Using wireless controls for recessed lights

Ira

Active Member
I have several groups of recessed lights. Each group is controlled by three wall switches (per light group). For example, the recessed lights in the kitchen can be turned on/off from three different wall mounted switches depending on where you are entering the kitchen from. Everything is currently hard-wired using the traditional stuff, i.e., no home automation, no smart bulbs, etc. The way it is wired is that power flows thru all three switches before getting to the lights. All the lights in the group are downstream from all the switches for the group.
 
What is the best approach if I want to introduce some "smarts" into the recessed lights groups? I haven't decided yet, assume it will be either z-wave or zigbee based. For example, if I want to be able to control the lights from my iPhone or Alexa, and I want to be able to dim the lights, and still want to be able to use the three switch locations, do I need to replace all the switches for the light group with smart switches, or just one switch?
 
Thanks,
Ira
 

wkearney99

Senior Member
Just about all smart dimmers support using accessory switches at 3-way locations.  Which can be more than just 2 locations.  I have a Ra2 dimmer setup with four accessory switch locations.  It's outside spotlights from the roof eaves, controllable from the dimmer location itself (in the master bedroom) and then at 3 other doorway locations.  

I have been very pleased with Lutron Ra2 lighting.  It's not inexpensive, but "buy once, cry once" is a common theme when it comes to home automation.

What you DO NOT want to do is assume anything other than whole house automation.  You don't have to implement everything at once, but it's important to understand which solutions don't scale up to the level you might need if you wanted to do the whole place.  Caseta, for example, is limited to 50.  Which seems like a lot until you start counting up 3-way circuits, window shades, motion sensors, etc.
 

sic0048

Senior Member
Do the light switches have a neutral wire (at at least one of the three wire switches)?  If so, you can use just about any lighting protocol.
 
Personally I have started using WiFi switches that are compatible with Tasmota (https://tasmota.github.io/docs/).  Tasmota is a open source third party firmware that can be flashed on certain wifi devices (but not all, so you have to do your homework before you purchase any devices - here is a repository of many of the supported devices - https://templates.blakadder.com/switch.html).  It strips out all the proprietary crap (like requirements that devices have access to the internet to work) and adds a ton of features and flexibility - like easily integrating with Alexa and MQTT.  They are inexpensive (generally $15-$20 per switch vs $75-150 per switch for other lighting protocols) and work just fine.  You also don't have to purchase "bridges" just to make your lighting devices work with your other automation devices.  Everyone has WiFi and usually good coverage in their house vs some of these mesh lighting protocols that require a number of devices just to have create adequate mesh coverage.
 
With these switches you only need to replace one switch in the 3-way system (the one that has the neutral leg) with a three way Wifi switch. You can replace the other switches with what they call "dummy" switches if you want. They are less expensive because they don't have all the "brains" that the regular switches have and it allows you to match the physical appearance of all the switches. It isn't required that you use the dummy switches however.  I have several three way switches that I have only replaced one of the switches and left the original 40 year old switches on the other legs.

Although I have my lighting system tied into my larger automation system using MQTT, I also have Alexa integration set up in Tasmota.  We use the automation system to control scheduled events (although these can be set up in the Tasmota firmware too) or triggered events (like when the garage door opens at night), but use the Alexa integration quite a bit when we want to turn lights on and off.  For example, there are several sets of lights that will cause a glare on our Den TV (like the lights over the kitchen table and dining room table) and it's great to be able to simply say "Alexa, turn off the kitchen table" and have those lights go out without having to get up and physically turn the light switch off in the kitchen. You could probably accomplish everything you want to do simply with Alexa integration.
 
I am using the Martin Jerry switches.  They don't look the most modern, but the have extra "dimmer" switches on the switch that I reprogram to control other lights, etc.  For example, I have three way switches that control the can lighting in the Den, but you can also press the smaller "dimmer" buttons to turn on/off the lamps on the sofa tables (which are plugged into a Tasmota flashed plug).
 
PeteC on the forum has documented his experience with Tasmota in a couple of threads here - what switches he is using, how he flashed the firrmware, etc, etc.  I believe he has uses the Gosund switches because they look nicer than the Jerry Martin (which he tried but didn't like the looks of).  You might find those posts helpful.
 

Ira

Active Member
Thanks for the replies. All the switch boxes and outlet boxes have neutrals in them.
 
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