If you have a large number of ceiling lights, one of the best smart light switches is a cheap and easy way to add all of them to your smart home.
Like a traditional light switch, a smart light switch has a physical control to turn your fixtures on and off. However, the switch is connected to the Internet, letting you control it from your smartphone, via an app. This app also lets you create a schedule for when lights will turn on and off; some can even be set turn your lights on randomly while you're on vacation, to make it look like you're home.
These are just a few of the examples of the things that smart light switches can do. But some are better than others, so read on to see which we think are the best smart light switches.
What are the best smart light switches?
After testing numerous models, we think the best smart light switch overall is the GE C-Start Smart Switch Motion Sensing Dimmer. For starters, it costs a reasonable $40, works with Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit, has a motion sensors built in, so it can automatically turn on the lights when you enter a room, and also has an ambient light sensor, so it won't turn on your lights all the way if there's a lot of sunlight coming in. That's a smart feature that can save you money. And, this dimmer switch works with a wide range of bulb types.
However, the design of GE's switch is a bit unconventional, so it will stand out more than other smart light switches. Leviton's Decora smart dimmer has a more subdued design, but lacks the motion and ambient light sensor found in the GE switch. And, its app lacks two-factor authentication.
If you have Philips Hue lights and don’t want to replace your wall switches, then the Philips Hue Dimmer is your best bet. Not only is it the least expensive option, but it's also the easiest to install, since you merely attach it to the wall — no wiring necessary. Plus, you can pop it off and use it as a remote control. However, you'll have to remember to leave your regular light switch in the on position.
Brilliant, which makes perhaps the smartest—and priciest—smart light switch, has a newer, less expensive model. The Brilliant Smart Dimmer Switch ($70), has a touch-sensitive slider, and can be used to control not just lights, but music volume and more. However, it requires that you also own a Brilliant Smart Home Control panel, which starts at $299.
The best smart light switches you can buy today
The GE C-Start Smart Switch isn't the sexiest or sleekest, but it's the best smart light switch because it gets the job done and is packed with features. The Wi-Fi-connected switch works with all kinds of bulbs, has apps for iOS and Android, and lets you control lights with a touch, voice, motion or remotely via a smartphone.
Installation, as with most other smart switches, requires a neutral wire, but it's fairly straightforward. The switch includes an ambient light sensor (so it can be set not to come on in daylight) and a motion sensor to automatically trigger the light. The latter feature worked seamlessly. If you turn it off with the switch, after a few minutes C-Start will engage the motion sensor again, or you can disable the sensor via the app in case you don't want it switched on in the middle of the night.
Like other Alexa-enabled switches (it also works with Google Assistant and HomeKit), the C-Start dimmer responds to voice commands, but the C by GE Android app needs some work; setting up an automation for a room is confusing, and it can even be difficult to tell when you've scheduled it to go on and off. At around $60-$70, it's more expensive than most other smart light switches, but the C-Start Smart Switch gives you a lot for the price.
Leviton's switch won't win any design awards, but we like its no-nonsense approach: a large paddle switch, with a smaller toggle on the right, which lets you dim the lights in increments. A row of LEDs shows you the brightness level, and a small status LED on the bottom lets you locate the switch in the dark.
Unlike Lutron's switch, Leviton's connects directly to your Wi-Fi, so there's no bridge needed. It also supports three-way switches, which is helpful for larger rooms.
The Leviton app is pretty robust. You can set how long the status LED and the dimming LEDs remain on, specify the type of bulbs you're using and adjust the rate at which they dim and brighten. The app also lets you create schedules for the lights to turn on and off, such as at sunset or sunrise.
The Leviton Decora works with Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT, but it supports fewer smart home systems than Lutron does. The Leviton also lacks the geofencing feature found in Lutron's app, as well as two-factor authentication.
The Caséta line of switches from Lutron offers an impressive list of features: geofencing, which means your lights will automatically turn on or off when you leave or arrive at home; the ability to schedule your lights to turn on or off at particular times or days; dimming capabilities; and compatibility with a long list of smart home platforms. You can also control the system using your voice through Amazon Alexa and Google Home, among many others. It's one of the best HomeKit devices, too.
Lutron's smart starter kit comes with one in-wall switch, one wireless remote and one smart bridge (hub), which can also be used to connect other Lutron products to the cloud and control them.
