I installed a sunrise/sunset smart switch to control my outside lights

Originally published at: I installed a sunrise/sunset smart switch to control my outside lights | Boing Boing


Mark, IMO this is just silly. A photocell controlled light elegantly adjusts for seasons AND weather, and is 1000x simpler. Instead you have a WiFi interface, onboard computer, and need a smartphone. What could possibly go wrong? The switch will likely end up in a landfill five years on.


Or you could just leave your outdoor lights off at night and not contribute to light pollution. :man_shrugging:


Not everyone lives in a lawful good paradise. Illumination discourages late night thievery here in chaotic neutralsville.


Alexa routines (probably apple and google things too but i don’t have them) can be triggered by sunrise and sunset. So all you need is another smart plug. I’ve got a small string of christmas lights in my kitchen that turn on at sunset every day to remind me to finish up whatever outside things still need finishing before it gets dark

(make sure you have a neutral wire, not just a ground wire, or it won’t work)

There’s wiring codes out there that allow for no neutral wire? Every day I’m newly flummoxed

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older houses…
Mine doesn’t have a neutral, build in the early 50’s. Codes are not retroactive, unless you do certain modifications/upgrades, they are not required to be brought up to date. When I did constructions I saw knob and tube all the time. It was fine, as long as the wiring was never touched…

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[Edit - I have the TreatLife touch slide dimmer - these all begin to look alike]

I have a few of these, along with the dimmers. Even when not used as a Smart device, the dimmer unit is really good. It is cheaper than a Luton/Brand-name, and of all I’ve looked at, has the best tactile interface.

Also the dimmer is 2-way control only - a Feit dimmer solves that but with less desirable dimmer buttons,

A con of all these Decora Smart devices, the paddle isn’t actually a paddle. It is fixed in the ON position and the bottom is just a microswitch. I like the feel of a paddle moving into position, it is reassuring to the hand. But I get the technical reasons for it.

Have not looked too deep into ways to program these aside from a HomeSense app I keep on my burner phone. I suppose there’s a way to keep all the devices off the internet.

Does it, though?

It might on individual homes? But there can sometimes be unintended consequences of increasing nighttime lighting, including giving thieves a better chance to case cars for goods to steal from them.

A quick, highly unscientific Google of the subject seems to come up with rather varied conclusions from different interest groups and organizations.

I’m going to err on the side of light is a good thing, especially since it helps the video cameras capture better images, but for all the convenience of being able to set the sunrise sunset time is by a Wi-Fi, I really don’t want to buy another internet of things/crap device that will never get security updates and may eventually turn into a botnet. But the hand programmable sunrise sunset timers, are a nightmare to program. A relative of mine has one. So I need to find a photocell solution, the problem being you have to find a way to avoid a feedback loop, because when you turn the light on if it hits the photo cell it risks turning the light back off thinking that there is daylight again.

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This all seems like so much more work than installing some spots on a motion detector sensor.

How am I supposed to virtue signal to my neighborhood that I have lights if they’re on a motion sensor and no one triggers them? :thinking:


On a more serious note, I am using fairly low wattage LED lamps, so it’s not like I’m using old incandescent flood lights or something. The other issue is that my video cameras motion sensor doesn’t work as well if the lights aren’t already on, in which case it then becomes dependent on the light’s motion sensor, which isn’t necessarily as good. And I’m not sure if my neighbors will really appreciate having the lights off if instead they get lights going on and off throughout the night because the bushes in the back are waving in the breeze. Don’t know. I don’t know that there’s a perfect solution.

Yes, it is possible to not have a neutral in the switch box.
Example - a circuit goes from the panel to a ceiling light - hot & neutral (& ground) - neutral goes to silver lug on lamp, the black hot line bypasses the lamp and travels along the ceiling and down the wall to the switch. 2nd connection (white wire) on switch is now a traveler that goes back up to the lamp’s hot lug. There is no neutral at the switch, likely just a ground. In this case the white wire between the lamp and switch needs to have black tape around the ends to indicate it is hot and not neutral.

The circuit goes panel-lamp-switch-lamp , instead of the preferred panel-switch-lamp.

My old house was done this way when the knob & tube got taken out. Circuit went up to the attic then split off to all the ceiling fixtures. Then fixtures to switches. Wasn’t crazy about the wiring but it worked and didn’t burn down. I had a few old-school dimmers that worked with the wiring but not LED bulbs.


Mine work on ambient light. Motion detectors where appropriate. I trust the old and simple ways, and where I am — you want lights, cameras and a loud dog as your minimal preventatives.


What would I do with my evenings if I couldn’t yell at the kids to turn on the porch light?

How else would late-night porch pirates be deterred? Avast!

Would it work with a drawbridge?
Asking for a king.

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Personally, I’d look for a central home automation solution, something like Home Assistant or OpenHAB. The thought of ever growing numbers of disparate systems, each with their own hubs, apps and links to the corporate data warehouse just bugs me.

Regarding the light pollution question, you can keep the lights and reduce the pollution with good fixtures and bulbs/leds that don’t emit on the blue end of the spectrum.

And of course it’s totally dead if your network connection drops.

Or, as the original Nest purchasers and the hordes sucked in by Microsoft’s “PlaysForSure” found out the hard way, if the vendor decides to end your server access. Maybe there just aren’t enough new users for your “old” hardware any more, or maybe that was part of the plan from the beginning.

I have an old dumb switch that is set with the lat/long and date time and it calculates the on time for the day.