Which in-wall switches would you go with?

I am about to embark on my first real installation of smart devices and I could use help choosing the right in-wall switch to use. The switches are (primarily) going to control recessed lighting, which are dumb LEDs. I have read some of the old posts on here but have a few remaining questions, and also wanted to see if there were any updates/developments since some of the older threads on this topic.

Here are some of my thoughts/considerations/needs:

  1. I don’t need toggles. These can all be rockers. I would like something that I can turn on/off manually though, not strictly through the ST app, and I would ideally like something that will work even if SmartThings is offline.

  2. At least one switch needs to be three-way.

  3. Most switches will be dimmers, but they don’t all need to be. Though, is there any reason not to get a dimmer if I’m replacing the switch anyway.

  4. I would like something reasonably well made that will not fail or cause me headaches/annoyances. It seems prevailing wisdom here is that GE switches fail after not that long, which I am not that thrilled about.

  5. While I am attracted to what seems to be the quality of Lutron, I do not want to have to get a bridge so I think I am nixing Lutron. I’m open to being talked out of this if someone thinks this is a mistake.

  6. I also am attracted to what seems to be the quality of Leviton as compared to brands like GE, Zooz, and Inovelli, but I hate that every switch says “Leviton” on it! I don’t want branding on every switch in my house. Do they make any unbranded switches?

  7. I am pretty sure I have neutrals at each box.

  8. I lean toward not wanting LED indicators on the switches, but I’m open to having my mind changed on this too. I recognize the indicator can be helpful to know what’s on and how intense, but I don’t love the idea of having these little lights on all over the place.

  9. I don’t want switches that use wifi.

So, with the above in mind, what switches would you go with for this project? Based on what I’ve read here so far I am inclined to look at Zooz, Inovelli, GE, and (maybe) Leviton, with Zooz and Inovelli leading the charge. Are there other options I should consider? (I don’t really like the look of the Coopers.)

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Inovelli…

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Lutron…

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  1. The “rocker” style is called Decora. It’s most popular and all brands I’m aware of have this type. Except Lutron Caseta which I thoroughly dislike. All of them will work manually regardless if the SmartThings cloud is online. Nothing will work from the app is the SmartThings cloud is down.
  2. All that I know of can be used as single-pole or three-way. Some brands require use of a special companion switch for one side of the three way.
  3. Adding dimming capability to most lights is fine. But never put a dimmer on an outlet or a fan.
  4. Older model GE (Jasco) seem to have issues. Newer models, hopefully, will not.
  5. Lots of people like Lutron. I despise the form factor of their switches and dimmers. The bridge has pluses and minuses but my feeling is that extra components are extra things to fail.
  6. I have a few Leviton dimmers and switches. Once updated to the 1.20 firmware they’ve been fine. I like the Leviton dimmers, especially in a 3-way. They have a second small rocker to adjust dim level.
  7. You’ll need to verify presence of neutrals. Not having them will significantly limit your choices.
  8. I think they all have LEDs. Default is LED on when switch is off. Most brands have parameters to flip that or have the LED stay off. As it happens I just went around and set mine all of today.
  9. Yes, agree, no WiFi switches.

I have a mix.

  • Leviton for specific spots, but they’re more expensive.
  • Lot of Zooz, especially most of my 3-ways since they were the first to allow leaving the dumb switch on the load side.
  • Recently I’ve been adding a number of the new GE/Jasco Zigbee 3.0 devices. The body is smaller so they’re great for multi-gang boxes.
  • I don’t have any Inovelli devices but they’re very well thought of here.

I don’t feel like there’s a good reason to go strictly with one brand. They all look very similar (assuming white paddles). There’s always the chance of another brand/model having the issue the older GEs have.

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Excellent use case description, thank you for all the detail. :sunglasses:

I’m going to respond out of order, to get the easy stuff out of the way first.

The little lights are now a requirement of the national electrical code in the US, so every switch certified in the last two years will have them. They are intended to alert people working on the electrical systems in the house that the switches are live even if they think they’ve turned something else off. The switches also have to have some indicator on them that they are a smart switch.

