It's difficult to build a comprehensive, whole-home smart lighting setup without at least a couple of smart switches. In the CNET Smart Home, we wanted to see how hard it would be to install four of them into the same switch plate. Click through for the step-by-step rundown.
Our smart switch of choice: the Belkin WeMo Light Switch. It's a relatively affordable option with Wi-Fi built right in, and it works with a lot of popular third-party services, including SmartThings and IFTTT. The only downside: it doesn't dim.
We'll go ahead and set that single-switch faceplate aside. For this build, we'll need a faceplate built for four.
Here's the hardware straight out of the box. It's actually a very simple device.
Important to read the fine print with these things. Something worth knowing -- you can't use the WeMo Light Switch if there's a second switch controlling the same light.
Each WeMo Switch uses two black wires for the line and the load, a white neutral wire, and a green ground wire.
Before we get started, let's be sure to cut the power at the breaker. Nothing smart about electrocuting yourself.
Now to get right to it. First step, get that old switchplate out of the way.
There we go -- four switches exposed.
There's already a lot of wiring back there -- and with a dedicated neutral wire for each WeMo Switch, there'll soon be even more.
Let's go ahead and unscrew these old switches to take a closer look.
The existing switches are wired together, with exposed sections of the line wire looped around each switch.
Compared side by side, you can see that each WeMo Switch is going to take up a lot more space than the old switches they're replacing.
You'll also notice that red wire on switch No. 2...
That red wire connects to a second switch on the other side of the room that controls the same light.
That's a problem -- as long as that second switch is connected, our WeMo Switch won't work.
Capping the wires off wasn't the solution -- instead, we ultimately had to connect the black line wire to the red traveler wire, completing the circuit with the first switch. The wires still run across the room, but now they run back, as well. It's a bit inelegant, perhaps -- but it worked.
Of course, that left us with a nonfunctional switch. We could either cover it with a blank switch plate or seal it up with a drywall patch, neither of which sounded appealing.
Instead, we opted to cover the hole up with the Philips Hue Wireless Dimming Switch. Just peel off sticky tabs and stick it in place. We're already using Hue lights in the CNET Smart Home, so it'll get put to good use.
With that second switch taken care of, we can start wiring everything. The first step is to remove the old switches, making sure to keep the wires labeled as you go. Then, you can start connecting the new hardware. We had to group the ground and neutral wires together in new bundles, then connect each of those bundles to the existing ground and neutral wires.
All of those extra wires and wire nuts creates an awful lot of stuff to fit in back behind the switches. Pushing each one in took plenty of finesse.
It was a downright tedious squeeze, but with two sets of hands, we made quick work of it.
I can't even tell you how jam-packed the wires are behind these switches. It works, and it's electrically safe, but man, is it stuffed.
With all four switches in place, we just need to straighten everything up so the switch plate will fit.
We went with this four-way switch plate that we found on Amazon for about $8. Some of the reviews pointed out that it was a good fit for WeMo Switches.
Those reviews didn't lie -- the switchplate fit perfectly.
With the power back on, the switches booted up and controlled the lights like normal.
We were also able to add each switch into the WeMo app, which lets us turn each light on and off remotely, automate them according to a preprogrammed schedule, or integrate them with other smart-home gear.
One such piece of smart home gear: the Amazon Echo smart speaker. Sync it up with your WeMo Light Switches, and you'll be able to turn them on and off with voice commands. That's exactly what we did in the CNET Smart Home.