Recommendation for Wireless Switches?

I’m just getting started with home automation and think that openhab looks like the best software solution to use. I’m fairly experienced with linux and similar projects in general (mythtv, etc).

At least starting out one of my goals is to start getting into this without making any wiring changes to the house. Besides the hassle factor, I’m also concerned that if I ever sell the house I’m going to have to rip everything back out and replace it.

What kind of hardware switches are suggested for somebody relatively new to this. Also, it isn’t 100% clear in the docs what the best practices are for integrating them. I assume that I’ll need to tie an event to every switch press and have it trigger the actions I wish to associate (that is, there is no way to directly bind items).

Here is a scenario I’d like to start off with. I already have a few Milight white bulbs to play with.

I’d like to have a wireless on/off switch in each room. When on is pressed I’d like the lights in the room to turn on, and set color temp based on sunrise/sunset, and go to a default brightness. Off obviously kills the lights (or maybe puts some in nightlight mode). I can probably handle manual adjustment of color temp from the UI. Maybe in some rooms I’d also add a dimmer switch (which is really just two buttons). For something like a dimmer, does the latency / repeat rate end up being a problem with wireless? That is, if I hold the button down will it brighten/darken the lights reasonably evenly and quickly and start/stop fairly close to when I push/release the button? With the controller being in the loop I could see responsiveness being an issue, compared to something like a wall dimmer that is just wired directly to the lamp.

Example configs would of course be welcome but I suspect I can probably figure it out. What isn’t obvious is which technologies are best to start out with (z-wave seems popular) and what a good wireless switch is (I have trouble finding these on amazon actually).

Hello. I am new to openHAB, but only slightly new to Automation. I am an analyst by trade (and nature) and have done quite a bit of research - not on everything, mind you, there are loads more people out there that know way more than me, but I decided to respond because your desires seem the same as my own. I don’t want wireless bulbs in everything I want to automate. I would like to have the ability to control the power via the switch and, like you, don’t want to rewire anything. I recently just did this (pre-wanting to automate) to my 1943-built home.

So, the answer to your question is, as with everything, it depends :slight_smile: So, since our goals are along the same lines, I will tell you what I have decided I think I am going to try. I have purchased a Wink Hub to hack as I feel with the various number of bindings it supports, that this would be a really good addition to the overall setup and allow more flexibility, for a small investment and a low number of hardware devices.

I am thinking that for the switches z-wave would be the way to go, at least initially. I have come across these from G.E. on Amazon:

But this comes with a caveat, it only works with Xenon or LED bulbs (so no CFL or the plain old bulbs). This is my biggest hangup, though I don’t need this for many portions of my automation, so LED may work OK here for me.

Bear in mind, not all z-wave switches are created equal and there is a lot of fine print, so to speak. For instance, does it require a neutral wire or not? (Obviously only important if you don’t have one). From what I have seen, this aspect of automation hardware is still weak at best. There are some very interesting creations out there, including some really cool kickstarter’s that have a cover plate that goes over a regular switch that is RF (or WiFi controlled) and activates a servo to move the regular switch, yet still allow manual operation if necessary.

In any event, this is all a mad science project and as long as you get that and put safety first with electricity, it will be a fun experience. Please keep us posted on what you decide to use and I can do the same. I am not quite at that point yet in my automation but will be in the next few months or so.


Well, first of all, you shouldn’t be looking for ‘wireless switches’ simply because there are few-to-none.
Look for an actuator to put inside the wall below your existing switches instead, then connect a) your light wire and b) your existing switch.
Yes there’s many alternatives such as proprietary systems like Insteon, Wink Hub, WiFi bulbs or the Hue system, but among all the choices, Z-Wave is probably the most popular one, giving you an advantage on the offering side (choice of available products) as well as on the user experience/OH support part of the story.
The probably most popular z-wave actuators among OH users are those from Fibaro, but there’s devices available from Aeon, Qubino, Philio/TKB, GE and others. There’s different models available to match different lighting types, with and without dimming capabilities, some to support 2-wire setups, some require neutral wires.
The Fibaro FGS-222 is 2-wire capable generic dual 220/110VAC relay to attach incandescant, CFL or 220/110VAC LED bulbs, the FGD-212 allows for dimming a single load (including 220V LEDs). These you can combine with a monostable switch to press-and-hold to select the dimming light level.

