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Ecobee Switch Plus review: Ecobee's smart switch adds in Alexa, plus a few shortcomings

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The Good Ecobee's smart switch is relatively easy to install, and it includes built-in sensors for motion and ambient light that you won't find in competing switches from WeMo or Lutron. It's compatible with IFTTT, SmartThings and all major voice platforms, and even has Alexa built in.

The Bad The Switch Plus won't dim the lights, and it won't work in three-way switch setups where more than one switch is wired to the same light. It also won't work as an external temperature sensor for Ecobee thermostats until a software update arrives this summer.

The Bottom Line Sensor tech and built-in Alexa access make this an intriguing smart switch -- we just wish it'd dim the lights.

7.5 Overall
  • Features 7
  • Usability 8
  • Design 8
  • Performance 7

Ecobee has long been a mainstay of the smart thermostat space (and a chief rival of Nest). But this year, it's mixing things up with the Ecobee Switch Plus, a Wi-Fi-connected light switch packed with smarts of its own. Along with sensors for motion, ambient light and temperature, the Switch Plus also includes a microphone, a speaker and the software that powers Amazon's virtual assistant, Alexa. Talk to this smart switch, and it'll talk back.

This integration makes the Switch Plus Ecobee's second gadget with built-in Alexa voice controls. Couple that with the fact that Amazon's Alexa fund just contributed to a $61 million funding round for Ecobee, and it's pretty clear who the primary platform partner is here. That said, like other Ecobee products, the Switch also works with Google and Apple HomeKit for voice controls via the Google Assistant and Siri, respectively. You can also connect it with SmartThings, or automate it on the free online platform IFTTT.

The cost for all of that is $100, which is pretty high as far as smart light switches are concerned. You can get Lutron's Caseta Switches and Belkin's WeMo Dimmer, which both received good reviews here on CNET, for less. Each of those will also dim the lights -- Ecobee's Switch won't. It also doesn't work in three-way setups where your light is connected to more than one switch.

Both of those are disappointing omissions, and you also won't be able to use the built-in temperature sensor to pair the switch with Ecobee's thermostats until a firmware update arrives this summer. That sours the deal on an already expensive smart switch, but it worked as promised in my tests and offers some unique features you won't find elsewhere. It's a splurge, but a justifiable one, especially if you're an existing Ecobee user who's looking to smarten up some lights and expand Alexa's footprint in your home in one fell swoop.

The Ecobee Switch Plus is an attractive little push-button light switch. To install it, you'll need to shut the power off and remove your existing switch, then connect Ecobee's line, load, ground and neutral wires. Once the Switch is in place and the power is back on, you'll just need to open up the Ecobee app to finish pairing everything with your home network and your Alexa account, along with your HomeKit account if you're planning on controlling the light using Siri commands.

Ecobee's app does a nice job of walking you through the installation and setup process.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

The app makes all of that easy, and it looks good doing it. All of the Switch's features are plainly described and well-illustrated -- as a result, automating it is a cinch, even if you're a smart-home newbie. And, if you have any trouble identifying which wires you need to connect, the app does a good job of walking you through the install, too.

Those automations make use of the Switch's built-in sensors. For instance, you can set it to turn the lights on automatically when it detects someone entering the room and to turn them off automatically once the room is empty. If you're automating an outdoor light, you can set the switch to turn on automatically at sunset. You can also set a little nightlight at the bottom of the switch to start glowing whenever the room is dark. All of it worked perfectly when I tested the switch out at the CNET Smart Home.

One small qualm, though: Ecobee's app currently doesn't offer a mechanism for scheduling lighting changes beyond that sunset mode. For instance, you can't program the lights to turn on automatically at, say, noon. It's nearly a moot point since you can easily schedule automations like that using IFTTT, which costs nothing. But still, it's a smart lighting basic that would have been nice to have in the Ecobee app itself.

The Ecobee Switch can detect motion (or the lack thereof) and turn the lights on and off accordingly.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

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