Best Smart Lighting Controls of 2018

John Carlsen ·
Updated
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We've evaluated smart lighting controls since 2014, spending over 50 hours researching 10 switches from eight brands. As we researched, we looked for information that can help you choose the right switch for your home, including info about how you control each switch, whether by smartphone or a home automation system. We also briefly compare smart switches with smart light bulbs to help you choose the option that works for you. Based on our research, we chose Lutron as the overall best smart switch brand because it has so many options for different lighting setups.

Best Overall

Lutron

Lutron smart switches work with a number of smart home systems and offer excellent controls, though they can be more expensive than other brands.
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Best Value

Ankuoo NEO

The Ankuoo NEO is a very affordable way to add smartphone control to your lights. It's easy to use and install, though it doesn’t work with other smart home systems.
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Best for Alexa

Belkin Wemo

Belkin's Wemo smart switches have a slick modern design and work well with Amazon's Alexa voice controls as well as other smart home brands.
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Best Overall

Lutron

Lutron's smart switches are some of the best in the industry.
Although we looked at the company's Maestro line of switches as we researched for this guide, we were able to test the Lutron Caseta Wireless Smart Lighting Dimmer Kit in 2015 and were impressed by how easy it was to use and how well it worked with many smart home systems, particularly Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit and others. The kit we tested didn't have in-wall switches but offered much of the same functionality. We plan to include Lutron Caseta Wireless smart switches in our next major update, which will involve in-house testing. Both Lutron's Caseta Wireless and Maestro products require a smart hub to work with your smartphone. Lutron sells several kits for Caseta Wireless that come with its smart lighting hub. The Maestro products are more suited for a smart home system, like Wink, that uses Lutron's Clear Connect radio frequency. Lutron's switches are among the more expensive smart lighting controls, particularly if you buy a kit that comes with a smart hub. That said, they are easy to use and come in a wide variety of colors. Although the company makes some switches that work without a neutral wire, Caseta Wireless and Maestro need one to work properly. The same goes for Lutron switches and three-way lighting setups, though we like that Lutron's Pico remotes, when mounted on the wall, can create a three-way lighting setup.
Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Works with numerous smart home systems
  • Excellent Caseta Wireless remote controls
Cons
  • One of the more expensive brands
  • Wall switches don't work in three-way setup
  • Requires smart hub of some kind
$52.00Amazon
Best Value

Ankuoo NEO

The Ankuoo NEO Wi-Fi Light Switch is about as cheap as a smart light switch gets, costing around $20. Because of its price, it only has a basic mobile app that lets you control lights manually and through schedules.
This device is a good option if you don't want to connect the switch to Amazon Alexa voice controls, though Ankuoo does sell an Alexa-compatible model, the REC, for about $5 more. The NEO doesn't require a smart hub, though this also means it doesn't work with any smart home systems. The NEO smart light switch is as easy to install as the others we looked at, though this also means it doesn’t work in three-way lighting setups and requires a neutral wire to work properly. It comes with a plastic faceplate that snaps on and bright LED lights that tell you when it's connected to your home's Wi-Fi. We like that the lights also make it easier to find the switch in the dark. There's not much else to this switch, which makes it a simple way to add smartphone controls to your home’s lights. However, we recommend something that works with a smart home system if you need more than the most basic controls.
Pros
  • Affordable
  • No smart hub required
  • Easy to install
Cons
  • Doesn't work in three-way setup
  • Requires neutral wire
  • Doesn't work with Amazon Alexa
$30.99Amazon
Best for Alexa

Belkin Wemo

Belkin makes two smart light switches under its Wemo smart home brand.
The older of the two models, the Wemo Wi-Fi Smart Light Switch, provides basic on/off controls and scheduling, while the newer Wemo Wi-Fi Smart Dimmer adds dimming controls. These switches have a modern design that alludes to their high-tech purpose, which contrasts with many other smart switches that have more traditional designs. The Wemo Wi-Fi Smart Light Switch doesn't require a smart hub, as it connects directly to your home's wireless network. The switch is easy to install, provided you have the required neutral wire. You can't use Belkin smart switches in three-way lighting setups either, though this is hardly surprising since most smart switches are like this. Belkin switches work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, provided you have a compatible voice control device. You can also link the Wemo switch to your Nest account or IFTTT to add the device to your smart home. Because these switches don't work with smart hubs, like those from Samsung SmartThings and Wink, you need to link your smart hub and Wemo devices to the services listed above to get them to work together. Wemo switches start at $50, so adding them to your whole home can get quite expensive.
Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Works with Alexa and Google Assistant
  • No smart hub required
Cons
  • Buying multiple switches gets expensive
  • Doesn't work in three-way setup
  • Requires neutral wire
$30.00Amazon

Why Trust Us? 

