now, and it’s likely there will be quite a few more when/if Matter is available.
Meross: an easy budget choice. For now, as I mentioned in my post above, one simple choice is the Meross brand. Very inexpensive, good safety certifications, decent engineering, work out of the box with manufacturer-provided integrations for SmartThings, IFTTT, and, for some models, HomeKit. Available at Amazon in both the US and UK. Frequent small sales at both. They haven’t said anything one way or the other about Matter support, but if you get the models that currently work with HomeKit they are likely (but not promised) to work with Matter in the future as well.
They do not require a SmartThings hub—the integration is currently cloud to cloud. (They work locally with HomeKit.)
They will be controllable through the SmartThings app whether you are home or not as long as you have an active Internet connection in both places, just like anything else in the SmartThings app.
Read product descriptions carefully as there are small but significant differences between models. Some can’t work in a 3 way setup, for example; some can. Also, they are often sold in bundles. If you see a price over $30 for Meross light switches, it’s probably a multipack. They only come in white.
I have lots of their devices and like them, but no wall switches since I use Lutron for that.
Other Budget Brands. Tp Link Kasa has a manufacturer-provided integration. Good safety certifications. No word on future Matter compatibility. Search the forum for reviews and issues.
I would recommend avoiding anything that only works with the Smart Life or Tuya app. You will save a few bucks but the integration is limited and most don’t have strong safety certifications. Search the forum for reviews/issues.
in wall modules Sonoff has been a popular WiFi in wall module in the community for several years. Good engineering, good price, decent safety certifications. Setup used to be a little tricky because you had to flash the firmware; I don’t think that’s still true. But you will have to add your own switch: the Sonoff is just the piece that goes inside the wall. Again, search the forum for reviews.
Shelly is a similar device from a different company, also with a manufacturer-provided integration.
In both cases if you use them straight out of the box the connection will be cloud to cloud. And in both cases if you want a local LAN integration you can probably create one but it will require more technical skill and maybe a local server device. That’s a popular option for some power users, but not just a matter of installing a new switch. Search the forum for details if you’re interested in that option.
Leviton Sigh. Their first generation used to be the expensive easy choice, with lots of color choices and the standard Decora style. Solid and reliable, just expensive. BUT—I see lots of reports that the current second generation WiFi wall switch doesn’t work with SmartThings; you have to use IFTTT for partial integration. It’s possible, but not promised, that these will work with ST once both companies have Matter support but again, no promises. So I’m no longer putting these at the top of a WiFi candidates list, but if aesthetics are really really important to you, you might still want to take a look at them. And I feel I need to mention them in case you run across good reviews from the first generation and didn’t realize the current second generation has less ST integration.
As I red these comments again I see that sometimes people would mention that a device does not need an ST hub, but the implication is that it would still work with ST. Is that correct? I was under the impression that anything working with ST needed an ST hub, although as I think about it I could see that WiFi devices may be able to talk directly to the ST cloud.
I’m also wondering about the range of mesh devices (like ZigBee, ZWave and possibly Lutron). Unlike my last home where I just had a ridiculous number of devices, I think now I’ll just have a few here and there. Although not a mansion, this is a biggish 2,750 sq ft house. How far apart can these devices be placed, ideally without needing any kind of bridge.
A smartthings hub will allow you to connect some Zigbee devices or Z wave devices directly to that hub and bring them into your account that way. Those are referred to as “hub connected“ devices.
There are also a few devices like the hue bridge and Sonos which can connect locally to a smartthings hub via an ethernet connection. These are called LAN connections.
As you mentioned, there are also some Wi-Fi devices which can connect to the SmartThings cloud and be brought into your account with that method. Just as an example, that would include Samsung smart appliances. Those are called “direct connected“ devices, because they can connect to smartthings without having to go through their own cloud first. And unlike the devices in 2) above, these don’t require that you have a smartthings hub.
