LIFX Developer Zone

Responsive dimmer switch (August 2020)

I have had LIFX bulbs since around late 2016; however, I never was able to get smooth integration with a physical replacement switch or dimmer to replace the in-wall Decora switches that control the light fixtures.

Just thought I would ask since it is August 2020 and a lot of solutions have come and gone. I am specifically looking for a switch or dimmer that works like a normal switch or dimmer in the exact same position on the wall as the Leviton Decora paddle, and that is as responsive as the LIFX app on a mobile device connected to the same local network. (Wife acceptance factor.) I am trying to avoid running a custom Raspberry Pi server just for this purpose, and I am also trying to avoid forwarding commands through the cloud such as IFTTT, which contributes to excessive lag.

My home has Samsung SmartThings and Lutron Caseta Wireless (Smart Bridge Pro), but not Philips Hue. I am okay with getting the Philips Hue Dimmer Switch but only if it can work with something other than the Philips Hue Bridge.

I have found three technically acceptable solutions, and a slew of bad solutions.

The first solution that works is to use a Sylvania 73743 Lightify Smart Dimming Switch on top of the Decora rocker, connected via Zigbee to SmartThings. This integration manages to control the LIFX lights reliably, although there is a slight lag and only four functions/scenes can be programmed (short press and long press for the two buttons). I took the outer frame cover off so that if the LIFX bulbs drop off the network, I can just pull the battery-powered switch off of the wall and toggle the Decora switch.

The second workable solution is to get Brilliant Smart Home Controls for the wall boxes. Once everything is set up, these controls seem to work with all LIFX products with relatively little lag. This solution is very expensive, starting at $299 apiece.

The third workable solution is to mount an iPod Touch over the wall box using a mount such as the VidaMount On-Wall iPod Touch (5th/6th/7th Gen) Enclosure Mount. Basically this is just like the Brilliant Smart Home Control solution, except that it is cheaper and more powerful: $199 for the iPod Touch and $55 for the VidaMount. (I have not actually executed this, but it is obvious that it will work.)

Bad/unacceptable solutions have included: Flic, Samsung SmartThings Button, Logitech Pop (all too much lag and do not integrate with the native 1-gang box), and most recently, the Brilliant Smart Dimmer Switch (does not actually work more than 1% of the time).

Finally, there is the LIFX Switch, which promises to solve this gap in the market but is perpetually unavailable.

Are there any other reliable solutions?

I’m not across switch like solutions. You might have more luck asking on https://www.reddit.com/r/lifx

I will however say that the LIFX switch is currently cloud only and doesn’t do dimming, so at this time, it won’t solve your needs.

I spoke with LIFX Tech support, when they introduced the switch, at C.E.S… From my discussion, I find that their switch option is somewhat limited in flexibility, especially if you are retrofitting existing switches.

I would recommend that you look at the Switches & Touch-panel options from Brilliant. (www.brilliant.tech). I have been working with a trial installation of some of their devices, before going full-bore and upgrading my entire home. So far, I am extremely pleased with the devices. (I actually discovered these devices via another LIFX Community post, about 18 months ago.)

They are not the cheapest option available, by any means; however, if you were to compare them to a system such as Lutron Homeworks or RadioRa, they are definitely more affordable. The major benefit I see to their system, is that they integrate with a wide range of Smart Lights, and other Smart Home Devices. The original units, which all include touch-panel displays, include small camera’s (with privacy shutter) and can be used as an in-home video intercom system. You can also securely access the camera’s, remotely, via smartphone app. When not being used to control devices, the display serves as a digital photo album. Motion sensors can be used to automatically dim the display, when the room is vacant.

At C.E.S., they announced and just began shipping, separate single-gang dimmer/switch modules that are far less expensive than the touch-panel versions. (Note, that you must have at least one of the Touch-panel modules installed in your home, before you can setup and use the stand alone switches.)

Unlike most other offerings, Brilliant’s devices work with all three of the major smart assistants. (Apple Homekit, Amazon Alexa (built in) and Google Home.) I like the fact that they keep adding integration partners. I could go on, but it would be easier to simply visit their website for full details.

Thank you. Actually, this post was prompted because I received Brilliant Dimmer Switches this past weekend, and they simply do not work. They connect during initial setup for about 10 minutes, and then do not respond any further. This lack of communication occurs even when the dimmer switches are energized in free air 8 feet away from the nearest Brilliant Smart Home Control.

Even when I had them working (again, for about 10 minutes), there was a noticeable lag. The lag was not a deal-killer as the lag for Zigbee button -> SmartThings -> LIFX integration is longer (as much as 3/4 of a second); the lag was more like 1/2 of a second. But now, the lag is quite literally infinity, which is unacceptable.

I have three Brilliant Smart Home Controls. When connected reliably to Wi-Fi (about 95-98%, but not 100%), they work with much less lag, between 0.1 and 0.5 seconds. The problem is that each Brilliant Control starts at $299 and consumes almost as much power as the an LED bulb itself when on, pretty much defeating any claim to power savings. LIFX is already the most expensive consumer light bulb on the market; requiring a Brilliant Control that costs 5x that of a bulb is ridiculous.

Since this is a developer forum, all that a wall switch/dimmer really needs to do, is cause a single LIFX LAN protocol formatted UDP packet to be emitted to the bulb(s). This does not seem like much of a challenge in and of itself. I understand that getting the regulatory certifications for a line-voltage product makes the $0.0001 manufacturing cost balloon a couple orders of magnitude beyond that, but really, it should not be that difficult.

