Switches or Bulbs debate

If you have neutrals, go with switches all. the. way. Do not even consider any other option unless you’re really on a tight budget but personally, I’d just wait longer until I could afford the switches, yes really.

I went with smart bulbs and 100% regret my decision now and I’m just about to put in an order for switches to replace everything. Bare in mind that for the most part, depending on the type of bulb you’d only have to get two or three smart bulbs before you’ve brought a smart switch anyway.

I’m done with smart bulbs, too many GE Links dropping off the network due to firmware issues and too many ‘all on’ lights at 4am after the power blips for a fraction of a second. It also adds unnecessary complexity in my opinion and the more complex it is, the more to go wrong. Of the 28 smart bulbs I have, 21 of them are going to be replaced with 9 switches and that’s only because the people that built this house have a switch fetish…


Same for me, GE and CREE (although the CREE were better) They all drop off the network and are not reliable for my needs. Have neutral by the switch.

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To be honest I don’t think I’ve ever had any issues with my Cree’s and they were even outside through Texas heat and torrential rain but, they’ll never change the default behavior of smart bulbs to switch on at 100% if they lose power. I’m over it, learnt my mistake and won’t buy another smart bulb unless it’s for a specific application.

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This is so true. Switches are actually cheaper if you have the wiring to support them. And bulbs are a usability nightmare.

I’m inclined to agree. I have one switch box with a neutral so I put a GE z-wave switch in and it works great (except of course for ST scheduling flakiness; not the switch’s fault). I also installed an aeon micro switch in the box above a light fixture, which is quite reliable too.

The GE link bulbs in my bedroom ceiling light, on the other hand, sometimes decide to drop off the network. Controlling them with a minimote can introduce major lag when turning on/off. And let’s not even get into WAF-related issues of not using the wall switch for the fixture the GE bulbs are installed in.

Ok I am going switch shopping at HD. Which ones can I get to start with. Want to try one to see how they work and then go for more.

If you think that becoming defensive and engaging in asinine arguments in response to someone simply pointing out that the lower end of a cost range is too high is adult behavior then I’d say that your not really qualified to make that assessment. And I hope I don’t need to explain the ridiculousness of the, “he’s been here a long time, therefor he’s right” fallacy.

I have neither the time nor the inclination for dealing with grade school cliques.

Of course there are. How does that negate anything I’ve said? The issue was what switches could be had for when NOT on sale.

I’m merely pointing out that one of you is going out of his way to be respectful. The other, not so much.

@Arun_Nayar have you confirmed that your switch boxes contain a neutral wire? If they don’t, you can still use Z-wave/Zigbee switches, but they’ll pretty much only work with incandescent bulbs.

This topic may be helpful. Note that JD was a constructive participant in this topic as well. :smile:

Automated Switches: What should my wiring look like? (US Version)

Depends on what you want. I have both switches and bulbs in a combination. The bulbs aren’t on off/dim but Hue for different colors and mood lighting. However these are all lamps not built in lights except for one. Can light in the master bedroom is a Hue so the entire room is synchronized to scenes. I do turn off that switch when Goodbye or Goodnight runs as well as any outlets that lamps are in so I don’t have the power outage brightness happen when a storm rolls in. Good morning or I am back turns them on since they work perfectly for that role.

Just plan it out and think how you want to use them before you go and buy one way or another to makes sure you don’t have a regret later.

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@DParker I think you are taking this all wrong. Stepping back, and not worried about it now. I was just trying to help. Have a good day (SMILE)

Buying Switches

@DParker makes a good point that switches are sold at many different prices, so it pays to shop around.

It pays even more to plan ahead, which was the point several people were making by asking questions about neutral wires, 3 ways, total number needed, all that.

Different zwave switches offer different features

Different zwave switches have very different features, and different engineering quality. It all comes down to your own specific needs. Some people will care a lot about a particular feature, while others will never use it so there’s no reason to pay extra for it.

