Unified Lighting Control

LoudEMBA

New Member
My ideal approach to home lighting is to have high quality (90+ CRI) tunable white bulbs where the color temperature adjusts through-out the day and can otherwise be controlled via wall switches. I already have an algorithm in Node Red that calculates the desired bulb color temperature based on the time of day. I'm using Hue and Hue compatible "smart" bulbs on a Hue hub. So, for example, in the morning and afternoon, "smart" bulbs are cool white, while in the evenings my bulbs are warm. This aspect works well, though I wish the Hue bulbs were warmer and brighter.

However, I'm really only interested in the smart bulbs for the purpose of controlling color temperature & dimming. Most family members (everyone other than me) prefer to use a wall switch to control the on/off state of the bulbs. Even the "smart" bulbs are fine on a switched circuit other than the fact that they can't be controlled if the switch is off. So, a dry contract / relay based "smart" switch would resolve that issue and also work fine for "dumb" bulbs.

For lights that benefit from dimming and-or color control, I think I can let the algorithm handle color temperature and brightness, and on the rare occasion the algorithm needs to be manually overridden, we'd have to use the Node Red dashboard rather than a dimmer switch. In other words, I'd use the wall switch to turn the bulbs on or off, and, in case of lighting that benefits from dimming\color I'd use a "smart" bulb, node red & the algorithm to handle dimming\color.

I've been waiting to see what Zigbee 3.0 solutions appear in the US. I've used Insteon switches paired with a ISY994i hub with success, but I find the Insteon pairing process frustrating. Z-Wave appears to have the most developed product lines, but I don't have any hands-on experience with z-wave.

My interest in Zigbee is that I'd rather the "smart" relay-based switches be compatible with the Hue hub, whether those switches are controlling "smart" bulbs or "dumb" bulbs. Here in the US, I've only found 1 brand of Zigbee 3.0 light switch compatible with the Hue hub. There's a few other non-compatible Zigbee wall switches available. I have a Phoscon Raspbee that has many advantages over the Hue hub, except that you can't update firmware for the bulbs (that I'm aware of).

So, what smart switches are you currently using or considering?

(What I'd really like to see is a hub that is aware of both smart bulbs & hardwired smart switches. One could then easily "pair" & group the bulbs to the switch by power cycling the switch. The hub would be smart enough to recognize the switch and bulbs cycling together, then use an app for more advanced configuration of the grouping (assign to a room, assign a dimming \ color algorithm, etc). Once the light switch is installed by an electrician, this unified set-up would be much easier for non-technical home users to replace & configure bulbs.)
 

wkearney99

Senior Member
It does appear the only way to update the firmware of Philips devices is by having them paired to a Philips Hue hub.  Though I'm not sure how often Hue devices need firmware updates.  If you're ok with leaving their firmware at a particular level you can certainly pair them on something else (I use a Conbee2/deCONZ setup).

Using smart bulbs requires giving them constant power.  Few ceiling fixture locations have both constant AND switched current.  They'd need to have 3-conductors to them (neutral, hot and hot switched).  Most have just neutral and hot-switched.  So right there you're dead in the water using anything already on the market.

If I'm not mistaken the electrical code requires the ability to make an air-gap disconnect of power to a lightbulb socket.  So "something" on the wall has to be able to de-energize the fixture (not just a distant breaker in the electrical panel).  

So you're looking for a wall switch that has an air gap, but also the ability to NOT act as a make/break switch or dimmer, but just uses "something else" to signal on/off/dimming to the bulbs.  This isn't beyond the realm of technically possible, but nobody's bothering to do it.  And I kind of doubt anyone will given the installed base and user expectations of how bulbs and switches are "supposed to" work.  You can "sort of" do this with some vendor's keypad solutions.  Lutron's Ra2/HWQS keypads can do this, decoupling the dimmer from the buttons on the faceplate, while still having the air gap.  I believe Insteon devices had similar functionality?  But I don't think anyone else did/does.  And it'd be stupid-expensive to put one of these in, because you'd be paying all that extra to get dimmer functionality that you'd never be using.

