Current wisdom for local control of smart lights

I’m just getting into using home assistant, and the first project I want to do is smart lighting; my home has a LOT of natural light, so having a basic warm-in-the-morning, bright-at-noonish, warm-in-the-evening automation will work really well for my space.

I did some searching and came up with the Teckin SB50 being a good bulb to flash for local control and integration into HA, but further research showed that the manufacturer apparently patched the firmware to take away that capability.

So, what is the current, 2024 wisdom for getting local control of smart lighting? I really do not want to permit internet access here, so while I am aware that I can do a third party integration for the Teckin lights, I want to avoid that.

Not to use smart bulbs for your main lighting. Use smart dimmers/switches and dumb bulbs instead.

The problem with smart bulbs is that they require power 24/7. If someone flicks off the switch you get errors and no control. Also if HA is down smart dimmers still work manually.

That can be alleviated somewhat by using smart bulbs on an always powered circuit and linking directly them with smart buttons.

You can use smart bulbs in accent lights and lamps if you need a little more colour in your life (or for alerts).

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I use Hue bulbs and an Hue LED strip at the moment via zigbee ZHA and tie them to the circadian integration to auto adjust the brightness and temperature settings through the day and night when they are on via motion sensors and manual toggle

I have recently setup hassalarm on my phone to tie the alarm times automatically to my HA instance and used a boolean input to toggle it to have the lights I have in the bedside lamps act as a light based alarm.

Tuya convert is patched but you can still use serial method to flash it. Not a lot option for esp8266 based bulbs these days

I’m unfamiliar with the serial method. Can I get you to say a few more words on that?

Open it up and connect a TTL 3V RS232 USB dongle to the serial port rather than OTA.

Is there a primer for this that I can read? Sounds like a fine solution to me but I know precisely nada about smart dimmers/switches.

I don’t know of any offhand. Google probably does.

Sorry, but I’m lost. Is there a guide on this somewhere I can get a link to? One of the most difficult things in getting into this has been that there’s not a lot of entry-level literature for people; I am a programmer for my day job but even in this post, I am unclear on how I am opening up the bulb’s firmware. I seriously just have some wholesale bulbs that another HA thread tipped me off to, I have no clue where I would fit a USB in anywhere.

This does look pretty interesting, these are the Philips Hue bulbs?

Is this your main lighting as well? Do you have issues when turning the lights completely off the way tom was talking about?

You know how to use google though right?

Yes, I’m aware. As I said in the post you are quoting, there is a real lack of entry-level guides that are followable, even for someone with a programming background like mine.

The search you put in there provides:

A link to Tuya’s developer documents, which unfortunately lacks the basic “how to access the light bulb itself” information. As I mentioned, I am new to this and I only have a light bulb to work with. I will require some way to get a hardware connection, no? How might I do that?

A link to these very forums about the ostensible process, but, once again, it is not salient to the bulbs, works on a smart outlet, and appears to involve a chip that is different from the bulbs in question.

A large number of video tutorials on how to do flashing over the air, which we just established does not work.

Please believe me when I say that posting on a forum and waiting asynchronously for an answer was the last thing I wanted to do when I am attempting to set up my house’s lighting. It’s a rather important element to my living there. If I am asking general questions, it is because I really want to make sure I am pursuing the correct solution.

Hopefully I have established how this is something of a confusing matter for beginners and we can dispense with the patronization.

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This unfortunately no longer works as of Feb 2022. Or, more to the point, the Teckin SB50s I got through a wholesale purchaser link these forums provided were not exploitable in this way. Unfortunate, but I knew that was a risk when I gave it a shot. Fortunately as the wholesale price was a little over 1 USD a bulb it’s not exactly a huge loss, especially when they still make perfectly serviceable dumb bulbs.

For main lighting I have these ceiling lights in the bedroom, loungeroom and kitchen at the moment:

https://www.bunnings.com.au/brilliant-lighting-33cm-18w-charlton-led-oyster-ceiling-light_p4380401

and have a bathroom light in this style:

They are connected to these light switches for control in the home currently:

The hue bulbs I have are socketed in my bedside lamps and corner standing lamp with the on cable switches they came with in the always on position until I need to replace them or just do a short power cycle if I need to have them show up again in ZHA (usually that is when I have done a restore of my snapshot when making changes to my instance).

The hue led strip is just mounted at the top of the wall up to the ceiling in my bathroom above everything to allow me to have more appropriate light at night without turning on the exhaust fan since the electrician installed it tied to the ceiling light power at the time.

The specific bulbs I am using are these:

and the led strip is this one:

Have you had a look at this?

Super, I appreciate your eloquence. I’m going to have a look at the switches in my home and see what sort of lift it will be to do something similar with the overhead lighting in my home - that’ll be a tomorrow matter, though.