The switch itself looks high-tech, with several buttons laid out to control the numerous options Caséta offers. Lutron has gone for function over fashion for the most part with this dimmer: The white and gray buttons are front and center, not hidden by touch-sensitive controls, as is the case with other dimmers in this category.
The only downside is that the switch, like all of Lutron's products, must be linked to the Smart Bridge (you can get it packaged with the switch for $90). The bridge itself must be plugged into your router so that you can control it from your smartphone.
In some households, wall switches control an outlet, rather than a light fixture, so you can plug in a floor or table lamp, and then switch it on or off from your wall, rather than the lamp itself. But if you also use that outlet for devices that have to stay on all the time, like a clock radio, then you have to tape over the wall switch or resort to some other method to keep from accidentally flipping the switch and turning off power to everything connected to the outlet.
The Lutron Aurora is a simple, elegant solution to that problem. It clips onto the toggle switch, but links directly to Philips Hue lights, letting you control them by tapping or turning the dial, all while maintaining power to the outlet. While this is a specific use case — and you also need Philips Hue lights — it works well.
For those who have outfitted their homes with Philips Hue bulbs or don’t want to replace their wall switches, the Philips Hue dimmer is a handy little device. It can be used as a wireless remote or as a wall switch, but this switch doesn't need any installation, apart from peeling the covering off the adhesive on its back.
This switch works with only Hue bulbs, though it's almost magic when it does. Just turn on the light containing the Hue bulb as you normally would (even if it's via a traditional wall switch); then, start using the Philips dimmer, and it will automatically work. And don't worry — there's no interference or conflict between the Hue Dimmer and your normal wall switch. The magic in the dimmer lies in the Philips Hue bridge, which is required ($59) for the dimmer to work (and is required for any Philips Hue system).
The Philips Hue app is full of fun controls and creative themes for your Hue bulbs. You can set schedules for your Hue bulbs, which can be controlled by your voice through Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple HomeKit. It's also compatible with a host of other smart home platforms.
Calling a smart light switch Universal is a bold claim, but this Legrand switch gets pretty close, as it can communicate with the holy trinity of smart home systems: Apple Homekit, Amazon Alexa and Google Home. There’s no direct support for IFTTT or Zigbee devices, though.
The universal moniker also applies to what it is controlling, with Legrand claiming that it auto-detects and calibrates with LED, CFL, halogen, incandescent, and EFL bulbs. It can control up to 450W of LED and CFL or 700W of halogen and incandescent, which should cover most light sources. We tested it with a number of dimmable LED and incandescent sources and found that it worked as advertised, controlling these light sources without problems.
The paddle switch itself has a nice clicky feel to it, but it is smaller than most: those who like to bash paddle switches with the side of their hand may prefer the larger Leviton Decora switches. Next to the main switch is a dimmer switch, along with seven small white LEDs to show the dimming level. Next to this is the air gap switch, a tiny switch that turns the entire switch mechanism off when installing bulbs.
Although the Tru-Universal dimmer lives up to the name, those who use HomeKit may prefer the Leviton Decora DH6HD, which is less expensive.
The WeMo Dimmer looks cool, with its glowing LED status lights, but remembering what each light means (there are seven different statuses, each with its own special LED color) is virtually impossible. One standout feature of the switch is that it calibrates to work with any kind of light bulb for maximum dimming and minimum flickering.
WeMo has included a number of small but nice touches that put the switch at the forefront of this genre of switch. For example, just run your finger along the gutter in the middle of the switch and you can dim or brighten the light the switch is hooked up to. There's also a clever night mode that keeps you from blinding yourself with full-on bright lights when you're headed to the bathroom after hours.
The WeMo app supports numerous smart products and has lots of features, including light scheduling and various lighting modes. You'll also be able to review power-consumption data and to control multiple WeMo devices with a single swipe. It's not compatible with a ton of smart home systems, but the WeMo Dimmer does work with Alexa, Homekit and Google Home, which should be enough for many users.
The Brilliant touch-screen light switch lets you control not only your lights, but also other smart home devices, such as cameras, speakers and more. The panel has a large touchscreen, which you can use to look in on your security cameras, play music through smart speakers, and more. A touch-sensitive slider to one side is a simple way to change the brightness of the lights. Brilliant sells models with multiple sliders, in the event you have multiple light groups.
