In the modern smart home, Smart Switches can be a really good source of automation whether you’re there or not. Having a light switch that can be controlled by your phone, voice assistants, or other supported devices is something you can use to your benefit any time of day. Over the course of the next month, my fellow bloggers and I will take you through how certain smart home products can benefit your home. The first blog in this series is today’s blog about smart switches and why adding them to your home is a good idea.
Getting Started with Smart Switches
There are a few things you should know about the installation of smart light switches in your home. Since smart switches communicate with your devices through Wi-Fi, you’ll have to ensure you have a strong enough wireless connection throughout your home, especially in places you’re planning on controlling your lights remotely. You also have to make sure that you have the right type of wiring (most of you do). I did a blog about what you should know prior to installing smart switches a few months back. If you’re getting into smart light switches for the first time, you might want to have a quick read here, and then pop back here to finish up.
Smart Switches make Your Home Look Lived-In while You’re Away
Smart switches are a really good investment in any family home. When you go away on holidays, one of the trickiest things you’ve got to keep in mind is managing your home so that it looks like somebody’s there, especially if you don’t have a house sitter. Smart switches can be placed on timers so that lights go on and off when you choose, and you can continue to manage these things remotely. This also gets rid of those old-school ticking timers that you plugged lamps into way back when. Having your actual lights on timers definitely gives your home more of a lived-in feeling and gives you peace of mind while you’re away.
Use Smart Switches to Check if Your Home has Power During a Neighbourhood Outage
This is definitely not a core feature of smart switches, but if you’re away on vacation and neighbours or family members notify you of storms in your area, smart switches are a really easy way to check and see if your home has power or not. During the major storms in Vancouver that cut power to a lot of my city, I was away overseas and used our smart switches to check to see if the power was out or not. A friend from a couple blocks over was checking on our home and our cat, but using this to check whether the power was out or not could’ve helped me start a contingency plan to ensure that the cat was taken care of if it meant power and heat were both out in the middle of winter.
Using Smart Switches to Save on Your Power Bill
Having smart switches in your home will probably increase your electricity bills slightly month over month since they’re technically always drawing power to remain connected to your home’s Wi-Fi. However, if you’re the type of person that tends to leave the lights on during the day, you can either set timers on those lights to ensure they’re always off, or else you can access your app at any point throughout the work day to see if you accidentally left the lights on. My daughter has started leaving her room light on after changing for school in the morning, so I can easily pop open the app now at work and shut the light off.
Linking Smart Switches to a Smart Network
If you’ve got smart switches and other compatible home automation products, you can link them together to work side by side. For example, most smart switches out there work with Nest, so, for example, you can create software settings that will check and shut all your lights off at night when your thermostat goes into sleep mode. You can also have the lights shut off when Nest goes into away mode while everybody is at work.
Linking Smart Switches Together with Voice Assistants
One of the more helpful features with smart switches is compatibility with home voice assistants. If you have an Amazon Echo or Google Home, just about every smart light switch out there right now has some sort of support with one of them. With this linkup, you can control a certain switch from the assistant itself. Every time you set up a different light switch, you’re asked about what you’d like to name it. With that in mind, you simply ask your voice assistant to deal with it using the name you’ve set for that switch.
I.e., “Hey Google, please turn off my living room lights.”
In some cases, you just deal with all of the lights in your home at once. For example, if you have TP-Link smart switches, you can just use a voice command by asking your assistant to turn all the lights off. If you have smart dimmer switches, you can also ask the assistant for a certain dim setting as well (i.e., turn on my living room lights at 50%).
Whether it’s the Amazon Echo or Google Home that you have, make sure you do a bit of research into which smart switches work with which assistant. If you’re an old-school Belkin WeMo user, for example, they hit the market before voice assistants were a thing. That said, the switches do work with assistants, as will a lot of older tech, but you just have to make sure they have up to date firmware. My mother’s house has some TP-Link switches that I’ve hooked up to her Google Home Mini, and she can now holler for Google to shut all her lights off before she goes to bed.
One final note before you begin your search if it involves smart switches linking up to other things: Make sure you check to see if you need any additional hardware from the manufacturer to make it work. Chances are you won’t (for example, Belkin’s 1st gen WeMo switches needed a bridge to originally connect to Apple HomeKit, but don’t need one for the voice assistants), but it’s best to be on the safe side.
If you’re reading this and have smart light switches, which brand and models have you trusted your home to? Let our readers know below!