I haven’t installed my Brilliant switches yet (initially, 10, to integrate with 5 Touch Panel units), but your connection issues sound like they could be network related. Depending upon your WiFi network hardware configuration, you could be running out of available DHCP addresses. When you consider that every LIFX bulb requires an individual address, along with each individual Brilliant device, (not to mention any and all other WiFi devices that may be on your network) it is quite easy to exceed the limits of most consumer WiFi gateways. Individual access points often have a relatively low limit to the number of simultaneous device connections, that they can manage. Depending upon your overall network environment, you could also be exhausting your pool of available DHCP addresses. (Pure conjecture, since I don’t know your Network Hardware configuration, nor the number of devices on that network)

In my own case, I will eventually need several hundred IP addresses to handle every bulb and controller / dimmer in my home. I upgraded my Router to Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Plus hardware and increased the total number of my eero Pro WAP’s (running in bridged mode). On the router, I’ve used suppernetting with a /22 subnet mask, to create a network capable of managing over 1000 addresses. I’ll eventually partition my network subnets for better optimization and overall performance, but the current setup allows me to currently utilize about 300 simultaneous network connections, without any problems. The only real lag I notice with controlling my Lifx bulbs, is related to fade times, built into my scenes. I have one button/slider on a 4-gang unit assigned to Turn ALL smart lights on or off. It currently switches about 60 bulbs + LED strip lights with instantaneous results.

Regarding energy usage of the LED panel, unless you are using one panel per bulb, it’s difficult to imagine the energy usage you seem to be complaining about. If properly configured for motion sensing, with a short time-out period, before the display sleeps, power usage is minimal.

Last, regarding price, you basically get what you pay for in smart lighting controls. If you just want to turn on/off/dim a specific group of lights, you can put together something that’s not overly expensive. If you want to get into the ability to control color pallets and control complex scenes (not to mention, triggering other smart-home devices) the price will naturally be higher.

Thanks, but it is definitely not Wi-Fi related.

The Brilliant Smart Dimmer Switches supposedly run as “Multiway via Brilliant devices through Bluetooth Low Energy Mesh (BLE Mesh)” (see Compatibility under https://www.brilliant.tech/products/smart-dimmer-switch). They are supposed to hop signals over Bluetooth to other dimmers (if needed) until they reach a Brilliant Smart Home Control, which then communicates over Wi-Fi to the rest of the Internet.

It is very unlikely that the Brilliant Smart Dimmer Switches are acquiring IP addresses. It is possible but I doubt it, and have looked at my DHCP tables and have seen no evidence of dimmer switches getting or attempting to get IP addresses. I have Ubiquiti network gear, including the UAP-AC-HD. I know for sure I have not run out of IP addresses.

I would suggest that you start with one Brilliant Smart Dimmer Switch very close by to a Brilliant Smart Home Control, and see how well it functions before committing to 10.

Let’s start with that. What would you recommend? Because of all of the off-the-shelf products that I have tried and tested, only the Brilliant Smart Home Control (at $299) works reliably with little perceptible lag. The runner up is the Sylvania 73743 Lightify Smart Dimming Switch connected through Samsung SmartThings, which has a perceptible but tolerable lag for an order of magnitude less ($29).

I was about to try installing a couple of my Brilliant Switches, and went to the Brilliant Support page to verify procedure. The first thing I saw, was the following message:

We have identified that the initial batch of Australian LIFX Switches, when incorrectly installed, may cause the product to fail. We will be offering a minor hardware update as a preventative measure to proactively address this.

There are no incidents of harm associated with this fault, but as you’d expect with any electrical product, we want to be absolutely sure all products are completely safe and deliver to the level of quality we expect.

If you have received the product, email us via switch@lifx.com with the batch number and serial number for guidance on next steps.

This may be the source of your problems with the switches. You may wish to check it out.

**Ignore my last response **

I’m switching between too many Smart Light related apps. That notice was related to the LIFX switches, not Brilliant. I’ll post, regarding my results, for comparison to your experience.

I have a custom dimmer switch built off a NodeMCU ESP32 module, mounted in the wall behind a bi-directional momentary switch. The proof of concept works, but it’s taking me a while to find time to debug the UDP protocol to make it more reliable and configurable.

Basic concept for installation is:

  1. rewire light fixture as permanently on
  2. wire in USB 5V outlet in space behind light switch (or chase a USB cable down the wall if you’ve got easy access)
  3. connect NodeMCU to USB power
  4. connect to NodeMCU over wifi and join network
  5. connect back to NodeMCU and set a light

Pressing up turns the light on
Pressing down turns the light off
Holding increases/decreases the brightness by 10% every .5 seconds
Double pressing up turns the light on 100%, warm white (my default)

As with all DIY solutions, I’ve checked the regs in my particular region (UK) and in no way am guaranteeing this kind of thing won’t break code elsewhere!

Currently I’ve hard-coded the IP and Mac address in the NodeMCU, and I’m experiencing some double trigger issues for some commands. I haven’t really progressed it in the last year, because other “more useful” DIY has taken priority.

This seems relevant https://www.reddit.com/r/lifx/comments/hrwzzd/i_got_my_lifx_light_working_with_a_potentiometer/

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Thank you. Where did you get (what is the model of) your bi-directional momentary switch? If you are in the UK it is probably a different style than the US, but I just thought to ask to complete the setup.

pulls open drawer of bits of unfinished projects

It’s a Click Minigrid switch from Scolmore group. MD075PW

Hope that’s helpful.

The LIFX support/development team got the dimming switches back online. There is still unacceptable lag for dimmming performance, but they are working on it. Just an update on the topic.

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