Turn Any Light Into a Smart Bulb

From the outside, smart light switches look just like any other light switch, but inside is a hidden feature. That's because these smart switches connect to your home Wi-Fi network, which lets you control your overhead lights not only by flicking the switch, but also by using other smart home devices, such as the Alexa voice assistant on your Echo speaker or your smartphone. It's a good alternative for those who don't want to replace all of their lights with smart bulbs.

4 Quick Buying Tips

Important Features

A smart switch should be designed like any other control, with an on and off switch so you can immediately control it from its physical location. It should come in a number of common colors to match your decor, and it should have an LED light to indicate its connection status with your wireless network. Some smart switches also have a dimmer feature, while others let you monitor your electricity usage or fool intruders into thinking you're home when you're on vacation.

Smartphone App

Credit: LutronCredit: Lutron

At the core of every smart light controller is its app, which lets you turn lights on and off from your smartphone. The best apps also allow you to turn any light into a dimmer, or set schedules and desired lighting levels for when a light turns on. While you can access your light controls through the mobile app, most also work with a smart hub as part of a home automation system.

Smart Home Integration

Good smart home switches should work with a variety of other smart home hubs and systems, so you can integrate your lighting with the rest of your smart home devices. For example, you can program the Belkin Wemo lights to turn on automatically if a Samsung SmartThings motion sensor is tripped. 

Installation

Unlike most smart home devices, which merely require you to plug them in to 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 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, 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.

Belkin Wemo Light Switch

The Belkin Wemo Light Switch is an inexpensive option for an in-wall switch. While you can use it like any traditional switch by tapping its face to turn a light on or off, you can also control it with your smartphone once you connect it to your Wi-Fi network.

The Wemo app lets you remotely activate a light and set schedules. The app also tracks how long a light has been on and estimates how much it contributes to your power bill.

Credit: BelkinCredit: BelkinThe switch comes with a matching faceplate that clicks onto the wall without screws. Belkin suggests that users not use this switch with metal faceplates, since this interferes with the wireless signal. The switch has a simple power icon and a style you might expect from a smart home.

This smart light switch works with Belkin's other Wemo products via the app, which lets you control much more of your home, such as light switches, outlets and a security camera. However, like most other smart switches, this unit is not compatible with lights controlled by more than one switch. It doesn't have a dimmer function, though Belkin also sells the $79 Wemo Wi-Fi Smart Dimmer.

Wemo devices work with a variety of smart home products, including those from Nest, Amazon Alexa and Google Home. If you need to control your Wemo smart light switch with other smart home products, you can probably link them though IFTTT, a popular task automation service. 

What Owners Are Saying

With thousands of user reviews on Amazon, the Wemo Light Switch averages 4 out of 5 stars. However, according to Fakespot.com, which uses algorithms to determine whether owner reviews are fake, 36 percent of the reviews are of low quality.

Many praise the Alexa and IFTTT integration, but some complain about "clunky" setup and problems staying connected to the Wi-Fi network after firmware updates or power outages.

Lutron Caseta Wireless P-BDG-PKG1W

As with Lutron's other Caseta Wireless devices, the company's smart switch uses a ZigBee connection, which means you need the Lutron Smart Bridge to connect it to the internet. You can buy the Smart Bridge separately or in a starter kit with other Caseta Wireless gear. Because Caseta Wireless needs some sort of bridge or smart hub, it's more expensive than Wi-Fi-enabled switches.

The biggest strength of Caseta Wireless is that it works with practically every major smart home brand, including Nest, HomeKit, Alexa, Google Home, Honeywell, ecobee, Logitech Harmony, Samsung SmartThings, Sonos and Wink.

Credit: LutronCredit: LutronThe Lutron mobile app lets you set schedules and create lighting scenes similar to other smart light switches, but it can also dim the lights — something that most companies can't do. Caseta Wireless can also work in three-way lighting situations, making it one of the few companies that can do this. It's particularly handy for larger rooms, where one light switch might be at the far end. It also comes with a small remote control. To do this, you install the light switch in one of the spots and replace the extra light switches with Lutron's Pico remote, which pairs directly with the light switch. The Pico remote fits in a special wall plate and looks identical to the in-wall unit.

What Owners Are Saying

Lutron's switch gets high marks on Amazon — 4.5 out of 5 stars — and of those reviews, more than 90 percent are quality, according to Fakespot.

Many reviewers agreed that installation was very simple, and worked well with Amazon's and Google's assistants. "Now we can be super lazy by saying Alexa turn off this light without getting up, grabbing a phone, or anything," said one reviewer.

Some complained that the bridge has to be plugged into your router, and that the bridge's range is limited, so those who have larger houses may need to use an extender of some sort.

TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Light Switch HS200


The TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Light Switch connects directly to your home Wi-Fi network, which gives it an advantage over smart home light switches that use Z-Wave or ZigBee. However, like most smart switches, TP-Link's Smart Wi-Fi Light Switch doesn't work in rooms where there are multiple lights switches to control the fixtures

A small LED light on the switch lets you know it's working and also serves as a way to find it easier at night.

Credit: TP-LinkCredit: TP-LinkTP-Link's Kasa app (Android and iOS) lets you turn your lights on and off using your smartphone. The Kasa app also lets you set up a number of useful features, such as scheduling your lights to turn on or off at set times.

If you go on vacation, you can use the away mode to make your home appear as if someone's there. Finally, the app lets you set a countdown timer to turn the lights off, which helps  you save energy in rooms you infrequently visit. The app, however, doesn't let you dim your lights.

When the Amazon Echo took the smart home by storm, TP-Link was one of the first companies to connect its products to Alexa. The switch also works with Google Home (so you can also control it using Google Assistant), but beyond that, it doesn't support any other smart home systems.

What Owners Are Saying

The nearly 7,000 reviews of this product on Amazon — where it received an average rating of 4 stars — point to the popularity of TP-Link's switch.

"I can schedule them to automatically turn on and off, so they come on in the dark kitchen every morning just a few minutes before I usually stumble in to make coffee," said one reviewer. "They work fantastically well with Alexa." However, one frustrated reviewer commented, "Why the hell TPLINK hasn't incorporated dimming is beyond me."

Insteon SwitchLinc Remote Control Dimmer


Similar to Lutron's switch, Insteon's SwitchLinc Remote Control Dimmer must connect to the Insteon Central Controller Hub ($58, sold separately) in order to connect to the internet, and by extension, other smart home devices. While not difficult, it is an extra step. Still, like Lutron's, Insteon's switch can be used with others to control a single set of lights.

A series of small LEDs provides a visual cue about the dimming level, and the switch is available in seven finishes. The SwitchLinc also works with Amazon Alexa, so you can control your light levels via voice.

Credit: InsteonCredit: InsteonThrough Insteon's smartphone app, you can also set schedules for when your lights should turn on and off. You can even set the lights to adjust their brightness slowly, which is nice if you want to have them wake you gently in the morning.

Insteon makes both a 600-watt and a 1,000-watt version of this switch, which is useful if you plan to use it to control a large number of lights or something with greater energy demands.

What Owners Are Saying

Amazon customers who purchased the SwitchLinc gave it 4 out of 5 stars on average; more than 90 percent of those reviews were legitimate, according to Fakespot, a site that analyzes Amazon reviews.

Customers liked that they could use multiple switches with a single light. However, many noted that the switch does not come with a cover plate, which might require you to take a trip to the hardware store to find one that matches.

GE Z-Wave Wireless Smart Light Dimmer Switch


GE's smart dimming switch has a small LED light, making it easy for you to find the switch in a dark room. Unlike most other switches on this list, there's no GE app for controlling its switch; rather, it's designed to be used in conjunction with other smart home systems. In order to use it, you'll first need a Z-Wave-compatible hub, such as Samsung SmartThings or Wink.

Credit: GECredit: GEOnce connected to the hub, though, the GE Switch can be programmed to dim your lights, turn them on or off at scheduled times and link them with other smart home devices. They can also be controlled via Alexa.

The GE switch can also be integrated into two-way, three-way or four-way wiring configurations, but you'll also need the GE Add-On Switch for Z-Wave ($19).

What Owners Are Saying

With an average 4-star rating on Amazon, it's fair to say that GE's switch is a popular one. "It works so well, I'm trying to pace myself from replacing every switch in the house with z-wave," said one reviewer. However, many reviews caution that these switches require a neutral wire, so if your house or apartment lacks this, these switches won't work.

Philips Hue Smart Dimmer Switch with Remote

If you've got a lot of Philips Hue lights in your house, and don't want to go through the trouble of calling an electrician to change a light switch, the Philips Hue Smart Dimmer could be the solution. This $24 accessory can control up to 10 room lights, letting you turn them on, off, and dim without having to open your smartphone. While it looks like a traditional wall switch (and you can stick it to your wall), the control can pop out, letting you adjust the brightness from your couch.

What Owners Are Saying

This switch has an excellent 4.5-star rating on Amazon. Owners praised its ease of installation and use. Wrote one person, "the Hue Dimmer Switch stands out as tool that will allow home automation to cross from a limited audience to the general population."

New & Notable

Leviton's dimmer switch connects directly to your Wi-Fi network (and Leviton's smartphone app), so you don't need to link it to a third-party hub to control your lights remotely. Using Leviton's app, you can schedule when the lights turn on and off, and link them to other smart home devices. The dimmer works with both Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can raise and lower the light level using nothing but your voice. It's rated for LED and CFL loads up to 300W and incandescent loads up to 600W; it requires a neutral wire. The DW6HD comes with both a white and a beige switch, but does not include a wallplate.

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