What's this kind of light switch called?

I love home automation, my fiance doesn’t.

If I wanted a light switch that could be turned on either by my ST system or by using the switch, what would I look for? In my old place, I just kept my switches in the on position, and had smart bulbs. But if someone used the switch to turn it off, the ST control stopped working since it couldn’t turn the switch back on.

Basically, I’m looking for a switch that goes back to a neutral position if it’s pressed on or off, and still works with ST regardless.

the GE Z wave switches work well. You can get paddle or lever style. Another option is to put a z wave relay in the box and wire it to your existing switch

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Any smart switch would allow you to operate manually or via a controller like SmartThings (without canceling each other). Depending of what other devices you may already have in your home, it may make sense to look into getting zwave, zigbee (both act as repeaters so it would strengthen your existing network).

GE zwave dimmer


GE zwave switch


GE zigbee

All of these are alsi available at SmartThings store too

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There are several ways to solve this issue, as @keltymd mentioned. :sunglasses:

If you still want to use smart bulbs, see the following thread. It discusses the options that will allow you to do that.

FAQ: Philips Hue and Other Smart Bulbs - What sort of light switches to use with them? (Long FAQ)

If you want to switch to using to dumb bulbs, then pretty much any SmartThings – compatible “smart switch” will work. That includes Z wave toggles and rocker switches, zigbee switches, even wifi switches if they work with smart things. Or you can go to the relay in the wall option.

So you will have a lot of choices. :bulb:

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These are the sort of things you need to be looking for



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Here are a few examples. Please read through some of the Q&A as these switches require different home wiring capabilities that others may not.




Thanks all! Looks like I have some reading to do.

I had to throw in my two cents-

My ranch house, built in the early 60’s by some slightly crazy electrician, mostly has 3 and 4 way switches. Getting the primary and secondary switches can be costly, and my wife seems to be attached to the switches that she picked out.

Since I have good access to the electrical distribution in the attic, it was easy to install the Aeon Labs Micro Controller in a distribution box (just be sure to use 18 gauge wire for the switch input)


Most smart switches including the GE ones require a neutral wire. So make sure you have a neutral in the switch box before investing a lot of time and money.

Also Lowes carries the GE switches and they are a little cheaper than Amazon.


All good suggestions and I second the GE switches. I’ve installed a couple already and they work great. Also installed a Leviton switch and not an issue there either. I’m sticking with zwave as I have a lot of 2.4 networks around me, including my own.

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I also have my home outfitted with the GE Z-wave switches and am happy with them.

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My 2 bits -
I have a similar situation - I can add in automation as long as it doesn’t force my wife to change her behavior adversely. the switches give both of us control :slight_smile:

For the main switches we all use, I put in the GE z-wave, with the add on switches for 3 way and a 4 way. “Main area” to me is TV Room, Living Room and Kitchen nook. Work beautifully & will buy again as I round out with the kitchen, our bedroom and bathroom.

Note - The wiring for the 3-way / 4-way is “goofy” compared to traditional wiring so it does take some patience and understanding to do it. I can now draw the included diagrams and watched enough you tube videos on 3 way and 4 way switches I might be able to talk intelligently to an electrician. <Insert disclaimer here about don’t do it without experience and knowledge, you can kill yourself now with a shock or later with a fire>

I put a wemo switch on the outside lights, not as great. Falls offline for Wemo service once a week, requiring “reboot”

Working with the “Don’t force behavior changes” motto, but adding a “convenience will change behaviors” motto:
I used Cree bulbs for Lamps and locations where Motion Sensors control lights without being able to use the light switch was OK . These are the main hallway, garage and our walk-in closet. The convenience of having the lights turn on automatically quickly changed the behavior of flipping switches inside of two weeks.

Hope that helps,

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So I see references to 3-way and 4-way lights. Explanation? We have a couple lights (hallways) that are controlled by two switches. Is that a 2-way light? Or does an #-way light refer to the number of physical bulbs that are controlled by a single switch? (For example, I have one switch that controls two sconces and an overhead light.)

Also, my handyman says I have a neutral wire, so presumably the GE switches would work. We have a combo of LED, incandescent and CFL bulbs. Sounds like the newer versions of the GE switches will work, right?

3 way lights are ones you operate from 2 locations. 4 way from 3 locations. Yes it’s confusing and even more wiring them.

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Yes if you have neutral wires in your switch boxes it’s pretty easy and the GE switches would work fine. It sounds like you have some three ways so get one master and one slave for each of those circuits. Your handyman should be able to wire them up.

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Are you in the US or the UK? The terminology is different.

If you’re in the US, then if you have one fixture which is turned on by two different switches, then that is called a “three-way.” If it can be turned on by three different switches, it’s called a “Four way.” Once which will be the “master” and the others will be “auxiliaries.”

If you’re in the UK, the exact same set up, one ceiling fitting turned on by two different switches, is called a “two-way.” And the one that can be turned on by three different switches is called a “three-way.”

UK is doing it the easy way, just counting the number of switches.

The US is actually counting the number of terminals on the switch inside the wall. A normal on/off switch has two terminals. The auxiliary switch which is the extra switch that controls the same light has three terminals hence “three-way switch.”

In the US, there are at least eight different ways to wire this kind of set up. And then once you add Smart Switches there are even a couple of more. But the wiring for Smart switches will be somewhat different than the wiring for a nonnetworked switch because you also have to provide power to the radio that talks to the network. So this is one reason that people get very confused.

If you are using network switches you can either connect the auxiliary to the master with an actual wire, the way a nonnetworked switch pair would work, or with some models you can do what is called a “virtual three-way” which means the auxiliary switch talks wirelessly to the SmartThings hub, which then talks to the master. So the two switches don’t have to be wired together.

All of that is more than what you need to know right now except for two things:

  1. Most smart switches require a neutral wire in the switchbox. This is not true of dumb switches. So if you want to go with smart switches rather then smart bulbs, you will probably need to check and make sure that you do have a neutral wire in each switch box where you want to use a smart switch.

Two) You can’t mix-and-match switches in a three-way. You generally need to get the auxiliary model that was made to work with exactly thatmaster. So if you are going to replace existing dumb three-way switches you will need to replace both of them.

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Thanks all…this has been tremendously helpful! And to answer JDRoberts, I am in the US.

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So…my handyman (who’s the engineer for a 200-unit building, so he knows his stuff) just spent half an hour trying – unsuccessfully – to install the GE in-wall dimmable switch. Despite having the line, load, neutral and ground wires+ in the box, the only way we could get it to work was to swap the line and load – which resulted in very loud buzzing in both the switch and the fixture. (And he said he wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving it installed that way.) I’d ordered four of the switches, and we tried two on the off chance the first was defective, but no luck.

Any thoughts?

FWIW, I live in a 90-year-old building, though these switches were being installed in a bathroom that was remodeled within the last 10 years and seems to have more recent wiring than other parts of the house. Unfortunately, when it was remodeled the light switches were weirdly installed – the two closest to the bathroom door light up the shower, and you have to cross the room to turn on the lights over the sink, so I’d hoped to make all smart switches and program things so that turning on one light would turn on all of the lights.

I would double check the line and load wire. I think the label is wrong. It doesn’t matter if he’s an engineer. Get a meter and check. As for the buzzing. It’s not because of the wrong wiring but more likely the combo of switch and light bulb. Try a different brand bulb or for testing. Put in a incandescent.

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I’ve asked him to bring a meter next time he’s here, and will double check with a different bulb. Thanks for the suggestions.