In this post I’ll cover the most common item in home automation, lighting. Initially this topic was low on my list but definitely something I wanted to integrate into my smart home project.

I’ve found when integrating lighting there are two approaches that should be considered, installing smart outlets/switches or connected bulbs. Each have their place, but some forethought may save you some frustration in the end. For example, the decision to use a connected dimmer to control multiple standard bulbs or use connected bulbs instead.

To start, I wanted remote control of my living room track lighting. For this project I chose a Lutron Caseta dimmer which includes a handheld pico remote (pictured). From an ergonomic perspective, I don’t yet have a use for the pico remote, but I may at some point. The Lutron Caseta utilizes their proprietary Lutron Connect protocol which works seamlessly with my Staples Connect hub.

Now that I have the living room addressed, I wanted to add motion controlled lighting to my music room. This room is lit with two standing floor lamps with standard bulbs. Initially I attempted to use GE Link light bulbs that utilize the Zigbee control protocol. While at the time the Staples Connect hub was Zigbee capable, the control software was not. Alternatively I chose to go with another Lutron Caseta dimmer. Oddly enough, the very next day Zonoff released version 1.6 of their control software which supports Zigbee. Timing!

The only thing left to do was obtain a motion sensor. I was lucky enough to find an open-box deal on a few Ecolink Z-Wave motion sensors on ebay for about half price. The motion sensor ships in test mode. This is set by way of a jumper on the circuit board. In test mode the sensor’s trigger resets after 5 seconds. In “normal” mode, this cycle is 4 minutes. Most likely you will want to pull the jumper in favor for the 4 minute cycle, otherwise your lights will turn off 5 seconds after leaving a room. There are also small and large pet setting jumpers. Set these accordingly.

In order to trigger motion activated lighting, you will need to create an automatic activity. These activities will be triggered by the motion sensor device. An activity is needed when motion is detected, and one when no motion is detected.

What to do with those two GE Link bulbs unused from the music room? I replaced the bulb in my front yard post lamp and also my front porch wall lamp. With these Zigbee connected bulbs, I could now set my outdoor lights to come on at sunset and off at sunrise. The sunrise and sunset times are based on the zip code provided when the hub was initially configured.

Project notes:

  • Not all bulbs are compatible with dimmers. It’s important to read the instructions on the packaging.
  • GE Link LED bulbs are not compatible with dimmers. The bulb itself is the dimmer. Using this bulb on a dimmer could ruin the internal electronics within the bulb.
  • I have experienced some link stability issues with the GE bulbs. I don’t believe they are supported by the Staples Connect platform, but have worked a majority of the time.
  • The Zigbee protocol utilizes the 2.4GHz ISM band. This can cause interoperability issues with wifi networks also on the same band. From what I had read, Zigbee devices should be kept at least 3 feet away from a wifi signal source. In some cases wifi channels needed to be changed to mitigate Zigbee communication issues.