5-way Smart Light Setup using Smart Switches and SmartThings

Overview

In this post, I will walk through how to setup Smart Home lights in a 5-way configuration. I had searched several forums when I was doing this setup. I did find information on 3-way configuration. However, I could not find precise information for a 5-way setup. Hopefully, this information is useful to others.

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Equipment and Budget

Assumptions

Equipment

Note: The prices shown are based on data at the time of writing this article. Taxes and shipping are not included in these and actual cost may vary.

ItemUnit PriceQtyTotal
GE Smart Dimmer$44.501$44.50
GE Add-On Switch$19.993$59.97
Total$104.47

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The information in this tutorial is also applicable to the GE Smart Switch (the on/off variant). Apart from the above Smart Home components, I needed the following additional equipment.

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Project: 5-way Smart Switch Setup
Template: Smart Home – Smart Hub – Switch Setup

Item TypeItemKeywordsQuantity
Recommendedz-wave dimmerGE Z-wave smart dimmer1
Optionalz-wave add on switchGE Z-Wave smart add-on switch3

Before you begin

  • Ensure you have turned off the power to the switch box(es) you will be working on.
  • Check for any additional equipment needed, such as, additional electrical wire, wall plates, etc.
  • I recommend taking pictures of your original switch wiring for reference.

Tip: It is a good idea to label wires (especially, if you will have 2 wires of the same color). I used a white electrical tape with a red marker to label existing wires.

Main Smart Switch/Dimmer Setup

  • Connect the ground wire (copper/brown color) to the switch.
  • Connect the line wire to the switch. In my case, the black wire.
  • Connect the load/light wire to the switch. In my case, the white wire with red label.
  • Connect the traveler wire to the switch. In my case, the red wire.
  • The switch requires a neutral connection and ships with a white wire that can be pigtailed from the existing neutral wire(s) in the box.

As a general practice pull the wires gently that you have connected to the switch and any other wiring you installed as part of this to ensure no loose connections.

Although it is tempting to go back to the panel and turn on power to the switch box to test it out, my experience was that the 5-way configuration did not start working till I had wired all the smart switches that are part of the 5-way configuration. Yes, I know it sounds like a long wait! But, it was worth.

Before we start looking into the add-on switches setup, it is important to understand that there are 2 types of add-on switches as the wiring is bit different for these two types of switches. Note that I am using the terms ‘Intermediate’ and ‘Terminating’ for the sake of classification and this may not be an authentic terminology in the electrical nomenclature.

  • Intermediate Add-on Switches: These are in the path of the 5-way circuit and have typically 2 traveler (red wires).
  • Terminating Add-on Switch: This is the last switch in the circuit. There are actually 2 terminating switches on the 2 ends of the circuit – one being the Smart Switch/Dimmer.

Intermediate Add-on Switches Setup

  • Connect the ground wire (copper/brown color) to the switch.
  • Cap the line (black) and load/light (white) wires using a wiring nut.
  • This is the tricky part (or was for me at least). You need to pigtail the 2 traveler wires and add another strip of traveler wire (red) that is connected to the switch’s traveler point.
  • The add-on switch requires a neutral as wire and just like for the main smart switch/dimmer, connect a neutral to it. The add-on switch also ships with a white wire that can be used for this.

Repeat above steps for the second add-on switch.

As a general practice pull the wires gently that you have connected to the switch and any other wiring you installed as part of this to ensure no loose connections.

Again, hold on your urge to turn on the power to the switches. You are on the last lap now.

 

Terminating Add-on Switch Setup

This was the easy part.

  • Connect the ground wire (copper/brown color) to the switch.
  • Cap the line (black) and load/light (white) wires using a wiring nut.
  • The add-on switch requires a neutral as wire and just like for the main smart switch/dimmer, connect a neutral to it. The add-on switch also ships with a white wire that can be used for this.

As a general practice pull the wires gently that you have connected to the switch and any other wiring you installed as part of this to ensure no loose connections.

Now you are good to go and turn on the power to the switches and see the blue LED turn on on the main smart switch/dimmer.

Adding the Smart Switch/Dimmer to SmartThings

This was a breeze.

  • Use SmartThings app to start looking for a new device.
  • Go to the switch and simply press it up or down once. Note that it is a push button style switch so the paddle will come back to original position after the push.
  • Give an appropriate name and select the target room. On a related note, I wish SmartThings had a concept of an area as not every place in the context of a home is a room, such as, a porch, a yard, etc.

Tip: In general, I prefer to give names to the devices based on their purpose instead of the device type. For example, I named the above smart switch as ‘Living Room Light’ although technically it is a ‘Living Room Switch’. IMHO, this makes it more intuitive when you configure additional SmartApps to use the device and when you receive notifications.

Problems and Solutions

When you do a project like this (especially, for the first time), expect some challenges. If you do not run into any, well move on to the next project then 🙂

Here are some things I ran into.

The blue LED on the smart switch/dimmer is not turning on. I have double checked the wiring is correct.

Ensure the following are correct

  • The line and load wires are not reversed. In my pictures, these are black and white colored, respectively.
  • Ensure you have connected the neutral wire.
  • Ensure there are no loose wires.
  • Lastly, for a 3-way or higher make sure the add-on switches have been also connected. Remember, no shortcuts.

These GE switches are too big for my gang box.

It is true. These switches are huge and if you are running into the challenge where you are not able to fit these along side other switches, there is a simple tip. Use a plier (like the long nose plier above) to juggle off the the 3 small plates on each side. You just need to move these up and down and these come off easily. However, take care to not damage the switch or cause an injury.

Can these be used as regular switches or do I need to have a smart hub?

You can absolutely use these as regular swtiches without any hub. Of course, using these with a smart hub like SmartThings Hub opens the world of possibilities. However, these can always be used as regular switches and you could add the hub later on, if needed.

In the end it is a satisfying experience seeing this configuration work. But, it does take some heart to set it up especially, if you are new to this. And, I hope this guide will give you some pointers and prepare you better.

Happy smartening!
– Nitin

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2 thoughts on “5-way Smart Light Setup using Smart Switches and SmartThings”

  1. Would you happen to have a wiring diagram for this solution? I am looking to do the same in my new kitchen which is being renovated right now! Thanks!

    1. I don’t have the internal wiring diagram. However, I’ve labeled out some wires in the pictures that should help you understand. Essentially, you’ll do the wiring for multi-way as you would normally and the solution I provided here would enable you to use the smart devices on top of it.

      HTH

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