I try to make sure I cover all info where I can, may see an edit here or there every so often if I miss something to add or a typo etc with my replies lol

https://fccid.io/2APQK-SB50/Internal-Photos/Internal-Photos-4083339.pdf

To avoid soldering, you could just stick dupont cables to the pads. You’ll need the figure out the pinout first, try googling the name for the module or desolder the chip and they should be labeled on the back of it

And one more thing, use this to remove the bottom screw. Screw in 1/2 way then tilt it left and right and it should just pop out

image

@ghiomahn sorry you’re getting some passive aggressive responses to your very reasonable questions. At least most of the responses are helpful. I’ve been where you are, with a similar background, so I can imagine how frustrating this is for you. Unfortunately, I don’t have any useful guides or links to give you for how to get past this steep learning curve. I think I mostly read a ton of articles, watched a ton of videos, and used my previous career’s experience (in a completely different field) to intuit some of this stuff. So I can’t really point to something and say, “read this, and it’ll start to make sense.” It might be out there. In any case, I’ll suggest some other things in addition to the good advice other folks have given.

Local control

If you want pretty easy local-only control, you might want to look into devices that use a protocol like Thread, Z-Wave, or ZigBee. Those are different frequencies/protocols than Wi-Fi. They can’t directly communicate over the Wi-Fi network, and reach the open internet like a Wi-Fi device. The Hue bulbs that were mentioned use ZigBee. Thread/Z-Wave/ZigBee devices use some sort of controller/coordinator/hub/whatever to communicate with the rest of your network. That controller/coordinator/hub/whatever is the thing that might still reach the open internet. So you’ll want to either do the easy thing and buy one that does local-only control (if you trust the manufacturer’s claim), or do the harder thing and look into segmenting your network and denying internet access to that segment.

If you are segmenting your network, you could also use Wi-Fi devices directly because they’d only have local-networking. For segmenting your network, some routers support a guest network that can deny internet access, though most always allow internet access to the guest network and can deny local access as well. If your router doesn’t have that setup, VLANs are generally what most folks do for network segmentation. That tends to require either a different router, or flashing a router with something like OpenWRT or OPNSense. In case you hadn’t gathered already, it can be a bit of a rabbit hole to segment your network.

“Smart bulb mode”

Something I don’t think anyone touched on is that there are devices/switches that have a “smart bulb mode.” This mode allows the device/switch to still be physically controlled like most folks are used to, but it communicates with the smart bulb over the network, instead of turning on/off the power to the bulb. Some devices/switches that have a “smart bulb mode” are:

  • Inovelli switches
    • They have Z-Wave, ZigBee, and Thread coming soon.
    • In the past they’ve had stocking issues, but that might’ve been due to the supply chain stuff that happened a few years ago.
  • Lutron Aurora
    • It’s a device you mount on top of a non-smart toggle switch.
    • Only works with ZigBee bulbs, and specifically compatible with Hue bulbs.
  • Shelly
    • These are relays you install behind a switch that interact with the bulb. The switch can be smart or non-smart.
    • I can’t find much on this, but they call their mode “detached mode.”
    • There are also threads in this Home Assistant forum that mention Shelly and “detached mode,” so maybe that might help with research.

Light strips

Finally, I think someone mentioned it already, but I feel like light strips are a good option for someone just getting started. It’s an additional thing to install, and it generally requires more pieces (a.k.a. more money and time) to make it all work the way someone wants. But since they’re an addition to a home, they don’t have the same assumptions as replacements bulbs and switches (smart or non-smart). I.e. you have to interface with the light strip through whatever protocol the strip supports, so it forces you to think about how to control a protocol in the way you want rather than how to retrofit smart behavior onto non-smart infrastructure. E.g. if the light strips use ZigBee, you think about how you control ZigBee, and control of the light strips follows from there; or if the light strips use Wi-Fi, you think about how you control Wi-Fi, and control of the light strips follows from there.

The other benefit with light strips is that there’s a path to learning more about flashing and ESP stuff by way of WLED. WLED lets you control many different manufacturers light strips with an ESP8266/ESP32. Because it’s scoped a little tighter, and because the documentation of WLED is pretty good (lots of explanations, pictures, videos, links, tutorials) it can be easier to go from zero knowledge to something. Even if you don’t get a strip that is compatible with WLED from the start (maybe you got sent the wrong thing, maybe the manufacturer changed the chip, maybe you just don’t care right now) you can generally replace one light strip with another down the road fairly easily. And once you’re a little more familiar with WLED, figuring out how to flash something else ought to be a little easier.

And perhaps the most important part of light strips is that they’re generally less invasive than replacing lights. If a light strip fails (either because it’s dead, or it lost communication, or because an automation didn’t work, or whatever) you still have your normal lights so you can see. It’ll be inconvenient and disappointing, but your home will still be liveable. Once you’ve got more experience, know the landscape better, and can more informed decisions; you can replace other lights in your home. But, if you find that you’re just not into this stuff after working with it for a while, you can also rip out the light strips, toss 'em in the trash, and move on with your life.


Sorry, I know this post is a lot text. Hopefully something in here helps!

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