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7 smart switches that won't f@!% up your smart bulbs

In most cases, turning things off at the switch renders your smart bulbs useless. These smart switches solve that problem.

Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
Expertise Smart home technology | Wireless connectivity Credentials
  • 10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
Ry Crist
6 min read
Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Upgrading to smart bulbs is one of the best ways to smarten things up at home, but there's one recurring smart-bulb headache worth keeping in mind: None of your automations, app controls and voice commands will work if the power is off at the switch. And, for most of us, turning the light switch off when we leave the room is a habit that our parents drilled into our psyches long ago. In other words, it's a really hard habit to break.

For years, that's led homeowners who use smart bulbs to take some drastic measures -- or some creative ones, at least. One of the most common: a Post-It Note over top of the switch to remind the kids to leave it switched on. And, you know, nothing screams "smart" like sticking neon-orange scraps of paper all over your house.

Read more: 3 easy ways to smarten up your lights
Read also: The best color-changing smart bulbs (that cost less than Philips Hue)

Fortunately, a better way is beginning to emerge. The idea is simple enough -- instead of covering that pesky, dumb light switch with a Post-It Note, just replace it with a smarter light switch that's meant to connect with those smart bulbs in the first place. Turn things off at the wall with a switch like that, and your bulbs will keep working like normal. Some of these switches even offer extra tricks of their own, like the ability to trigger specific lighting scenes at the press of a button, extra support for things like Sonos speakers, or built-in sensors for motion and ambient light.

Philips Hue, Lifx, GE, Ring and more: Lots of new smart lights coming in 2019

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It's worth noting that this idea of smart switches designed to play nice with smart bulbs is a fairly recent one. For years, popular smart switches from names like WeMo and iDevices have helped people smarten up their dumb lights and fixtures, but switches like that with their own, built-in dimming controls aren't meant to be used with smart bulbs, because the dual dimming mechanisms end up clashing and causing the lights to flicker and strobe.

That sets these new switches apart -- and it also means that you've only got a couple of options that currently fit the bill. Here they are, along with our initial hands-on impressions. And in the spirit of disclosure, please know that CNET may get a share of revenue from any sales made through the links on this page.


Along with being able to pair directly with GE smart bulbs, this C by GE smart dimmer includes a built-in motion sensor that can trigger your lights when you walk into the room.

Ry Crist/CNET

C by GE C-Start Smart Switch

GE's new smart lighting lineup is designed for seamless compatibility with the Google Assistant, and its smart switches promise to play nice with C by GE smart bulbs, too. Along with allowing your automations to work even when the switch is off, the $72 version seen here comes with a built-in motion sensor that can trigger your lights as soon as you walk into the room.

Watch this: C by GE swings for the smart lighting fences at CES 2019

If that sounds like a lot to spend, you can save some money by going for the standard dimmer-switch version that costs less than $40. Inconspicuous-looking toggle and paddle switches designed to blend in with your existing dumb switches are available, too. We plan to spend some time testing all of them out this summer, but so far, we really like what we've seen from GE's tight-knit relationship with Google.

Read more on CNET: GE's new smart lights and switches take a shine to Google

Ry Crist/CNET

Click smart switch for Philips Hue by RunLessWire

For the past year or so, Philips Hue has been working with lighting manufacturers to develop "Friends of Hue" smart switches that play nicely with Philips Hue smart bulbs. The first of these to hit the market in the US was the Click smart switch from a company called RunLessWire.

Formerly called the "Illumra," the $60 Click is a four-button light switch with absolutely no wires -- and no batteries either. Instead, it powers itself by harvesting kinetic energy each time you press a button. Pair it with your Hue bulbs, and you'll be able to turn them on and off, dim them up and down, or toggle them between your favorite Hue scenes. 

On top of that, it comes in all of the usual colors (white, black, brown, gray, light almond, ivory -- you name it), so you shouldn't have any trouble matching it with your existing switches. And, so long as you've got the Apple HomeKit-compatible Philips Hue Bridge connected to your router, you can also use the Click switch to control your HomeKit gadgets. $60 is a little steep, but we loved this accessory when we first tested it out late last year.

Read more on CNET: This finger-powered smart switch is a must-have Hue accessory  


You can stick the iDevices Instant Switch up anywhere you like, then use it to trigger other iDevices gadgets.

