Virtual 3-way toggle style switches with no traveler?

Hello all,
New here and new to smart home ideas. Thanks in advance for any advice. I have one light in a large room controlled by one dumb switch. I would like to replace the one dummy with a smart toggle style switch and install a 2nd smart toggle style switch on the other side of the room. No switch exists on other side of the room but I have access to power (hot, neutral, and ground) where I want to install the 2nd switch. I would be missing the traveler wire.

What toggle style switches can achieve this? And what method would provide the least amount of lag setting up the virtual switch. As I understand it, there are several ways to accomplish getting the switches to “talk” to each other to act as a 3-way set up.

Welcome! :sunglasses:

First, are you using the Samsung SmartThings ™ platform in a “hub optional” setup, or are you using a SmartThings hub? And if so, which model?

Second, what country are you in? The device selection does vary.

Hi there! In the process of planning out how to get it to do what I want it to do. Haven’t purchased anything, yet. I anticipate purchasing a SmartThings hub to make it all work. I am in the USA. I appreciate you helping me think this through!

Chad

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Are you looking for a toggle or decora? Either way, I would suggest looking into Zooz switches. They’re Zwave switches, but many (if not all) of their switches allow you to run a 3 way with no traveler. Zooz is the in house brand of @TheSmartestHouse I’m not affiliated in any way with them, just have 4 of their switches in our house, love them, and they have amazing customer service.

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OK, then it’s easy, and which method you will pick depends on the exact details of what you want to accomplish.

I am tired right now so I will let others chime in, but in your case I would recommend a method where the auxiliary switch can communicate directly with the master so it still works even if the hub is unavailable such as in the middle of an update.

Normally that would give you 4 options:

  1. Lutron Caseta with its Pico auxiliary

  2. zwave switches with both direct association capability. The GoControl 3 way models are designed for exactly this, but don’t come in a toggle. So probably Zooz or Inovelli.

  3. WiFi switch with its own auxiliary (often Bluetooth), like IDevices

  4. HomeKit switch if you use iOS devices

There would be lots to choose from. But the problem is that you want a toggle, which is going to limit you to option 2. That also means you will have to have a SmartThings hub.

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BTW, The reason that most manufacturers of smart switches only make rocker style, not toggles, is because with the switches they normally rest in neutral rather than being locked into up or down. That’s because you may be changing the status of the switch from the network to implement a schedule or other use case and they don’t want to have to mechanically move The switch to match.

On a toggle, this is really obvious because the switch will stick straight out horizontally all the time. You just push it up for on or push it down for off but then it returns itself to that center position. Many people don’t like the aesthetics of that, and guests may even think that the switch is broken. :scream:

GE wouldn’t work for you because they do require a physical traveler wire, but I’m including this picture because it’s one of the clearest to show the resting position of a toggle smart switch

The rockers do the same thing, that is rest in the center position, but it’s not usually as obvious. So many people just like it better.

If you really want a toggle, a couple of manufacturers do make them. You just won’t have as many brand choices.

I’m interested in this solution also. Two questions if I may …

  1. how do the ‘Zooz’ and ‘inovelli’ switches compare to the Leviton smart switches? I’ve found the biggest problem with using a Leviton to be the physical size of the switch body - there’s no room left for all the wire caps and such inside the switchbox once you get that thing in there (I hired a wiring pro to help and even he couldn’t make it fit).

  2. Using the SmartThings Classic solution, how easy is it to go down the path of direct association? And assuming I get that to work, will that still work when I get migrated to the SmartThings Connect solution? Is there a general ‘idiot’s guide’ to direct association with SmartThings that I could review?

Thanks!

It’s very easy to set up associations with the classic app these days using the community-created “zwave tweaker.” This is a DTH that will expose all of the available parameters and associations for any mains powered zwave device. So you can set them up using the tweaker, they get saved in the switch itself, then you just go back to using whatever DTH you wanted to for every day purposes and your changes persist. Very popular, for good reason. :sunglasses:

I don’t know if it works with the new V3 app or not, you can just ask in the zwave tweaker thread and someone there should know.

First Rule of home automation: “the model number matters.” You just need to check the exact specs of any individual models you are considering. In general, Zwave plus devices should Have smaller radio boxes than Z wave classic, but it’s up to each manufacturer to design each model the way they want.

In some cases, you can put a collar on the switch box that then lifts the cover plate up a 1/4” or so and get more room that way. These are intended for situations where people are adding tile for kitchen backsplash or something like that, but they work fine for smart switches as well. These are also called “extender rings“ at places like Home Depot even though they aren’t round.

https://www.kyleswitchplates.com/deep-switch-plate-outlet-covers/

BTW, leviton is one of several companies that make the nicer looking ones in this category. I’m surprised your electrical expert wasn’t aware of them.