At our house, we do use “dims“ which are little stickers that go over the LEDs and block the light. These come in a number of different colors, white, black, silver, etc. and work quite well although you might have to use two of them if you pick white. They are lots of different brands, here’s the one we use:

Also on some devices, but not all, you can turn the LED indicator off.

  1. Most switches will be dimmers, but they don’t all need to be. Though, is there any reason not to get a dimmer if I’m replacing the switch anyway.

The only reason not to use a dimmer switch is if you were going to control something which is incompatible with a dimmer switch. That usually means some kinds of fluorescent tubes or, of course, motors.

I recently had to replace a switch because I got a new outdoor porch light fixture with a built-in LED. I really like it, but when put on a dimmer it would flicker on and off continually. We swapped out the switch for a regular on/off binary and everything works great again.

  1. While I am attracted to what seems to be the quality of Lutron, I do not want to have to get a bridge so I think I am nixing Lutron. I’m open to being talked out of this if someone thinks this is a mistake.

It’s not a mistake, it’s just a matter of personal preference, but I really like Lutron Caseta switches and those are the ones I use in my own home. They’ll work with a number of different systems, including smartthings and HomeKit, they are very well-engineered, and if you have three ways, the cost is more comparable to z wave switches since the Lutron pico accessory switch brings the cost down.

You will need their bridge in order to get smartthings integration, though, or really any integration with third-party services, but it’s very much a “set and forget“ device and it’s physically about a third the size of a smartthings hub.

I highly recommend spending the extra 50 bucks or so to get the “smartbridge pro“ model because it allows you to do many more third-party integrations.

I usually just wait for a sale and then get mine. A lot of community members like to shop at www.energyavenue.com for Lutron devices. It’s kind of a bare-bones wholesale type site and will usually have price is 10 to 15% lower than other distributors. It also has more color choices. But if you prefer, you can buy them at Home Depot or Lowe’s or Amazon or pretty much any place that sells light switches. :wink:

there is one negative with regard to smartthings, though: the Lutron Caseta fan switch does not work with smartthings. Smartthings says the integration is up to Lutron an Lutron says it’s up to smartthings and it just doesn’t look like anyone is working on it. It would work with Alexa or Google assistant or its own app, if that helps. But you might want to go with a different brand for a fan switch if smartthings integration is very important to you.

if not Lutron…

Zwave is a little easier than Zigbee because you don’t have to worry about Wi-Fi interference, so Inovelli, Zooz, and Eaton Cooper would all be on my candidates list. Each is somewhat different features, so you would just have to look and see which is the best for you. And Zooz and inovelli are very small companies if that matters to you. If you want to know why Leviton isn’t on my list, it could be. They are good switches and well engineered. However, zooz and Inovelli are more innovative in their features and I just personally like the aesthetics of the Cooper switches better.

That said, some industry changes over the last year or two, including by the manufacturer of zwave chips, makes me a little concerned about the long-term viability of the protocol. That wouldn’t bother me personally because as I’ve mentioned else where I do all of my home automation planning on a three-year obsolescence cycle, assuming that I might want to replace any device, including the hub, in three years. And I’m sure Zwave will be around that long. But it is possible that two or three years from now it may look like a very dated technology when compared to Zigbee or (once they are available) project chip certified devices.

If you’re creating your system like you would a dumb system, so that it’s frozen in time from the point that you buy it and you aren’t worried about being able to add new features, then that’s not that big a deal. But I did just want to mention it, particularly since we’ve just been discussing it in other threads this week.

Summary

Personally, I use and like Lutron Caseta switches. Just be aware that their fan switch does not work with smartthings.

If I wanted to go with Zwave instead, there are a lot of good choices. Inovelli and Zooz are both small companies with very innovative products at good prices, and so are very popular in this community. I also like Eaton Cooper which is a much bigger company that has been around a lot longer and has both good engineering and interesting aesthetics. But those are just my personal choices. :sunglasses:

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Thank you, @HalD! You mentioned Leviton for specific spots. What spots would you say are most appropriate for Leviton?

