Bright ideas: The best smart light switches and dimmers for your home

You won't look dim with any of these on your walls

The best smart light switches

We know what you're probably thinking – what's so smart about putting another switch on your wall? The answer: a lot. Smart light switches and dimmers give you much more control over your home lighting, whether it's adjusting the brightness or being able to switch them on or off from miles away. The days of the basic on/off routine are over.

But unlike smart lights, switches require a bit more consideration. It might sound like a case of simply taking out your existing switch and swapping in the new one, but there are things you must consider – wiring, measurements, compatibility – before going mad with that screwdriver.

Read this: The best outdoor smart bulbs

Below, we'll walk you through the key considerations you need to make before ripping those light switches off your walls. Then we'll tell you which smart light switches and dimmers we think are worth your money.

Smart light switches: Things to consider

You may have a bunch of smart lights in your home already, in which case you're probably wondering why you'd want to install a smart switch when you can already control everything through Alexa/Google Assistant/your smartphone. It's a fair question, and in some cases, that will be enough.

But smart light switches give you smart control over "dumb" lights already in your home; not only can you switch them on or off from thousand of miles away, you can also adjust the brightness and, in some cases, colour. If you have any lighting fixtures in your home that are incompatible with smart bulbs, a smart switch is your answer.

Our advice is to do a cost-benefit analysis. Wiring your home with smart light switches can be a pricey endeavour, especially with larger homes. But then, the cost of installing smart bulbs and smart plugs all over your crib may cost more in the long run. Do the maths.

Connections and compatibility

Okay, this one's key. First of all, we're going to be covering US and UK smart switches in the list below, but that means some vital differences in how they're wired and how they work. All aforementioned considerations apply to both, but when reading our recommendations, just be aware that wiring and models are going to vary depending on which side of the pond you're on.

The main point of confusion lies in the multiway switching, which allows you to control certain lights in your home from more than one location. In the US, a three-way switch is what allows you to control lights (or anything else, like a ceiling fan) from two locations, while in the UK this is called a two-way switch. To confuse matters even more, having more than two control locations for a light in the US is called a four-way switch, but an intermediate switch in the UK. You'll need to think about what you have before replacing it, so make sure the new switch does what you want it to. Knowing the lingo is half the battle.

You also want to make sure your existing lights are compatible with any smart switch you're installing. You'll usually find that information on the company website.

And now for the most important advice of all: know what you're doing when replacing a wall switch. You'll need to know how to turn off the circuit breaker first, and then re-attach the wires to the new switch. If you don't know what you're doing, get a professional to help.

Best light switches and dimmers: Tested

Below we've listed our pick of what's out there. We've put all of these through thorough testing, and keep checking back because we'll be adding more.

Lutron Caseta Dimmer

From $99.99, casetawireless.com | Amazon

Let’s get out of this way real quick: Lutron Caseta isn’t going to win any awards for designing the most beautiful light switch of all time. Instead, the Lutron Caseta dimmer is all function and little form. You can see that from its diagonal-heavy design. That said, it's easily one of the best smart switches out there – possibly the best.

There’s a button for dimming the light and one for increasing the brightness. These join the traditional on and off switches. There’s also a release down at the bottom that’s intended to help you change bulbs. You don’t want to shock yourself when you’re replacing smart bulbs – a normal oversight, to be fair.

As for the smarts, the Caseta Wireless dimmer has a couple of secrets up its sleeve. First, it works with nearly every smart platform out there. Whether you’re on HomeKit or SmartThings, Alexa or Google Assistant, you're in luck; you'll have full control in turning them on and off remotely and setting a schedule. The Caseta is also compatible with LED light bulbs, something some smart light switches can’t handle too well.

Installation is easy, simpler than even the Wemo below. You’ve only got two wires here; you just tie them up and you’re good to go. Installation is done through the Lutron app, and there’s also a hub you’ll have to plug into your router.

The Lutron Caseta also works with Serena Smart Shades, so not only can you use it to control your lights, but also the natural light that filters into your room. There’s also the Pico remote control, which is basically a smaller version of the light switch that you can carry around or stick somewhere so you can control your lights away from the switch.

