Controlling one light switch with another?
June 21, 2017 5:11 PM   Subscribe

I have a light switch, which works fine. It is in an inconvenient location, so I would like to control it via another switch located elsewhere -- wirelessly. Thoughts?

I apologize for being stupid, but I can't seem to find this exact situation addressed elsewhere. I have an existing switch that is connected to an existing circuit, and which works just fine. Sadly, it is in an inconvenient location (behind the swing of a door).

I would like to find a way to control that switch with another switch, which would then be properly located relative to the door. So, flip the remote switch, and the existing switch would activate, without having to run wires through a fire wall.

Distance between switches is only 3ft. Again, I need to remotely control this entire existing wired circuit -- this is not a matter of getting a remotely-controlled outlet or the like, and having to use a cellphone to activate the circuit is probably illegal in this case (the existing circuit controls a variety of lighting, some of which is safety-related, so I believe the code officials won't let me require a cellphone based on their answers to related queries).

This seems like it should be doable, but I cannot seem to find the correct combination of terms -- all I'm finding are things like the Clapper, or RF-controlled lamp outlets, or WeMo-style smart home devices. I just need a remote switch that can cause an existing circuit to change state (I can replace the existing switch hardware with something smarter, I just can't run new wires).

If I can't find a way to activate this existing circuit from elsewhere (somewhere not blocked by the door itself when it is in the open state), I'll need to spend a couple grand on a new fire door and closer (so that the existing circuit can be controlled without having to walk around to the "back" side of the fire door when it's open), so any technical solution that's less than say $300 and doesn't involve getting a hammer-drill through the reinforced wall would be appreciated.
posted by aramaic to Technology (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is the current switch in a position to turn on/off by motion detector switch? Or does the door when open block the area needed for the motion detector to work.
There are surface mounted wiring available that might work.
posted by JayRwv at 5:20 PM on June 21, 2017

I don't know what kinds of bulbs you need, but could you control it via the bulb instead? IKEA has smart lighting where the bulb is controlled via a remote control that could probably be mounted on a wall for centralized access.
posted by scrute at 5:21 PM on June 21, 2017

Best answer: Assuming the switch controls lights, Lutron Caseta in wall dimmers and a pico remote will do exactly what you want. They make a wall plate thingie for the pico remote to make it look like a switch.

Link to Amazon
posted by AaRdVarK at 5:33 PM on June 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm assuming rehanging the door to swing in the opposite direction is out of the question.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:34 PM on June 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Running wires through a fire wall is done all the time, safely and to code. We also run A/C ducts and pipes through firewalls. A piece of ROMEX is not a big deal. There are specific UL designs for various penetrations that are tested safe. A commercial electrician should be able to cover this. HILTI has online resources to research their products usage in a particular situation.
Disclaimer, I have no financial interests in the Hilti Corp. I use their search tool I linked above to find appropriate firestop systems for buildings. There are other companies that make these products besides HILTI, but I find their search tool easy to use.
posted by rudd135 at 6:46 PM on June 21, 2017

I'm assuming there's no electrical box in a convenient place where you could install a
three-way switch on that circuit?
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:54 PM on June 21, 2017

Best answer: A search for "wireless relay 120v switch" led me to these Z-Wave light switches. You'd need one of the switches to replace the existing switch and one of the "Controllers" from the same site to place in the new location.
posted by Betelgeuse at 7:26 PM on June 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding the Lutron Caseta. they can operate as either standalone wireless switches or connected to The Clown. When I started my home automation they were my favorite out-of-the-box remote switches/dimmers out of all of the ones I tried. I ended up building the whole system from scratch but the lutron stuff was so close to what I wanted.
posted by Dr. Twist at 7:28 PM on June 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Thirding the Caseta system. I first installed it in our living room for a similar situation (light switch on the far end of the room relative to the door). I've since added it to more rooms just to get the smart phone connectivity, but the system works completely fine without any of the "smart" stuff.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:21 PM on June 21, 2017

You have a good solution but I would like to suggest strings and pulleys, and maybe a counterweight.
posted by notyou at 9:38 PM on June 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I've installed the Caseta/pico combination a few times; seems to work as advertised and they are pretty straight forward.
posted by Mitheral at 10:13 PM on June 21, 2017

Best answer: Insteon is another option. If you have a Menards or Best Buy in your area, they may actually stock products. Insteon is similar to Z-Wave and X10, and offers both wired and wireless linking of switches and remotes. Insteon never caught on quite as well as Z-Wave, which also has a wider variety of options, but it is pretty solid.
posted by jgreco at 2:25 AM on June 22, 2017

Response by poster: Thank you all, it seems like the Lutron/Insteon device approach will work!
posted by aramaic at 7:19 PM on June 25, 2017

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