SmartThings Community

The answer for UK smart dimmable lighting?


(Tmp R) #1

I don’t know about you guys but I’ve tried a lot of different dimmers and bulbs over the last few years to try and get the perfect solution, but there’s always a compromise. Admittedly things have gotten a lot better recently but it’s still taken a massive amount of effort to get to this point.

I’ve been trying to find a dimmer that:

  • Operates exactly like a traditional dumb switch/dimmer
  • Looks like a good quality regular UK switch, choice of finishes, flat/screwless etc.
  • Works with LED bulbs and multiple GU10s
  • Actually dims properly, smoothly and without flickering
  • Is a direct replacement for existing 2 wire switch (no neutral needed at the switch box)
  • Doesn’t require deeper sockets / new rose / junction box.
  • Can be linked to a smart home system (e.g. SmarThings), not a separate proprietary app.

Sound familiar? After a lot of trial and error, I’ve found the Varilight Eclique 2 -> http://www.varilight.co.uk/dimmers/v-pro-eclique-2.php

This ticks all the boxes and I’ve been using several of them, in various multi-gang and multi-way configurations. You can have up to 4 groups of lights in one room and you can program 4 different scenes with various levels for each group. These can be recalled via the (rather cheap and nasty) Varilight IR remote, or you could program a Logitech Harmony to do the same. Or you can just use the switches as normal.

But there’s no smart home integration! So I’ve created a tiny box that you plug in anywhere in the same room and this allows you to control the Eclique 2 as if it were any other ZigBee dimmer.

So you get all the functionality of a normal UK switch, it’s a direct replacement with no extra wiring or faffing, it looks great and comes in 3 styles (Classic/ScrewLess/UltraFlat) and loads of colours. They cost £20 for the switch + the price of the device I’m making.

Is this something anyone would be interested in?


(codersaur) #2

How does your box integrate with the Eclique 2? Is it emulating an IR remote? Can it report the status of the dimmer?


(Robin) #3

Surely Fibaro Dimmer 2 micro modules would have worked for you? Unless you have shallow (16mm) back boxes?

They work like regular switches (using your existing switches), full dimming control, good for LED’s (with bypass module), SmartThings compatible.


(Roy) #4

If these are IR, then the device you make cant simply be placed anywhere can it? Has to be line of sight.

I love my LWRF dimmers too much to switch, (ahem) and they’re integrated into ST.
Nice looking switches though.


(Tmp R) #5

Yes, it just emulates the IR remote and it can’t get the status of the dimmer. Rather than displaying an on/off switch, it uses the 4 lightscenes on the dimmers. So you get 4 virtual devices that all have an on and an off switch. This allows them to be accessed via routines.

In practice, I just use my switches to turn the lights on and off ad-hoc. Then I have a few automation setup. “Goodbye” and “Goodnight” turn them off, “Movie time” turns on Scene 3. “Alexa turn on living room lights” turns on Scene 1, etc.


(Tmp R) #6

For me there were a couple of issues:

I would have had to install 2x modules in one light switch box,

I don’t like installing “bypass modules” with LED lighting. It could be different with the fibaro dimmers but in my past experience, these are just coils of wire/resistors that put a load on the circuit that’s always present. It just feels like a waste of electricity when I’ve spent £100s replacing all the GU10s with LEDs then just leave a load connected 24/7 that does nothing useful.

I’ve tried a lot of different dimmers, and the fibaro might work well (I’ve not tried it) but everything else I’ve tried has limitations. LEDs don’t dim low enough or don’t turn fully off. Or when you have to use a certain type of dimmable LED to get it to work, but then the dimmable LEDs use PWM and create a really nasty 50Hz strobe effect. The varilight dimmers are the only ones I’ve used that dim all the different LEDs I have tried and more importantly, they dim the LEDs that work well and produce a good quality of light.

Then there’s the cost and effort, 2x £50 + 2x bypass modules, extra deep socket box, replacing the socket box and I’d still need a fancy/screwless double switch. Vs £40 and no extra work/mess.


(Tmp R) #7

It has an array of IR LEDs on it, much like the Logitech Harmony Hub. It bounces the IR off all the walls and ceiling, so you just need to not have it covered up.

