Auxiliary Switch | Project Golden Rule

TLDR: Here’s the PRD (Project Request Document) that we used to kick this off – this will give you the highlights and has pretty pictures.

Project Golden Rule - PRD.pdf (715.0 KB)

NOTE: This is a PDF version, the PPT version is live and edited so the PRD may change and thus so will the project. However, I may not update the PDF as it shouldn’t change too much. In other words, this is a disclaimer stating that what you see in the initial PDF may not be what’s final.


Project Team
Feel free to tag any of us with questions. Courtney & Darwyn are the go-to’s for overall project management and timeline questions, Eric M is the go-to for any firmware related questions and I’m (Eric H) the go-to for anything else. Either way, we’re all here to help!


Introduction
As per our tradition of working with you amazing people, here’s what this thread allows us to do as a community.

  1. Allows us to keep everyone updated on the project status (either good or bad)
  2. Allows you to participate and help us develop amazing products together
  3. Enjoy each other’s company and have fun talking home automation

How this initial post will be laid out is in five sections:

  1. Project Overview
  2. Initial Hardware & Software Requirements (edited to remain up-to-date)
  3. Timeline (edited to remain up-to-date)
  4. Pinned Ideas & Shout-outs (edited to remain up-to-date)
  5. Weekly Recap

Housekeeping

  • DATES & FUNCTIONS ARE NOT SET IN STONE: Just a reminder that all dates and functions are sometimes fluid. We have to make choices based on feasibility, opportunity costs, and overall timeline. I will be as transparent as possible on these decisions, but just a heads up, they may not always be exciting.
  • NO IDEA IS A BAD IDEA: Ok, some are, but honestly throw out anything that you can think of. If we use your idea, we’ll credit you and send you a free device, so take that shot!
  • VERSION 1 VS VERSION 2: Some ideas may be fantastic, but may not make the cut for the first version of the product. Once the product is locked in from a function standpoint, we’ll keep a tally of V2 ideas and then once the product is produced, we’ll move the ideas over to a suggestions/wishlist section.

Ok, let’s get this party started!


Project Overview
The purpose of this project is to give people an auxiliary switch that matches their main, smart switch. Currently, customers have to purchase GE, Honeywell, or HomeSeer aux switches if they want dimming at both ends of their multi-way setup.

In addition, we need a switch that spans across our Z-Wave and ZigBee options from a unification standpoint. Not only that, but one that looks like either an On/Off or Dimmer. Quite the challenge!

Project Name - Golden Rule

Everyone knows the, “Golden Rule”, which is to treat others the way you’d like to be treated. The same concept applies here in that whatever you do at the auxiliary switch is how the smart switch will act. In addition, there’s a funny SNL skit (NSFW) about the Golden Rule and 3-Way’s (wiring of course), so we thought we’d play a little double entendre.


Golden Rule - Hardware Requirements
We will be using our current dimmer switch hardware with a few modifications to allow for you to also present this as an On/Off switch.

Hardware

Hardware - Dimmer Switch (Look / Feel)

  • Responsive Paddle: rests in a neutral state (tap up = on // tap down = off & hold up = dim up // hold down = dim down)
  • Config / Favorite Button: button should be used for configuration of the switch as well as scene control.
    • Should be able to be held (for config)
    • Should be able to be tapped (for scene control)
  • RGB LED Bar: should measure the % of how much the switch is dimmed
    • LED’s should be RGB (artificial white included)
    • LED’s should also be able to be dimmed
  • Colors: dimmer switch will be offered in white (matching Lutron Claro wallplates), but the paddle should be able to be replaced to change colors (almond, brown, red, black, grey, etc)
  • Slim Design: depth of switch should be as slim as possible so that it can fit into metal boxes.
  • Air Gap: UL requirement
  • No heat-sink tabs: remove heat sink tabs for easier installation (note: may have to sacrifice max wattage)

Hardware - Features & Capabilities

The big issue here is that if we have the LED bar, it’s highly unlikely that this switch can be used in a non-neutral setting as it needs to have power to power the LED bar as well as the IC chip inside of it.