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I have Leviton, Zooz, and GE smart switches. Some are Zigbee, most are Z-wave plus.

The switch body of all are similar in size. The GE Enbrighten Gen2 switches are slightly smaller.

I’ve installed switches in single, 2-gang, 3-gang, and 4-gang boxes. It can be tight but with care it can be done.

The new Inovelli switches are also shallower.

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Thanks everyone. Bringing up things I haven’t even yet thought of to ask!

@JDRoberts - WOW, thank you for the clear direction and thoughtful responses. Good info on why so many more options on the decora style. I’m going to have to consider swapping my house over to that style to integrate in the smart ones. I like the tweaker option in that the switch retains the commands. Seems like the most lag free way of having the switches communicate with each other.

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It will depend on the depth of the back box. These vary, particularly in older homes, and can be anywhere from 40 mm to 60 mm. Obviously that’s a big difference.

If you only need a little more room, you can put in an insert which will make the box stick out a little bit above the wall and then use the extension collars I mentioned above so it looks nice. :sunglasses:

Nothing beats Lutron Caseta for speed. They are an engineering company focused on lighting and hold a bunch of patents, including on the original analog dimmer switch. They use their own proprietary frequency. Their Lutron pico auxiliary switches come with a 10 year battery and can be placed anywhere. this is what I use in my own home. But no toggles: it’s a momentary switch. Comes in white, black, almond, or ivory, and if you want to pay extra you can get custom engraving on the buttons.

Like most engineers, I love these, but definitely not a rocker. :wink:

Second fastest would be zwave with direct association or Bluetooth with a direct connection between auxiliary and master. The zwave option works best with SmartThings at the time of this writing. And you have the advantage that the Z wave switches will act as repeaters for your other Z wave devices. The zwave switches are also likely to be less expensive than the Lutron. And you can get either a rocker or a toggle. So a very popular choice in this community. :sunglasses:

As I look into using ‘direct association’, I realize that - while most of my switches and sensors are z-wave, a bunch of ‘smart bulbs’ I bought on Amazon were all Zigbee. Are zigbee smart bulbs cheaper / more plentiful? Is there a good inexpensive brand of z-wave smart bulbs? I will presumably need a homogeneous network of Z-wave devices in order to do direct association (homogeneous within the switch / sensor / bulb array). I don’t mind replacing a bunch of the zigbee bulbs - I can relocate them to areas where I have no need for direct association …

There’s a lot of unpacking that, so be patient with me. :sunglasses:

SMARTBULBS NEED CONSTANT POWER

Smart bulbs almost all require that the current be on at all times. The bulb Dims itself, but it needs current so that its radio can hear the next “on” command. This is true whether the bulb is zigbee, Z wave, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi.

Consequently, you wouldn’t use most of the switches we’ve been talking about with smart bulbs. Instead, you have to use a switch specifically intended for use with smart bulbs.

The good news is that the Zooz and Inovelli Z wave switches Have both abilities: the ability to be set up for a smart bulb so they are not actually cutting power to the Bulb and the ability to do direct Z wave association. You Need to check each specific model to be sure, but those are a good choice.

DIRECT ASSOCIATION FROM SWITCH TO BULB?

If you get a Z wave Bulb, it is possible in most cases to set up a direct association from the switch to the Bulb. But you probably won’t want to do that, because as soon as you do, you lose the ability to put restrictions around the switch/bulb rule. Essentially with direct association every single time you turn on the switch, the bulb would also come on. That’s fine for the auxiliary and the master in a three-way switch set up, but it might not be what you want for the Bulb.

For example, you might want to Bulb to come on at 50% if the baby is asleep. Or not have the bulb come on at all in the overhead fixture, but just have a table lamp come on. Just lots of different possibilities.

Of course if you’re OK with the bulb coming on every time, no problem. Then you can use direct association with a zwave bulb if you want to.

WHY ARE THERE MORE ZIGBEE BULBS AVAILABLE THAN ZWAVE?

This one’s easy. Zwave protocol limits a hub to a maximum of 232 devices total. And some people find a start having network efficiency issues once they go over about 175.

The zigbee profiles used for lighting (ZLL, ZHA, and Zigbee 3.0) have a limit in the thousands. It’s just a different addressing schema. So a company like Phillips or Sylvania that wants to be able to sell lighting solutions to office buildings and Hotels and airports prefers Zigbee. That expertise carried over into their residential lighting divisions and we got Zigbee as a common smart light standard.

Also, zigbee radios are smaller and more energy efficient than zwave radios, although the ratio has improved with the latest generation of Z wave. ( this is also why you see smaller battery powered Zigbee sensors with longer battery life than their Z wave counterparts).

The original Z wave light bulbs were visibly much bigger than Zigbee bulbs although they have the same base. But the newer models are pretty much the same size.

