Dumb light switches + control panel?

I would like to keep my dumb light switches for a variety of reasons from power outages to electrical maintenance to house resale value. I haven't yet invested in much but a handful of Hue dimmer switches, but I'd like to use SmartTiles (or similar) touchscreens. I'm thinking of recessing the dumb light switches and mounting removable tablets/smart phones over the them, but really not sure how to proceed. what's everyone else doing? Ignoring the light switches? Removing them? Covering them up? How?

[Crossed posted to SmartThings forum.]

Most people simply install ‘smart’ light switches that permit 100% local control, just like your current ‘dumb’ switches. This allows anyone to operate the switches regardless of what your home automation system is doing (especially when it is offline!)

You can still add touchscreen controllers if desired.

Of course, this precludes the use of Smart Bulbs…

[Cross posted answer from SmartThings forum. :wink: ]

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I agree, I've just swapped them out and kept the old switches or outlets in a storage box... with the ridiculous notion of swapping them back when I sell. The reality is, if I turn OFF the home automation and take it with me, no one can tell those switches are "smart". The sockets are more obvious with the ZWave logo on them, and only half working (if it got left OFF when I moved out.)

The COST of the smart devices is what will drive me to do the swap. If I get a good price for my home, maybe it will include the smart switches, if not, then it'll be worth the time to swap 'm out.

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There are a couple of things to consider here:

  1. Homes with smart technology sell faster and fetch a higher price according to research by Coldwell Banker
  2. Do you have switches that are unique and important to the look of the home, such as old push type in a century home? If so, then you might want to consider Aeotech Nano Switches and surface mounted Lutron Pico remotes in other locations for convenience. However, since you're considering mounting tablets and smartphones, I'm guessing this is not the case.
  3. If you're confident to make the electrical connections yourself, maybe you just keep the old switches and put them back in if/when you decide to sell if you don't want to sell them with the house. Either keeping the old switches or selling with the new switches would be better than oddly recessed switches all over the house.

Ok I saw your posting on SmartThings as well.

I still don't get the issue around "power outages and electrical maintenance". It's exactly the same as dumb switches. If the power is out they don't work.... if doing maintenance you turn off the power.

The switch looks/acts/works exactly like a normal dumb switch with the benefit of a controller having the ability to send it commands and get status. If there's no controller the switch still works just like any dumb switch.

The home resale value. Having smart switches may increase the value. Lutron switches definitely increase value. If you choose not to remove the switches if you sell then that's your decision. Myself I'll probably leave them and buy new as I'll have decided to go with a different tech next go around or get the newer versions.

Thanks much!

Long term goal would be to sell with HA baked in, if for no other reason than it would be too customized to the house and too much effort to swap it back out. But that's assuming I can ever actually make headway. I'm over a year into HA, and the only thing I have to show for it is my lights turn off when I leave (in my defense, we just moved with much regression of automation).

I can never seem to get past the planning stages... so many great options. It's time to for me to shit or get off the pot.

Any rate, what you say is true (at least according to your link), but it's only true if it's not the half-baked crap that I currently have.

They're flat industrial-style stainless steel. We hate them. But that's certainly another factor. I'm not a big fan of off-white plastic, but.... frankly, off-white plastic is standard because it works. We don't have a "style", at least as yet. Aside from matching an overall house-style, I would like all controllers to match.

Having hard-off is a must, if for no other reason than electrical maintenance and safety standards. If a smart switch has a hidden switch (credit to ogiewon), it'd be a viable option, with my main concern being price and whether I could still hide them if using a panel.

If I need to do minor maintenance like replacing a socket, I'm not going to want to use a breaker to turn off an entire section of the house. If the "smart switch" has a manual hard-off, that's fine, but... If I put in a panel, frankly, it's added expense for "smart" for no reason.

What I have in mind is having recessed switches with a panel over them, or having "mini" dumb switches that are fairly innocuous. Maybe my ideas are stupid, which is why I'm asking for solutions. Certainly I'm not the only one who wants to keep dumb switches for maintenance or when the system goes nuts... I'm hoping someone has a better solution than mine.