And if I am missing neutrals in some spots, do you think Inovelli is the best option there?

Actually…

“Decora” is a registered mark ® of Leviton and can legally only be used for their devices. (Ecolink had to withdraw some devices from the market last year because they had described them as “Decora style.“ and then re-issue them in new boxes.) The generic term is indeed “rocker” or “paddle.” :sunglasses:

But it’s like “Kleenex“ or “scotch tape“ – – a lot of people use it to refer to other brands even though legally it doesn’t.

And, yes, some people hate the look of Lutron switches, it’s just a matter of taste.

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Thank you, @JDRoberts! A couple follow up questions for you:

  1. If I wanted to go with Zigbee, what options would you recommend I look at? I’m afraid to open that can of worms, but I’m willing to give it a try. :slightly_smiling_face:

  2. If I did go with Lutron, is the bridge the only extra piece of hardware I need to buy to make it work with SmartThings?

  3. I did not quite follow why the cost of Lutron becomes comparable in a 3-way set up? What is the pico accessory exactly and why does an extra accessory bring the cost down? (For what it’s worth, I only have one 3-way switch that is being replaced.)

Thanks again!

GE (made by Jasco – – these don’t have the same problems as the Z wave switches did) or Leviton. @johnconstantelo uses all zigbee, he might have more comments.

There are some inexpensive Chinese brands like Yagusmart but I don’t recommend those unless they have standard safety certifications.

If I did go with Lutron, is the bridge the only extra piece of hardware I need to buy to make it work with SmartThing

Probably, one bridge can support up to 75 devices. You get either the regular or the pro model. Its purpose is to enable integrations, so it’s the same device you would need if you wanted to have Echo control or work with IFTTT or any other third-party integration.

Pico is the Lutron accessory switch for a three-way.

Leviton‘s accessory Switch for a 3 way usually costs about $24.

You can usually find a Lutron pico accessory switch for about $15.

So the total cost of the three-way set up comes down by the difference in cost between the two accessory switches.

There are some specific models from some brands that allow you to use an existing dumb switch as the accessory, but then you won’t be able to dim from the accessory position, just on/off. Lutron‘s on/off switch allows you to do this, and so do some of the Inovelli models.

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Got it, thank you again @JDRoberts! I will take some time to digest all of this and let you know if I have more questions. For what it’s worth, I think I’m leaning toward Inovelli as of now. It seems easiest and well regarded, and I like that I can use it even for the odd box that might not have a neutral. I’ll give Lutron another look, though, and will consider Zigbee options too.

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Most of the switches in the Luton Caseta line do not require a neutral, by the way. My house was built in 1955, and we don’t have neutrals at all the switch boxes.

Also, I’m not sure I was clear above, but you don’t have to worry about Wi-Fi interference with Lutron Caseta, either. Only with Zigbee and Bluetooth.

Also, I forgot to mention that the pico is a battery operated device with a 10 year battery: that means you can stick it on the wall anywhere. It doesn’t have to be wired in. So if you’ve always wanted to have a switch in the kitchen that could turn on the outside lights, that’s super easy to do with Lutron. :sunglasses:

This is of particular value to me since, like I said, this is a relatively old house and I’m in a wheelchair. Some of the light switches are not only out of my reach, they are out of my service dog’s reach. So we just stick an extra pico on the wall anywhere I want to have an accessible switch. :dog:

not my dog, but mine knows the same behavior.

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Haha, I love the picture! This is very helpful stuff about Lutron. I am going to give them another look before I pull the trigger on anything else.

And thank you for clearing up the wifi interference issue. I had read it wrong earlier and did not realize you meant Zigbee can cause issues. That may be a deal breaker for me, but I’ll do some more reading.

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Wi-Fi causes issues for zigbee, not the other way around. They are on the same frequency, but Wi-Fi is a much stronger signal. This is one of the main reasons, I believe, why Z wave became more popular than Zigbee for fixed location devices like light switches and door locks. You can probably find a solution for a Zigbee device, it’s just likely to be more work than for Lutron or Zwave.

