First off, welcome to Life on Silicon, a blog and wiki site about SmartHome technology. On this site you will (eventually) find information about SmartHome tech in general, updates when new products are released and announced (especially products that are compatible with Apple’s HomeKit technology), reviews of SmartHome products and more.
I am also working on building out a wiki on the site that will contain information about SmartHome products outlined by category in a massive Product Guide for SmartHome tech. Eventually it may also incorporate other related content, such as lists of other SmartHome blogs and podcasts, how-to guides and more. For now the goal is to focus on the products though and get those covered thoroughly.
With that out of the way, I wanted to talk about the situation with dimmer switches that are HomeKit compatible. My setup (which I’ll detail more in future posts) leverages both Wink via a Wink hub and HomeKit with 4th generation AppleTV, but I’m fairly committed to the Apple ecosystem and would prefer to run everything primarily through HomeKit.
I do have a handful of products that don’t work with HomeKit, like my Canary, the netatmo weather station and indoor monitor, a Quirky Eggminder (I know they sound ridiculous, but they’re really cheap on Amazon right now, I would’ve agreed that they are silly for $50, but for $12 it’s a different story) and a few others. But the one thing that works with my Wink hub but not my HomeKit hub that is really annoying when it comes to controlling the system are my Leviton Dimmers.
To be clear, I’m not saying that Leviton dimmers need to be compatible with HomeKit, but we need more options for dimmers that are. As far as I’m aware the only option out there right now would be to get a Lutron/Caséta Wireless Hub and a Lutron Plug-in Dimmer switch, which is a combined retail cost of over $200 for one dimmer switch (you can get both devices for a combined $140 on Amazon.com, or $215 for a kit that includes two plug-in dimmers, but the MSRP is significantly higher than that). When you consider that a Lutron hub in most setups won’t really offer any other additional functionality (unless you plan on using Lutron shades as well, but I think there are other better window covering options out there), that is a bit more than a reasonable cost to put a dimmer switch on one light.
I should explain my setup in general a bit more too. All of the lights in my house are Phillips Hue except for one halogen reading lamp in my living room. The Hue lights and bulbs have built in dimmers, but I need a way to control the brightness on my reading lamp without resorting to the lame two-level switch built into the cord. The lamp itself is plugged into an iHome SmartPlug switch, which allows me to turn it on and off with HomeKit apps, but the dimmer switch that is plugged into the iHome switch can only be controlled via Wink.
I have some Wink Robots written that change the level of the lamp when it is turned on based on the time of day, which gets around having to actually go into Wink and control the dimmer in most cases, but it is still the only frequently accessed item in my setup that I need the Wink app to manipulate.
Incipio plans to release both a light bulb socket adaptor and a smart outlet adaptor, under the name CommandKit, and it does look like the bulb socket adaptor will support dimming. Of course the lamp that I want to dim doesn’t use a standard bulb socket (if it did I would have just put a Hue bulb in it and called it a day already). From what I can tell on their website, however, the outlet adaptor won’t support dimming.
iDevices has a product slated for release in Q2 2016 that will support dimming and HomeKit, but it is a wall switch replacement. I would be all for that if any of the outlets in the area the lamp in question lives, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. I would seriously consider wiring in a new switch/outlet pair if I didn’t have a solution like the Wink in place already, but I do so I’m not about to go to that length.
For now I’m going to focus on getting Homebridge running in a stable environment so I can use that to bridge the Wink hub (and devices that are associated only with Wink) into the HomeKit setup.
But if someone could manufacture a stand-alone HomeKit compatible, plug-in dimmer switch, I would be first in line to buy it – at a reasonable price, like say $50-$60 (but not $200). Maybe some of the companies already making plug-in switches that are HomeKit compatible? iHome? iDevices (you’re so close…)? ConnectSense?