VFAQ: Lighting Control Options for UK SmartThings

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#1

There are many forum discussions of possible lighting control options for the UK. Before we get too theoretical, I just wanted to do a quick recap of the options that are available right now for those in the UK.

1) Choose one of the inside-the-wall micro relays from the official compatibility list and have it installed on the circuit where there is a third wire. Even if there isn’t a third wire in the switchbox itself, there’s still one on the circuit somewhere. It may be at the ceiling fitting, it may be somewhere else in the wall, but it is there.

If you want to add a new faceplate to create a push button “momentary switch,” you can modify many switches to work with the in wall relay.

Plastic button front plates are quite easy to find. They may be called “retractive Switch” or “momentary switch.”

For a simple retractive front plate where the switch returns to the same position each time it’s used, so it works well with the micro relays, Schneider makes a nice line of front plates for their own home automation system that are easily used with the micro relays that are compatible with SmartThings. We’re not going to use the electronic parts of the Schneider system, just the switch plate. Amazon carries a selection as do a number of other vendors. So the micro relay will go inside the wall, and the frontplate will replace the existing wall switch as the physical control.

You can also find the retractive switches in a double gang format:

For a high end, elegant faceplate, some community members choose the Legrand Adorne frontpiece to go with the in wall relay. You aren’t going to use the electronics from the Legrand, you’re going to connect their frontplate to the SmartThings-compatible zwave in wall relay instead. But the results can be fantastic. See the following topic for examples from one community member, including a video showing how to attach the faceplate to the relay.

In all of these cases, the retractive switch is just the faceplate. These are used with a Z wave micro unit which is installed in the wall, either behind the faceplate or at the ceiling rose.

Pros: you will have full control of whatever is on that circuit, it’s officially supported by SmartThings, and it will make sense to visitors. There will still be a wall switch where there always was. If you add a Legrande adorne face plate, you will have a lot of very interesting styles to choose from. The Schneider styles are more conventional, but also less expensive. Or any faceplate that can be wired as a push button will usually work.

Cons: it may require an electrician’s help to figure out exactly where to put the relay on the circuit. Also depending on the other hardware and wires that are in the switchbox, some people find a need to replace the existing switch box that is in the wall with a deeper one to make room for the relay.

If you want to add a LeGrand face plate, you will have to do some modifications to it to get it to work with the relay. And the LeGrand devices are beautiful but expensive.

2) Use smart bulbs like Hue or Osram Lightify without a wall switch, and control instead with motion sensors, automated schedules, voice, mobile phone, and fully-integrated handheld remotes

This is a very popular European approach for Phillips Hue bulbs, and it is worth considering. Very good for tenants who would need landlord permission to change the wiring. As long as the old wall switch is always left on so that there is power to the bulb, there are many choices for how to control the lighting.

At my house, we mostly use voice. Many community members primarily use motion sensors to control the lighting.

Those with sophisticated design sense tend to really like the “mood cube” which uses a SmartThings accelerometer (available in the UK multi sensor) inside a cube that you designed so that as the cube is turned in your hands, you switch to different light. Fun and practical. I happen to particularly like the design that @Pete built but there are several examples in the forums. This works great, it’s just not a conventional wall switch.

The Aeon Labs minimote is probably the most popular handheld remote in the community, it comes in white or black. Fully integrateable with SmartThings. Small and modern. Widely available. But it’s not a wall switch.

With any of these options, the old wall switch is just left always turned on. And you will have full control of any devices that are connected to SmartThings. But it can be confusing for visitors.

Pros: full control of all SmartThings-connected devices. The old switches work fine in an emergency. No changes to existing wiring required since bulbs and battery-operated devices are used instead of relays.

Cons: leaving behind 20th century ideas of wall switches, visitors may be confused.

3a) Battery-operated zwave dimmer switch There are several battery-operated wall switches of a similar design from the zwave.me, popp, and Devolo. Community members such as Adam V have created custom code device handlers. They may not offer all features of the device, but they are a good choice for many people. Note that these battery-operated versions do not directly control the current to a lamp or fitting. So they will only work with either smart bulbs or lights controlled by another networked device such as an in wall relay or a pocket socket.

