And MORE: But firstly – a look at my new triple Opple switch which arrived this week from Banggood – and as usual I’ve no interest in using it on the standard APP and Gateway – so let me show you it working in Zigbee2MQTT – and hence in my Node-Red installlation. When I say “triple” I mean of course 3 switch panels – 2 multi-purpose buttons each panel as you’ll see further down.

The package arrived in good condition along with some other stuff – I’m sure Banggood have cornered the market in using sellotape.

As you can see on the image over on the right, I’m using the Node-Red node to read the Zigbee switch, having re-named it from the default horrendous sequence of characters to something useful. The node regularly shows battery status which is very useful when you have lots of Zigbee devices. These devices like other Opple products and indeed most Zigbee sensors – send out a package which includes button state, battery state and signal quality.

And here is the switch, still in the box, fully operational with no wires of course. There is a magnetically attached set of switches in a standard-looking wall switch housing which simply sits on the wall, held in place by a supplied adhesive strip or screws. It doesn’t get any easier – and for beginners – in terms of range – Zigbee uses a 2.4Ghz (similar to WiFi) short range radio. as long as you have the odd mains-powered Zigbee gadget nearby, the whole thing acts a a mesh to give essentually unlimited range (battery powered devices of course do not contribute to the power of the mesh).

I’m sitting in my office. In the main room of the house I have a Sonoff mains-powered ouput device which does it’s own thing while increasing the range of my Zigbee network (based on a ZZH dongle attached to my Raspberry Pi here in the office at one end of the building). If I take this new wall switch pretty much anywhere on the ground floor – it will just “work”.

The Aqara is powered by a single inexpensive CR2032 battery and based on experience with other devices I’d not be surprised if I get a year of use out of it before replacing the battery.

Aqara Opple Switch

Taking a look at the individual parts of this wall switch, we see the 6-way magnetically attached switch, the backplate, extra adhesive strips and a couple of pretty standard mounting bolts – so plenty of mounting options then. At the back of the switch section (left) is a tiny button used only for “pairing” i.e. introducing the switch into your Zigbee network. Also supplied was a small manual – but as that was entirely in Chinese, I guess it will be a much use to most of you as it was to me – but then it wasn’t needed anyway.

Six buttons, a total of 20 action outputs for all 6 button. Let’s go through them:

button_1_single
button_1_double
button_1_triple
button_1_hold
button_1_release

The above of course applies to all six buttons – hence 30 operations, that simple. Also there is a tiny light in the top corner in the photo above – which comes on VERY briefly when pressing buttons and slighly more obviously when pairing with your Zigbee network.

And now we come to the howler – replacing the CR2032. You have to carefully pry off the button panels with a plastic spatula (I used a credit card) and then do the same with the PCB itself to get to the battery at the back. What WERE they thinking about? Easy enough now that I (and others) have warned you but anyone putting a thin metal object between the buttons could risk causing damage.

SO, in at the deep end, I got out my credit card and as you may see in the photos below – while the switch itself is LOVELY and works a treat – personally I’d FIRE the person who dreamed up the battery replacement mechanism. You have to carefully PRY off the 3 button panels, then remove a tiny screw holding in the guts which comprised a top and bottom layer. That’s easy but there are 8 tiny edge tabs holding the innards in place – you have to pull off the top plastic black section and then remove the PCB – you need to be at the back of the PCB to replace the battery – and watch out for the pairing button at the back which drops off and could easily be lost.

For heaven’s sake, what stopped them putting a hole in the back of the box? or a simple battery cover on the back?

Aqara switch dismantled

I got the whole lot apart in a few minutes and then back together – thankfully without any marks or other damage – but this the the most ridiculous battery replacement I’ve ever seen.

Other than that – as a triple wall swith with extras, fine (working on it – on-off and dimming/colour control next), for gaming (without the back-box) – the sky’s the limit. I’m going to have lots of fun with this.

And here’s a larger photo of the switch enclosure itself showing the magnets used to hold it to the base. How does all of this tie back to Zigbee2MQTT and Node-Red? See my first article on the subject here.

Magnets in the back of the Aqara switch
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