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A four-way smart switch for the CNET Smart Home (pictures)

It wasn't easy, but we stuffed four Belkin WeMo Light Switches into a single faceplate in the CNET Smart Home. Here's how we did it.

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Ry Crist
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1 of 29 Ry Crist/CNET

Smart four times over

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.

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2 of 29 Ry Crist/CNET

The hardware

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.

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3 of 29 Ry Crist/CNET

No faceplate necessary

We'll go ahead and set that single-switch faceplate aside. For this build, we'll need a faceplate built for four.

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4 of 29 Ry Crist/CNET

The bare switch

Here's the hardware straight out of the box. It's actually a very simple device.

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Caveats

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.

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6 of 29 Ry Crist/CNET
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7 of 29 Ry Crist/CNET

The wires

Each WeMo Switch uses two black wires for the line and the load, a white neutral wire, and a green ground wire.

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8 of 29 Ry Crist/CNET

Safety first

Before we get started, let's be sure to cut the power at the breaker. Nothing smart about electrocuting yourself.

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9 of 29 Ry Crist/CNET

Screwing around

Now to get right to it. First step, get that old switchplate out of the way.

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10 of 29 Ry Crist/CNET

Face-off

There we go -- four switches exposed.

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The situation

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.

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Switch removal

Let's go ahead and unscrew these old switches to take a closer look.

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Hmm

The existing switches are wired together, with exposed sections of the line wire looped around each switch.

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A sizable difference

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.

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The red wire

You'll also notice that red wire on switch No. 2...

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Switch No. 5

That red wire connects to a second switch on the other side of the room that controls the same light.

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A problem

That's a problem -- as long as that second switch is connected, our WeMo Switch won't work.

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Capping things off...?

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.

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19 of 29 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Option C

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.

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20 of 29 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Back to work

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.

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21 of 29 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

A tight fit...

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.

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Getting closer...

It was a downright tedious squeeze, but with two sets of hands, we made quick work of it.

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Almost done...

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.

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Straightening up

With all four switches in place, we just need to straighten everything up so the switch plate will fit.

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The switchplate

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.

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Fits like a glove

Those reviews didn't lie -- the switchplate fit perfectly.

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Up and running

With the power back on, the switches booted up and controlled the lights like normal.

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28 of 29 Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

App controls

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.

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Amazon Echo

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.

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