I still don't understand. What do you mean "replacing a socket"? What socket it's a switch. Are you worried about replacing a light bulb and the switch being on? Oh boy I do that all the time but if that's the concern then pull the air gap on the switch this is a "modern" feature of 99% dumb "decorator" switches that smart switches have also to disconnect power to prevent accidental turn on if you have your finger in a bulb socket.

Sorry, I'm terrible at editing after posting.... I sorta guessed your general question, but to expand... With smart bulbs, we probably should turn off the power before replacing. I don't, but I should. But I meant replacing the actual socket, light fixture, ceiling fan, etc.

Didn't know that until ogiewon mentioned it. (Yay for progress :slight_smile: ) However, if I go with control panels (and honestly I haven't decided on even that :pensive:), then smart switches would be redundant and wasteful.

Ok...now getting a picture. If replacing a fixture or fan or direct wiring then yes it's always advisable dumb/smart switch doesn't matter. Kill the power. Too many times I've had people walk into a room and "FLIP THE F___ SWITCH" and I get zapped.... so yet I don't care dumb/smart kill power when working on direct wires. I was worried you were talking about replacing a light bulb and I was getting scarred.

Look. Take it from me and everyone else who have done this. Do not remove switches thinking it would be cool and neat. That is a problem waiting to happen and when you talk about WAF you're in the dog house with even the slightest hiccup with the system because nobody can turn on a light because there's not switch... smart/dumb it doesn't matter people NEED a switch. It's just a ingrained habit and need to have a physical switch.

Now tablets and control panels are really cool addons. Over time people get used to them and start enjoying them. But if you want to start a war at home and massive SHOCK then remove the physical switch and we'll all see how long that lasts..... :smile:

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That's the general idea of my question - including because standard switches great for simplicity and reliability. Has anyone come up with a not-stupid middle ground? Placing a panel over traditional switches (but easily removed), or... something...? If I had the answer, I wouldn't ask the question - I'd be bragging in the Projects section :grinning: Hell, I admit, I'm getting frustrated with my lack of progress :tired_face:, and may not even be asking the right question(s) :confused:. I feel like I'm always three questions away from doing anything.

(Sorry for the vent!!)

Having a panel next to the switch(es)... Maybe I just need to accept it's the only viable solution for now, but just doesn't sit well with me. And not sure that there's wall real estate in every location for both.

(Which are the next questions... Are people mixing and matching smart phones with tablets for specific locations? Customizing interface for each placement? Placing screens only at key areas? What are the options for cosmetically matching wired smart switches with new add-on remotes [and/or matching switches with screens]? And yes, I admit, I'm over-thinking everything, including things don't need to be done all at once, but I don't have the money for dead-ends.)

Sounds like everyone is telling me that smart switches are the no-brainer solution, and add on to that as I feel necessary. Just seems like smart switches with smart bulbs is redundant. edit: I'm starting to understand why I was wrong on that. /edit

So, now I just need to figure out which ones to get....

Assuming above is correct, thanks everyone for getting me on track!!

Yes, do some research on this to make sure the smart switches you buy support instant reporting of physical control events. Make sure the instant reporting works on both ST and Hubitat!

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This is redundant and not practical.

"Smart Bulbs" are not all that great. I have some and I've relinquished them ONLY to lamps and lights that do not have a switch associated with them.

If it has a switch use a smart switch. If it doesn't then use a smart bulb.

Panels are good for add-on but you don't want to remove the physical capability of the switch. The panel will not work 100% of the time so if you don't have a switch you are SOL. Other people may not like to use the panel and forcing them to will cause turmoil among the family. Putting a panel over a switch is not conducive to use nor does it add any benefit. Put a tablet in the kitchen within easy access so you don't have to walk over to a switch. Put one on a table for easy access, have a "mobile" one that's not permanent (you have to remember to charge it) and attach it to the fridge door. It can show pictures when not in use and the wife likes that kind of stuff. Or it can play videos or show recipes or the grocery list etc.

Lots of creative uses for tablets whether they be permanent or mobile. But if you remove the physical switch.... you will hear about it...over and over and over again.

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I just counted, I have 24 permanently wired in ZWave Smart Devices (in wall Sockets, dimmers and switches.) I hate touching the circuit breaker because it always turns off something I want. I've just learned to be careful. Yea, I don't turn off the power to swap out an in wall socket or switch. I do NOT recommend this, just saying I have a baked in reticence to cut the power. I have what others have said is a micro "data center" here. Others use my equipment to do their job and they use it 24x7 so I have an excuse that reinforces my reticence. :smiley:

Sounds like everyone is telling me that smart switches are the no-brainer solution

Absolutely!
Avoid Smart Bulbs. They have a use ONLY when they cannot be powered off.

