Using physical switch on a table lamp with a smart bulb?


(Jim) #1

After 38 years (yes, really) I have given up on X10. I now have several Singled bulbs in table lamps throughout my home. I see many threads discussing the physical switch issue, but can not find any that address my issue which is: I would like to be able to not only turn the light on using the lamp switch, but also be able to turn it off again but leave it armed. Obviously, this would require that the switch be left in the on position. So the shortcoming here is that, just with X10, there is no built in way to do that with any smart bulbs I have researched.
Unless I’m asking the wrong questions, there seems to be no concern about this issue. I’m looking for a SmartApp that will start a timer when ST senses the physical switch is turned off then if the switch is turned back on within, say, 5 seconds turn the lamp back off. I’m actually surprised at the number of threads discussing the convenience of being able to turn on lamps with the physical switch that don’t mention the inconvenience of having to find your phone to turn them off.


#2

Sorry, I’m confused by your question. I’m not sure what you mean by “arm” in this context.

In any case, many people want to be able to turn a lamp on or off without using their phone but leave the smart bulb be available to turn on again with a network command, if that’s what you’re asking.

This is really similar to the issue of wanting to be able to use a physical wall switch for an overhead light. :sunglasses:

There are two options.

First, you can use a Sengled Element Touch bulb which works well with SmartThings and has a physical button right on the bulb. You can turn the bulb on and off with that button but the radio will still remain on so that it hears the next “on” command from the network.

https://www.amazon.com/Sengled-Dimmable-Equivalent-2700k-3500k-SmartThings/dp/B017VX4806

Second, you can add a battery operated control device either physically stuck to the lamp itself or on the table next to it. There are a number of different options for this. See the following FAQ ( this is a clickable link). The “mood cube” is popular with RGBW smart bulbs because you can also change colors with it. So is the four button Aeon minimote. But there are a number of other choices, including individual buttons. These options will work whether you have a smart bulb in the lamp or whether it is a table lamp with a dumb bulb plugged into a smart outlet.


image

Did that help answer your question? The basic answer is that you can get the same effect, but you don’t use it by using the original physical switch on the lamp.

We should also say that the one thing you don’t want to do is regularly cut the current to a smart bulb. These bulbs are intended to be on current all the time not just because of convenience, but because the inrush current when the lamp/fixture is turned back on can damage the radio inside the bulb over time, significantly shortening the life of an already expensive bulb.

It’s not a problem if there’s just an occasional power outage two or three times a year, but you don’t want the bulbs on a switch where the current is being turned on and off a couple of times a week. :disappointed_relieved:

So the systems are set up so that the bulb will always have power, but you can have a physical switch if you want one as well.

I should also say that in many homes, including my own, voice has become the primary way for a controlling lights whether they are ceiling fixtures or table lamps. Both Amazon echo and google home work well with SmartThings. However, I know that not everyone likes voice assistants and not everyone is physically able to vocalize, so that’s just another possibility for some households. And of course many households, again including mine, want multiple options, both voice and physical switches. Choice is good. :sunglasses:


#3

Also, I wondering if this perhaps was a typo? I don’t understand why you would want to turn the switch off from the network when the person just turned the switch off physically. I just found that confusing.

If we take smart bulbs out of the equation because of the current inrush issue that we talked about earlier, and we just talk about a regular table lamp with a dumb bulb plugged into a smart outlet then there are some Z wave devices that implement the kind of “load sensing” that some Insteon and x10 outlets used to use, where you could physically manipulate the original switch on the table lamp and the network would respond.

Those were the ones that did the “turn off twice for on” method.

If you want that, you can have it. In some cases the newer devices don’t use that as a default parameter because it has turned out to be pretty confusing for consumers. But they may have it as a parameter that can be configured after purchase.

here’s a thread that discusses it in a SmartThings context. The short answer is that you just have to look for devices that say they support “load sensing.” Again, though, you don’t want to do that with smart bulbs. But if you want to do it with a table lamp that has a dumb bulb, you can. :sunglasses:


(Jim) #4

Thank you for the reply. I think your comment “I don’t understand why you would want to turn the switch off from the network when the person just turned the switch off physically.” is the root of the issue. I don’t want to leave the lamp switch off, but I want the bulb to stay off when I turn it back on.

Here is the scenario: I’m in the family room I turn the light on manually (toggle the switch), Now I want to turn it off, but leave it controllable by the network. Alexa is out of voice range and my cell phone is in the kitchen.
The smart outlet might be a solution but the cost per lamp would be 4x over using smart bulbs. X10 modules and outlets have always had the same issue. You can turn them on, but you cannot turn them off and have them still controllable


#5

In that case, I would just get the Sengled bulbs that have a button on the bulb itself. The price is the same as other smart bulbs, and the physical process is very similar to turning the knob on a table lamp, you just reach up under the shade and push the button. Then you use that button instead of the original switch on the lamp.


