2021-03-17

The MK Grid Plus rabbit hole

MK is a good brand of switches and sockets and they are always good quality and solid, so when looking fo some new light switches, they seem like a good choice, albeit not the cheapest.

But I want some switches that are "retractive", i.e. just push switches not rocker, as they control a Shelly / tasmota smart switch module and not directly connected to a light.

MK do some of these, and they actually do modular switches, so I can mix and match what I need and where. In some cases a "two way and off" retractive switch to work a dimmer is ideal, and others a single retractive switch, and in some cases one of each on the same face plate.

Sadly it seems that almost nobody has the whole range on their web site, and the whole range is huge. They have a load of styles. There are catalogues from MK that list just one style, for example. The problem is, at the start, you don't necessarily realise what is possible, nor what is available from suppliers. Just to be clear, Screwfix is first port of call as it is a 4 minute walk from my front door. As per comments, it seems https://www.gil-lec.co.uk/ stock a good range as do https://www.tradesparky.com/

  • K4885PWHI: A Grid plus retractive module, as sold by the likes of Screwfix, yay. It has "press" on it, but OK. Good start.
  • K3701 : A grid plus "frame" for it, single gang, one switch, also sold by Screwfix, yay.
  • K3631WHI: A Grid plus front plate, single gang, also sold by Screwfix.

This is a good start, I now have a working retractive light switch, and can confirm that in a deep back box there is space for the switch and a Shelly 2.5 and a Wago. Working nicely.

It proves the solution fits, and works, so now to consider if I want to change other light switches in the house, as I make things "smart". But I need to make small changes to the way things work - my wife is not going to allow me to change one switch at a time from the brushed steel light switches we have everywhere to a plain white switch like this. I am not even sure the "press" label is going to go down well.

  • K4885WHI: Ooh, they do a retractive that does not say "press". (they also do one with a door bell symbol, but no need for that).
  • K3491ALM: Oooh, they do a metal faceplate.

But hang on, the metal faceplate is an enamelled aluminium, somewhat "industrial" to pass the wife test...

  • K3431BSS: ooh, they do a brushed steel front plate. This is much closer to what we have now.

At this point I think I have something that may be close enough to what we have now. The switch is white, but no "press" on it, and the front plate is brushed steel. But not sure. If this is the best MK do it will do, so I ordered a few.

Then I discovered they have a range of other front plates, arrrg. And there are Grid plus, and Euro modules as well. Complicated. It looks like "Aspect" may be what I want... They are available in something like 13 different finishes, including brushed stainless steel. They are also screwless.

One of the best documents showing the different styles is a technical document from MK. Logic Plus is traditional plain white with visible screws, Aspect is rounded raised screwless in a wide variety of finishes, Edge is flush to wall - with screws - with a wide range of finishes, Albany is a heavier/thicker angled boarder and industrial looking with visible screws in a smaller variety of finishes, Metalclad Plus is white or enamelled grey metal - very industrial style. So, let's look at Aspect in Brushed Steel finish I think...

  • K24331BSS: A front plate - comes with frame - screwless, brushed stainless steel. Good.
  • K4885BSSB: A retractive switch, no "press", with black surround. (they also do white)

OK I think we may finally be getting there. It looks like I have found switches that are :-

  • Screwless.
  • Brushed stainless steel front plate finish.
  • Retractive.
  • Brushed stainless steel switch finish with black surround.

I think that will meet with approval and be close enough to what we have to allow changing one switch at a time without looking wrong. Fingers crossed.

Took a month to arrive, but wife approved :-)

What is also fun is that MK have a really big range of modules. Including coloured indicators and a buzzer module! No, I have yet to find a use for these. They have loads of switches with pre printed labels, so it you make up one of their large grids of switches, you can have them clearly labeled.

Downsides:-

  • Price.
  • Complexity of options.
  • The push switch takes noticeable force to press (though they do have two springs, and removing one makes them feel a lot more "normal", but probably not an approved modification).
  • The buzzer module is just high pitched and quite quiet - not good at all.

P.S. WARNING! other manufacturers make grid switches which are not interchangeable with these, and sometimes when searching the MK part number they come up, and "look" right - bastards!

