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.
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.
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.