Wall Dimmers or dimmable LEDs

(Justin Léger) #1

Hello fellow members of the smart things community,
I am a rookie in IOT and home automation. I plan to buy ST system next week. I made a list of all the devices I’ll buy. I have problems choosing the right lighting system. Currently I have some Wemo switches. I want to dim my lights. Should I buy smart LED bulbs or in wall dimmer switches? I prefer the smart led bulbs. Which one is simpler and cheaper?

Thanks for your help,

(Convinced ST will never be unbroken…) #2

They pretty much cost the same when you factor in the cost of a switch and a good LED bulb vs: something like TCP or HUE wireless bulbs. For instance:

Hues are $60/bulb
Switch = ~$45 and good LED ~$15 = $60

Now where the inequalities add up is lets say you want to control 4 bulbs from one switch…
Hue 4 @ 60 = $240
1 Switch @ 45 and 4 Bulbs @ 15 = $105
Of course you have independent control of every bulb with Hue, but not with switch, but is that worth an additional $135.

My recommendation is where ever you want to control a singular bulb, go with smartBulbs like Hue, and where you need to control multiple bulbs as a group, go with a switch.

I will say the color options of the smart bulbs are very neat… and the system has other neat features like very slow (almost unnoticeable) transition times, and more. Just depends if your into that and don’t mind spending the extra cash. But I would enthusiastically recommend that anywhere you need to control a single bulb, that you go with Hue instead of a boring switch. (c;

(Justin Léger) #3

Thanks for the In-depth review. I’ll look at the Hues and also I heard that belkin is doing its own smartBulb. I will still need some smart dimmers at some places in my home. I red online that sometimes the lights flicks with smart dimmers. Any suggestion on the best dimmer?

(Chrisb) #4

Also need to be aware of replacement costs. If a LED bulb goes belly up it’s cheaper to replace than if than Hue or TCP bulb.

Furthermore, factor in your lifestyle. For instance, if you move from the living room to the den, are you going to have motion sensors that turn on/off lights? If not, how are you going to turn on/off lights? If you have a Z-wave switch you have quick/easy access. If you’re doing it via your smartphone you need to have that with you all the time.

(Convinced ST will never be unbroken…) #5

Note that Hues can be turned on and off via a standard light switch; they just can’t be dimmed or have their color changed.

(Chrisb) #6

Yeah, I’d guess some others would have something like that too. I know Lifx bulbs can be turned off at the switch (of course). The problem (at least with Lifx) is that when it’s off at the switch it can’t be turned on remotely. I have a couple of Lifx as accent lights in my den, but they’re off 95% of the time because my wife isn’t going to pull out her tablet, open the app, wait for it to connect, then select the den group, then turn it off. She’s just going to flip the switch.

It’s all to personal taste of course. If you and anyone else in your house is comfortable doing things a little more high-tech, even if it’s slightly less convenient, or if you’re using motion sensors a lot, then the connected bulbs make a lot of sense. But for my setup… with a more ‘low tech’ wife who would flip the switch looooong before pulling out her tablet, Z-wave switches just make more sense.

(Brian Smith) #7

I agree and that has been my issue. In another post (Link), I asked about switches that are in a constant on position but still can send zwave commands. I think Philips is missing the boat here. I could also get zwave switches and wire the electric in the box to always be on as well. In that situation, a multi-button switch and some Hues would go a long way. They could be used to trigger different modes or colors. I’d be curious to see if a zwave dimmer (not controlling the load to the Hues) could dim a Hue via the dimmer commands.

(Convinced ST will never be unbroken…) #8

Not to put too fine a point on this, but I rarely touch a light switch. My great room and kitchen hues ramp up over a 9 minute period just after sunset to full brightness, with colors mimicking the sunset light. An hour later, they drop down to cooler color, and lower brightness levels (sufficient for reading, cooking, etc.)

During prime time the media lights drop to deep red, and (well, you get the idea). Motion sensors activate other rooms with temporarily occupancy (bathrooms, garage, etc.).

Late night has stair illumination, and bedrooms/bathrooms on to warm glows, followed by deep red glows to get last minute things done before bed, and then a 9 minute transition to darkness.

Midnight snack scenes invoke deep red bedroom, stairs, and kitchen lighting, triggered from widgets on my nightstand tablet, and auto dimming to dark over 9 minutes.

Sorry, I meant not to go on and on about this, but I love my Hues. My jacuzzi is illuminated and colored by the music I am listening to via Hue Disco… and even lets me know when it is the right temperature… it is incredibly soothing. Colorsd change when the doorbell and telephone are rung.