(Kevin) #6

I think I see what you are saying, when you turn the lamp switch on, the bulb should know that it was off so turn LED on.

When you want to turn the lamp off you really turn it off then back on (two twists on the old style lamp switch), the bulb should detect that it was just on so leave LED off (even though power was just re-applied).

I have no idea if any bulbs will do this. I use a minimote (~$15) for couple places where I want to control lamp/switch away from wall switches.


(Jim) #7

Yes Kevin, that is exactly what I want. I am amazed that no one seems to discuss this shortcoming.
I guess the minimote is probably the easiest solution. I petty much had to do that with the X10 modules - I have about 15 Palm Pad remotes laying around the house. I was hoping that smart bulbs might be smart. X10 had been round for 40 years, but never addressed the issue.
Singled Touch may do it, but they cost 3x that of the basic bulb.


#8

Just wanted to make sure we were talking about the same thing. At $18, the Sengled Element Touch costs about the same as any other smart bulb. And since they have a button on the bulb itself, you don’t need any other devices for it. So just one bulb per lamp and you have smart control with a physical button. :sunglasses:

https://www.amazon.com/Sengled-Dimmable-Equivalent-2700k-3500k-SmartThings/dp/B017VX4806

It’s true that a smart bulb costs more than a dumb bulb, but most of the other smart lamp control devices that work with SmartThings will cost more than the Sengled. There are a few less expensive Wi-Fi switches, but they require doing your own soldering and are not typically UL listed.

What options were you considering that would be six dollars per lamp? Because I’m not sure there’s much that works with SmartThings that would be in that price range. :disappointed_relieved:


(Olivier) #9

Just for this point, I tend to believe a lot more in the smart switch than the smart bulb. If I want to manually flick on/off, or if my colleague comes to visit and does not know about “smart homes”, the switch will work like a normal one. But I can also control it electronically.

An alternative would be to have a smart “inline” switch, but I have not seen any of those, plus I suspect they would end up being quite bulky.

Of course, having a smart switch means no color control, but this is not a deal breaker for me.


#10

Swiidter makes a nice one of these for Europe, but so far it has not been made on the US frequency. :disappointed_relieved:

There are community members who are using the $5 sonoff switch and wiring it themselves into a cord. I’m hesitant to recommend that because there is some technical set up required and because you can end up with a cord which looks like it’s grounded but actually isn’t, so I have some concerns about fire safety. But for people who are interested in that project, see the following thread:


#11

Also, before we get too far away from the original question, I did just want to address the technical reasons why what you described doesn’t exist already.

there are two separate issues: event monitoring and time sequencing.

Event Monitoring

In order for smart app to know that the lamp has been turned off, One of two things has to happen. Either the lamp has to tell the hub that it is turning off, or the hub has to be checking the lamp every few seconds to see if it is on or off.

If you physically cut the power to the lamp with the lamp’s original switch, there’s no radio still turned on to tell the hub that it’s been turned off. So you can’t capture the event that way.

So the next question is why doesn’t the hub know that the device is now off power?

Most devices that work with SmartThings use either zigbee or Z wave. These are wireless “Mesh” protocols. They are intended for very low power devices that send very few messages and overcome the fact that they are very low power by passing a message around from one device to another until eventually it gets to the hub. This way each individual device doesn’t have to be very smart and doesn’t have to have long range. This keeps down the cost of the individual devices and greatly improves the efficiency of their power use.

Because of all this, it might be five minutes or even 15 minutes before the hub had any idea that the device was no longer online. In some cases it might not even know until the next time it tried to turn the device on. And if you substitute frequent polling, where the hub keeps asking the device if it’s turned on, you will tend to overwhelm the network so that the regular messages can no longer get through. Constant communication is just not what mesh is designed for.

Getting the timing right

Then there’s the timing issue which runs into the same kinds of stuff. Because messages can bounce around the network for a little while, you can’t guarantee the sequence in which they arrive or the precise timing. A message which takes five seconds to arrive one time might take seven seconds the next time, depending on how many bounces it takes.

For this reason, the official features will not let you schedule anything less than one minute apart. They just can’t guarantee that the timing can be that precise.

People do try to get around that with custom code, and in particular webcore will let you write a rule that is based on events being reported to the hub that are only a few seconds apart, but there’s just no guarantee that it will work reliably. It’s going to depend on how busy your network is with other things and just a certain amount of randomness in the mesh.

So trying to capture two events on the device that are five seconds or less apart from each other just isn’t really a good match to the SmartThings platform. And if you throw in the issue of actually physically cutting current to the device it’s even worse, because then you have to add polling from the hub side just to try to recognize that the power off event has taken place.