Another category is “cloud to cloud integrations.“ There are many different devices of this type. For example, Amazon Echo devices and Google Home smart speakers use a cloud to cloud integration to communicate with smartthings. But so do Lutron light switches and SwitchBot button pushers and Nest thermostats. Anything where the device uses the Internet to talk to its own cloud and that cloud then send a message over to the smartthings cloud will fall into this group. Again, these will not require that you have a smartthings hub.
Interestingly, the Philips hue bridge can be brought into your SmartThings account either through method two or method four, it’s up to you. Method two will require that you have a smartthings hub and may run a little faster. Method four doesn’t need the hub, so it’s popular with people who might just have a Samsung smart television and want to add a hue bridge.
Finally, if you have a Samsung galaxy phone, there are a few Bluetooth devices which can be brought into your account via the phone, including the galaxy smarttag. You’re often pretty limited in what you can do with these devices. For example, you may not be able to put them into routines at all. But they will show up in your smartthings app as devices.
So there are quite a few different methods for bringing devices of different protocols into your smartthings account. Some require a Smartthings hub and some don’t. There’s a graphic around here somewhere which shows all of this in a drawing, I’ll see if I can find it.
First rule of home automation applies: “the model number matters.“ there’s lots of variation in the range, and even with zwave it depends on which generation the device is.
As far as “without needing any kind of bridge“ it kind of depends on what you mean by bridge. You will need repeaters for I mesh of that size, but you can use a dual purpose device like a light switch or a plug-in pocket socket and it will also repeat in most cases. (Remembering that zwave repeats only for zwave and Zigbee repeats only for Zigbee.)
Lutron is not a mesh and you can just contact them to find out about coverage, their tech support is very good.
A “few devices here and there“ is usually not a good idea for a mesh system because each individual device has a fairly limited range. They work by passing messages along one to the next, pony express style. So you need to have enough repeaters to be able to get signal to the far edges of the home. if you want to have a window sensor on a window which is 250 feet from the hub, then you’ve got to have some repeaters in between even if you weren’t planning to put other sensors in those other spaces.
Why don’t you start with the following FAQ, it should give you the basic rule of thumb for mesh. Start with post 11, read that, then go up to the top of the thread and read the whole thing. I’ll link directly to post 11:
If you really want to limit your devices to the ones that you are using directly, not network support, for a house that large you would probably have to go to Wi-Fi to get the range.
That may all change once we get the next generation of zwave, “zwave long-range“ since it’s supposed to have a range which will be about equal to Wi-Fi, but it’s not available yet and smartthings has not announced if they’re even intending to do a hub of that type.
So for now, if you want to cover a house of that size with zwave or Zigbee you will almost certainly have to have repeaters every two or three rooms to be able to reach the edges of the property.
The following thread might also be of interest. It’s old, but still relevant:
It will depend on the “shape” of your house to some extent. And placement of your SmartThings hub.
My home is just under 3,000 sq ft, single story and is somewhat longer than it is wide. So devices at one end of the house are roughly 100ft from devices at the other end. Hub is fairly close to the center of the home.
When I was starting out, with Z-wave Plus switches and dimmers, I had some mesh issues. Starting with devices near the hub and moving outward pretty much solved the issues.
I’m wondering how much the issue would be mitigated if you stuck with the newer 700-series Z-wave devices?
It would certainly help. Range should be about 1/3 farther than the 500 series through clear air, although if the problem is an architectural barrier like a refrigerator or cement or or in wall pipes or colored glass there may not be much difference.
it’s just hard to predict the maximum range in advance for any one house without doing some field checks. So the rules of thumb tend to all be based on lowest common denominator: the range you can estimate with a very high degree of confidence.
Each new Zwave generation since 300 Has had better range than the previous, but how much better in any one room just depends on local architecture.
That will change with the series 800 because it’s using an entirely different network structure, but those devices aren’t available yet and when they are they will also require a series 800 hub to get the benefits and who knows when/if smartthings will come out with one of those. So I think that’s likely to be 2 to 3 years out at best for smartthings customers.
Speaking just for myself, any new Zwave devices I buy right now are all series 700.