Well, first of all, you shouldn’t be looking for ‘wireless switches’ simply because there are few-to-none.

Well, that is why I’m looking for them. If I wanted something that went inside the wall there are a million to choose from. :slight_smile:

And one of my goals is to control the color temperature of my bulbs, which I’m not going to accomplish just by replacing a wall switch. For that I need the WiFi bulbs.

I am not sure I really want to incorporate wall switches at all. If I wanted to control an existing lamp I’d probably just use a dimmer that plugs into the wall socket. I really want to avoid installing things that are hard to remove.

My main goal is to cover up the existing wall switches and just use wireless ones instead. The physical switches would just be left on.

I want a switch that doesn’t involve any wires at all. I don’t want anything that goes behind the wall. I don’t want the switch to directly control anything - I just want it to send a signal to my controller and let it decide what should be done.

You didn’t tell.
I was just trying to help … given your wording, you don’t seem to appreciate that.

That’s not a switch then. You’re looking for a ‘wall controller’ or ‘scene controller’.
Just very few exist, and few people use them.
And I wrote that wireless switches rarely exist because everybody is using actuators instead.
You can connect a (real, traditional) switch to one of those zwave devices I mentioned and omit attaching any bulb or other output wire. That’s your ‘wireless switch’, then.

Apologies if it came across as unappreciative. It just doesn’t answer my original question.

Except that requires having a wall receptacle to install the switch in (I want to put switches in locations that don’t have behind-wall wiring), and even when the wiring is there I don’t want to disturb the original wiring.

I get it if the way I want to do things is uncommon. That’s fine. I just want a solution that works. My main concern is that if I decide to do away with the automation or sell the house I don’t want to have to rewire all my receptacles. I also would prefer not to have to wire them up in the first place (need to shut down all servers/etc, go hunting for circuits, make sure UPS isn’t backfeeding onto the circuit, etc).

Also, I want to have fallback options if my OpenHAB controller goes down. With wireless switches I can just toggle on/off the power to a light and it comes on automatically. If I replaced the wall switch with a z-wave one and just connected the line to the light fixture to the load so that it is permanently on, I have no way to turn it off without the controller. And I don’t want to have the switch control the power because I don’t want WiFi lights to not receive messages about changing color temp/etc.

People just use receptacles because it looks nicer. You need power to your switch device, don’t you ?
If you don’t mind having the power wire run alongside your wall, you won’t mind putting the actuator on-wall, too, eventually using a small enclosure.

Also, to put the actuator behind existing switches (or next to, if no receptacle) gets you to control that existing light ‘for free’. Having some WiFi bulbs in parallel to multiple non HA-controlled lights isn’t buying you the benefit of lighting scenes (these coordinate all lights in one room) … that’s sort of half pregnant.
You can attach two switches or a split one to one such actuator, one to operate your existing light, one for your WiFi bulb.

[quote=“rich0, post:7, topic:12994”]If I replaced the wall switch with a z-wave one and just connected the line to the light fixture to the load so that it is permanently on, I have no way to turn it off without the controller.
With zwave devices for both, yes you have. You can ‘associate’ the (zwave) bulb to the (zwave) switch, meaning it’ll control that bulb directly via z-wave radio. Doesn’t work with zwave switch and WiFi bulbs, though, there you need the OH box to mediate the protocols. But if you want to use WiFi bulbs, that’s about the same with any other type of ‘wireless switch’. That’s one of the reasons why few people use MiLights in serious home automation installations. Also, you can still use the wifi control app in case your controller is down.

I intend them to use batteries.

I intend to integrate all the lights in any room into OH.

The goal is to hit one button, trigger an event in OH, and then have it signal whatever lights/etc in the room to implement a scene.

Understood. That is why I’m looking to have a switch that just talks to OH.

The only reason I’m using WiFi lights is for situations where I want to control color temp. I suspect that the more general solution for lamps will be dimmer modules that plug into the wall (most of these lamps aren’t even attached to wall switches anyway). In that case the wall dimmer switches would theoretically work, but I’m still concerned with ease of installation and especially de-installation.

Just wanted to step back and comment that I’m willing to admit I might not be going about this the right way.

Maybe a ranked list of requirements would help.

  1. For some lights I want to control color temp. That is why I’m getting stuck on WiFi bulbs. I don’t think there is any other way to accomplish this. Otherwise I’d be inclined to avoid sticking the automation in the bulb itself (which is otherwise disposable).