In addition, the panel has built-in motion sensors, so it can turn lights on and off as you enter and leave a room; a small camera lets you use multiple Brilliant panels as video intercoms. The Brilliant panel also works with a wide range of smart home systems, such as Alexa, Google Assistant, HomeKit, Ring, August, Ecobee, Honeywell, Sonos, Philips Hue, and Genie.
However, the Brilliant control panel is expensive, as it starts at $299 for a single-switch panel.
There aren’t a ton of smart switches with Alexa built in, probably because it’s far simpler to just stick an Echo Dot in your room. The Leviton Decora Smart Voice Dimmer with Alexa one-ups the Ecobee Switch+ by the inclusion of a key feature: Dimming. Yes, unlike Ecobee’s on/off switch, Leviton’s lets you incrementally adjust the brightness of your lights.
However, it’s not the prettiest of switches: There are two flat rectangular buttons for turning your lights on and off, and a small mesh grille on the bottom third for the Alexa speaker. A small rectangular LED at the top lights up blue when you engage Amazon’s smart assistant, and a small green LED at the bottom of the switch turns on when your lights turn off, so you can more easily find the switch in the dark.
The Leviton app isn’t the most intuitive, but lets you configure a ton of things: you can specify the bulb type, fade on/off rate, and set the dimming range, too. The switch can also be connected to Alexa, Google Assistant, August, IFTTT. However, it lacks two-factor authentication, which is the bare minimum security measure a company should offer.
The small speaker in the Decora Smart switch is good for asking Alexa the news and weather, but not much else. Like the Ecobee Switch+, it’s small and tinny, so listening to music borders on painful.
The Ecobee Switch+ has a ton of next-gen features. For starters, a motion detector can automatically turn the lights on and off in a room as you enter or leave. A small night light can be activated to help you find your way in the dark. It also has Alexa built right in (along with a microphone and speaker), so you can more easily use Amazon's assistant. The speaker is very tinny, so it's good for brief Alexa queries, but we wouldn't use it to play music.
The Switch+ also has a temperature sensor, which you will be able to link to the Ecobee thermostat to better control the climate in your house. However, there are a few things that drop the Ecobee Switch+ down in our rankings: There's no dimming function, you can't use this switch in a three-way setup, and it requires a neutral wire.
How to choose the best smart light switch for you
Smart light switches vs. smart light bulbs vs. smart plugs
The first thing to figure out is if you need a smart light switch, or if a smart light bulb is a better option. There are a ton of best smart light bulbs on the market that you can control using your phone, so why would you need a smart switch? Smart switches make the most sense when you have a room, or rooms, with many ceiling lights.
Adding a smart switch can be much more cost effective than adding four or more smart lights, each of which can cost as much as a single switch.
If your room is lit by floor or table lamps, then one of the best smart plugs are the way to go; you simply connect the lamp into the smart plug and then the plug into the wall outlet. Plugs are generally less expensive than in-wall switches and are easier to set up — there's no wiring involved.
How to install a smart light switch
Unlike most smart home devices, which merely require you to plug them into an outlet, installing a smart switch involves replacing a current in-wall switch. Since few, if any, light-control products include professional installation as part of the package, you will need a basic understanding of electrical work, which includes turning off the circuit breaker. For full wireless access, you then replace the entire existing unit with the smart switch by attaching all the wires to the new switch, including the neutral wire.
Smart switches are often bulkier than their traditional counterparts, however; so if they don't fit in the electrical box properly, you may need to get a new box, which is probably a job for an electrician. Similarly, some older homes don't have the right wiring, so an electrician is a good idea here, too. Finally, some smart switches won't work if you have multiple switches controlling a single light (which is called three-way or four-way lighting).
How we test smart light switches
To test smart switches, we either installed them ourselves, or had an electrician install them in our house. We then evaluated the switches based on the following criteria:
- Design: Is it an attractive switch? The best will come in multiple colors to best match your decor.
- Functionality: Does it support three-way or four-way connections?
- App: How easy was it to use the app that works with the switch? What sort of features do you get, such as scheduling when lights turn on and off?
- Smart Home Compatibility: Does the switch work with other smart home devices? How many?
- Price: While smart light switches are more expensive than traditional switches, some are pricier than others.