In the modern smart home, Smart Switches can be a really good source of automation to control your lights when you are home and when you are not. Unlike a traditional light switch, smart switches can be controlled using your phone (or other supported device) or even voice assistants. They are becoming quite common in many homes after almost a decade on the market and are one of the oldest forms of Smart Home tech. My circa 2012 Belkin WeMo switch was the first Smart Home product I ever installed inside my home and was just retired recently in favour of a dimmer switch that my daughter wanted instead. Let’s discuss how your home can benefit from Smart Switches.
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 remotely. You also have to make sure that you have the right type of wiring (most of you do). Here is a link to a blog that discusses what you should know and have in mind when you are about to start installation.
It’s important for those of you that live in older homes that you look in your existing switch box to check out the wiring. Older homes may not necessarily have neutral wires in the box. This poses some problems because many switches require a neutral wire in order to work properly. Thankfully, you have options if you don’t want to call an electrician to install neutral wires. The Lutron Caseta switch line, for example, is known to work without ground wires.
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 if you (or your parents) still have them. I’ve been trying to convince my dad for years now to move to smart switches and get rid of those timers and I’m sure I’ll crack him eventually.
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. This is a very unintended benefit, but one that is personal to me. While away on a family vacation, we heard that a major storm knocked power out to most of metro Vancouver. I was able to check the status of our smart switches to determine that we still had power and that we didn’t have to make alternate plans for our pet sitter (who had our garage door opener) to somehow get into our house to feed the cat.
Linking smart switches together with voice assistants
One of the more helpful features with smart switches is compatibility with your voice assistants. If you have pretty well any of them, you can open up many more usage possibilities. 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%).
Just about all the switches you buy nowadays will work with a smart assistant. Thankfully, we’ve long passed the days of proprietary partner systems and tiptoeing around which product partners properly with the rest of your home’s Smart Home ecosystem so you don’t have to second guess things.
What are some of the industry leading smart switches
I’ve mentioned a couple different brand names throughout this blog and they are among the switches I’d recommend for you to set your home up with. My mother’s home is set up with TP-Link switches. I’ve found them to be among the easiest to install, and linking them all together was pretty easy as well. The Belkin WeMo devices I’ve had around my home have served me well too.
I’ve focused a lot on the idea of a smart switch being of the traditional light switch variety, which doesn’t always have to be the case. Philips, for example, offers a Wireless remote style switch through their Hue product line (pictured below). It looks a lot like a light switch (to the point where it also comes with a wall plate,) however, is a wireless remote that can sit in the plate or pop out and control your smart light bulbs. It’s a less traditional take on the light switch, but technically, it still looks and can function like one. This also requires no wiring since it deals with light bulbs, so you can also leave your old “dumb” light switches where they are.
One final note about linking up smart switches to other things: Make sure you check to see if you need any additional hardware from the manufacturer to make it work. For example, some switches require a bridge device for full functionality. Lutron Caseta, for example, has a bridge that plugs into your router and projects its own signal so that it runs its ecosystem separate from your Wi-Fi and allows new additions to pair automatically rather than individually per device.
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!