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This genius control center is the smart home gadget I’ve been waiting for

Installing this smart home control system sucked — but it’s totally worth it
(Image credit: Future)
DIY smart home

This story is part of an ongoing DIY smart home series. Be sure to check out the latest installments to follow the renovation process from start to finish.

I knew the Brilliant Smart Home System would become the heart of my entire DIY smart home once I decided to use smart switches instead of smart light bulbs a few months ago. But, admittedly, I’ve procrastinated the installation process, which required replacing our reliable 3-gang light switch with a high-tech touchscreen panel.

I read in our Brilliant smart home controller review that unwiring your regular switch to support the smart panel could be more complicated than the instruction manual leads on. It’s not that I wasn’t up for a little problem solving — it’s that I didn’t want to destroy the existing wiring setup that powered all the major overhead lights in my home.

Now, when the folks from Brilliant wanted to know whether their aptly named smart control panel would work in my home, I called in an electrician to learn what’s a neutral wire and what to do if you don’t have one. The electrician also made sure we were never left in the dark, even though they had to rewire our space to accommodate new light fixtures and the wall we tore down.

The electrician offered to help with our smart switches, too, but I felt like embracing the DIY nature of this series. Plus, most of the best smart light switches advertise easy, guided installations. Many companies specifically state you don’t need advanced electrical knowledge to power up their products.

That said, you should always consult an electrician if you don’t know how to make sense of the wires behind your walls. While I might joke about electrocuting myself, it’s definitely not funny; coming into contact with a live wire can result in serious injury. With that in mind, here’s what you could expect to happen if you install the Brilliant Smart Home System on your own, and whether I think it was worth it in the end.

Installing the Brilliant Smart Home System: If at first you don’t succeed....

Brilliant provides an installation manual in the box. Except, in my opinion, it over-simplified the steps so much that you practically go from turning off your circuit breaker to having a working smart home panel in one step. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but here’s my point: There’s a good chance you’ll need additional guidance to get your Brilliant Smart Home System working.

DIY smart home smart switches

(Image credit: Future)

I turned to YouTube for help, but most installation videos didn’t demonstrate how to install the 3-switch Brilliant panel I’d be using. The Brilliant panel comes in 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-switch configurations, and while the setup process is generally the same for each version, I would have benefited from seeing my specific version installed.

Still, I went ahead and disassembled my existing switches, taking a picture for reference in case I needed to backtrack. I identified my white neutral wire and copper ground wire, but things got confusing after that. The 3-switch panel required 3 load wires and 3 line wires, and according to the included diagrams the unit can automatically detect which one is which.

Except when I placed all the wires in what I thought were their proper ports, the panel didn’t power up. Disappointed and with daylight disappearing, I decided to reinstall the single pole switches and try Brilliant again another time. Yet the dumb switches didn’t work when rewired them— and yes, I made sure I turned my circuit breaker back on.

Desperate for a fix before dusk, I ran to my local hardware store to purchase a continuity tester, an electrical tool that helps you determine whether an electrical circuit can be completed. As it turns out, I mixed up my line and load wires, which were all black. I used colored electrical tape to identify which pairs formed circuits, and when I attempted the Brilliant panel installation again, it powered up and started playing Hallelujah. Well. not actually, but I swore I heard the song of success play in my head. 

Was the hassle worth it?

It took nearly two hours, but I now have a fully-functional Brilliant Smart Home System mounted to the wall near my front door. The panel, which consists of a color touchscreen, three physical dimmers and a camera, effectively replaced my standard light switches.

On the touchscreen, I can view the time and climate, as well as control all my compatible smart home products like TP-Link smart plugs and Schlage smart locks. It even works with my inexpensive smart thermostat from Honeywell Home. The dimmers control my three sets of light fixtures, while the camera lets me drop-in on my entryway and intercom with whoever’s home from my smartphone. I love it for checking in on my dog.

brilliant smart home system DIY smart home

(Image credit: Future)

When I’m home, I can cover the camera with the physical shutter if I want to. My family members can also navigate our device dashboard via the Brilliant app, but they needed a two factor-authentication code sent to my email to gain access to our account. These added layers of privacy and security were important when mapping out the right smart home products for our space.

There’s plenty more the Brilliant Smart Home System is capable of, but it’s already proved its value. If you’re wondering how to save thousands of dollars when designing your own smart home, opting for this panel could replace a number of other products you’d otherwise purchase individually. The 3-gang panel I used costs $399, although you could get a single switch panel for $299.

So yes, the installation headaches were absolutely worth it. As I continue to embrace my home’s newfound intelligence, I think I’ll find more uses for the Brilliant Smart Home System, too.

Be sure to check out my guides to the best smart home devices (and best cheap smart home devices) for more gadget recommendations. Email me at kate.kozuch@futurenet.com or leave a comment below with anything you’d like to see me cover in the connected space — I might just address it in a future installment.