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Using "smart bulbs" with Insteon dimmers


Bumbershoot

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For a test, I've been running a LiFX bulb attached to an LampLinc dimmer for a few weeks.  If the "on" value of the LampLinc is set to anything other than 100%, the results are predictably unpredictable.  However, if the "on" value is set to 100%, the bulb acts the same as all the rest of my LiFX bulbs, which are controlled by SwitchLinc On-Off switches.

My question is: is there any risk, other than possible damage to a spendy bulb, in continuing this experiment into production?

The use case I have in mind:  I would like to install a SwitchLinc in a spot that currently has an standard single-pole switch.  The bulb this controls is currently a LiFX bulb.  The switch is very seldom toggled, and is in a location that guests, etc. are unlikely to visit.  I don't have any more Insteon SwitchLinc On-Off switches of the old style, but I do have a couple of Insteon SwitchLinc dimmers available.  If the "On Level" is set to 100% and the "Ramp Rate" is set to 0.1 seconds, and the paddle is only used to turn the switch on and off (the same with programmatic control), should I expect anything undesirable?  Is anyone successfully using SwitchLinc dimmers with smart bulbs?

Admittedly, I should probably buy a new SwitchLinc On-Off switch and move on, but I may not want the LiFX bulb there forever.  I may swap it out for a conventional LED bulb, at which point, I'll want the dimmer.

Also, has anyone measured the "vampire current" used by these type of bulbs when they're logically off but physically on?

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For what its worth I have several locations where outside lights are controlled by Insteon dimmers. In December I replaced these bulbs with Lifx color units so I could do Holiday theme lighting and just set the switches to 100% and 0.1 seconds for ramp rate. I carefully went through all of the scenes that control these switches to make sure those settings were replicated for every way the switches could be turned on. I have seen no negative impact to the Lifx bulbs and don't really expect to but my case is just one data point. I don't know if anyone else has had issues doing this.

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1 hour ago, lilyoyo1 said:

If you are on 5.0.16 you can use the lifx nodeserver in order to bring insteon and lifx together.

That's exactly what I've been doing, and it's a great solution for my needs.

1 hour ago, upstatemike said:

In December I replaced these bulbs with Lifx color units so I could do Holiday theme lighting and just set the switches to 100% and 0.1 seconds for ramp rate.

I'm hoping to do that this year as well, but I don't want to swap that dimmer out, either (it's in a 3-gang switch box, and I hate getting into those).  Thanks.  Do you leave the LiFX bulbs in all year?  If so, how do they hold up?  I probably would switch them out in January, as my HOA won't go for colored external lights outside of the holidays.

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4 hours ago, Bumbershoot said:

Also, has anyone measured the "vampire current" used by these type of bulbs when they're logically off but physically on?

I guess I can answer my own question:

Wattage on Standby 	<0.5W

I guess I don't need to be overly concerned.

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11 minutes ago, Bumbershoot said:

That's exactly what I've been doing, and it's a great solution for my needs.

I'm hoping to do that this year as well, but I don't want to swap that dimmer out, either (it's in a 3-gang switch box, and I hate getting into those).  Thanks.  Do you leave the LiFX bulbs in all year?  If so, how do they hold up?  I probably would switch them out in January, as my HOA won't go for colored external lights outside of the holidays.

Yes I leave them on all year. I use other colors for Valentines Day, Independence Day, St. Patrick's Day, and Halloween. The rest of the time they run white (or sometimes yellow in the summer to keep the bugs down). I set them manually at the run up to each Holiday and then manually back to white after the Holiday passes. The automatic schedule just turns them on and off at the appropriate time and they remember the color they were last set to. Temps have ranged from -20F to +98F and the bulbs have performed fine all year.

After I get Polisys I may disable the ISY schedule and leave the switches on all the time instead using the Lifx Node to control on and off as well as color using just Lifx commands.  I will also use the Node to set the color scheme based on calendar instead of manually setting for each holiday. I also plan to set up some scenes that I can trigger using buttons on an Insteon Keypad. Finally I plan to set a panic button on my Elk security keypads to turn on the exterior lights and have the Lifx bulbs in 3 of my lamp posts flash between red and white as marker to guide emergency services to my house.

Of course I am assuming Polisys will actually be able to do all this.

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29 minutes ago, Bumbershoot said:

That's exactly what I've been doing, and it's a great solution for my needs.