Use Smart Switches (or Smart Outlets) in as many places as you can afford. Get a box full of Pico Remotes (and a Lutron SmartBridgePro) and mount them in all the places the builder failed to put a switch conveniently. Once you've run through that mountain of money, if you have some left, get a tablet or two.

I agree with this. You don't know the frustration of smart bulbs until you learn they aren't smart when someone turns off the switch or turns off the lamp that they are in. If there's no power then it's just an expensive dumb bulb.

Anytime I’m inside a switch or fixture box to replace or rewire something, I turn the breaker off and I confirm there’s no power in that box with a multimeter.

Yes it’s more inconvenient that way, but I’m not a professional electrician and a trip to the hospital because I zapped myself while on a ladder would be even more inconvenient (to say the least).

I'm not sold on that. I love my color bulbs. But I see my mistake was to invest in white bulbs. And most color stuff can be handled through automation rather than switch. I'd love a switch that allowed multi-press or something to control pre-set color options (especially yellows or oranges), but I can live without that. 99% of the time, I just need on/off, and 99.9% of the time I don't need color control. I will have my color control!! But at $40 a bulb, I can wait, possibly forever.

I'm starting to see the light (yes, dammit, pun intended!). Simple smart switches/dimmers everywhere, and a few general purpose panels placed strategically. I'm thinking building in a slot in the coffee table, so it stays put, but can picked up. As you say, one in the kitchen with the fridge being another obvious place. Maybe a mobile to live mostly in the bedroom. But, more importantly, that can wait, once I get basic functionality on my existing lights.

Again, thanks everyone for helping me get past my stubborn pre-conceived notions. (In my defense, I formed those notions when renting, and haven't fully switched to the home-owner mentality.)

edit:
Starting my search for switches momentarily. Will be looking at all the recommendations and linked threads already mentioned.

I will want a switch brand that has a wired and unwired model that look the same… And I’m thinking, maybe?, having a matching dimmer model and one only on/off (such as for closets, utility room, maybe garage, etc.). If these requirements are neither standard nor unavailable, I’d certainly appreciate suggestions to get me started. (And, obviously as per the entire thread, they must have a manual hard-off, that's accessible without removing it.)

Oh no don't get me wrong I agree on the color bulbs. I do plan on getting some of those. I'm probably going to get some LIFX for the color. But I am slowly getting rid of the white hue bulbs that I have.

As for the switch you should look at the Homeseer dimmer switch. It's a scene controller and has multi-tap capabilities to do just what you are looking for. Now the trick will be getting it to work with Hubitat. But there is a SmartThings device handler for it, so porting it over shouldn't be that hard.

I'd suggest anyone reading this as "New to Home Automation" or "Curious about Home Automation" study FIRST, how your home functions now.

Go and count the number of wall switches you have, count the number of wall dimmers you have. Count the number of wall sockets you have in use. There's a strong likelihood that you will, over time, replace every one of them!!! :slight_smile:

Count how many Smart Bulb options you have. Any Lamp with either of these types of switches are Potentials:
LampSocket
If you remove that little black plastic knob, humans can't turn it. If it has one of these type of cord switches, it can be taped in the On position.
LampCordSwitch

Count how many times each switch is used per day. The highest count one?? replace that first :smiley:

I have two Aeon (RGBW) LED Bulbs. One is in a Lamp with the knob removed. One is in a wall sconce that sits on a corner shelf with a switch on the cord (taped on.) Both get set to various colors for corresponding statuses: Purple means the garage door is open, for example.

[ I've spent more hours of my Home Automation life trying to get the Color bulbs to "revert" to what they were before the status change occurred. Anyone with advice is welcome! ]

I'm eating-my-own-dog-food here. I avoid Smart Bulbs unless they can go places where the power can't be turned off. Lamps with removable knobs or switches with electrical/duct tape :slight_smile: to prevent use is what works for me. In my case, I've "replaced" the switches that I've mechanically disabled with Pico Remotes.

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