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

The Belkin WeMo Light Switch is a product that you can proudly display in your home. If you're used to scheduling your lights with a plug-in timer, the WeMo is a definite upgrade. It simplifies home automation and can be used alongside IFTTT.

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Megan Wollerton
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Megan Wollerton

Senior Writer/Editor

Megan Wollerton has covered technology for CNET since 2013. Before that, she wrote for NBC's Dvice.com (now SyFy). Megan has a master's degree from the University of Louisville and a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College, both in international relations. She is a board member of the Louisville chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. When Megan isn't writing, she's planning far-flung adventures.

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EDITORS' NOTE, 7/19/18: WeMo has begun to implement Apple HomeKit's new software authentication, which lets WeMo devices connect to Apple HomeKit on their own without needing the WeMo Bridge plugged into your router. So far, the only WeMo gadget to get the upgrade is the WeMo Mini smart switch, though WeMo tells us that the WeMo Dimmer light switch should also take advantage by the end of 2018. It isn't clear yet if other WeMo gadgets, including the standard, non-dimmable WeMo Light Switch reviewed here, will follow suit or not, but for now, you'll still need the WeMo Bridge to connect them with HomeKit. Our original review of the WeMo Light Switch follows below:    

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8.1

Belkin WeMo Light Switch

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.

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.

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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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When the light is on, the green power indicator will illuminate.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

You can also program rules using the app. This is where Belkin crosses over into home automation territory. The rules section allows you to schedule the light to "turn off or on only," so you could set it to "turn on at 6 p.m. on weekdays." You can also "turn on then off," so you can program it to "turn on at 8 a.m. and then off at midnight on weekends."

Have some fun with the Belkin WeMo Light Switch (pictures)

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There are plenty of ways to customize your Belkin WeMo Light Switch using rules, but if you want to go a step further, this product works with If This, Then That (IFTTT) recipes. We're really excited about that because IFTTT offers a lot of interesting, fun, and potentially useful custom settings for the WeMo Switch. You can read more about IFTTT here. The gist is that it's a free service that lets you relate functions across different applications and services. Since Belkin recently added IFTTT support to its WeMo products, you can now download user-made WeMo recipes for free. One existing IFTTT recipe available for download will blink the lights on your WeMo light switch when your favorite team starts playing a game on ESPN. You can also create your own recipes.

For testing, I programmed IFTTT to send me e-mails and tweets whenever my WeMo light turned on. Not everyone will care about the WeMo switch's IFTTT support, but it's really a blast to mess around with, and much less complicated than it may seem. It also lets you extend the WeMo switch's overall usefulness, for free.

How To - How to install the Belkin WeMo LightSwitch
Watch this: How to install the Belkin WeMo LightSwitch
How to install the Belkin WeMo LightSwitch
2:25

Performance
The WeMo switch and app both worked consistently during my tests. The basic on/off feature on the app was responsive, and it also handled special programming instructions well. I set several rules and IFTTT recipes that all performed as expected. It claims to work on a wide variety of Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, too. I can't vouch for them all, but I used an iPhone 5 without any issues. You can also use the same WeMo app to manage multiple light switches or any combination of WeMo home automation products.

Conclusion
If you're intrigued, but aren't sold on WeMo, the $299 Revolv Hub is another interesting option that is available now for preorder. It merges a bunch of different home automation brands into one, multitasking app. It's still DIY in a sense, but much more comprehensive because it can tackle music, door locks, lighting, thermostats, and more all from a single hub rather than a bunch of different apps. There's also the Logitech Harmony Ultimate Hub for $99.99, which not only lets you use your smartphone as a universal remote, it's also compatible with home automation devices that control lighting, climate, and home appliances. Also, don't rule out the Philips Hue or similar connected single-bulb options if you want lighting that offers more that the WeMo's simple on/off functions.

At the very least, this light switch is fun and easy to use. At most, it's a useful product that can help you automate a small aspect of your home. There are so many customizable options with WeMo and IFTTT that this switch far exceeds anything you could pre-program with a lesser, plug-in light timer. Using two apps isn't as efficient as it could be, but they work so well together that we almost forget about the slight inconvenience.

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8.1

Belkin WeMo Light Switch

Score Breakdown

Features 8Usability 7Design 9Performance 9
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