Chris Monroe/CNET

iDevices Instant Switch

OK, so it isn't designed specifically for smart bulbs, but I'm including the $35 iDevices Instant Switch on this list because it's made to play nice with gadgets like the iDevices Smart Plug. If you're using that plug to automate a lamp, then adding in the Instant Switch would give you a physical means of turning the light on and off without actually turning the lamp itself off (which would, you know, stop all of your automations and voice commands from working). 

A niche use case, perhaps, but one worth mentioning for folks who've already invested in the iDevices ecosystem.

Read more on CNET: This smart switch controls... other... smart... switches?

You snap the Lutron Aurora dimmer dial over top of the existing light switch -- no wiring needed. From there, it'll pair wirelessly with your Hue bulbs. Just turn it to dim or tap it to turn things on and off.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Lutron Aurora Smart Dimmer Dial

Available for preorder now and slated to ship out by the end of this month, the Lutron Aurora is a brand-new accessory for Philips Hue bulbs (and eventually, other Zigbee 3.0 bulbs, too). Instead of replacing your dumb light switch, the Aurora is a clever little dial that snaps in place over top of it, locking it into the on position far better than your Post-It Notes ever could. From there, you pair it with your Hue bulbs, then turn the dial to dim them or tap it to turn them of and off.

We've just started testing this out, and so far, it works as advertised and hasn't given us any problems. $40 each is a bit steep, perhaps, but as a quick-and-easy upgrade for Hue that requires no wiring whatsoever, I think there's a lot to like here -- especially if you've got that one. Pesky. Switch. That your kids. Keep turning off! Just clamp this dial over top of it and be done with it, I say.

Read more on CNET: Lutron's new switch solves a big smart bulb headache


Dock the Hue Tap on its mounting plate, or carry it around with you like a remote. Either way, it'll never need new batteries, and never need recharging.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Philips Hue Tap

This Philips Hue accessory uses the same "EnOcean" energy harvesting technology as the RunLessWire Click, so it powers itself with each button press. No wires, no batteries -- just the kinetic energy from your fingertips coming through in the clutch. Pair it with your Hue bulbs, and you'll be able to assign the three small buttons and the larger fourth one that makes up the rest of the Tap's face to whatever actions you like. You can turn individual lights on and off, control entire groups of lights, trigger your favorite Hue scenes -- you name it. Not bad for a gadget that costs $40! That's $20 less than the RunLessWire version, which does the same basic thing.

Read more on CNET: The Philips Hue Tap is the best smart-home gadget you aren't using

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You can carry Philips Hue's wireless dimming switch around like a remote control, or dock it in its wall plate to use it more like a light switch.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Philips Hue Wireless Dimmer

If you don't like the Tap's circular build, or if you just want to save a bit of money by skipping the self-powering design, then consider Philips Hue's wireless dimmer switch, which sells on its own for about $25. You can pair it directly with up to 10 Hue White LEDs to control them all at once, and you won't even need the Philips Hue Bridge in order to do it. Like the Tap, it works well as a makeshift light switch when docked in the wall, but you can also take it with you and use it more like a handheld remote. 

One other point: you can also bundle the wireless dimmer with one of those Hue White bulbs for an extra $10, which isn't a bad deal -- those bulbs usually cost $10.

Read more on CNET: No app, no hub -- just plug-and-play smart lighting from Philips Hue


They aren't cheap, and they're designed with European-style light switches in mind, but Senic's Nuimo smart switches work great with both Philips Hue and Sonos.

Ry Crist/CNET

Senic Nuimo Click

Smart home startup Senic was one of the European manufacturers to jump in with Philips Hue's "Friends of Hue" program. Its marquee offering: Luxurious-looking smart switches that use the same trick as the Hue Tap and the RunLessWire Click to power themselves with your button presses. No wiring needed, no batteries needed.

The Nuimo Click switches also support wireless Sonos controls, so in addition to controlling your Hue bulbs, you can use them to skip through your favorite playlists. They're the most expensive gadgets on this list, and they're designed with European, square-style light switches in mind, but they're still worth mentioning for the slick design and the Sonos integration.

Read more on CNET: These buttons need no batteries to control Sonos and Hue