The following thread includes a detailed discussion of what kinds of features Z wave switches can have.

Bundle pricing and other discounts

Some retailers will also offer bundle pricing if you’re buying at least 10 of the same model at a time. You may be able to get this discount at Home Depot, you can check with the contractors’ desk. www.zwaveproducts.com is another good source for bundle deals.

Also, if you know you’re going to want some three-way set ups, you should be able to find kits which include one master switch and one or two auxiliary switches and those typically are discounted to the price of buying them individually.

So the more you know about how many switches you want and where you want to put them, the more likely you’ll be able to find a discount bundle and save some money that way.

There are other reasons for discounts, too. A pretty common one is when a new model line is coming out and the old-line gets discounted. As @theedpope mentioned, over the last couple of months people have been able to get some really surprising discounts on a particular line of GE zwave switches which are labeled for the Lowe’s Iris system, but which also work with SmartThings. in addition, some Home Depot’s, but not all, have been discounting the GE switches which are marked as compatible with wink. You can find discussion of this type of current deal in the deals thread. But a lot of times these deals will only be available until their current inventory sells out.

Another thing to know about buying home automation equipment that surprises many people is that Amazon is not always the cheapest place to buy. This is particularly true for items where a third-party seller is offering them through the Amazon website. Since these companies have to pay a commission to Amazon, you can often get exactly the same item on exactly the same day for a lower price by going directly to the seller’s own website. The only thing is that they do usually have a shipping fee unless you buy a minimum of around $100 per order. However that’s a price level that usually very easy to reach when buying this kind of equipment. So just means you may need to check a couple of places before buying.

On the other hand if you’re just buying one to test, you may want to buy from Home Depot or Amazon or Lowe’s because they have the easiest return policies if it turned out to be something you can’t use. If you’re not buying from these three, always check the return policy before buying. Some places have a really crummy return policy.

I personally don’t generally buy from eBay because there are so many counterfeits as there, as well as Used items sold as new. But that’s just me. A lot of people have gotten really good deals that way. But some have gotten burned, for example receiving a Zwave device which is on the European or Asian frequency instead of the US, meaning it won’t work with their US system. So it just depends on how comfortable you are with that kind of marketplace.

Neutral wires at the switchbox

The first question, though, is do you have neutral wires at the switchbox for everyplace where you might want to have a switch. I know a lot of people have brought this up but that’s because there’s a lot of variation in the US and many houses don’t have the neutral at the switchbox or only have it for some switches. It makes a big difference on which models will work there.

The following thread explains more about how the kind of wiring works in the US. Just know before you start reading that in the US wire colors are not mandated by code. People can and do use every kind of color, sometimes just because it’s the end of the day and they grab the last piece of wire they have in the toolbox. So even though it’s typical that a black wire is hot and a white wire is neutral, at your house it could be the other way around. Or any color combination. You’ll still need to test each wire to make sure you know exactly what it is.

Learning more

One last thought: if all the discussion about wiring seems confusing, you can either call in an electrician, or look for a class. Many Home Depot’s offer classes on how to install a light switch which are a very good place to start. They probably won’t discuss network switches, but you will learn how to evaluate and safely do the replacement. After that, all the network discussion will probably make a lot more sense.

Of course if you go with smart bulbs, you won’t have to deal with any wiring issues, so that’s another consideration for some people. As always, different things work for different people. :sunglasses:


I know I have a neutral but the toggle switches I need could not be found locally. SO I have to get them from amazon or somewhere. Also I want the flip switch/paddle switch kind not the normal one;


Are there any good brands that make these??

Different people use these terms differently. The one in the picture you link to is usually called a “toggle” switch rather than a “rocker” switch.

As far as I know, only the GE branded switches from Jasco are offered in the toggle format. They make one set that are labeled as compatible with wink and another set that are labeled as compatible with Iris, but they are really the same switch.