Got it. Either way, I think it’s unlikely to be something I’ll risk for this particular project. I do think (or hope, rather) that these switches will be relatively static. For future components where I may want more flexibility, I’ll have to consider where Zwave is at when I tackle those projects.

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What I love about my Lutron Caseta switches, dimmers, fan controllers, and Pico remotes is that they just work, all the time, every time. When you buy a Lutron system, you’re not buying just some smart switches/dimmers…you’re buying a complete smart lighting solution that works with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple HomeKit, Logitech Harmony Hub, Ecobee Thermostats, Ring Doorbells, Sonos speakers…as well as with SmartThings (except for the fan controller!). If you purchase the Caseta SmartBridge Pro, you can also use it with Hubitat Elevation. Caseta also works with Home Assistant, Node-RED, and many other home automation systems. Lutron uses their proprietary Clear Connect RF protocol, which uses the 433MHz spectrum, which penetrates walls much better than Zigbee and Z-wave, and avoids common RF interference sources such as WiFi, cordless phones, baby monitors, etc…

I used to have Z-wave switches which would randomly just stop responding (on both ST and later on Hubitat.). Once I switched to Caseta, I finally was able to reliably automate our home’s lighting. My wife actually started asking for more rooms to be automated. Now we have become so used to reliable lighting automation that we find it weird to have to reach for a light switch when not at home! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Good luck with your project!

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Ok, this is a good sell. I knew Lutron was good and would “just work,” which I really do like. I wasn’t a fan of needing extra hardware or really the aesthetic of Lutron. But you all have convinced me to give it another serious look. I will definitely give it more consideration, this time not putting so much weight on the bridge.

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You haven’t mentioned the color of your switches. Most of mine are white but the kitchen has black switches with stainless steel wall plates. Two years ago the only brand I could find with interchangeable faceplates was Leviton.

The other places I’m doing Levitons (one done, one on the list) are more personal preference than anything. We have two rooms that each have two doors. Next to each door there is a 2-gang box with the two dimmers controlling lights via two 3-ways.

I wanted smart dimmers so the light level could be adjusted no matter which door you came thru. And they were not in a place where we would be talking to Alexa. The Leviton dimmers, both the main switch and the auxiliary, have a separate small rocker and a line of LEDs that control and show the light level.

Most of the smart dimmers look almost identical to on-off switches. Tap for on or off, tap and hold to adjust level. If you’re not doing it via a voice assistant or app, it’s hard to make small adjustments in the light level. This is much easier with Leviton’s separate dimming paddle.

As @JDRoberts said, the auxiliary that Leviton requires for 3-way dimming makes it fairly expensive. And it has very specific wiring requirements.

Along that line, Zooz ZEN27 are arguably the least expensive 3-way dimmers because they work with the dumb switch. I think the Inovellis now do that, too.

GE/Jasco use an auxiliary switch that’s inexpensive.

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Thank you, @HalD. These are helpful thoughts. All of my switches are white (or some shade of white), so I won’t need any unusual colors. I appreciate the time you (and @JDRoberts and @ogiewon) have taken to answering my questions.

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A few other random things.

Pay attention to the load on your switches. Two things to note:

  • if you have not gone to all LED lighting, make sure the device you pick supports the load type and amperage.
  • If you have gone to all LED lighting, you might find some dimmers or switches won’t work well with some fixtures. I have got LED ceiling fixtures all thru my house. Zooz ZEN27 dimmers work great with them, GE dimmers cause then to flicker.

@JDRoberts mentioned Z-wave versus Zigbee. A number of us have found that SmartThings starts having issues after some number of Z-wave devices is reached. For me and a couple of others, life got better when we mixed in some Zigbee devices.

My SmartThings Hub is in the wiring closet with one of my eero wifi mesh points. I’ve never seen any indication of WiFi interfering with my Zigbee devices.

I recommend you plan for using both Z-wave and Zigbee.

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