You will need to buy the Lutron Caseta Smart Bridge to the Caseta though, which may make it expensive for some to add to their home.

the ambient verdict
Lutron Caseta Dimmer
If all you care about is compatibility, then the Lutron Caseta Dimmer is for you. Not only will it work well with LED bulbs, it works with nearly every smart home ecosystem out there. It can even go beyond smart lights and dive right into natural light with Serena Smart Shades. Needing a bridge is a bummer though.
PROS
  • Compatibility
  • Simple setup
  • Remote for added convenience
CONS
  • Expensive
  • Ugly
  • Needs a bridge

Wemo Smart Light Switch

$49.99, belkin.com | Amazon

If you’ve used any Wemo products before, you know what to expect here. You’re getting the standard light controls, and you’re also getting Wemo’s Away Mode, which randomly turns your lights on and off while you’re on holiday so that potential burglars think there’s someone at home.

The Wemo Smart Light Switch does well on the compatibility front, with Alexa, Google Assistant and Nest in tow. There’s no HomeKit support, but now that Wemo has updated the Mini Smart Plug with HomeKit support via software update, it’s probably best not to totally write off the possibility yet.

Setting up the Wemo Smart Light Switch is easy enough, though it’s also more complicated than something like the Lutron Caseta Dimmer. You have two wires to plug in, plus a third neutral wire you have to tie in. It’s not the most complicated thing in the world, but it’s an extra step. There’s also a ground wire, but you may not have to install that depending on your setup. Ours did not require it.

The Wemo Smart Light Switch is also a pretty good looking light switch. It’s got just enough of a futuristic look, with a little light in the black dot on the switch. You will have to get used to tapping it, however, because of the way the switch is set up, you’ll have to hit the bottom. If you’re used to hitting the top and bottom of a light switch, you’ll have a small readjustment period here.

Best of all, the Wemo Smart Light Switch is extremely affordable. And you don’t need a hub or a bridge to get it going with your system. We were able to get it up and running with Alexa fairly quickly, especially when using an Echo Plus.

the ambient verdict
Wemo Smart Light Switch
The Wemo Smart Light Switch is the steady, solid option. It may even be your best bet if you’re not fully dedicated to Apple’s HomeKit platform. It’s got a unique combination of features, affordability and simplicity that really make it one of the best smart switches you can get.
PROS
  • Good looking
  • Away Mode
  • Affordable
CONS
  • No HomeKit
  • Takes time to adjust to
  • Setup not the easiest

Bright ideas: The best smart light switches and dimmers for your home

Philips Hue Tap

From $49.99, meethue.com | Amazon

One of the biggest benefits of the Philips Hue ecosystem is its ability to work across the board with smart assistants, as well as provide ample options for customisation and routine-setting within the Hue app.

Sometimes, though, you just want a smarter alternative to the old on/off switch, and that's exactly what you get with the Tap. A wireless, adhesive-ready circle that you can stick to your wall, this light controller essentially lets you set up four options to colour your connected lights with.

Setup is a cinch, with a sticky label sitting on the back of the grey casing plate letting you place it on a wall – most likely next to a regular light switch. Twisting it anti-clockwise will release the control itself, meaning you can also leave it lying around on your bedside table, kitchen counter or wherever else and still control the action with just a tap.

In our testing, we found it to be a reliable and consistent performer, with setup taking less than five minutes, no lag time between pressing and the lights responding and some intuitive customisation options in the Hue app.

It's from here that you'll be able to change up how the Tap responds to each button – typically, you might have Button 1 act as your turn off for your room (up to three can be selected), then have the other three pushers set to a specific scene. It's a great way to quickly flick between a couple of lighting options, particularly if you have the colour variants in the Hue range, and it's also handy for shutting off all the lights before bed.

So, the bad? Well, just from a practical point of view, one thing that immediately jumps out with the Tap is how hard you have to press just to get it to respond. It's a little more than you'd expect, considering it's just the push of a button, and though you obviously get used to how much pressure you have to apply, it does detract from the overall feel slightly.

