Surface mount downlights

We just moved into a new-build house and I’m starting to think about smart lighting. We have quite a few of these downlights that look like recessed lights, but are simply surface-mount LED lights on top of a regular round electrical box. These have holes spaced for the screws for the box. There really isn’t much depth to have much of any protrusion from the back of a light.

See google photos link for reference:

I already have a good bit of investment in zigbee (hue) and I like zigbee because of the ability to have real local control via touchlink remotes. I’d like to find a suitable zigbee replacement for these - preferably without having to go the route of buying surface-mount fixtures with bulbs in them. Has anyone seen anything like these - preferably in color? I know about smart dimmer/controllers that would mount in place of the wall switch that would control them all together, but would rather not go that way unless I can’t find any other way.

The ones I’ve seen all seem to be retro-fit for existing cans (no screw holes to fix the box like these) and all have quite a bit of body that would have to fit up into the space behind the light into the ceiling - like this example from hue: Hue White and color ambiance Downlight 5/6 inch | Philips Hue US

I do see this slim model from hue, but since there are no screw holes, I’d have to rig something up to make it work… which actually may be doable: Hue White and color ambiance Slim Downlight 5/6 inch | Philips Hue US

I have one of these installed and can confirm that they 100% would not work with the existing box. The provided junction box is too bulky and the existing box would interfere with the mounting tabs.

You could remove the existing junction box and install those though. I think the only concern would be if their provided junction box is large enough for the wires that are currently there.

Gotcha, that helps.

Tip: don’t install smart lights. Install smart switches/dimmers.

Other people will switch off smart lights disconnecting them from Home Assistant.


Well, the tradeoff there being you can’t get RGB with a smart switch (if that is part of the end goal). Doing a combo of smart switches that support smart bulb modes along with the smart bulbs is a good idea in that scenario.

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If you want RGB use a table lamp or LED strip. Not overhead lighting.

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I’m sure that’s a personal preference and not a hard and fast rule.

Nope. Experience. I’ve been down that path.

A bunch of detatched mode smart switches and smart lights is far more complicated to install and maintain than using dumb bulbs and smart switches. Especially when you realise that RGB is so rarely used it is just not worth it.

A table lamp with a smart bulb is a far better colour accent or indication light if you need it.


Still in the realm of personal preference. All five of my bathrooms and two offices have smart bulbs as their main lighting source (mix of Hue, innr, and Sengled). All are ran through Zooz switches with smart bulb mode enabled. Has been setup that way for a few years and I’ve had no issues. I use the color options for all of them every day.

Nope. Really. Not recommend. Have a look at the many “I wish I knew” topics.

I’m sure there are plenty there of folks that have had issues. Just like I’m sure there are plenty of folks with no problems.

The OP has already stated they have other Hue products already, so it’s probably a safe bet to assume they understand the constant power requirement and have either selected devices to accommodate or don’t have the issues with light switches being turned off.

I have 51 smart bulbs using the config I mentioned above with no issues on both HA and, previously, with another platform. Everything works and has worked since I first set everything up.

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That still does not mean it is the best way to approach lighting control.

Works for you?


However there are simpler and better methods.

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There is a work-around for this. Remove the switch with the circuit ‘on’ and fit a wireless switch in it’s place which controls the light. OR, place the wireless switch over the physical light switch. Those with a 3D printer (not me) can make a cover to assist this.

With the second version you still have an easy way to power cycle the light if it has issues.

Looks like something like this would work
Had one installed to replace my old one

And use smart switch/relay with decoupled mode for these lights

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Yea, that’s easily fixable by bypassing the hard-wired switches and replacing with zigbee remotes.

I would say it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and/or how much you like to fiddle and tweak. “Best” is subjective depending on the audience. Though I’ll admit that for the masses of more casual folks, what you said is probably right.

I, too, have experience here, and for me, I like to tweak and have the control that I want. In our previous home I replaced every bulb inside and out with a smart bulb, and achieved what I wanted. Will I do that here? Don’t know yet, but knowing me, probably.

Case in point from the old house. The kitchen lighting setup was horrible. There were three different groupings of lights with switches in different locations around a large space - and it didn’t even have under-cabinet lights yet. it made no sense whatsoever. By replacing all the bulbs and bypassing the hard switches, I was able to get a lighting system that really worked, and was beautiful. Every bulb would come on and fade in together just as if the house was originally built to work that way. I even added in undercabinet light strips that tied in. It still allowed mixing and matching colors for when we entertain (and yes, I do use RGB frequently - daily - even when it’s just us watching TV in the evening). For me, this was the “best” way to do it. Did it take some work & time? Yes. Was it hard? No, not once I understood what I was doing - though it took a couple iterations of hardware before I found what I wanted/needed to make it work.

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Tell that to the first guest you have that tries to use the defunct switch. Or someone who can’t fix the system while you are away and they have to sit in the dark.

Operation should be obvious and require no special knowledge. And the lights should continue to function manually when all automated systems are down.

You’re really trying to be right, and you’re just not. The switches were either removed and covered by a blank plate if not needed, or replaced with a zigbee remote in the same location that was easily recognizable. Simple, and no guest had any issues with it. Even my wife - who I always have to design tech projects around - needed no instruction.

I’ve appreciated the discussion and I hope it’ll help someone else think through the issues in their planning phase, but at this point, I’d like to get back to the topic.

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I’m not trying. I just am right.

What happens if your zigbee network is down?

I removed all my light switches. The lights work based on presence and environmental factors. Much better than manual switches.