Pros: looks just like a UK wall switch, very intuitive for Guests to use.
Cons: cannot control the actual current and so must be used with another device that is also networked.

3b) battery operated buttons and button panels which can be placed on the wall or on a table. There are several different types of these available in the UK. The Remotec eight button panel may be the best value since it offers 24 options as each button can be tapped, double tap, or held (£45).

Pros: because these do not directly control current, they can be used with smart bulbs or other devices, or to change modes or alarm status. Can be placed just about anywhere.

Cons: most will only work when the SmartThings cloud is available. Some are quite expensive for their size, around £40 for one button. The design style is almost always futuristic plastic.

See the list of remote/buttons FAQ for various devices. Each entry will be marked US, UK, or both.

3c) 3 wire zwave switches (if there is a blue neutral wire in the switchbox) There are some three wire Zwave single paddle switches that would probably work quite easily with SmartThings, such as MCO, TKBHome and Duwi. For a full remodel or new construction, these are worth considering. They are seen in some hotels and apartment buildings.

There are several different ways that the switches can send commands to the hub, so custom code may be required. Single paddle models typically cost about €40.

http://www.vesternet.com/z-wave-tkb-single-paddle-wall-switch-silver

Pros: a wall switch that is a wall switch, Basic on/off should work even if the Internet is not available, and there are often many style options.

Cons: requires three wires in the Switch-box, Some brands and models may require custom code to work with SmartThings. Should not be used to directly control current to smart bulbs – – use the battery operated versions for those.

4) Partial integration with lightwave RF

There are now two different ways to get partial integration with Lightwave RF.

4a) IFTTT As of March 2016, Lightwave RF has added an IFTTT channel with no triggers and 3 events: turn on, turn off, and dim. Using this is very easy: any SmartThings event can be used as a trigger for the Lightwave RF event. However, it’s one-way only: you can’t use turning on a LWRF to trigger a SmartThings event. In addition, there may be added lag from IFTTT.

So with this approach the switches will work fine at the wall, and will probably be acceptable for timed events. It should also be fine for turning off the lights. The lag is usually most noticeable if you want to use a SmartThings-controlled motion sensor to trigger a LWRF switch.

4b) Use your own server.

There are some members who have created a technical hack which provides a partial integration with existing lightWAVE RF switches. The lightwave RF switches can work in a two wire switch box. However, the solution that currently exists requires considerable deal of technical skill to implement.

Pros: Choice of several models that look just like conventional UK switches

Cons: only a partial, and you have to run your own server if you choose option b. Also, there can be a noticeable lag between the time the switch is pressed and the time the light goes on.

5) Phillips hue dimmer switch as a parallel means of control

Phillips has just released a new dimmer switch which is a small vertical four button device that can go on the wall or on the table. Sells for about £25. It can control from 1 to 10 smart bulbs to go on and off as a group. Or one scene from the Phillips hue bridge. Amazon.co.uk carries it.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Philips-Personal-Lighting-Wireless-Dimmer/dp/B0148NMVX8

This device does not integrate fully with SmartThings, it just allows you to control one group of bulbs with the physical button. There are community members trying to add more features to it, but that’s what we have right now.

Pros: inexpensive, intuitive, works well to control smart bulbs, no lag, good for guests and kids, battery operated so no wiring involved. Combines well with the options from point 2) above where the lighting is usually controlled through motion, voice, or schedules but adds a simple button switch as well.

Cons: cannot control any other kind of device, not fully integrated with SmartThings. May not match the decorating style.


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#2

#3

If anyone is desperate to own a Philips Hue Dimmer Switch, Amazon.de currently are expecting stock on the 22nd October. However, the cost will be slightly more expensive at around 30EUR (~23 GBP) and that includes (2-3 days) shipping to the UK:

Philips Hue Wireless Dimming Schalter, komfortabel dimmen, ohne Installation 8718696506967 @Amazon.de


(John Crighton) #4

I have used the Schneider momentary switches for quite a while now (previously with X10, will be reusing them with ST). The best place to get them that I’ve found is here:

That’s a screwless polished chrome retractive switch (with black insert). I’ve gone for these as they matched the existing electrical outlets, although they really do show up fingerprints so brushed might be better if you’re trying to avoid that.