You’ll find them at most of the online retailers that sell Z wave equipment. Both Home Depot and Lowe’s may also have them on their websites, it’s worth looking.

Check the deals thread, this is a very popular switch and people may know about current deals.

Also check www.zwaveproducts.com for bundle deals.

Also, you probably already know this, but just to be sure: if you put one of the switches in a three gang box next to two nonnetworked switches you would always know which one was the network switch because the toggle always sticks straight out when it’s not in use.

So while the regular switches will be either in the up position for on or the down position for off, the networked switch is always in the middle position when it is at rest. You push it up for on, and you push it down for off, but it does look a little bit different when it’s on the wall.

BTW Zwaveproducts,com doesn’t always have bundle deals on their site, and sometimes they list them under “deals” instead of under “bundles,” but you can always email them if you want to buy at least 10 and ask them if they have a volume discount. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, but it can be worth asking.

One other thing I forgot to mention is that if you are setting up a three-way (US terminology) where two different switches control the same light fixture, the primary switch is pretty much always called the master. But there are a lot of different terms for the secondary switch. It might be called “add on” (GE), “auxiliary” (Cooper), “remote” (Leviton), “dummy”, or even “connected.” Just read carefully to see. The secondary will usually be cheaper than the master, but that’s because you can usually only use it with a master.

Also, most of the time you can’t mix different brands into a three-way. Each master has to be paired with its own specific secondary because they have different wiring and different communication methods. Also, you can’t mix nonnetworked secondaries with a networked master.

You may already know all that, I just mention it because every once in a while somebody buys a secondary as their very first switch and then can’t get it to work because they don’t realize that they have to have a master.

You can have both options, but you can’t use a dimmer switch (networked or not networked) in combination with smart bulbs unless it is specifically designed for that purpose. Otherwise you run the risk of burning out either the switch or the bulb.

There are a couple of zigbee dimmer switches specifically designed for control of smart bulbs: the Phillips hue dimmer switch, the Lutron connected bulb remote, and the new Osram Lightify dimmer SmartSwitch. These don’t work directly with smart things yet, but can be a good parallel means of control.

You’ll find more detailed discussion of which switches to use with smart bulbs in the following thread. Although the thread title says “Hue” most of what is said there applies to any brand.

BTW, at our house we mostly use Hue white bulbs (very reliable, typically $15 at Best Buy) and our primary means of control is the Amazon echo. We leave the existing switches in place and add the Zigbee switches I mentioned above as a parallel means of control. It works great for us, but might not work at all for someone else; it just comes down to your own needs and preferences.

I got my first switch setup. It was a pain as the wires used had different color coding. The load wire was red and the travel wire was black. But at least now I know what goes where.

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Never rely on color coding. Pretty much the only color code that is followed is that neutral wires are white. And even in that, I may be wrong. Color coding in the US, at least for older houses, is virtually nonexistent.

This wasn’t mentioned before, but I hope you got yourself a voltage tester when changing a switch. Don’t just trust a light not coming on after you cut the power at the circuit breaker. You never know what other wires might be in there that belong to another circuit.

All this being said, the first switch is the hardest. After that one, you get used to what your wiring is like and it should go fairly quickly after that. One thing I’ve gotten used to do is to take pictures before I start making changes, and then I use white electrical tape to label each wire. That way, if I ever need to go back and change something, it will be way easier.

Hope all of this helps.

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Definitely agree on taking pics and labeling. At some point I was thinking of putting it all back the way it was and without the labels I was dead in water; which kinda forced me to trudge on along!

Very good point about pictures. Also, take pictures of the screw connections with the wires attached on the original.

My only additional caution is that it’s not necessarily true that the wiring will be done the same way throughout the house. Especially if the house is older or there have been any remodels. And there’s always that end of day issue where just one switch gets wired with different colors because that was all the wire that was left in the toolbox. So you always need to check every segment of every circuit before doing anything. :sunglasses:

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