I did look at light wave but my mate spent £1,000s on installing lightwave in his entire house then had nothing but problems with it. I don’t know all the details but the summary was it wouldn’t dim LED GU10s properly, he had to install resistors everywhere, then he had problems with them getting too hot and the dimming still wasn’t perfect. He gave up in the end and went back to tungsten. He had loads of issues with the hub/communication. Whenever I went round his house it was never working properly. It might not be the same story everywhere but his experience really put me off. I spend all day developing and supporting software/electronic systems, at home I just want something simple and reliable. so far ST has been really issue free for me!


(Roy) #8

I see what you mean with the IR, as my Harmony can blast everywhere.
Sadly for me, its just another device, and another point of failure I feel, and another socket required (Old 60’s house with not very many). I guess you could also use these via the Broad-link hub too, although still a bit of a pain with a hub in every room.

I’ve had my LWRF dimmers for years, Siemens branded ones from B&Q with the first version of the HUB. They still going strong, and have to say I have never ever had any issues at all with them. Even if my net goes down (obviously only from home). Have them controlled via a Debian PC running Node.js and integrated into ST. The only real downside is if they are used at the switch rather than ST or Alexa, then the hub cant get any status from them, so ST sees them as off, when not. To combat that, any leaving home automation has to first turn them all on, then off. (just in case a wife or 7 yr old turned them on).

I completely get where you are coming from with the dimming versus LED with LWRF. You have to get the right bulb/power combination. Megaman site is a great source of information on LED set up and LWRF. I’m just using low wattage bulbs for the rooms I want the dimmers, not ideal as they’re also dimmer than I’d like (or should I say the Mrs). I think what you have posted though, is a great idea and perfect for those starting out, or looking to change. I’ve just gone too far with mine now. Although, if someone were to bring out Zigbee or Zwave dimmers which look half as nice as LWRF, well I’ll be jumping on that bandwagon :slight_smile:


(codersaur) #9

Hmm, this sounds rather unappealing to me. Lack of two-way control is a major flaw, as is having a secondary bit of hardware (point of failure), … as is the majorly ugly switches.

In my opinion, the “answer for UK smart dimmable lighting”, in order of preference, is:

  1. An in-wall Z-Wave/Zigbee dimmer module (e.g. the Fibaro Dimmer 2):
    The Fibaro Dimmer is an exceptionally configurable dimmer, you can have whatever switches you like on them (so no aesthetic compromise), don’t need a neutral, they work very well with pretty-much any load*, plus you get power metering, device associations, protection, etc. This covers all your requirements except for “Doesn’t require deeper sockets / new rose / junction box.” - however this is easily solved with a spacer (£1 from screwfix).

  2. If you really can’t do an in-wall solution and don’t want a to use a spacer, then look at a Z-Wave/Zigbee Smart Switch (e.g. TKB Dual Paddle Wall Dimmer), though this is only seems feasible if you have a neutral wire at the wall switch.

  3. Failing that, then a Smart Switch that supports an alternative wireless protocol (e.g. LightwaveRF) is probably the next-best option. I accept your comments above about their dimming and connectivity issues though (in which case, I would go back to option one and use a spacer).

  4. Finally, for situations where you want an easily removable solution (e.g. you rent your property), then a smart-bulb solution (e.g. Philips Hue) is likely to be the way to go. You would replace your wall switches with their wireless switch. It’s not great, and is comparatively expensive if you have lots of bulbs per circuit, but the only real option if you can’t touch the electrics.

In summary, I think most people would much rather suffer the aesthetic inconvenience of a spacer on their light switches, than lose all the advanced HA functionality you get from a full two-way Z-Wave/Zigbee control module. E.g. I use the double- and triple-tap functionality of my light switches to trigger various routines in the house, plus I’ve built a nightmode feature into my Dimmer 2 DTH so the lights switch on at a lower dimming level during the night. You need the two-way control to do this kind of stuff. :sunglasses:

[ * I use Fibaro Dimmer 2’s (in ceiling) with circuits of 2-10 Megaman U-Dim GU10 LEDs. You get a full range of linear dimming, with no flicker or hum. I have the bypass module on some circuits, but they use next to no power. Plus, I use some sexy Legrand momentary switches which are really nice to use. ]


(cjcharles) #10

The bypass module should only be needed on installations with no neutral, since it is used to pass enough current for the Fibaro to operate, without turning the LED on. If you have a neutral then you dont need to pass any current through the LED to keep the Fibaro on, and it should just work normally without a bypass.