I don’t think there is anyway around this. More to come as we enter into the R&D phase, but this is what we were initially told.


Golden Rule - Software Requirements
Keep in mind this is NOT A SMART SWITCH but rather a momentary style switch that relays onto the smart switch via the traveler wires.

However, there does have to be some, “smarts” in it to change LED bar colors, config itself to work as an On/Off or Dimmer, and potentially to send scene commands (not actual Z-Wave/ZigBee commands, but possibly an interruption in power signals to the smart switch).

LED Bars in Dimmer setting should sync to the Smart Switch (thanks @jtronicus!)


Timeline
Ah, everyone’s favorite part. When is this flippin thing going to be released? Great question – here’s the high-level of what happens leading up to the first release of the timeline:

  1. We present a PRD (Project Request Document) that has all of the above info in it (see above section for the pdf)
  2. R&D (manufacturer) analyzes the PRD and we go back and forth until we can align on 90% of the product
  3. Initial Timeline is released and remaining 10% of product features are added/cut along the way

Again, just want to throw this out there – I don’t have a crystal ball so I can’t predict things that come up along the way. Trust me when I say we’re trying our best to get things launched on time.

In addition, we are using a separate manufacturer for this project so there may be a learning curve. Nothing wrong with our current manufacturer, just this new one is more specialized in ZigBee.

Pre-Initial Timeline Milestones:

  • Present PRD: Not Started (est. presentation Mar. 25, 2021)
  • R&D Analyzation: Not Started
  • Initial Timeline Released: Not Started

Timeline (Estimated)

The initial timeline will be shown below and will be updated bi-weekly (if needed). We’ll update once this project officially launches.


Weekly Recap
Every Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, we have a meeting with our manufacturer to go over the various projects (status, issues, timeline, etc) and below I’ll provide a recap as well as edit the sections above so we can all keep track. If you have any specific questions you’d like me to ask, feel free to tag me and let me know so I can ask them as well. The weekly cadence for updates will be Thursday mornings (or afternoons depending on when we have the meeting).

March 25, 2021: Had a great meeting with the manufacturer today and they’ll be receiving samples of GE/HomeSeer aux switches for review. More to come in a couple weeks when they arrive for them to analyze. In addition, I’m going to introduce Darwin, who is our PM who can answer any questions as well. I just need to give him a heads up and create the account. But it will be great to have him in here answering as many questions as he can and have him experience our awesome community!

April 08, 2021: Spoke to the manufacturer today about this project and they have given us a preliminary release date of September 2021 (theirs was July, but we’re adding a couple months for comfort). These should be released alongside our new ZigBee switches. I will be sending them samples to analyze.

12 Likes

Can’t wait.

3 Likes

A couple of initial questions/comments.

The goal here is to match your current on/off and dimmer switches. That said, to do this, we likely can’t have this switch work in non-neutral settings due to the LED bar and IC chip that will have to be put inside the aux switch as they need to be powered. We’re still exploring this, but early signs point to this not being possible.

We don’t have quantitative data that shows how many people use our switches in non-neutral settings vs neutral settings, but if I had to take an educated guess, it would probably be 1 per every 20, probably more.

Question: Do you all think it’s fine if you’re in a non-neutral setting to continue to use an aux switch by GE/HomeSeer, etc and not have it completely match (the paddle design is obviously the same now, but there is no LED bar/config button)?

Our POV internally is that the pros outweigh the cons in that for the other 19 people, they will now have a matching aux switch for a fraction of the cost of purchasing another Inovelli smart switch.

I think it may look silly if either the LED bar on the aux switch didn’t light up (in non-neutral settings) and the other option would be to cover the LED bar up, but then the switch would just have a useless config button and at that point, it would look pretty much like the GE/HomSeer options out there.

Thoughts?