It REALLY falls apart when you get into the "non-technical home users" situation.  There's just not going to be enough education/experience to get traction for this.  And since the users are going to be dumb as fenceposts about it, the customer support costs and retail return expenses would skyrocket.  Making it even less likely the vendors would give it a try.

Don't get me wrong, I think it would be a fantastic solution to the tricky problem of smart bulbs that have color options (RGB and white color temps).

It's kind of unfortunate that LED lighting evolved before better standardization like zigbee got market traction.  Because if we were still using incandescent lighting we'd have replacement cycles coming up often enough to open the door for changes.  But with 10+ year lifespan on LED elements (bulbs) you're looking at a harder sell replacing an otherwise "working" bulb.

If/when PoE for residential lighting gets traction... that would be interesting...
 

sionxct

Member
I understand the OP to mean: use a relay switch (something like Insteon 2477s On/Off switch) to switch the bulbs, smart or dumb, on or off. The "smart" hub, app and bulbs would just control dimming and color (when the circuit is powered on, of course). When the switch is off, the smart bulbs have no power. I believe the Hues have a "power on" state setting specifically for when they are on a conventional wall switch. So, I see no reason one couldn't use the insteon On/Off switch. Whether there is an equivalent in the z-wave or zigbee, I don't know.
 
But, I certainly understand the desire to have a single hub / protocol that is aware of the bulb and the control (switch). Integrating multiple hubs in a way that "just works" is certainly not user friendly to non-technical people. I worry quite a bit about what my wife is going to do if something were to happen to me. Phillips has a wireless switch, but that always seemed like a band-aid to me.
 
One issue I see might be that zigbee Hue bulbs form a mesh network. If you kill power to a circuit of bulbs, then the mesh might lose comms with other bulbs. Then again, I believe its sengled bulbs that are "end point" only because of this exact issue / concern. This would certainly be a site specific issue.
 
I have to wonder why the US has been so slow to adopt zigbee wall switches, and can't help but think it might have something to do with Lutron suing Control4 and Crestron years ago. I believe they were using custom implementations of an early zigbee protocol which Lutron felt violated their patent on 2-way RF wall switches.
 
First I've heard of elec code requiring an air gap wall switch. How do centralized / panelized systems get around that?
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
I would be interested to hear the ultimate solution to this. I currently control my outdoor lighting using Lifx bulbs and Insteon switches. The Lifx bulbs sort of remember previous state when powered up but frequently will forget or randomly switch to a default color so they are not reliable. Hue has the 40 bulb limit on its hubs that makes them impractical (I have a single chandelier that takes 10 bulbs so 40 isn't going to get me very far). As mentioned Hue also relies on bulbs staying powered all the time to relay the Zigbee signal so not practical for a situation where the switch is turned off. Inovelli has a Z-Wave bulb and switch combo that might work if their products were actually available but they have been out of stock for months with no indication of when they might be back. Kind of suprising there isn't more effort to fill this gap as there is clearly a demand for color tunable bulb/switch combinations. (I don't count products like the Hue switch as it doesn't fit in standard ganged switch plates so not a serious option).
 

wkearney99

Senior Member
Yes, the lack of color controls for a Decora wall plate is disappointing, to say the least.

So how about using more than one zigbee gateway?  If you're using a home automation hub some of them support multiple interfaces (homeseer via jowihue being one I use with hue and conbee/deCONZ interfaces).  For coverage issues you could be clever and use deCONZ on something that'd support linux and USB and Ethernet.  Put that near to the lights being controlled and coordinate it back on the automation hub.
 
For that many things in a single fixture I'd think you'd be looking more at a DMX driven setup, not 10 retail wireless bulbs.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
wkearney99 said:
Yes, the lack of color controls for a Decora wall plate is disappointing, to say the least.