(codersaur) #11

Not strictly true. Even when you are using a neutral, you may still need to use a bypass module if you have a low load (the product manual confirms this). From experimentation, I found that I needed to use a bypass with one or two LEDs to prevent flickering at the very lowest dimming level. Three or more LED bulbs and a bypass isn’t required. Alternatively you can set the minimum dimming level to cut out the lower range, but you get a better dimming range with a bypass (down to 2% with the Megaman U-Dim bulbs). Obviously you’ll get different results with different bulbs.


(cjcharles) #12

Alright, youre right! :wink:

Low dimming levels on single bulbs it can help aswell, but a decent bulb should not need it as it will go via a decent SMPS which will cancel out the flicker. I know I have several different 5W bulbs on their own with a Fibaro (e.g. main room light in centre of room) and they dont flicker, but experiences will vary :slight_smile:


(David) #13

I have just started with home automation and am trying to retrofit some smart dimmable lighting. I currently have multiple light switches on most circuits. One in each is the traditional push on-off, turn to dim switches, the others are standard on-off switches. There are from 2 to 11 LED lights on each circuit.

I like the look of our switches, so don’t want to change the range, but am happy to change some of the switches to different types, if that’s what will make it work. I would like the simplicity of having hardware switches and dimmers that everyone understands, with the convenience of being able to automated scenes etc.

In order of preference, I would ideally like:

  1. to keep the dimmers and switches that we have now and add a Fibaro dimmer or similar to add automation
  2. replace the switches, but keep the option of being able to dim from the wall. perhaps with 2-way retractable switches for dim-up and dim-down? Would this work?
  3. replace the switches with ordinary switches, that allow dimming by press and hold, or some other mechanism that is not self evident to a visitor
  4. use the wall switches as switches, with all dimming control using SmartThings.

I would be very interested in any help with narrowing down what is possible and understanding how these options might work in practice.


(Robin) #14

The Fibaro Dimmer 2’s (and probably the same with other dimming micros?) work as follows:

Regular toggle switch:

  • Normal on / off control
  • Option to keep switch in sync with the state of the light, so bottom of switch down is always on.
  • no dimming from the switch

Momentary (push to make / retractive) switches:

  • single click - toggle on / off
  • double click - on at 100%
  • press and hold (when off) - on at 1%
  • press and hold (when on) - phase brightness up / down on alternate hold / release.

Two way momentary (blind) switches:

  • single click top or bottom - toggle on / off
  • double click top or bottom - on 100%
  • hold top (when off) - on 1%
  • hold top (when on) - phase % up
  • hold bottom (when off) - on 1%
  • hold bottom (when on) - phase % down
  • example product in your nr2 option will work.
  • (might be slightly different, been a long time since I used this type of switch)

Note - micros will not work with regular turn and push or digital dimmer switches.


(David) #15

Thanks very much for such a detailed response. I think I’ll try to go for the blind mode.

I presume that I could connect multiple centre off momentary (blind) switches in parallel and then any one of them will cause the unit to respond - assuming of course that I have 3-core cable between the switches.


(Robin) #16

Yes… momentary (single of blind) can be wired in parallel no problem… sounds like you’re gonna need the earth core though… be careful!!


(Mike) #17

I offered to help someone save energy by replacing 50w Gu10’s with low energy 8w lamps, a dimmer was already in situ… never again !!
As the saying goes " Your on your own "
I still have nightmares


(Robin) #18

You were obviously faced with older dimmers that had a fairly high minimum load requirement.

Newer electronic dimmers, and smart dimmers allow for a much smaller minimum load.

The Fibaro dimmers are good for 50W minimum on their own or 5W when used with the bypass module.


(Mike) #19

replaced the dimmer with a Varilight pro which promptly melted !!! turned out the homeowner had not told me they were 240v GU10 with the old fasioned drivers in the ceiling above each lamp

I am still getting strobe backs even now …


(David) #20

@RobinWinbourne Don’t worry, every wire between switches I have found so far is three-core + earth.

I have wired up two now and used David Lomas’s device type handler. One room has worked fine. The other doesn’t do dimming at all. Both were previously wired with analogue (reostat) dimmer switches and worked fine. Does anyone have any idea why the dimmer isn’t dimming, or how I investigate further? Thanks in advance