Choosing between relay/dimmer and dimming using smartbulbs

Hi everyone,

I’ve been using Home Assistant for quite some time and have been very happy with its features and stability.

A few years ago, I was asked to set up interactive light and sound effects at a small WWII museum. The owner didn’t want any changes to the existing electrical system, so I had to get creative. I opted for a somewhat complicated solution using Home Assistant (running on a Raspberry Pi 4) and Hue lights, as I had all the necessary parts and wanted the ability to easily expand functionality in the future. Everything worked well initially. Unfortunately, I later discovered that there was no network connectivity at the location, which I knew could cause problems. The biggest challenge was that all the lights in the display room were connected to the same power source, which was turned off every time the room was vacated. This meant the smart lights would be shut off and disconnected from the hub. To address these potential issues, I created a manual for the owner on how to troubleshoot.

After testing, the system worked fine for about a year, but now it’s having issues. Sometimes the lights won’t connect to the hub unless the Home Assistant and Philips Hue hub are reset. While this isn’t a big deal in itself, the owner refuses to fix anything himself, despite having a detailed manual, meaning I have to reset it each time.

Initially, this setup was meant as a test run and wasn’t intended to be permanent, as I anticipated problems. Since it worked well for so long, I forgot about it altogether. Now, I’m seeking advice on the best solution for this setup. I’m considering either controlling the lights without the Philips Hue hub, relying solely on a Zigbee controller running on Home Assistant without new wiring, or running new wires and using a smart dimmer or the existing smart lights. Here are the requirements:

  1. All lights must remain in the existing light sockets to maintain a natural look.
  2. The lights need to be dimmable to create the desired effects.

I apologize for the lengthy post and appreciate any help you can offer. Thank you.

TL;DR: Set up interactive light and sound effects at a WWII museum using Home Assistant and Hue lights, but faced issues with network connectivity and power cycling. Seeking advice on whether to use a Zigbee controller with Home Assistant or run new wiring for a more reliable solution.

I was gonna suggest getting a switch with decoupled mode and replacing your Hue bridge with a supported Zigbee controller and running everything off ZHA / Z2MQTT.

Then I reread your requirements and nothing mentions you can’t change the light switch or adding another one next to it. If that is acceptable, the Hue Tap Dial might come to your rescue without needing to replace the Hue hub. I’ve been using one since the end of last year (via Z2M) and it’s been extremely flexible & reliable.

The best part about it is that it runs on batteries, so no rewiring needed. Seriously, this thing has been in daily use since Black Friday and it’s still reporting 100% battery. As lazy/stubborn as the owner might be, I’m sure he can get around to replacing a coin cell battery when the time comes.

Hi and thank you so much for your reply.

The decoupled switch is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for! As I need something that is simple to use non tech guys like museum owner. Fortunately ZHA is already running on the Home Assistant as I have set up a small wireless remote to function as the trigger so that the museum guide can trigger the effects as he pleases.

It is indeed possible to setup another physical switch but it will be necessary to provide a new power source for lights in question as some of the non smart lights are old WW2 era and need to be turned off manually.

Again I really appreciate the feedback.

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