We've evaluated smart lighting controls since 2014, spending over 50 hours researching 10 switches from eight brands.
Lutron smart switches work with a number of smart home systems and offer excellent controls, though they can be more expensive than other brands.VIEW DEAL ON The Home Depot
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.
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 compared 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.
Lutron smart switches work with a number of smart home systems and offer excellent controls, though they can be more expensive than other brands.
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.
Wemo smart switches have a slick modern design and work well with Amazon's Alexa voice controls as well as other smart home brands.
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.
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, just the mobile app. 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.
Best for Alexa
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 Wemo smart switches in three-way lighting setups either, though this is hardly surprising since most smart switches are like this.
These 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.
The GE In-Wall Lighting Control switches are designed to connect to a smart home hub and activate with your mobile device.
You’ll need to purchase a Z-Wave enabled smart hub to pair the switches with your smartphone, and this device runs about $50 to $100 on average. This hub connects to your Wi-Fi router and acts as a connecting point for your smart lighting controls and other smart home devices. These switches are designed to replace your current light switches with your current wiring and the only design difference than a regular switch is it has a small LED light and connection button. The button is to reset the control and connect it to the smart hub, while the light indicates the switch’s status and helps you find it in the dark. Another plus is the switches use Z-Wave wireless to enable wireless communication between your mobile and household devices.
The Leviton VRI06-1LZ is a flexible smart light switch that is capable of connecting with other Leviton switches throughout your home through a compatible smart hub.
This hub gives you greater control over your home automation, including your compatible smart thermostat, alarms and door locks. The convenience of the app makes it easy to monitor and control your smart home devices, even if you are far away and have an internet connection. This switch is a great dimmer switch and allows you to decide how quickly the light turns on or off. There are 49 brightness levels to pick between, allowing you to choose from soft to instant. Using the app, you can set the minimum and maximum brightness values, so the light will go to your preset brightness when switched on. Leviton offers a five-year warranty on its switches, the longest in the industry.
Latest News & Updates (January 2019)
Since our last update, some new smart light switches have been announced or become available for purchase:
- ecobee Switch+: This smart light switch has built-in Amazon Alexa voice controls – a feature that ecobee introduced with the ecobee4. (Released in March 2018 for $99)
- NOON Room Director: This high-end light switch has a touchscreen, but the switch is probably too expensive for most consumers. (Released in October 2017 for $249)
- Brilliant: This touchscreen light switch can control a wide variety of smart home equipment, including thermostats and smart locks. It has built-in Amazon Alexa Voice controls. (Released in September 2018 for $299)
- Senic Nuimo Click: This switch is compatible with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and EnOcean smart home platforms. It can control Sonos speakers and Philips Hue lighting. (Released in December 2018 for $229)
- C by GE C-Start Smart Switch: This Wi-Fi light switch is designed for use with C by GE smart light bulbs and is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. It comes in two variants: a dimmer switch, and a dimmer switch with a motion sensor. (Set to be released in February 2019 starting at $50)
- Zooz S2 Dimmer: This Z-Wave light switch is compatible with three-way switch setups. (Announced in January 2019)
- Kasa Smart HS230: The Kasa Smart Light Switch with Voice Assistant expands the company’s line of Wi-Fi light switches with built-in voice controls similar to those of the ecobee Switch+. (Announced in January 2019)
- Sengled Smart Switch: This wireless switch controls Sengled smart light bulbs, which use the Zigbee smart home platform. (Announced in January 2019)
- Leviton Decora Voice Dimmer: This Wi-Fi light switch includes built-in Amazon Alexa voice controls and is compatible with three-way lighting setups. (Announced in January 2019)
- Wemo: One of Wemo’s upcoming Wi-Fi light switch models is compatible with Apple HomeKit and three-way switch setups. (Announced in January 2019)
Why Trust Us?
Since 2015, we've tested programmable thermostats, security cameras, DIY home security systems and smart locks in-house. 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 our next major update of this guide sometime in 2019. Our testing will be backed by advice from electricians and home automation integrators. We look forward to improving our review with more concrete data.
How Much Do Smart Lighting Controls Cost?
Smart lighting controls range in price from $20 to over $120, with the average price more within the $40 to $60 range. Additional expenses may be needed, such as a smart home hub, or a Wi-Fi Router. The nice thing about purchasing individual switches one at a time is you can spread out the cost while enjoying smart lighting no matter your budget.
What to Expect From a Smart Light Switch
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.