I’ll admit to initially laughing at Hue at $60/bulb, but after looking at the alternatives to my old x10 devices, and installing the initial kit, I’m hooked. It all works incredibly well, and is controllable by practically anything.

(Brian Smith) #9

Did you wire the outlets to be permanently on?

(Convinced ST will never be unbroken…) #10

Nope. My Hues can always be toggled off and on, but the need for it is rare. With all of the timed scenes I have set up, we hardly ever need to touch a switch.

(Brian Smith) #11

I just worry about someone flipping the switch off (we have parents and other guests in the house all the time for dinner, etc) and not being able to control the hue until someone flips the switch again.

(Chrisb) #12

[quote=“scottinpollock, post:8, topic:2687, full:true”]
Not to put too fine a point on this, but I rarely touch a light switch. My great room and kitchen hues ramp up over a 9 minute period…[/quote]

That’s very cool Scott. I dunno if my family is quite ready for that… specifically my wife is of the opinion that all these extra devices (powered light switches and outlets) cost us more electricity that any we’re saving.

I’m also not sure how different rooms would be handled. How does your setup handle things like:

  • A room that might see some activity some nights, but others no activity at all.
  • If you need more light than usual due to a specific task
  • Going to bed some nights at 10:30, other times at 11:30 or somewhere in between?
  • A situation like this morning for me: Thunderstorms and dark clouds meant that I needed more lights on this morning when getting ready for work than I typically do on a Summer morning.

I like the idea of move to a more and more “hands off” setup, honestly, but I’m sure my wife isn’t ready for that, and I’m not sure if I am quite ready for that myself.

(Convinced ST will never be unbroken…) #13

Hmmm… well YMMV, but you can tell her that once I replaced all my regularly used lighting with Hues or other LEDs, electric bills have dropped $30-$40 on average.

As for my setup, I should first mention that in addition to our smart phones, there are dedicated Nexus 7’s in the great room and master BR. These are required for use of the A/V systems in both rooms, and have controls for the lighting as well. Both are in docks/mounts, and have widgets for scenes appropriate for each location. The BR one is on 24/7 and also serves as an alarm/clock/radio.

With the exception of two accent uplights in the great room, all of my hues are on standard switches. If you need light, you can just toggle them. The Hues will come on in an incandescent color at full brightness. Oddly enough, even guests will flip the switch twice without being told (I think it is human nature that if it doesn’t work the first time, try it again). I suppose the only rub would be if someone left one off - then obviously you’d have to go turn it on.

As for bedtime, lights in the BR are on by 10:30, but pretty subdued. They will come on earlier if all of the A/V gear downstairs is turned off. The off time (other than the main all off at midnight) is triggered by an insteon switch controlling the vanity lights. When that switch gets an off event after 10pm, everything assumes your going to bed; BR lights get more subdued for 5 minutes, and then slowly dim to off over the next 5 minutes.

My house has a lot of glass, and the MBR gets a light of natural light, so the dark cloud issue hasn’t really been an issue for me. But it would be interesting to source a light sensor that meters rather than just detects light or dark. I think I remember seeing a module that reports analog voltage input, so it would be easy to build one with a simple solar cell. That would be pretty cool.

Not every light is a hue though; they’re mostly the lights predominately on each evening, and mood lighting in the shower and over the jacuzzi, etc. I would like to rig up a temp probe/moisture sensor for the jacuzzi and shower so that when you turn on the water, hues come on and change color based on the water temperature. I think this is doable for the tub; not so much for the shower (too much tile).

Many other lights are still on insteon or x10 switches (most of them dumb). I know I want to change the outdoor ones to state-readable switches (with possibly hues over the back deck tied to a motion sensor).

I haven’t figured it all out just yet since the Hues have thrown a bit of a monkey wrench in the original plan of just swapping out all the old switches with Z-Waves.

(Justin Léger) #14

I think I am going for smart dimmers and leds and also some smartBulb at some places. For the smartbulb I’m going to buy the belkin one when it’s available. Which wall dimmer do you suggest? I am looking for the best deal.

Also I found the TCP led lights that can be controlled. At 17$ a bulb, can it work out of the box with smart things or do I need to buy the hub also?

(Ben Edwards) #15

Just a few words of caution: while we will probably support that Belkin bulb, there is no timeline for it’s integration.

You will need the TCP hub for the TCP bulbs. There is a bug with them right now that some have found only allows commands to be sent to up to 3 at a time. We are looking to address this with a firmware update in the near future.

