Everything you need to know before installing a smart light switch

If you’re thinking about turning your home into a smart home, lighting is a great place to start. A connected LED or smart plug can help with the basics, but smart switches can take your home lighting setup to the next level. However, there are some things you should know before going all in on smart switches.

Here’s a look at some of the options to help you decide if light switches are really the best choice for you, then dive into their smart features, compatibility, cost, and more.

Are light switches right for your home?

First, make sure you get the right kind of smart lighting for your home. Smart switches are one of the most common options when it comes to smart lighting. You can find them in almost any big box hardware store.

That said, smart switches aren’t the only or absolute best option for upgrading your home. There are two other common types of smart lighting: smart bulbs and smart plugs† And there is no one-size-fits-all answer to what is best.

Smart BulbsThis way you can not only control the lighting remotely or schedule it, but often also change the color of the lighting on the fly.

smart plugs keep it simple and let you turn an existing bulb with a regular incandescent bulb into one that you can turn on and off anywhere. They also sometimes let you track energy consumption. Both options come with a plug-and-play installation. If you don’t like it or want to move it later, you can with little to no effort.

Smart Switcheson the other hand are more integrated into the house and require some electrical work. You can still control the lamps with the wall switch as you always have, but you get some extra benefits, such as dimming or a pop-out remote that still makes it easier to manually control the lamps. But they also work with existing lighting fixtures.

Consider your needs and determine if switches make sense, although you don’t have to choose just one type of lighting either. You can mix and match throughout your home and use the most appropriate smart light option for each individual lamp.

Read more: High electricity bills: one small change to cut costs

Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri

When choosing a smart switch, think about your voice control options. If the smart switches you choose can communicate with AlexaGoogle Assistant or Siri (or a combination of the three), there are even more options for controlling your lamps.

You may find that it’s faster and more convenient to tell a Google Assistant or Alexa-compatible speaker to “Turn on the lights in the living room” than to grab your phone and fumble through an app. You can integrate the lights into your daily routine and use commands that make the most sense to you. One of our favorites is, “Hey Google, turn off all the lights,” as we head out the door.

Compatibility Check

Just like any other dimmer, make sure your smart switch is compatible with the bulbs you have installed, especially if it’s LED lighting. For example, Lutron has a compatibility tool you can use to find out which light bulbs (including recessed and canned lights) are compatible with their switches.

Keep in mind that you’ll probably want to swap out your smart bulbs for the standard “dumb” variant if you plan on installing smart light switches so that the two smart technologies don’t compete with each other.

three-way switches

If you have three-way switches (as many of us do in hallways and large rooms, such as living rooms) consider how you approach these. In the CNET Smart Home, a real home where we test products, we used Lutron Caseta remotes to make installation easy, because they look and work like three-way switches, but don’t require as much manual labor to perform.

What are the costs?

Which brings me to the next point, and it’s a big one: the cost. Smart switches don’t come cheap, especially if you plan to install them throughout your home.

Dumb light switches cost just a few dollars each. Installing all the new switches in my house would cost about $60. That’s only a few dollars more than the cost of one Lutron Caseta Wireless Light Switch, which sells for about $55. Installing it around my house would cost about $1,100.

Given this, you can probably install a few smart bulbs and plugs in your home for a lot less money. But the installation won’t be nearly as seamless.

To be honest, not each light in the house must be connected. And some switches are redundant, so you wouldn’t want to install two smart switches for one set of lights. But the difference in cost is still significant.

After examining all these factors, you may decide that smart switches are a good option for you. Then take a look at our smart light switch buying guide if you still have questions, check out some of our other lighting coverage below.

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