The limitations of home automation… or how I wish I could go back to Insteon

For decades my Insteon light switches dutifully controlled my dumb lights (I started with X10 way back when). Controller offline? No problem. The switches were bonded to the lights directly. Backlight indicators showed the status of the light. Pressing the button and holding it dimmed the light. I was able to have eight buttons in a single wall switch keypad. I could have controllers and responders as separate devices. Sure, the devices died eventually and needed to be replaced, but I could simply move my custom laser etched buttons from the old dead switch to the new switch.

But then I started moving over to Home Assistant and Zigbee switches and Hue lights. I tried some of the Hue switches, but they just suck (I live with others who prefer things to not be complicated). Yes, you can bind a Zigbee switch to a Zigbee light, but then you lose all the benefits and convenience of the Hue lights bonded to the Hue hub and use of the Hue app. You can automate the switch to turn on and off the Hue light… but that’s it. No dimmer capability.

I have a Leviton DG6HD-1BW. When you switch it on it reports the state, brightness and linkquality. Same when you switch it off. However, the brightness only applies to the load attached to the switch. You can change the brightness on the switch, but these changes are not reported in the Zigbee protocol, so HA is not aware that you are changing the brightness, and therefore you can’t do anything with the dimmer on the switch. You can change the brightness of the switch from HA, but that’s not very useful if you don’t have a load attached and you plan on using smart bulbs like I am. Pressing on or off more than once is not reported either (if the light is on and you turn it on, this is not reported), so you can’t setup any sort of automation based on double taps. I just can’t believe how primitive this is. Is this how far home automation has evolved? I took Insteon for granted.

You went for Philips Hue and you are surprised things don’t work as they should?

There are ZigBee dimmers for dumb bulbs like this one:

It controls dumb lights and reports state, very easy and intuitive to use

Yeah, it sounds more like an issue with the hardware you chose than with HA.


Why don’t you continue to use smart switches?

Smart bulbs are not that smart after all :wink:

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If you don’t have a load attached to your leviton switch. Then just use the brightness reported from the switch in an automation to change the zigbee bulbs brightness.

Don’t control the zigbee bulbs via your dashboard, controll it with the switch on the dashboard and let the backend automation handle it.

Or put the switch and the zigbee bulb in a light helper group, so when you change the dimming it changes it for all the lights in the group ie, the bulb and switch are always in sync…

Yeah that is a problem of choosing to use ”smart lightbulbs” instead of using ”smart switches/dimmers ”and ”smart switch/dimmer modules” (sometimes referred to as a ”smart puck”) in combination with dumb dimmable LED lightbulbs, as many available smart dimmer switch modules should meet your requirements. See example the Kobold dimmer module from Phoscon:

Specifically using such a ”dimmer module” model of ”smart switch/dimmer module” behind each existing wall-switch buttons will work exactly like you describe including working offline and with custom wall-switch buttons (as most smart dimmer switch modules need an external push style button like a wall-switch with a spring to control the dimmer function).

Note that while the more common variants of such smart dimmer switch modules are installed in the junction-box behind each wall-switch button however there also variants that are instead installed in your central electrical panel but then you need an extra control wire from the wall-switch to that module.

Recommend get a version that require a neutral wire for better dimmer result with (dumb) dimmable LED lightbulbs, (I do not recommend a ”no-neuteal” version regardless).

Also take note on the maximum load that Zach smart dimmer module can handle and buy high quality (dumb) dimmable lightbulbs.

Personally I can recommend (dumb) dimmable lightbulbs from Philips with their ”warm glow” feature because they dimm with warmer lights which I think is very nice in the winter if you live in a cold climate.

Leason learned; do more research before buying.

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The issue is that the brightness is not reported from the switch. You can tell the dimmer what to be, and it will listen. But you can’t get the dimmer to report any changes made physically to the dimmer itself.

Changing the dimmer at the dimmer is useless as this information doesn’t get sent to HA. In fact, HA holds on to the last known value, even if you turn the light off and back on. HA thinks the dimmer is whatever it was before, even if you had changed the brightness at the dimmer (and the dimmer shows this in the LED light strip). HA doesn’t know that you changed it at the dimmer because this information is not sent from the dimmer… which is pretty dumb for a smart switch.

Sounds like you should have gotten Leviton Decora Z-Wave switches instead. My Leviton dimmers report brightness/dimmer state

Z-Wave > Zigbee :woman_shrugging:

Also best to check the user manuals on what is actually reported by devices before purchasing them.

Yeah but we are telling you that it is not a general Zigbee problem, if you are using ”smart switch/dimmer modules” then they should really update their state to the Zigbee Coordinator, so likely what you are seeing is probably firmware issue (or hardware issue) with the specific Zigbee device that you bought, or otherwise a Zigbee Router device is not passing along the messages to Zigbee Coordinator (which is also a known issue with Tuya and Aqara/Xiaomi devices). See best practices →

Suggest maybe temporary test re-pairing the ”smart switch/dimmer modules” closer to the Zigbee Coordinator and leaving it there for testing purposes to see if it reports state when not going through a Zigbee Router. ZHA docs mention so known issues here →

I happily still use Insteon. With 80+ devices I am not going anywhere else soon, if ever.

All right. I’ll be Captain Obvious…

You do know that Insteon is back and has product in stock, right? No need to “wish I could go back to Insteon”. You can (and should, in IMHO).