(Chrisb) #16

If you’re using LEDs I’d recommend getting one with a neutral (assuming you have neutral by the switch area). As I said above, you can often get away with LEDs on the non-neutral switches, but there is a chance that it’ll light up the LEDs when off.

I have Evolve dimmers in my bedrooms. They have a neutral and their indicator light is green and a little bit dimmer in my opinion. Preferable for a Bedroom. Elsewhere I have the GE/Jasco dimmers. These have a brighter blue indicator.

The GE/Jasco dimmer that’s the most common is model 45612. This ones does NOT use a neutral. The less common, discontinued model is 45606. This switch DOES use a dimmer and is occasionally available on eBay. The 45606 has wires out the back that you twist together with your wall wires. The 45612 has the little holes that you insert your wall wires and then screw closed. That’s the easiest way to tell the two apart.

(Tim Steele) #17

Scott - I’d love to learn more about how you control your Hue bulbs. I have them throughout the whole house at this point. But I struggle with the IFTTT integration - and I’m not thrilled with the SmartThings integration either (given how cumbersome it is to set up what Hue calls Scenes and handles so well). I really wish that I could turn on a “scene” via a SmartThings motion sensor instead of just a specific light bulb - and then having to repeat that over and over and over. I don’t even know how to turn on more than one bulb at a time via SmartThings (but it sounds like you’ve cracked this) or how to change the color/brightness of groups of bulbs either. This limitation (maybe only in my knowledge) is what keeps me from buying a bunch of other hardware (like motion sensors and remotes) and keeps me tied to my phone. Tell us more!

(Convinced ST will never be unbroken…) #18

IFTTT seems pretty dumb at this point so I don’t use it. I do use SmartThings integration for my Hues, but sometimes it is not in the traditional sense (more on that later). For regular, daily timed events, I use Hue’s scene schedules; it is simply kind of a set and forget type thing.

With SmartThings, I use some SmartApps for simple motion sensor triggered lighting. You can turn on as many Hues as you want within a single event handler in a SmartApp, and set whatever values you want for each. It is pretty versatile, but you may need to get your fingers between the fan blades to do exactly what you want.

For more complicated things, I use scripts. For instance, when I leave my house during the day I want everything to turn off; not just my Hues, but all of my lights (I still have a fair number on Insteon/x10), and my A/V gear and thermostats. Currently SmartThings can’t talk to most of that stuff directly. I control my A/V gear using GC iTachs, and my thermostats are WiFi. Day to day control of that stuff is done from phone and tablet apps, but they don’t directly control SmartThings (and vice versa).

I have a Mac Mini that runs as a media server, and runs Indigo for home automation. The Mac can control anything via executing a script, although I wish SmartThings would provide something more straightforward than oAuth’d endpoints for sending commands thru the hub. But practically anything can communicate with the Mac. iRule, SmartApps, Tasker; and in my situation they do it by sending a simple HTTP GET request with a single parameter.

I wrote a simple HTTP server that runs on the Mac, where I have dozens of scripts that are triggered by the parameter passed in the GET request. As an example, I have a SmartApp that, when the presence sensor is triggered “not present” it simply sends a GET to the Mac with a “everythingOFF” param. When the Mac sees this it runs three scripts that tell the iTach to shutdown all the audio gear, Indigo to turn off all that it controls, the Hue bridge to turn off all lights, and the thermostats to go into standby mode.

Yes, I know that I could have my SmartApp shut down the Hues directly, but since I need to send a GET to the Mac for the A/V gear, I choose to just do it all from the Mac. I just completed another SmartApp this morning. It simply checks for the presence sensor, and that it as after 5pm and if so, sends a Get to my Mac with “playNews”. When it sees this, it fires up the living room and garage systems, tells a TiVo to start playing the 5 o’clock news it last recorded, and turns on some lights.

As I move everything to Zigbee and/or Z-Wave for use with SmartThings, I will eventually retire the Indigo server, but I will keep using my little HTTP server to keep things integrated. If you have a Mac that’s on 24/7, you can check out my app in this post.

I know this may seem like overkill, but I have been doing this for many years, and there still doesn’t exist one app that’s worth a darn that integrates everything. With my setup, all can talk to each other, so I can use my favorite remote app on my phone/tablets (iRule), have Tasker integration from smartphone based events, and have SmartThings call on all of things they can control, and have them control SmartThings.

(Brian) #19

45712 is supposed to be LED compatible now

(Ford Prefect) #20

Has anyone tried it?