I'm hoping to do that this year as well, but I don't want to swap that dimmer out, either (it's in a 3-gang switch box, and I hate getting into those).  Thanks.  Do you leave the LiFX bulbs in all year?  If so, how do they hold up?  I probably would switch them out in January, as my HOA won't go for colored external lights outside of the holidays.

You don't have to swap out the dimmer. Just connect the load wire to the line and cap off the red wire.

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3 minutes ago, upstatemike said:

Of course I am assuming Polisys will actually be able to do all this.

I'm using the LiFX nodeserver on my Polisy right now.  The only requirement is that the lifxlan module gets installed, but that's a cinch if it isn't automatically installed upon the general release of Polisy.  The performance of my existing LiFX bulbs is very good.  At less than .5 watts in standby, there's not much of a penalty for leaving them on.

I very much appreciate hearing about your experience with using these bulbs in conjunction with a dimmer, as well as with the outdoor bulbs.  Thanks again.

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25 minutes ago, upstatemike said:

Another thought just occurred to me. We get some pretty nasty power glitches at my house. Maybe letting the switch disconnect power from the Lifx bulbs during the day is cheap insurance to avoid having to replace a bunch of expensive bulbs that fail prematurely due to bad power events?

That won't stop anything from happening. If anything, it'll cause more harm than good

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Not necessarily.

The more harm than good is having to remember to turn switches on/off, varying schedules, accidental presses all make for a suboptimal installation. Sure you can program for some of this but what happens if your schedule changes? Automation should be seen not heard (so to speak). The more you have to go out of your way the less thrilling the experience

If our events are that big of a concern, I would recommend using a whole house surge protector. Solving the problem will go further than a band side solution.

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33 minutes ago, lilyoyo1 said:

I would recommend using a whole house surge protector.

Fortunately, I have one of these.  A nearby neighbor lost a bunch of fancy doodads in a storm, but nothing bad happened here.

33 minutes ago, lilyoyo1 said:

The more harm than good is having to remember to turn switches on/off, varying schedules, accidental presses all make for a suboptimal installation.

Okay, I get the point.  The accidental presses could cause issues.  The Mrs. and myself are accustomed to seldomly touching the switches in question, but that doesn't account for others.  I still like to have a physical means of control, if it's available, though I have several devices for which that's not practical (cameras, outdoor on/off modules, micro devices, etc.).  I admit, logical control is often preferable -- we almost never touch inconveniently placed SwitchLincs, and only occasionally touch the convenient ones.  If I could find good motion sensors that didn't look like barnacles, I'd have them all over the house and never touch a switch again.

 

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I have  whole house surge protector but it is useless for the sort of 4 or 5 second voltage drops where it looks like something just loaded down the electric lines (probably tree branches shorting the system and shunting a bunch of power to ground someplace). 

I like the design of the Inovelli Z-Wave switches that can be configured for either physical or logical control without rewiring. Wish Insteon would adopt that design.

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I ran some MagicHouse lamps off an SwitchLinc dimmer for some time and later changed over to Bumbershoots method, bypassing the SwitchLinc and capping the red wire.

One disadvantage is when the WiFi bulbs are powered up they can take a random length of time to reconnect to the router, get their assigned IP address and be available to control from ISY.  This may require some Waits in your programming that may make your lighting starts look badly. Keeping them powered up should not only keep them connected and ready via WiFi, but keep the electronics dry outside.

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Surge protectors do NOT protect against surges by definition. They are spike protectors, protecting against high voltage spikes, (usually more than 250vdc or  180vac) only.  Only very complex (usually UPS)  circuitry can protect against surges and voltage dips. A high voltage surge of say 150vac for 10 seconds would not even trigger these "surge suppressors"

Some where along the line the term became popular and the manufacturers have adopted the misuse of the term.

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12 minutes ago, larryllix said:

I ran some MagicHouse lamps off an SwitchLinc dimmer for some time and later changed over to Bumbershoots method, bypassing the SwitchLinc and capping the red wire.

One disadvantage is when the WiFi bulbs are powered up they can take a random length of time to reconnect to the router, get their assigned IP address and be available to control from ISY.  This may require some Waits in your programming that may make your lighting starts look badly. Keeping them powered up should not only keep them connected and ready via WiFi, but keep the electronics dry outside.