There are systems that do this, but they tend to be more expensive

There are some platforms that offer continuous communication, but they are typically based either on hardwire or on Wi-Fi. That makes sense for some applications, but adds cost and complexity that most people would not have in budget just for simple lighting systems.

So to go back to your original question, you probably could write a rule set in webcore that would continuously check the lamp all day long and try to recognize two off events that were less than five seconds apart, but you would run a very real danger of messing up the messages from your other devices Just because of all the extra traffic you put on the network, and you would also still run into the issue that mesh just doesn’t reliably report events that occur just a few seconds apart. And these are both problems that would get worse and worse the more devices you had on your network.

So I didn’t want you to think that we were ignoring that part of your question, and you could certainly try it if you wanted, I just don’t think the outcome is going to be satisfying.


(Kevin) #12

I was thinking this off-on/off-off logic would be in the bulb, not hub.


#13

If you physically cut the power to the bulb, it can’t do anything anymore until you restore the power. That’s always been the issue with this kind of use case. It can’t tell the hub that it’s off power once it is off power.

But if you use the Sengled Touch, which has a physical button on it, That gives you the desired result. The human pushes the button, but that doesn’t actually cut the current to the bulb. The bulb dims itself down to zeo, but it is still on current, so it is still available for any network commands. And it still has a radio working, so it tells the hub that it was turned to the off state. And you don’t have to have precise timing or send a lot of extra messages to accomplish that. :sunglasses:

You get the same effect if you use a separate smart device like a minimote.

And again, if it’s a smartbulb, you don’t want to physically be cutting the current to it all the time. That’s why the user guides for those devices say they should always be on power. That’s a separate issue, but still an important one.


(Ron Talley) #14

Dumb Bulbs, Smart Switches.

Unless there is a technical reason why a Smart Switch cannot be installed then, I just don’t get Smart Bulbs.

I have about 6 Lamps that are on Smart Plugs as these can not be controlled by switches.


(Jim) #15

Well, maybe not $6.00, but the basic Singled Element are 8 for $69.99 from Amazon. So I stand corrected, the touch is 2X the cost.
The thing is the touch will work for a table lamp, but that is not the answer for a ceiling light or porch light.


(Jim) #16

I’m getting out of sequence here. I’m with Kevin on this. I guess I just thought it would be an obvious feature. When companies claim that you can control their light locally, they really mean you can turn it on locally.

I was just hoping. I’ve been frustrated by this for years!


#17

Understood.

For ceiling lights or porch lights, as has been mentioned, most people just use a smart switch, not a smart bulb. Then you don’t have any issue at all. There are many different brands of smart switches that will work with SmartThings.

There are some times when people want to use smart bulbs even in ceiling fixtures. The two most common are because they want colored lighting effects or because they want to create zones but all the lights are on the same switch. Or if they are renting and are not allowed to change the wired switches.

Fortunately, there are many alternatives if you do want to use a smart bulb and also have a wall switch. :sunglasses: Here’s the FAQ for that. I didn’t refer you to that initially, because you had started this thread specifically about table lamps.


(Kevin) #18

Could be done with some hardware in the bulb… discharging a capacitor. If power comes back on and the cap is still charged up, leave LED off.


#19

That’s after the power comes back on, though. And there’s a long-standing issue with lightbulbs that most people want it so that if you flip the switch, the light comes on in an emergency. As soon as you start trying to make the bulb smarter and retain last state then you get the problem that flipping the switch doesn’t turn the light on when people expect it to come on.

So in addition to the additional cost and complexity of the bulb there’s just this whole issue of how do you make it work with the switch when people expect it to. Again, Sengled approached it differently by putting a button on the bulb itself, which avoids most of the other issues.


(Jim) #20

Ok, they don’t make them like that but Kevin;s suggestion is the answer. I had discussed the capacitor solution with X10 several times over the years. I kept hoping they would do something with it, but they never updated the design.

To me it is such a simple concept. Capacitor drains for some period of time (decay) - 1 second, 2, 5, whatever (2 should be more than enough) then if the power is restored and the circuit has not drained below the threshold, the lamp stays off, but the radio is turned on.

So so if the light is on (don’t care how it was turned on) turn the switch off and turn it back on within 2 seconds then the light stays off. Beyond the 2 second delay, turning the light on would just turn it on. no delay!

Looks like for me Singled Touch and/or minimote is the solution, just like Palm Pads were the solution for X10. It would cool if someone made smart box that would recognize the X10 wireless protocol, Then I could the 20 Palm Pads I have laying around. I was cutting edge when I was thirty, but now I’m a 72 year old dinosaur.

Thank you all for your input.