So how about using more than one zigbee gateway?  If you're using a home automation hub some of them support multiple interfaces (homeseer via jowihue being one I use with hue and conbee/deCONZ interfaces).  For coverage issues you could be clever and use deCONZ on something that'd support linux and USB and Ethernet.  Put that near to the lights being controlled and coordinate it back on the automation hub.
 
For that many things in a single fixture I'd think you'd be looking more at a DMX driven setup, not 10 retail wireless bulbs.
 
DMX to control the front hall chandelier? That sounds like a bit much. Not a good candiate for WiFi but Zigbee should work OK to control 10 candelabra bulbs. Might just do Hue plus a third party Hue compatible switch if Hue ever gets to the point where they support multiple hubs on one account. Or maybe just use Sengled bulbs plus Hubitat hub plus a Z-Wave switch.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
Consumer chandeliers with 10+ candelabra bulbs are not uncommon. It does not make sense that consumer automation protocols would not handle that. I already spend too much time coming up with custom solutions for things that should be Plug 'n Play right out of the box. Adding color capability to a single light fixture shouldn't take over 30 minutes or require any particular technical expertise. (In my opinion)
 
And returning to the original topic, having standard ganged wall switches control color bulbs using a single automation controller and protocol should be equally Plug 'n Play simple. (In my opinion)
 

picta

Active Member
I am using Lifx bulbs with hard-wired lighting system that reports the switch state. That allows me to handle the power state of the bulb and run all kinds of automation. It would be great to have natively paired switches/bulbs of course, but in the absence of such option the OP could get a state reporting switch and do a bit of scripting to synchronize it with the bulbs.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
sionxct said:
The Raspbee zigbee shield supports 200 bulbs, I beleive.
 
I am always confused by these numbers because companies like Philips claim you can't go much above 50 on any given Zigbee network without getting into collision issues. They say this is inherent to the Zigbee protocol and nothing to do with their Hue bridge. So how can a Raspbee or Conbee get around that?
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
picta said:
I am using Lifx bulbs with hard-wired lighting system that reports the switch state. That allows me to handle the power state of the bulb and run all kinds of automation. It would be great to have natively paired switches/bulbs of course, but in the absence of such option the OP could get a state reporting switch and do a bit of scripting to synchronize it with the bulbs.
 
When I do that several of my Lifx bulbs will power up white instead of at their previous setting when the switch is turned on. Do you ever have that issue?
 

picta

Active Member
upstatemike said:
When I do that several of my Lifx bulbs will power up white instead of at their previous setting when the switch is turned on. Do you ever have that issue?
Not that I noticed. Occasionally one of my Lifx mini bulbs will not turn on at all, because it lost its wifi setting, but all other types turn on with the last level. I have candle lights, Lifx color, Lifx MR50 and a strip, all turn on with the latest setting. My script then checks the current level and does whatever needs to happen based on other conditions.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
picta said:
Not that I noticed. Occasionally one of my Lifx mini bulbs will not turn on at all, because it lost its wifi setting, but all other types turn on with the last level. I have candle lights, Lifx color, Lifx MR50 and a strip, all turn on with the latest setting. My script then checks the current level and does whatever needs to happen based on other conditions.
 
I guess my problem might be that all of my Lifx bulbs are in outdoor fixtures. The WiFi signal is plenty strong enough at all locations but the metal construction of outdoor fixtures might act as a bit of a Faraday cage and make things just marginal enough for the bulbs to struggle getting their DHCP address on startup which could lead to unwanted "default" startup states. This is pure speculation and I admit I probably don't know what I am talking about... I just know that Lifx has been super flaky for me.
 
I don't think Zigbee will work any better since it is the same frequncy range as WiFi. I'm thinking I need to find some color bulbs down in the Z-Wave range or better yet the LoRa frequency range. 
 
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