Wired light switches

Updated on January 16, 2018 in [Hardware for Philips hue]
0 on January 16, 2018

I have a number of Hue Light bulbs, a bridge, several Hue Tap switches and also a Hue Dimmer. I am also pleased to hear that Philips plan to launch Hue lights suitable for use out doors i.e. in a garden as announced at the CES show in Las Vegas.

However there is still even with this announcement one major category of product that is not covered by existing or announced Hue products. This is physical, wired switches for traditional light fittings i.e. non Hue lights. By this I mean a solution similar to for example the Lutron Caseta range as per http://www.casetawireless.com/Pages/Caseta.aspx

There are four main reasons why one would want such a solution –

  • For specialist light fittings not possible with existing Hue bulbs
  • For more complex wiring situations like lights on a staircase
  • The fact that if one uses a wall switch to turn off a light fitting which has Hue bulbs fitted in it, when turned back on it has forgotten the previous state e.g. brightness level and reverts to default 100% white (the same thing happens after a power cut)
  • To provide a user ‘interface’ i.e. traditional switch suitable for both visitors and technophobes to use

I can certainly attest that I myself and I know of many others do want to be able to use traditional wired switches but to still be able to link them as part of a smart home system.

This is arguably proven by the fact that Lutron created their Caseta range and so have other manufacturers e.g. Leviton.

Unfortunately every single one of these manufacturers is an American firm and even more unfortunately every single one seems to be under the mistaken belief that US = World.

As Philips is a European company I am hoping that Philips could fill this gap and based on their excellent Hue products do this better.

There are two main issues and a third potential issue.

  • The solution needs to be available in both a US rectangular form, but most importantly also a European square form. (Ironically even Philips a European company have made the same US biased error of only offering the Hue Dimmer switch in a US rectangular shape.)
  • The switch needs to work with both European 220V systems, and US 110v systems. (Or more likely for there to be two different versions one for each.)
  • Depending on the wireless standard used you may need to produce versions supporting different radio frequencies, for example Z-Wave uses different frequencies in the US and Europe and Australia. This may not be an issue for Zigbee if you use that.

I have been trying to find such a solution for quite some time to install throughout my house and due as above to the US only bias have not succeeded. The nearest option is the recent announcement by https://lightwaverf.com/ that they are in the process of launching new revised models of their products which add Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa etc. support. However most new models of their products are still not yet shipping.

Even if all the new LIghtwaveRF products were shipping I personally do not find it to be exactly what I am looking for. Their design does not blend in as well in many homes – at least to me. I would prefer a more traditional white plastic style.

The Lutron Caseta style but in a UK/European square housing would be perfect. Again ironically or at least annoyingly Lutron do a wireless switch the Pico for which you can get UK/EU square mounting plates, however the Pico is a wireless switch and therefore has the same issues as the Hue Dimmer and Tap.

I therefore would suggest that Philips consider filling this gap. I would also suggest they would want to consider the following requirements.

  • Option of on/off only switches and on/off/dimmer switch
  • Switches to be modules that can be combined with 1-gang, 2-gang, 3-gang and 4-gang faceplates, so two switch modules with a 2-gang faceplate would be possible to fit in a standard single square pattress flush mounted wall box
  • If possible like the Lutron Caseta range, to work with 2-wire electrical lighting circuits, many ‘smart’ lighting switches require 3-wire circuits, however as far as I can tell most existing wiring used in the UK and Europe is likely to be 2-wire lighting circuits. I would however be willing to consider a 3-wire solution since right now anything would be an improvement.
  • Ability to work as either a single switch for a single light circuit, or as a 2-way setup for a staircase
  • It should like the existing Hue range be compatible with all the major smart home systems e.g. Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa and Samsung Smartthings.  

Note: The above means Philips might sell fewer bulbs but instead they would sell more switches and still sell the Bridge. I would still plan to use some Hue bulbs for desk lamps for example. Other manufacturers don’t have a problem with this business model e.g. Lutron, Leviton, and many others their only issue is failing to support non US markets. On a slightly related topic things would be a lot better if Hue Bulbs remembered the previous state brightness/colour after being turned off or losing power, this would then make it easier to combine with a wired switch and mean one could have both wired smart switches and Hue bulbs.

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