The price seems like it’s at least a few quid cheaper than anywhere else, and they seem to have almost any combination of finishes and inserts that you could want

I have also used Schneider’s modular system ‘Ultimate Grid’:

Plus 2x: http://www.rbstarelectrical.co.uk/products/gug102rbms

This has replaced my hallway light with two retractive switches. I have one dimmer micro module in the backbox downstairs and one upstairs (with a single retractive switch for the upstairs light only). The wiring running between the floors allows me to control the upstairs light from downstairs and upstairs (as originally intended) including full dimming control from both floors.

Additionally, for a fiver(ish) less, these people do Schneider retractive switches with the screws showing:

I hope that helps some people.


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(Bob Tume) #5

While I haven’ t changed my switches I am currently using the TCP Connected bulbs and hub from Homebase, which cost £70 for the hub and 2 bulbs and £15 per extra 10w bulb ( I now have 12) tied in with motion and door sensors as triggers.

The bulbs are excellent (regular 60w size and 810 lumens) and I assumed that the OAuth problems would render them useless with ST until it was fixed however I simply added the “Wackford TCP Bulbs (Connect)” smartapp from the labs and they are all controlled perfectly. There is a delay of around 1 second (as I assume it is cloud to cloud) but not an annoying one.

Now when OAuth is finally fixed I can tie in my harmony hubs and I will be a very happy bunny indeed


(Andy Godber) #6

For those of us who swallow hard at the cost of ‘designer’ push button switches, I have a number of ‘traditional’ white faceplates with click mode momentary switches available,
£5 inc postage £9 for dual gang.


#7

Choice is good! Do you have a link?

Most people are able to find simple plastic push button switch frontplates locally intended for commercial spaces. We usually get information requests for something nicer when they’re being used as light switches throughout a home because those aren’t sold in as many places.

This kind of thing is quite easy to find:

As long as the frontplate can be wired to a push button light circuit, it can probably be combined with an inwall relay from option 1 in the first post above.


(Andy Godber) #8

Mine are private sale - picked up too many when I saw a job lot! PM if interested


#9

Another thing about the Philips Dimmer Switch I posted about earlier

If you’re not in a hurry and want to save a few quid, Amazon is currently doing a “4 For 3 on Lighting” promotion:

Philips Hue Personal Lighting Wireless Dimmer Switch @Amazon

Other interesting stuff included in this promotion is obviously other Philips products (They’re the promo sponsors?!) and the rather awesome, value for money, Osram Lightify bulbs that’s being talked about in another thread recently:

OSRAM E27 Edison Screw A60 ES Cap 10 W LED Lightify RGB Light Bulb [Energy Class A+] @Amazon

Just to note, the Amazon promotion ends 1st November.


(Mike Whitaker) #10

Looks like I may be in luck here. I have till December to decide what to tell/hand our tame electrician when he rips out the existing living room lights and replaces them with two ceiling fittings.

Her Majesty has asked for right of veto on the fittings, but I am allowed to populate the fittings as I like and control them how I like as long as

  • (her stipulation) there are wall switches that will turn them off in the absence of an iPad, phone, remote etc - one per light, at BOTH ends of the (24x12) room.
  • (my stipulation) turning them off at the wall doesn’t stop ST controlling them

So. Money not a big limiting factor: what’s my best option?


(Giles Houghton) #11

It looks like the release date for the new phillips hue starter pack has gone to December here in the UK.

I don’t suppose you know if the Lightify integration will work without OAuth? My understanding is that hue doesn’t need OAuth.

I’m loathe to go out and buy the hue individual components as it’ll add £50 to the cost, and I wonder if Lightify is actually just as good.

Any experience on the relative merits of these 2 bulbs would also be greatly appreciated.


#12

Osram Lightify devices should connect directly to the SmartThings hub, no Oauth required. But confirm with support. Note that you don’t need the Lightify gateway. You just connect the individual bulbs directly to the SmartThings hub. This is different than the Phillips hue integration, where you do require the bridge.

As far as I know, the Phillips wide release date for the UK was always November 30. That’s what they’ve been saying for the dimmer switch for a while.