Another thought: If I have my bulbs on switches I can stagger the turn-on times so as not to overload the DHCP server in my router. If they are powered all the time then every power glitch during the day will cause them all to reboot at once and some of them might fail to get a response from DHCP. I have 21 bulbs in my outside setup and they do have reserved addresses but they still have to go through the DHCP transaction when they restart.

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3 hours ago, upstatemike said:

Another thought: If I have my bulbs on switches I can stagger the turn-on times so as not to overload the DHCP server in my router. If they are powered all the time then every power glitch during the day will cause them all to reboot at once and some of them might fail to get a response from DHCP. I have 21 bulbs in my outside setup and they do have reserved addresses but they still have to go through the DHCP transaction when they restart.

Http keeps trying

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4 hours ago, upstatemike said:

Another thought: If I have my bulbs on switches I can stagger the turn-on times so as not to overload the DHCP server in my router. If they are powered all the time then every power glitch during the day will cause them all to reboot at once and some of them might fail to get a response from DHCP. I have 21 bulbs in my outside setup and they do have reserved addresses but they still have to go through the DHCP transaction when they restart.

Turning them off can cause some problems with the LiFX nodeserver.  If they're off upon nodeserver startup, then they won't be discovered. 

There are two possible mitigations to that: the LiFX nodeserver does provide for a text device list, making no discovery necessary using your reserved addresses (I'm currently not using a device list so I can't test that theory).  Also, the LiFX Controller node does have a "Re-Discover Bulbs" function, so if you programmatically turn on the switch, you should be able to programmatically re-discover the bulbs after a period of time without having to restart the nodeserver.  Also, another untested theory.  So, in theory, your idea might actually work fine with the nodeserver.  I haven't fussed around with it enough to find out.

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4 hours ago, larryllix said:

Keeping them powered up should not only keep them connected and ready via WiFi, but keep the electronics dry outside.

I've got really stable power here, along with whole-home surge protection so I'm thinking about wiring them so they're always powered on.  I'm not completely sold on the idea of having no way to turn the current off except at the circuit panel, however.  Is that being over-cautious?

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5 hours ago, Bumbershoot said:

I've got really stable power here, along with whole-home surge protection so I'm thinking about wiring them so they're always powered on.  I'm not completely sold on the idea of having no way to turn the current off except at the circuit panel, however.  Is that being over-cautious?

NO, and I think that is the law. People shouldn't be out in the wet on a metal ladder changing a live lampbulb. Some will argue that the breaker can be used but I think convenient comes into out code rules also.

IIRC, I wired mine into a hard switch next to the SwitchLinc that controls the ISY logic. In both cases the switch was barely doing anything else.

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3 hours ago, larryllix said:

NO, and I think that is the law. People shouldn't be out in the wet on a metal ladder changing a live lampbulb. Some will argue that the breaker can be used but I think convenient comes into out code rules also.

IIRC, I wired mine into a hard switch next to the SwitchLinc that controls the ISY logic. In both cases the switch was barely doing anything else.

One could also argue against being out on a ladder when it's wet in general. 

In the end, it comes down to comfort and convenience. I'd prefer mine to have constant power so that I am able to have more options

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12 hours ago, larryllix said:

Http keeps trying

I'm not sure that is true for Lifx bulbs. I know my Amazon Echos will keep trying and eventually get an address but I have had bulbs show as offline in the Lifx app when they have been powered on for hours. The only way to get them back is to power cycle them at the switch so they can have another try at DHCP. This has me leaning towards keeping a switch wired to the bulbs but always left on so I have the option to power cycle them if I need to. I might just add voice alerts to tell me if somebody turns them off by mistake but I don't think anyone is likely to mess with them.

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I'm not sure that is true for Lifx bulbs. I know my Amazon Echos will keep trying and eventually get an address but I have had bulbs show as offline in the Lifx app when they have been powered on for hours. The only way to get them back is to power cycle them at the switch so they can have another try at DHCP. This has me leaning towards keeping a switch wired to the bulbs but always left on so I have the option to power cycle them if I need to. I might just add voice alerts to tell me if somebody turns them off by mistake but I don't think anyone is likely to mess with them.
Maybe they are not http protocol. OTOH I have has http devices that just give up too easily.

I have 25 RGBWW bulbs that have never had to be power cycled yet. Of course I bought the quality units at about $8 each.:)

Sent using Tapatalk

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