Smart Switching

I’ve now installed 54 smart switches, dimmers, and relays of 8 varieties, plus mounted a dozen remotes. Six switch locations remain but they’re all unimportant.

If I had to do it all over again, I would make the CloudFree Light Switch and Amaker WKC-002 Zigbee my default switches. Those and the Lutrons have metal tabs and I’ve found they’re much easier to get properly aligned and flush with the wall plate in a multi-gang box. All the rest with plastic tabs have been challenging, the Martin Jerry Zigbee model most of all because the tabs are narrower. I also like the CloudFree Light Switch for having what I consider to be a premium feel. The Amaker was a nice late addition, it feels cheap but best conveys that you’ve successfully pressed it and it functions as a Zigbee router. The Lutrons feel like cheap junk but there are very few cloud-free no-neutral dimmer options.

An added perk with the CloudFree Light Switch is that it runs on an ESP32-C3 (RISC-V) chip which has Bluetooth / BLE instead of one of the more common ESP8266 variants that only do Wi-Fi. Took me maybe 30 minutes to roll my own Tasmota image with BLErry and get it feeding a BLE temperature / humidity sensor into Home Assistant. Shouldn’t be challenging to get it doing the same on ESPHome but I’m unlikely to try that myself.

At the Cabin I’ve avoided Wi-Fi to minimize the external dependencies. My UniFi Dream Machine soft bricked itself while I was there last time, so that turned out to be a prescient decision. I’ve ended up using more Pico remotes there than I expected due to there not being wall switches in locations that should have them. My goal is that a wall-mounted Pico should only control other Caseta devices, so that they’ll continue to function even if the Lutron Bridge or Home Assistant are down, but I need one more Caseta Lamp Dimmer to get all the way there. There was also one oddball light with a pull chain, no switch, so there I used a Zigbee bulb — one that can be configured to not turn on if the power flickers — bound to an Ikea remote which is also able to operate the light normally even if the Zigbee coordinator dies. I cut the chain very short so hopefully nobody cuts the power. I do wish there were more options for a Zigbee remote that can be mounted in a decorator wall plate. The couple that are out there now just don’t quite do it for me.

In the main house I’ve been replacing every 3-way with a Caseta + Pico. Mostly because I didn’t want to add yet another switch type to the mix.

In the ADU I’ve given Martin Jerry’s brand new Tasmota Ceiling Fan Controller a try. I like it but the other ceiling fans we have aren’t wired for separate light controls. Something to be addressed at a later date.

With the Cabin and ADU I replaced some fluorescent tube fixtures that had flaky ballasts with direct-wire dimmable LEDs. Unfortunately I didn’t read the fine print — they’re only dimmable with an “ELV” dimmer, which so far as I can tell the only compatible smart dimmer is the Lutron PD-5NE that sells for a whopping $120. It’ll be tough but I might be able to find a way to live without being able to dim those 😂🤣

Here’s a complete list of everything I’ve been using as part of the project to remove all my Smart Bulbs, including the one “new” Zigbee bulb (I think Amazon gave it to me free with an Echo way back when and I never used it):

There’s also some other stuff not strictly related to this project:

The self-flashed devices I had to open up and use a USB TTL adapter w/ Tasmotizer to convert to Tasmota. They were all easy enough with “Dupont” wires or mini-grabbers, no soldering required, but I ordered a pogo pin jig to make future conversions less fiddly. The rest of the Wi-Fi devices came with open firmware pre-installed.

The Athome Garage Door Opener replaced a MyQ and it has been perfect. I wish there was an existing Tasmota template… but maybe I’m wrong and should be converting ESP devices to ESPHome and migrating Zigbee2MQTT to ZHA so I’m not relying on a seperate MQTT service.

Most of my Zigbee smart plugs function purely as Zigbee routers with nothing plugged in, but I use a few to automate things for our fish tank and chicken coops. The Amaker switches ought to provide me with enough Zigbee routers around the main house so I’ll probably replace the outlets that are actually being used with Sonoff S31s, script them to be fully autonomous, and decommission the rest.

I bought an extra ZBdongle-P to flash with Router firmware to extend the Zigbee mesh to the ADU, but despite the big-ass antenna it’s not reporting higher signal strength than the outlets I already had to extend the new Home Assistant mesh and the existing Hubitat one. Once I complete the decommissioning of Hubitat’s mesh I might go with a separate Zigbee2MQTT coordinator for the ADU.

The SWB1s I’m using on network gear, right now I have automations in Home Assistant to cycle the cable modem and LTE backup at the Cabin but I’ll be looking to make that autonomous in the future. I have three Sonoff S31s controlling lamps but I expect to replace them with Caseta lamp dimmers and Zigbee outlets to align with my goal of having all the lights controllable even if the Wi-Fi and Home Assistant are down.

The m5stack Atom Lite I bought to mess around with ESPresense. It was easy enough to get it tracking specific iPhones and Apple Watches but I’m skeptical that this is broadly useful for room-level occupancy sensing unless everyone in your home is firmly attached to their devices. Still, I have a couple narrow use cases in mind, and if they don’t work out I can surely find other uses for an $8 ESP32 module in a case. For $12.50 there’s also the AtomU, basically the same thing in the form of a USB stick, which is probably more practical for deploying all over a home than having Atom Lites dangling by their USB cords. Especially if cats are present.

The HPs are a continuation of my belief that a Raspberry Pi is a shitty choice for a generic Linux host. They were about $100/ea in 8GB / 256GB spec — a tough price to beat for a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 8GB + Case + Power + Reliable Storage even before they became unobtanium. Granted, idle power consumption is about 4X more… but in the American South that works out to like $8-$10 per year. At both homes I have them running my complete “Minimum Critical Infra” stack — Home Assistant, Pi-hole, AD Domain Controller, nginx, etc — which I wouldn’t be able to do solely on a Pi anyways and there’s plenty of capacity left to add more without impacting performance.

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