Pull Cord or Electronically Operated Hue Switch?

Updated on January 23, 2018 in [Hardware for Philips hue]
5 on December 4, 2017


I’m looking to put some Hue into my bathroom. My idea is to use some RGB LED strip + the controller to do this. With an PIR sensor, I can have it turn on to a dark red if you walk in there at night, or else if use the pull cord, to turn on to full white (or else use a phone app to set it to whatever colour you want for your bubble bath).

My problem is the pull cord – I can’t see any product I could use or modify to fulfill this task. I can put a low-voltage power supply on the pullcord, so in other words I can provide +5V or +12V when the cord is pulled, or 0V if not, or of course I can use the switch inside the pullcord directly for something low-voltage.

I’m happy to mutilate something, modify something, and have considered an network-connected arduino or some such to use the Hue API to do this. I’d prefer something as close to off-the-shelf though. Any ideas how I might be able to do this?

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4 on January 16, 2018

The only solution I have found so far for pull-cord switches is as follows, it maybe a similar approach with other products could be achieved.

  1. Get a momentary switch style pull-cord switch like this – https://www.mkelectric.com/en-gb/Products/WD/ceilingaccessories/Ceilingswitch/6ampsurface/Pages/3190RCWHI.aspx
  2. Get a Fibaro Z-Wave dimmer switch like this – http://www.fibarouk.co.uk/new-product-the-fibaro-dimmer-2/ 

One pull turns the light on another pull turns it off. If you have this Z-Wave switch/dimmer linked to a smart home hub like the Samsung Smartthings you can also control it via your phone.

See this article for wiring instructions. http://www.vesternet.com/knowledgebase/technical/kb-18 

Using exactly the same approach you can control a fan e.g. a bathroom extractor fan via a pull-cord.


As far as I am aware UK and possibly EU safety rules say you have to use pull-cord switches in bathrooms to prevent the risk of electrocution. A pull-cord means your wet hands are no-where near live electrical switches. I suspect this is not a requirement in the US. However with the US using only 110v the risk is lower.


Note: Fibaro now have an Apple HomeKit version of their single relay switch but not yet a dimmer. I don’t know if this could be used to with a pull-cord switch in the same way. If so being that it is HomeKit compatible and so is Philips Hue you could link them together. Fibaro have been adding to their HomeKit range so maybe eventually they will do a dimmer as well.

on January 22, 2018

That’s really interesting – I wasn’t aware of the Fibaro dimmers, or that they could be used in this way. Looking around, it seems that I’d need a z-wave ‘hub’ to connect to the Hue system (http://www.vesternet.com/resources/using-z-wave-and-philips-hue-together). This doesn’t seem so crazy – although maybe a bit more expensive in the short term.

In fact, if z-wave can be integrated into Hue, then something like this may be sufficient for the task: http://www.climax.com.tw/z-wave-pcu.php (details are a bit vague, but it looks the right sort of thing).



on January 22, 2018

As far as I would expect what can be done is if you have a Fibaro Home Center you can use the Fibaro app to control both Z-Wave devices like the Fibaro dimmer and to also control Zigbee bulbs via the Philips Hue bridge linked to the Fibaro Home Center. Similarly if you have the Homey hub its app can control Z-Wave devices like the Fibaro Dimmer and again Zigbee bulbs via the Philips Hue bridge linked to the Homey.

What does not appear possible is to control the Fibaro dimmer via the Philips Hue app and bridge. (The Philips Hue can control other makes of Zigbee devices.)

I have not set everything up yet but I have a Samsung Smartthings controlling the Fibaro dimmer and linked to a Philips Hue bridge which in turns links to the Philips Hue Zigbee bulbs.


That Climax Z-Wave pull switch looks interesting, in theory it should do the same job as the Fibaro dimmer plus the pull-switch I listed. I only have two concerns. Firstly the Climax one is battery powered, the Fibaro solution draws power from the light circuit itself, secondly it is not clear if the Climax switch can do on/off for lights, as it is designed for an alarm it might be pull and hold = on, let go = off, this in turn might mean the lights if connected might only be on whilst you pull and hold the cord which would obviously be unsuitable. If your willing to experiment you could get just one to trial.

on January 23, 2018

Thanks for that – really useful information. I hadn’t thought of all that for the Climax pull-cord – maybe I’ll send them an email and ask about details and pricing. They claim the batteries can last up to 6 years (which I presume is pretty much on standby), which sounds promising – I wouldn’t expect as much for a bathroom that gets used every day, but if it lasted a year or two I’d be happy (but mains powered might be easier still).

As for the hub-to-hub stuff, I think what you’re saying would work for me. That is, I don’t need the Hue side of things to control the dimmer/pull cord. All I’d like to do is have the Hue turn the RGB to a dim red at night, when the PIR sensor is activated (which, according to the docs is no problem). Then, I’d need it to turn full white when told to do so by the Fibaro/Homey/Smartthings hub (which it would be signalled to do by the pull-cord).

When I’ve got a bit of space on the credit card, I can feel a purchase coming on 😉

Thanks for your help 🙂


on January 23, 2018

The Fibaro dimmer can dim dimmable LED bulbs but it does not itself control smart bulbs like the hue ones. I don’t know if hue bulbs work with a dimmer switch – I suspect not.

If use a dimmable bulb you can use a 3way switch on/off/on with a Fibaro dimmer to both turn off and on and dim up/down. The pull cord switch I mentioned with the Fibaro dimmer is a 2way on/off and hence cannot dim.

If you use a switch a traditional one or even one with a Fibaro dimmer to turn off a Hue bulb when you turn it back on it reverts to 100% white.

You could have a smart movement sensor linked to a home hub e.g. SmartThings, Vera, Fibaro or Homey and gave it trigger an action which tells the Fibaro dimmer to turn the light on and then tells a bulb to change colour. Alternatively you would have to leave the Hue bulb on all the time but perhaps very dim and red but brighten when motion is detected.

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