1 Like

In most of my 3 ways I have a neutral with the primary switch. When you connect an AUX you only use 2 of the 3 conductors going between the primary and AUX. I could easily use the 3rd conductor to provide a neutral for the aux switch. @Bry @harjms does that make sense?

Do you have an estimated price point? I imagine less than the current switches since they won’t have zwave chips.

Yes, but it’s my understanding that the aux switch uses the line and traveler wires to detect changes in current/voltage which is then detected by the smart switch.

Non-Neutral Setup:

What I don’t understand (I’m far from an engineer) is how the same theory wouldn’t apply to how our normal non-neutral switches work in that power seeps through at the main switch to power the smart switch.

I’d imagine that power is still seeping through at the aux switch, but who knows, maybe since the traveler wire is being used and not simply line/load, that throws something off.

No price-point yet. We likely won’t know that until the manufacturer and us go back and forth a bit. I can tell you that I’d like the switch to not cost more than $25 TOPS, but I’m not sure with the tariffs. With GE being around $20, it makes me nervous bc we have more parts (LED bar, IC chip) than them, but I’ve also thought for the longest time that they’re making a killing off of their aux switches, so who knows.

None whatsoever.

You can see from the diagram that in a non-neutral config at the switch a neutral isn’t required at the Aux and there isn’t one in the primary box anyway. In a neutral config, a neutral is required at the Aux, so why would you run a hot over there? I have no idea what would happen, but since it’s pretty obvious that there is a “spare” conductor, I would imagine that whoever devised this circuit would have used that conductor if it was needed. Either way, you only need a hot or a neutral depending on the primary configuration.

I was referring to the case where the AUX box doesn’t have a neutral but the dimmer or switch box has a neutral.

Lol :backsawayslowly:

Oh – above my pay-grade lol.

In that case, the Aux box does have a neutral. You’re sending it from the primary box to the Aux via the white wire, as in the diagram.

Yea, I realized that after. I got a little over excited for the new project and confused it with the non-neutral configuration where you send the hot over.

1 Like

happens to the best of us lol!

1 Like

Will the aux switch be able to receive status information back from the main switch (to keep dimmer levels/statuses in sync)?

Great catch – I didn’t have that in the PRD. But yes, that should be a requirement for sure!

1 Like

So happy to hear this Eric. I recently switched to GE because of the much lower cost aux option and felt a real traitor, but the price increases in Canada have made Inovelli unaffordable for me. Admittedly I’m probably at the lower cost end of the market, but want local control.

My thoughts: in any box there must be at least two wires, and if necessary these can be rewired to provide hot/neutral and used with a LZW30-SN / LZW31-SN in association mode.

If someone is replacing a 3-way switch, they will have at least 3 wires, which can be rewired to hot/neutral/traveller for this new AUX switch to communicate.

Maybe I’m just confused why anyone would buy an AUX switch in the first place? Is it that much cheaper than just buying an extra Inovelli and using associations? Or leaving the dumb switch in place.

My $.02 worth: I don’t want to setup associations to make dimming work. If I sell the house and take my hub, Inovellis in 3,4,5 or 6 ways would not work. Aux switch can be configured from the switch itself.

Aux switch mimics paddle feel. Allows dimming vs on/off that a dumb switch only can provide.

It was worth the money to me and sanity of the household.

In a non-neutral power to the light, you have a switch loop as you’ve described. But you can’t repurpose the 2nd conductor to send the neutral from the light to the switch because then you don’t have a switched lead back to the light.

My guess is that its a middle ground: cheaper than buying an extra dimmer and using associations (you dont need the mossfets or a zwave/zigbee chip), and there are more features than a dumb switch (such as dimming).

It might also be possible to use the Aux switch with the red series, black series or blue series (one model compatible with all switches)

Yes, that sounds right, for a single pole switch. But I was thinking that in a 3-way situation the primary device can control the load. I guess you’ve dealt with more potential scenarios than I have.

I’ll count myself fortunate that I have neutrals in all boxes, and only 3 x 3-way setups in my home.