Belkin WeMo Light Switch review: Home automation for the DIY junkie

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.1
  • Features: 8.0
  • Usability: 7.0
  • Design: 9.0
  • Performance: 9.0

Average User Rating

0.5 stars 1 user review
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Belkin WeMo Light Switch makes it easy to control overhead lights, fans, or other switch-plate-connected devices remotely via smartphone or tablet.

The Bad It requires a direct connection to your wall wiring, which will make installation nerve-wracking for some, and impossible for others. Could also use a dimming option.

The Bottom Line The Belkin WeMo Light Switch is a little expensive, but it's mostly a solid a la carte option for DIYers interested in home automation.

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The Belkin WeMo Light Switch replaces most single wall-mounted on/off switches and lets you control your lights from anywhere with an Internet connection. The switch connects to your home WiFi network, which then passes on control of the switch to Belkin's free WeMo mobile app. So as long as your phone is connected to the Internet, you can monitor and modify the light settings in your home with minimal effort. If your Wi-Fi is disabled for some reason, you can still physically turn your lights on or off the old-fashioned way.

I thought 50 bucks for a light switch seemed excessive at first, but it might just be worth it for some of you. It definitely makes more sense if you like to create preset schedules for your lights: think holiday decorations or a front-porch light. It's basically a modern way to automate your home lighting or other devices (ceiling fans, etc.) without having to mess with a dial timer. If you don't have a light switch that you like to program regularly, this is going to be more of a novelty for you -- albeit one that's fun to use and well-designed.

Construction and design
The installation instructions Belkin provides on the box are misleadingly short, so I suggest skimming those briefly and then watching Belkin's installation video for all of the important details. The video will take you through the process so you can get this thing working and looking nice in your home as painlessly as possible.

If you're not afraid to flip a circuit breaker, installing the WeMo switch shouldn't be very complicated or time consuming. But others who are new to the oft-intimidating world of fuse boxes and wire connecters should offer a more experienced friend a couple of cold drinks in exchange for assistance. I finished the installation myself in 30 minutes, and I spent a good portion of that time watching the tutorial video and compulsively checking my fuse box and power to make sure I had turned everything off correctly -- actual installation time was probably closer to 15 to 20 minutes.

One issue you might come across is that the specific wires you find in your electrical box might not perfectly match what is mentioned in the video guide. For instance, not every electrical box has the typically white neutral wire, which is integral for this installation. Your best bet is to check the electrical box you want to set up before you buy the WeMo Light Switch. Another thing to be prepared for is that the back of the WeMo switch is larger than regular light switches, so it will take more muscle to tuck the wires far enough back for the switch to screw in flush with the wall.

The back of the Belkin WeMo Light Switch is quite large. You may have to fuss with the wires a bit for it to fit into the electrical box. Colin West McDonald/CNET

After you install the hardware, you're ready to set up WeMo on your smartphone or tablet. Just download the free WeMo app (and the free IFTTT app if you want to get creative), go to your Wi-Fi settings, and WeMo should be among the list of available networks. Then fire up the WeMo app and follow the steps to complete the short configuration process. Belkin doesn't offer any Web-based versions of WeMo, but free mobile apps are currently available for iOS and Android platforms.

Usability
Both the switch and the app are extremely easy to use. It's a push-button light switch, so press it on and a power light illuminates. Press it off when it's dark out and a faint night-light will appear. You can also operate the Belkin WeMo Light Switch using the WeMo app. The "on/off" button on the WeMo app turns green when the light is on so you can tell the difference between the two settings. There's not too much else to know about the WeMo's most basic function.

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