Additionally, zigbee uses the same radio frequency worldwide while zwave varies by region, so it’s easier to plan factory runs with Zigbee. The same bulbs that sell in China can be sold in the US and in Argentina as long as they can handle the power requirements.

Anyway, although there are more Zigbee models available, if you want zwave, they exist.

ZIGBEE BULBS AND ZWAVE SWITCHES

(Or mixing a zigbee accessory switch with a Z wave master switch.)

You can do this as long as you have a hub that can act as a “man in the middle.” So the switch sends a message to the hub (again, not cutting the power to the bulb directly) and then the hub sends a message to the Bulb. Works fine, lots of people do this.

The topic title for the community FAQ mentions hue but it applies to any brand of smart bulb.

FAQ: Looking at a good Wall Switch for my Hue Bulbs (2018 Short FAQ) ( also applies to other brands of smart bulbs)

The downside of these is that if the smartthings hub is not working, the switch will not control the bulbs.

THE ZIGBEE EQUIVALENT TO ZWAVE DIRECT ASSOCIATION

Yes, There is a zigbee equivalent for direct association between a zigbee switch and and a zigbee bulb but it only works with devices that are specifically made for that purpose, most of which are battery-operated Handheld remote. Some examples are the Hue dimmer, the IKEA puck, and the Lutron Aurora Dimmer.

These work fine, and they have the advantage that they will work even if your hub is unavailable, but the problem is getting it all to work in the context of a smartthings set up.

Again, the first rule of home automation applies: the model number matters.” There are some ways to get some of these devices working Without going through the hub to some extent, but that’s a whole other conversation.

However, what you can typically do is either have it work using the hub as a “man in the middle,“ or you may be able to use it as a parallel means of control. Again, lots more to discuss if we get into that. The short answer is that zwave direct association is a lot easier to use in a smart things context.

SENSORS

You said “switch/bulb/sensor array.” When did sensors come into the use case and how exactly are you intending to use them? It would be very rare to use direct association for sensors in a SmartThings set up because of that lack of filtering I discussed above. Lots of community members use Zigbee sensors and zwave light switches, for example.

Whew! That was probably more than you wanted to learn, because only parts will be relevant depending on the direction you choose. But I thought it might be easier to choose a direction if you did know at least a little bit about all of that. :sunglasses:

I once stayed in an Airbnb that had Lutron switched before I had any idea what they were.

They were slow enough that I couldn’t tell what each button did. Some of the buttons had been broken so function of each was not obvious.

Bottom line, it was a mess trying to control the lights!

First of all, thanks for the extremely educational response! All very useful to me.

Second - I believe (from prior posts of yours) that you use ‘assistive technologies’ in your home (including computer use); did you compose this reply using voice-to-text of some sort? The punctuation, paragraph arrangement, spelling, etc are all flawless so I was wondering what tools you use to achieve that (if you don’t mind; it’s an area of interest to me). Not only is the message well-composed / structured, but it includes links, etc - all of which must involve a number of techniques.

Third - to the specifics! My goal in pursuing ‘direct association’ was three-fold; a) to see if I could take advantage of some ‘advanced features’ of - for example’ - the WallMote Quad, which in addition to press, hold, etc also supports ‘swiping’ on the buttons to control lighting - but only if you use direct association; b) to eliminate the delays inherent in using the ‘hub’, and loss of functionality due to hub or internet outages; c) to learn more.

But from what I read in your message, I now have the impression that if I go with ‘direct association’, I am essentially tying two devices together, to the exclusion of any other behaviors. That is - if I direct-associate ‘switch 1’ to ‘lamp 1’, I will then lose the ability to have a motion sensor also trigger an ‘on’ condition to ‘lamp 1’ (via the standard hub), and/or have a routine turn ‘lamp 1’ on at a set time, and so on. Am I correct in that assumption?

Thanks again!

Any model might have an individual defective device, even more so if it’s been physically abused. Not representative of the line. :wink:

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I just use the dictation built into iOS, which is very good, but I will also edit a post five or six times. and even then, my posts typically have a lot of random capitalizations that I don’t bother to correct. So not perfect, but hopefully understandable. :sunglasses:

Typical voice artifacts from one of my posts above. There are still four left in three paragraphs, even though I edited the post at least five times. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

The bulb Dims itself, but it needs current so that its radio can hear the next “on” command. This is true whether the bulb is zigbee, Z wave, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi.
.
Consequently, you wouldn’t use most of the switches we’ve been talking about with smart bulbs. Instead, you have to use a switch specifically intended for use with smart bulbs.
.
The good news is that the Zooz and Inovelli Z wave switches Have both abilities: the ability to be set up for a smart bulb so they are not actually cutting power to the Bulb and the ability to do direct Z wave association. You Need to check each specific model to be sure, but those are a good choice.

1 Like