Make the ‘Switch’ to Smart Home
May 8, 2022
Debbie and I continue to work on our new home plan as the supply chain inflated price of materials has delayed our start. This has actually given me more time to run through potential needs scenarios and apply some really deep thinking on solutions. One of those which you’d think would be pretty simple is light switches and dimmers.
As I’ve reported on in past posts, our first smart home experience involved smart bulbs. They were easy to deploy and a great start with smart home. Eventually I found them to be problematic due to anomalies like power outages which caused me to often having to reset each bulb. Not fun as you can imagine as we had deployed quite a few before finding out about the downside.
In order to automate lighting, working with smart switches became the better solution. And, switches use a variety of communication protocols — Wifi, ZigBee, Z-Wave, etc. — which also offered options. If you’ve read my previous post , Wifi, ZigBee and Z-Wave: Which Is Best for your Smart Home? you’ll know I’m partial to Z-Wave. The reason is that Z-Wave runs on a different radio frequency (908.42MHz) than both ZigBee and Wifi smart home devices (2.4GHz). 2.4GHz spectrum tends to get very crowded with everything from your smart TV to your mobile devices and smart wearables. Z-Wave avoids this problem entirely as it only has to contend with itself, even if you add a multitude of Z-wave devices. Another great reason for Z-Wave is that it relies on local compute. So, if you’re internet is out Z-Wave devices are still fully operable.
As I work through the exercise of placing smart light switches I’m also seeing the cost multiply rapidly. But compared to replacing every light bulb or installing smart plugs in your house, smart switches can control multiple lights at once, saving time and money. And not every switch needs to be smart unless you are looking to include automation.
There is a wide range of smart light switches to choose from, and not all of them are going to suit your needs. So what should you look for?
First, you will want to make sure that the smart light switch works with your smart home’s voice assistant. Many of these switches will work with the usual suspects such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but compatibility isn’t always universal. In particular, Apple HomeKit compatibility can be difficult to find, so if you use it, make sure your switch is compatible.
In addition, most smart light switches will require some installation, as they’ll replace your current switch. Some smart switches will also need a neutral wire, which is installed in the wiring of most modern homes. If installation sounds difficult, you can also have an electrician install it for you.
Whether this is your first look at smart home technology or you’re a seasoned vet, here are some options to consider for smart switches in your home.
- Works with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant
- Supports up to 50 Lutron devices
- Easy to set up
- The switch will still work even when the internet goes down
- Bridge requires a direct connection to your router
Lutron Caseta has been a staple in the smart home sector for a long time and for good reason. The company’s products have been highlighted for their ease of use and easy expansion to the rest of their smart home products.
If you’re just getting into smart home tech, Lutron’s Caseta Smart Start Kit makes perfect sense. The kit includes a smart bridge that connects directly to your home router, a Caseta dimmer switch, a 3-button dimming remote, and a wall plate bracket. With the included bridge, you’ll be able to connect up to 50 Lutron devices to it from additional dimmer and switches to Lutron’s Serena smart shades.
On the smart home front, the Lutron Caseta Smart Start Kit offers compatibility with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit and Ring. What this means is that you’ll be able to use your voice assistant of choice to control your lights. While this isn’t a Google product, Lutron Caseta’s kit works so well with Google Home it might as well be an official product.
After setting up your Lutron Caseta smart switch, to start using it with the Google Assistant, you’ll need to link it to the Google Home app on Android or iPhone. Once you’ve linked your Lutron account to Google Home, you then should be able to see and control the products directly from there.
With the Google Assistant voice control, you’ll be able to say things like changing the brightness (if you have a dimmer smart switch installed) or activating scenes easily. While this isn’t a Google product, Lutron Caseta’s kit works so well with Google Home it might as well be an official product.
Once your Lutron Caseta Smart Start Kit is up and running, you can add more switches with something like the Lutron Caseta Smart Home Dimmer Switch which comes in multipacks, making it easy to expand on your new smart home setup.
- Compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant
- Simple to set up
- No hub required
- Requires a Neutral wire to work
As a more budget-friendly option, TP-Link’s Kasa smart home products have been a great option if you want to build a smart home without blowing up your budget.
One of the best parts about the TP-Link Kasa HS200 Light Switch is that it doesn’t need a hub to get it up and running — just connect the switch to your home Wifi network and you’re all set.
The switch works with a number of voice assistants like Google Assistant and Alexa. With the Kasa app on Android and iPhone, you also have full remote control of the switch. Features include schedule options, an away mode, scenes, Smart Actions and more.
When installing the Kasa Smart Light Switch HS200, you will need to make sure the light switch you’re replacing has a neutral wire, however. Neutral wires are in many modern houses, but if you’re living in an older home, you’ll need to make sure the wire is available first.
