Using smart switches and smart bulbs together, with Home Assistant and Node-RED.

I have 6 Hue A19 Color bulbs in the ceiling of my kitchen. We were using them with standard dummy switches, which was a pain as I had to constantly remind people to leave the switches on. Not to mention that it is bad for smart bulbs to be constantly powered on and off. I was about to pull out the smart bulbs and install standard LED lights and go with smart switches, but I really did not want to do this, as the individual bulbs are used for certain automations. For example, a nightlight where bulbs 1 and 3 are motion controlled to come on at 5% if everything else is turned off, and it’s dark outside.

How to get around this to keep my smart bulbs AND keep them powered at all times? At first, I tried using a Sylvania Dimming switch and control the lights with a scene. This switch is placed over the existing dummy switch, which you leave flipped on. Since this was a 3-way setup, I put a switch cover over the second switch (you could also get a second Sylvania switch). This worked….I now had always powered and physically controllable smart bulbs, and although it was a practical solution, it was kind of ugly. The wife definitely didn’t like the look in her new home, so I was back to trying to figure this out.

All of the smart switches in my house are of the Go Control / Linear / Nu Tone variety. These are all made by the same manufacturer, but sold under different names. They are not Z-Wave Plus, but I got the first one years ago and have been matching them together ever since. I haven’t noticed any downfalls of them not being Z-Wave Plus, but they’ll eventually be upgraded. For a three way setup, there is the NuTone NWT00Z which are not standard add-on switches. These are “virtual 3-way” switches. The low ratings on Amazon are somewhat understandable as the documentation (PDF of the manual here and here) is cryptic at best, and does not say explicitly how to use these. I will say that we’ve had these installed for a few months now with zero issues.

The way these are intended to work, are as “remotes” to other switches. In my entryway, I have one installed in a 3-way setup with a NWD500Z dimmer switch. You wire it up and and it controls the master switch in a zwave group association, but we’re going to do something different with them.

I used two of these in my kitchen. The way to wire them and have the lights always on is an odd way. Take the load, line and traveler wires from the wall, as well as the load line from the first switch and connect them all together. The ground and neutral are wired up as normal. The second switch needs to be wired a little differently as well. Take the line and load wires from the wall, cap them together and stuff them into the wall. Take the traveler wire, which is now a constant 120v line, and connect it to the load line of the NWT00Z. Wire the ground and neutral up as normal.

Now what we have are two smart switches that are wired up and connected to the mains, but they do not control the power to the lights. The power is now constant to the smart bulbs. At this point, the lights will stay powered on, unless you control them from Lovelace or using voice if you have Google Home/Alexa setup, but theres no way to mechanically control them yet. The hard part is done and we now have to head over to Node-RED and start working on the automation to turn these on or off.

We can’t add the switches to a Zwave group association, as the Hue lights are zigbee. So we need to grab the zwave event type commands coming from the switch. To do this, use a “events: all” node and filter “zwave.node_event” commands. Example below.

“events: all” node

So now we’re grabbing all node_events from the “zwave.” domain, now we need to filter them. To do this, we need a switch node to filter the “payload.entity_id” from the specific switches we setup. You’ll need to use the name that you gave these switches when including them in your network. One thing to remember, you need to use the “zwave” domain name, NOT the “switch” domain name.

At this point, we’re filtering the two switches with “payload.entity_id”. Now we need to filter it down again to get the actual commands from the switches. With these switches, “0” is off and “255” is on. We need another switch node and filter “payload.event.basic_level“. This will grab all “.basic_level” events that come over the two switches. You’ll want to connect both output nodes from the previous switch node to the input on this switch node. This will filter all commands from both switches to this node. In this node, the top output will be “on” and the bottom output will be “off”.

We’re almost done at this point. Now we need to use a call service node to turn on, and off the lights. I forgot to mention earlier that the easiest way to control multiple lights, is with a light group. This will create a “group.kitchen_lights” entity in Home Assistant. You’ll need to do this in your config.yaml or groups.yaml in Home Assistant.

Now we take a call service node, and configure it to control the kitchen_lights group. We need one for on, and one for off. The “on” node will be connected to the top output, and the “off” node will be connected to the bottom output.

Call service node to turn on the kitchen_light group.
Call service node to turn off the kitchen_light group.

Here is how the entire flow looks:

With this setup, we have Hue smart bulbs that are always powered and can be manually controlled by a switch. This allows individual bulbs to be used in automations and you don’t have to worry about the switches, like in me previous example of using lights 1 and 3 for a nightlight.

One more thing to keep in mind; When smart bulbs lose power, they will come on at full brightness when power is restored. The Hue bridge however has a setting for “power on behavior” where you can tell the bulbs what to do when power is restored.

Here is the formatted code if you’d like to import it and work off of it.

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