  2. I want to be able to do some more sophisticated automation which is why I’m using OH. Such as sunrise/sunset logic, remote control, and so on. Plus OH won’t have any issue with things like color temp like a dumb controller might.

  3. I would prefer to not mess with house wiring, both for ease of installation (this is a bit of a trial right now, I’m not all in), and de-installation (I may not live here forever and also don’t want to have the server go down and not have any lights, etc).

I’m not religiously opposed to stuff that goes into the wall, and that really is the #3 on my list right now. But, that is why I’m raising concerns.

If somebody sees a better way to go about this, I’m interested.

I have had good luck with the Aeotec color LED bulb. It uses z-wave. Z-wave is also very well supported in openHAB, giving you what you are looking for int #1 and #2. The wifi bulb route should work as well as long as the interface to the bulb is either supported directly in openHAB with a binding, or is generic and easily accessible such that you can use the http or tcp bindings to send and receive information and commands to the bulb.

One other thing to consider, unless you are a hermit, visitors will be confused when you light switches look normal but do not do normal things.

I started with z-wave. You can get plug-in appliance modules to control lamps and small appliances that do not require messing with any direct wiring. Unfortunately, you will have to mess with the wiring to control overhead lights with a wall switch, either installing a z-wave switch or a z-wave relay as suggested by others in this thread.

I’m not sure what you mean by “there is no way to directly bind items”. In OH 2 each device is represented by a Thing and you bind that Thing to an Item. In OH 1 you directly bind the devices to an Item. You can even have multiple things bound to a single Item so, for example, when the zwave switch goes ON it forwards that to other Bindings (e.g. MQTT). Alternatively you can have a rule that triggers and issues commands to other Items.

Lots of ways to achieve this including remotes (e.g. zwave minimote), Amazon Dash Buttons, and more.

The Astro binding will give you sunrise and sunset for your location. You can have a rule that triggers periodically (say every minute) and recalculates the color setting for you and if the light is on change the color. When the light turns on it will use these color settings.

In my experience helping people on this forum, the best results come from using dimmer switches themselves rather than implementing the dimming inside of OH. It can be done but the latency doesn’t come from the wireless aspect so much as the fact that OH is not a real-time environment with lots of stuff going on. If you want to implement this in OH, first make sure the hardware button continues to send events when you hold the button down and consider using the JSR233 binding and implement these rules in Jython, which runs significantly faster than the Rules DSL.

Note that there are automation enabled wall dimmers which should give you the best of both worlds.

There are tons of examples in this forum. For zwave there is also a page on the wiki with examples:

As I said, I started with z-wave and have been happy with it. Its very popular, chris is very responsive on the forum in helping people out.

One thing to look for in these switches is whether they send their state back to OH when manually pressed. Not all zwave switches do and I’ve seen some discussion about that for GE switches in particular. I know my GE outlets do not, nor does my Linear WS15Z-1 doesn’t either (but I needed the ability to change the color of the switch so have to accept that). You can still set up OH to poll for status but not too fast or you will overwhelm the mesh network.

Um, no not really. In the most typical scenario the button press is being received by OH and it is OH that is turning on/off the light. If you want a wireless switch to control, for example, an Milight bulb, directly you would have to get one from them and set up direct communication without OH being involved. Otherwise if OH is down, your wireless switches will not work.

Most people use physical dumb switches (i.e. the switches you already have) or wired in z-wave switches or the like which act like dumb switches when manually toggled as backup.

You can’t have both " don’t want the switch to directly control anything - I just want it to send a signal to my controller and let it decide what should be done" and “With wireless switches I can just toggle on/off the power to a light and it comes on automatically” at the same time. Unless what you mean is that if OH goes down you still have you “dumb” switches to control the lights. But like I said, the wired in smart switches like zwave act like “dumb” switches when OH is down so they have built in backup. I’m not pushing you to use these types of switches, just correcting an apparent misunderstanding.

Hard wired smart switches do not cease to function when the server goes down. They still work like any other switch.

Thanks, I wasn’t aware of that and it could be useful (vs writing rules for every little thing). I didn’t know I could find a light and a switch to a single switch item, for example.

Correct. My fallback wasn’t the wireless switch, but just flipping the regular light switch on the wall, which is a dumb switch (toggling the power would reset the light to its default of being on).

I didn’t want to quote everything but you had a lot of great tips so thank you. (Especially about checking for switches that don’t transmit their state.)