- Works well with existing Hue lights
- Simple to use
- No wiring required
- Can be used without a Hue bridge (for up to 10 lights)
- Limited options when using without a bridge
If you already have Hue lights, then all you’ll need to do is go to the Hue app, set up an accessory, and choose which lights you’d like the switch to control. With the app, you can have the Smart Dimmer Switch trigger custom scenes, as well.
For those without a Hue bridge, the Hue v2 Smart Dimmer Switch can work with up to 10 lights. However, if you need more lights or control options, you’ll need to pick up the Hue Smart Hub.
While the previous Hue Smart Dimmer had separate on/off buttons, the v2 Switch has them as one. The switch also detaches from the wall mount itself, doubling as a convenient remote control.
Finally, the Hue Smart Dimmer Switch doesn’t require any wiring and is coin battery-powered, so the battery life should be pretty good. I’ve added this in case you have a Hues ecosystem as this may be an ideal option. As we’re doing a new build and can have an electrician install wired versions of switches, we’re going that direction, however. Plus I’m not a big fan of battery operating anything I can hard wire for power.
- Works with Amazon Alexa
- Simple to setup
- Requires a Neutral wire
Amazon has a few of its own in-house brands, one of which is the low-budget private label called Amazon Basics. With Amazon Basics, you’ll find cheap, basic items for your house like kitchen utensils or tech items like cables or chargers. Amazon’s Basics brand has recently launched its own smart switch that’s not only budget-friendly but works perfectly with Amazon Alexa.
The Amazon Basics Single Pole Smart Switch is fairly easy to set up, though you’ll need a neutral wire and a 2.4GHz Wifi connection for it to work properly. You can either install it yourself using Amazon’s step-by-step guide or have an electrician install it for you.
- Easy control via the Home app
- Can use Siri to control your devices
- Straightforward setup process
- No hub required
- Cheaper than some other Homekit compatible switches
- Requires a Neutral wire
Back in 2018, Belkin’s WeMo added HomeKit compatibility to a bunch of its products. This is a good thing as HomeKit compatibility with smart home devices can sometimes be hard to find. Since then, the company has launched newer WeMo products with HomeKit support built-in like the WeMo Smart Light Switch (2nd Gen).
In basic terms, HomeKit is Apple’s smart home software platform that companies can add support for to be controlled in one central app on your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or Mac. The Home app on Apple’s devices is similar to the Google Home app, where you can control all your HomeKit enabled products and also run routines and light automation.
Since the WeMo Smart Light Switch has HomeKit support, you’ll be able to add the smart switch to your Home app and control your switches. You can also use Siri from your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, or HomePod to control your WeMo smart switch.
- 3-Way ready switch
- Compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
- Built-In Z-Wave Repeater & Range Extender
- Auto-detects line/load terminals
- Requires a Neutral wire
- Requires a compatible hub
Enjoy professional quality and DIY ease with the UltraPro Z-Wave Smart Rocker Light Switch. When paired with a compatible hub, the hardwired smart switch operates wall, ceiling and accent lighting through individual commands and programmed settings. Wirelessly control and schedule indoor or outdoor fixtures for effortless management of your home. Your automation possibilities are infinite when connected to hubs from Ring, Wink, SmartThings, HomeSeer, Vera, Nexia and more.
You can control, automate and schedule your homes lighting regardless of if you are in a different part of your home, at work or away on vacation — all from your mobile device and Z-Wave compatible hub.
With the Smart Switch you will still have the ability to manually control your lighting at the switch, just like any normal switch. At the switch simply tap the switch up to turn lights on or tap down to turn lights off. This is to ensure that even if your hub is temporarily unavailable or you don’t have access to your mobile device that you always have control and it makes sure your family, friends, and guests can access the lights should they need to with no confusion.
As you can probably tell, I’m partial to the Z-Wave devices as they fit into my bigger smart home plan. Whether that’s your plan or not there are a multitude of options for your smart home. There is no right or wrong way to do smart home as it’s all driven by need, budget or personal preference. As I mentioned earlier, I started with smart bulbs but have transitioned to smart switches for my lighting solution.
So what do you think? Worth the investment for the automation benefits or happier with flipping a switch? What’s your preferred solution? Are you already using smart switches? Would you recommend the solution you’re using? What switches are you currently using to control your lighting? How long have you used them? What do you like best about them?
Let Debbie and I know in the comments, DMs and emails as we really enjoy hearing from you. Thanks again to all those following Debbie and I through our home building journey. It’s great to hear your success stories and suggestions as we move through the process. And if you like the content I’m posting each week, don’t forget to ‘Like’ and ‘Follow.’ Until next week …
In full disclosure, I’m not an affiliate marketer with links to any online retailer on my website. When people read what I’ve written about a particular product and then click on those links and buy something from the retailer, I earn nothing from the retailer. The links are strictly a convenience for my readers.