(Giles Houghton) #13

Looks like Amazon.co.uk may have been a bit cheeky. I had the kit in preorder for Monday and just got an email saying it had been delayed by a month :frowning:


(Tommy Mcnally) #14

Does anyone know a good wifi light wall switch that will work with smart things?

I cant afford to buy the Philips hue lights for the whole house so i was thinking of running all my downlights to a wifi wall switch. I would like to have a physical wall switch but i would also like to link the lights to ST via wifi so i can set up IFTTT e.t.c.


(John Crighton) #15

I’m having a loft conversion done at the moment, and on the entrance to the new room the light switch location is too narrow to put a regular switch plate on after the architrave for the door has been fitted. The electrician has fitted an ‘Architrave switch’ which is basically a white, narrow switch plate. ‘Great’, I thought, no way I’m going to be able to do anything with that. I had a search, and all I could find were ‘Press to exit’ momentary switches, or bog standard light switches.

Eventually my searching turned up ‘Click Minigrid’. These guys actually do modular architrave switches! I have picked a chrome plate with black insert to match the Schneider stuff I have already, and a chrome momentary switch to go inside it.

Placement of the dimmer module may be an issue, unless I can get a very deep backbox (it will have to go sideways).

Here’s a link to someone that sells it: https://www.electrical2go.co.uk/catalogsearch/result/?q=click+minigrid+architrave

I have no idea on the quality, I’ll have to see when it comes.

Edit to follow up - Switch has arrived, I also managed to find a 35mm architrave backbox which almost gives me enough room for a module, but not quite.

The Click switch has a little bit of depth to it as well, which adds to the problem, however it does come with screws long enough to counter the problem (backbox needs to be buried at about 45mm.

Now, the next challenge, and one you should be aware of: The click minigrid architrave switches do not fit standard architrave back boxes! - if you’re a perfectionist, this will be a fatal issue. Click make their own, but only in 25mm depth.

The screws are further apart. Fortunately, you can get around this by bending one of the screw holes on a standard backbox, backward. You will then also need to reverse the thread on that screw hole with a bit of tampering.

The quality of the switch appears to be pretty decent, apart from this.

That was a bit more complicated than I’d hoped for, but if I’d known this at the start I think I’d still have gone this route.


(Nico) #16

Did all Osram lightify can directly connected to ST hub ?
I saw at compatible list there’s only 3 type of Osram listed down there.


#17

They should be able to connect, but they may not work as expected. Different Osram models have different features.

For example, when the Osram Model first came out that could be changed from “cool white” to “warm white” there was no smartthings device type that allowed for a way to make those changes. So when first connected to SmartThings it could be turned on and off, but not colour tuned.

Later, a community member, @sticks18 , created a device type that did allow for colour tuning. And eventually SmartThings came up with an official one.

If you search the community for the specific model that’s not on the official list, you can probably see if there is already a community-created device type working for it. This is one of the big strengths a smart things, that we don’t have to wait for official device types to get access to new features on standard certified zwave and Zigbee devices. :sunglasses:

(Scott, this is the UK-specific category. The models may be a little different.)


(Nico) #18

aahhh I see

Yes, you’re right, when I want to connect new device at my home, I will check the community first to get more information about that product. I got interested to use Osram or Cree connected bulb because it’s simpleness and cheaper price than hue.

All of that led bulb that use zigbee, also work as zigbee repeater, isn’t it ?


#19

The repeater question is a whole separate question when it comes to light bulbs.

There are two different zigbee profiles that a lightbulb can use. ZLL (Zigbee light link) is specific to lighting. When connected using ZLL, those bulbs will only repeat for other ZLL devices, creating a mini network typically of just other lightbulbs.

ZHA (zigbee home automation) is a broader category used for most of the zigbee devices that attach to the SmartThings hub directly. In the US, the Osram Lightify bulbs do act as ZHA repeaters. But i haven’t yet seen published confirmation for the EU models.

So the answer is probably, but not certain.

The following is a current topic where community members are working on a device type for one of the newest models in the UK. That would probably be a good place to ask about repeating since the members have those bulbs.


(Stephen Hill) #20

Carrying over from the Lightify thread - can anyone recommend some decent (and cheap!) ceiling down lighters that will work with the SmartThings hub?

The lightify bulbs are great for lamps and they only come in at about £20.