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A Smart Switch Will Light Up Any Room

Are smart lighting switches worth it? The initial cost and installation are a small price to pay to upgrade your home's lighting controls.

A light switch and a blue wall
Are smart light switches right for your home? Start here.
Tomas Kohoutek/Getty Images

There's a smart version of just about everything you can plug in, from TVs to refrigerators and even the plug itself, but what about the switches that control power to said devices and other fixtures in your home? You'll want a smart switch for that, of course.

Smart switches are available online or at your local big-box hardware store and come in a variety of colors and configurations, including dimmer settings. They'll run you a bit more than standard switches and may require a bit of know-how to install, but you may find smart switches to be well worth the small trouble.

Why use a smart switch?

I get it: "Why would I need a smart version of something that's literally as simple as flipping a switch?" I can think of a few reasons, but it ultimately comes down to what justifies almost every smart home technology: convenience.

Sure, you can walk over to a light switch and flip it on or off, or maybe adjust the dimmer setting, but what about when you're away? Or, even more importantly, when you're comfy on the couch and want to turn the lights down without standing up? Such situations, among others, are where a smart switch will come in handy.

I'm kidding a bit with the couch thing (though I've definitely been there), but the fact remains that controlling your light switches via an app on your phone or simply saying, "Alexa, turn on the lights" is convenient. Plus, the ability to remotely flip a light switch on or off, or set it to a timer to do so automatically, can add a level of security to your home while you're away.

What do you have to give up for that added convenience and security? Not much, actually. Smart switches can run from just $10 to $100 depending on the brand and functionality, and installation shouldn't take up too much of a Saturday, even for novice handypersons like myself.

Smart home and light bulb compatibility

Most smart switches are compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri (or some combination of the three), enabling voice commands and further integration with your smart home. Again, it's convenient, and there's also something that feels slightly futuristic about saying, "Hey Google, turn off all the lights" as you're walking out of the house. 

When shopping for a smart switch, keep in mind what kind of smart devices and assistants are already in your home or you may own down the road. Try to find a switch that is compatible with those devices if you want to better integrate it with your smart home network.

Smart devices and assistants aside, you'll also want to ensure that your smart switch is compatible with the lights you have installed -- especially if they're LED lights. Lutron, for example, has a compatibility tool you can use to find out which light bulbs (including recessed and can lights) are compatible with its switches.

Smart switches versus smart bulbs and plugs

Installing a smart switch isn't the only way to smarten up your home's lighting. Smart bulbs will also give you control over turning the light on and off, and many can change colors (that's not just fun, but surprisingly useful when ordering delivery or waiting for an Uber). The light bulbs can get pricey though, especially when you need multiple bulbs for a ceiling fan, and will only give you control over the bulb itself, not the source of power or other hardwired devices.

Smart plugs are similar to smart switches in that they allow you to control the flow of power, only from an outlet instead of a switch. As such, smart plugs are ideal for lighting situations like plugging in a lamp or night-light, but less so for hardwired lighting fixtures or ceiling fans.  

One advantage of smart bulbs and plugs over smart switches is ease of installation. Smart plugs will plug straight into your outlet and installing a smart bulb is like changing any regular old light bulb. 

Smart switches, on the other hand, are more integrated into the home and require some electrical work. Installation isn't all that complicated and your smart switch should come with detailed instructions, but be prepared for it to take longer than screwing in a lightbulb. Additionally, there are always safety concerns when working with anything electrical. Be sure to follow all safety precautions when installing a smart switch. 

So, are smart switches worth it?

Smart switches are a fairly inexpensive, fairly easy-to-install way to upgrade your lighting controls. There are various smart switch colors and configurations to choose from, and some may play nicer than others when it comes to compatibility with your other smart home products, so you should be able to find a smart switch for nearly any room or need.

Consider your needs and determine if smart switches make sense, but remember, you don't have to choose just one type of lighting. Mix and match smart switches, bulbs and plugs throughout your home to fit each situation with the most appropriate smart light option.

 More lighting coverage