Since 2015, we've tested programmable thermostats, security cameras, DIY home security systems and smart locks in-house at Top Ten Reviews. We use the experience gained through these tests to inform our decisions and conclusions about other smart home equipment. As time and resources become available, we work to expand the catalog of products we test. Our product tests all have exacting, reproducible standards that focus on performance and user-friendliness. We design our tests to capture consumer experiences instead of focusing entirely on data benchmarks that only an engineer could understand.

When, as in the case with smart lighting controls, we aren't able to test the physical product, we apply the same due diligence to make sure our information and conclusions reflect the mission of Top Ten Reviews.

How We Tested

When we first wrote this guide in 2014, we looked at 10 switch models from eight brands, spending over 50 hours researching and writing. At the time, we chose not to test, since the market was still transitioning from professionals to consumers. Since that time, more brands have released smart switches, including Philips hue, TP-Link and Switchmate. We plan to do in-house testing during out our next major update of this guide sometime in 2018. Our testing will be backed by advice from electricians and home automation integrators. We look forward to improving our review with more concrete data.

What to Look For

Smart Switches vs. Smart Bulbs
In general, smart switches are the most cost-effective way to make the lights in your home work with a mobile app or smart home system. This is because you don't need to replace every light bulb in your home with a smart one, which is more expensive than replacing a few switches. Additionally, smart light bulbs aren't currently suitable for enclosed light fixtures, as heat can build up in the fixture, which shortens the bulb's life.

However, smart light bulbs have some advantages over smart switches. For example, smart light bulbs are great for the lamps, especially if they aren't controlled by a wall switch. Also, many smart light bulbs allow you to adjust the color of the light in addition to dimming, though this is mainly practical in creating lighting scenes to enhance your home's ambiance. Smart bulbs are also an excellent option for renters who can't swap out light switches.

Design
A smart switch should be designed like any traditional control, with a physical switch you can use to manually turn the lights on and off. Most of the models we looked use a rocker switch, though it's also possible to buy smart switches that use buttons or traditional toggles, depending on your preferences. Most smart light switches come in white, though some come in other colors to match your decor. There should also be some sort of LED light to indicate the switch’s connection status with your wireless network or smart home system.

Smartphone App
In addition to letting you turn lights on and off from your smartphone, the best apps allow you to turn any light into a dimmer, provided you use compatible dimming light bulbs. You can also use the app to set schedules and desired lighting levels. This allows you to monitor your electricity usage, and it can fool home intruders into thinking you’re home while you're away.

Smart Home Integration
Unlike security cameras, smart locks and video doorbells, smart lighting controls usually work best as part of a larger smart home system, though they don’t have to be used this way. If you want a switch that works with your smartphone without additional equipment, then it's best to choose one that uses Wi-Fi. However, if you want the switch to work with a smart hub, you might consider one that uses Z-Wave or ZigBee, two of the most common home automation platforms. In some cases, you can link your Wi-Fi smart light with your smart hub, which gives you both options. A popular way to do this is through Amazon Alexa, a voice-control platform for smart homes.

Installation
Installing a smart light switch is a simple project that most people can do in a few minutes. If you're not comfortable working with the wiring in your home, then you should hire an electrician, though it can be expensive if they're only installing one switch. Most smart lighting controls require a neutral wire to work. If your home doesn't have this wiring setup, then you should choose a switch that doesn't need one or hire an electrician to update your home's wiring.

Most smart light switches don't work in three-way lighting setups, where two or more switches control the same light. In these cases, you might consider replacing the extra switches with a wall-mounted wireless remote, like the Lutron Caseta Wireless Pico Remote or Leviton's Coordinating Switch Remote, to get similar functionality. Similarly, a smart light bulb can work with three-way lighting setups, provided at least one switch is always on to provide the bulb with power.

DIY installation involves turning off the breaker, swapping out the old switch for the new one and turning the breaker back on. To avoid electric shock, always check that the power to the old light switch is off before you start. This is done by using a voltage tester or multimeter, which you can buy at your local hardware store or online. You'll also need a flathead screwdriver and wire nuts. Take time to read the switch's installation guide and watch some YouTube tutorials before you start.
 
Setup
After installation, the smart switch needs to be set up to connect to your smart home system or the mobile app. If the switch uses Wi-Fi, you use the manufacturer's mobile app for setup; however, if it uses something other than Wi-Fi, such as Z-Wave, then you need to put your smart hub in pairing mode. Regardless of the method you use, setup shouldn't take longer than a few minutes.

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