I’m actually starting to lean towards just going with an in-wall switch, except for places where I want to stick extra switches and don’t have that option (like an extra panel next to my bed).

I could still use a Z-Wave non-dimmer with the Milight Wifi bulbs, for example. I’d detect the switch on event, and then send the appropriate commands to the bulb to adjust brightness and color temp, and also trigger the rest of the scene for any bulbs not on the same circuit. If I wanted to turn on the light, I’d first turn on the wall switch and then send the commands to the bulb.

Of course if OH were down then hitting a wall switch wouldn’t trigger the whole scene, but it would still turn on the lights on that immediate circuit which is good enough in a pinch.

I’m not completely averse to rewiring switches. And I think it is unlikely that I’ll get cold feet or be selling the house in six months. I was just looking at options to ease into it. The one piece of advice I got an an LUG presentation (which used Misterhouse at the time, this was a number of years ago) was to start small with a simple use case, and then go from there. Since I’m sure I’ll make a bunch of rookie mistakes in my sitemap/etc to start it probably makes sense to not have 12 rooms on the first pass.

If you want to really be prepared for server outage, go with zwave bulbs, actuators and a scene controller or keyfob.
There’s zwave color bulbs from Aeon and Zipato. There’s battery powered remotes (‘wireless switches’) from Aeon or Düwi. They’ll keep working even if the server is down to provide minimum functionality (light on/off).

But you shouldn’t be too afraid of “the server going down”.
Yes you need to take precaution - get backup HW, maybe get a UPS, backup the system or SD card regularly etc. There’s threads on this in the forum. But in general, once you have it working, it’ll keep running until HW breaks down.
Once you can safely assume your server is basically running 24/7, you could deploy any OH supported technology for (color) lighting, too: Milight, LIFX, Hue, … and you can even mix & match. Same for your scene switch: could be a smartphone running habdroid, a (battery powered) FLIC bluetooth button, or any traditional switch wired to any sort of mains device of any OH supported techology, including zwave.
EDIT: using the OH controller, note you can have as many scene switches as you like in parallel, wireless, physical, virtual (in GUI). As the mapping is done on the controller, you can define that to match your needs (or change over time).

As you mention you want to control all lights from OH, I assume you won’t be able to or don’t want to replace all of your bulbs with zwave or WiFi ones , so for your wired lights, you will need another solution anyway.
So give it a try, get an actuator, and build it into the receptable behind the switch for the ceiling lamp in one of your rooms, that way you’ll get an idea of the effort involved.

Yeah, I’m not super-worried about server outages. I’m probably going to run it on a Pi3 on my UPS, and not just in a container on my main server. Pretty unlikely that would have downtime, especially if I keep backups of the SD card and have other Pis lying around.

This! Yes!

Also, once you get something simple working, there is a whole lot of experimenting and learning you can do with openHAB that do not require any hardware. Astro binding for scheduling things based on solar events (sunrise, sunset) , Weather binding, network health to detect whether certain devices are on the network (useful for presence detection), etc.

Sorry to beat this thread to death, but is there any reliable way to tell which ones actually actively transmit their state when switched? It sounds like the GE ones send a broadcast that doesn’t propagate through the mesh, so that is of limited use.

From what I’ve been reading, it sounds like there is a patent dispute over the feature (reminds me of the one-click buy button on Amazon). So, manufacturers are trying to avoid lawsuits by just removing the feature.

If we do get stuck with polling, just how slow is that? I might just have to live with it. I don’t really want to go spending $70 on every switch to get the one model that works/etc. I’m not even sure how I’d figure out if the $70 switch is any better than the $20 ones.

Probably the easiest is to ask about specific models here and see what people have to say.

You can set the polling period yourself. But keep in mind that the faster the polling period the more likely you are to overload your network. It could also kill your battery powered devices I think. It might not but I think I remember someone saying that.

I don’t mind, but since I’d like to buy a switch in the next day that seems somewhat spammy to me. I’m basically going to search amazon for z-wave switch, and post the first model number I see here. Then repeat for each one until one seems to work. I can’t imagine it would take less than a week and make for a very pleasant thread. :slight_smile:

If somebody knows of any switch that actually works, that might be more helpful. I’m not sure if a new thread with a more specific headline would help?

Well, I know the Linear and the GEs don’t. The Fibaro switches seem to be pretty popular. Good luck!