And to add to the fun there are Euro modules, which are actually very simple 25mm x 50mm or 50mm x 50mm rectangular modules. I have seen these for networking before. For now. I'm going for MK Grid Plus.

14 comments:

  1. Don't the Shelley modules support toggle switches? My Z-Wave modules do, and the "normal" existing switches just toggle whatever state the light is in - and the module picks up the state change and will report light on/off as appropriate.

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    Replies
    1. Absolutely, and indeed the tasmota code I am using can do that too. The issue is that they lights are also controlled by other means (PIR, sleep sensor, time, etc), meaning the toggle switch is "the wrong way up" half the time. I felt a reactive switch would be better.

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    2. Ah, we've got enough two-way switches round here that switches are "the wrong way up" 50% of the time anyway. Turns out no-one notices, and just uses the switch anyway.

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    3. I think I saw that the Shelly could work in a mode that ensured the switch stayed in the correct orientation, but it did mean that if it didn't currently reflect the actual state of the light, then you had to switch it off then on (or on then off) to acheieve what you wanted.

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  2. The Varilight V-Pro 'Slave Dimmers' are ideal as Shelly buttons. Available in loads of different finishes / numbers of gangs.

    They're not really dimmers, just a pushbutton in a housing. They have a resistor in them which you need to link out.

    eg. https://www.varilight.co.uk/configurator/product.php?code=IJSS001

    So any of the ones on here that say 'Slave'

    https://www.varilight.co.uk/ranges/range-classic.php#v-pro-ir

    or 'screwless'

    https://www.varilight.co.uk/ranges/range-screwless.php#v-pro

    or 'ultraflat'

    https://www.varilight.co.uk/ranges/range-ultraflat.php#v-pro

    There's a baffling range of finishes.

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  3. Just to be clear, it's any of the ones that say 'tactile touch'

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  4. I've done the same in my house - you get used to the force on the buttons, it's more than expected but becomes natural.

    I've got a spare two gang grid+retractive switches + faceplate in BSS if you want it going free. I can always post to AA HQ if you are interested. I found https://www.gil-lec.co.uk/ used to stock the whole range, not always the cheapest tho.

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  5. Schneider have a range of retractive switches - I use them in our house for the rooms that have lights controlled by Loxone.
    You can even get them at screwfix: https://www.screwfix.com/p/schneider-electric-lisse-10ax-1-gang-2-way-retractive-switch-white/5729j)

    Though the Lisse style isn't my favourite, I prefer the Utimate style: https://www.se.com/uk/en/product/GU1012R/ultimate-slimline---2-way-retractive-switch---1-gang---white/

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  6. When I was looking for a switch with a centre off position I almost gave up until I found the MK modular range.. those have everything. Of course having the part code I wanted it was still hard to find (eventually ordered from RS) but they're at least available.

    The press versions look good - might see if I can rig something for control with a pushbutton as the touch screen thing I have now isn't great.

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    Replies
    1. Tasmota can do that too, but I think that would be worse than just working like it is a two way switch.

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  7. I started out doing what you're doing, but got fed up with the dodgy wiring in the house, not being able to use certain bulbs with an in-line switch and the inflexibility of one switch controls one light. I just gave up fitted Hue bulbs everywhere, permanently wired the lights on and then fitted LightwaveRF mood switches over the patresses - a bit of code, a Hue hub and a 433MHz receiver means I can now use the 'switch' to control more than just the light in the room the switch is in as well as easily set up slaves (e.g. bedroom by door and by bed, hall/landing at top and bottom of stairs as well as by the bedroom doors).

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  8. When I automated my place 21 years ago, I also used exactly the same MK range you're using. I removed one of the two springs from each retractive switches, because the force was excessive, and they were only switching a fraction of a milliamp at 5V. Actually, I fitted the spare springs in the regular (much cheaper) MK switches which also had the provision for them, and made twice as many retractive switches.

    In practice, the switches are hardly ever used, as all the lighting is occupancy and level driven too. The switches just provide a 20 min override, and in a couple of rooms, scene change.

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