It's also limited in its application, with only Hue bulbs, as you might expect, able to be controlled by the Tap. It's not necessarily the biggest problem, considering those exploring the controller are likely already embedded in the ecosystem, but it's worth keeping in mind. HomeKit support helps things by letting you control more than just lights with the buttons.

As we say, the Tap is great at doing its job, but employing it will set you back a fairly lofty amount. That's not an uncommon trend within the Hue range, and providing you can stomach the price tag, this is a great option for those who want an alternative for controlling the Hue lights within their home.

the ambient verdict
Philips Hue Tap
The Tap is the ideal option for Philips Hue owners who want another way to control their lights that isn't through their voice or phone. There's nothing too fancy here, and the actual pressing of the controller's buttons ironically requires more than a tap, but having a wireless, battery-free way to quickly switch between customisable scenes is something you'll wonder how you ever lived without.
PROS
  • Simple setup
  • Design is clean
  • No batteries required
CONS
  • Pricey
  • Not essential to Hue experience
  • Pushing requires some oomph

Lightwave Smart Dimmer

From £59.95, lightwaverf.com | Amazon

UK company Lightwave has been in the home automation game for longer than most, and the second-gen range of connected switches, which includes the smart dimmer, adds Alexa, Google Assistant and HomeKit to the mix too.

They're available in single, double, triple and quad faceplates and are finished in white metal or stainless steel. Lightwave’s smart switch option is straightforward to install and there’s a nice bracket in the box, giving you the option to mount it flush to the wall, or a few millimetres out; with the latter doing a good job of hiding any untidy paintjobs around the backbox.

You will have to fork out £180 for the starter kit, which also includes the Link Plus hub – but the good news is that hub will also act as the brains for any other Lightwave connected kit you choose to invest in, such as the smart power sockets and the heating system.

The Lightwave app, once paired up to the Link Plus, works without issues, and the app does allow for away from home controls, as well as timers, but the big selling point is the HomeKit/Alexa/Google Assistant integrations that let you ditch your display and open up a world of scenes, automation and voice controls.

the ambient verdict
Lightwave Smart Dimmer
Lightwave’s smart light switches look pretty slick and boast strong third-party integrations. Yes, you’ll have to fully buy into the platform to make it cost effective but the Link Plus hub should also be pretty future-proof for any more connected tech Lightwave has up its sleeve.
PROS
  • Easy to use app
  • Great integrations
  • Slick design
CONS
  • Bit pricey
  • Needs the hub
  • UK only


Energenie Mi | Home Smart Light

From £22.99, energenie4u.co.uk | Amazon

Coming in at around half of the price of the Lightwave (for both the switch and the hub), Energenie’s smart switch solution may feel a bit more "budget" than some of the others on test here – but it works a treat.

Available only in a single switch fitting, sadly (although slave switches for two-way controls are on offer), there are four finishes to choose from, with the white plastic model costing just £22.99 (yup, this is another UK brand). It’s £5 more if you want nickel, chrome or stainless steel and you’ll also have to cough up £69.99 for the hub. There is a dimmer version on offer for £49.99 too and bundles of three switches, a hub and a remote control can be picked up for under £130.

The downside to those monetary savings is that you’re not getting quite such a rich set of features – the app is a bit hit and miss and it’s Alexa-only on the voice assistant front – but the Energenie range is huge. There are gang plugs, sensors, radiator vales, thermostats and more, so, while the Mi|Home Smart Light is a more than capable product on its own, it’s as part of a wider, budget-friendly platform of connected tech that it really excels.

The finish is a bit plastic-fantastic and the little red light looks a bit naff, but if you’re looking for a smart switch solution without breaking the bank then you should definitely consider Energenie’s effort.

the ambient verdict
Energie Mi | Home Smart Light
If you’re new to the smart home world and you’re looking to expand your connected kit without spending too many readies, then Energie has you sorted. Sure, it looks a bit cheap, but it works well and the Alexa integration means you can easily add it into your existing routines.
PROS
  • Cheap as chips
  • Simple setup
  • Expanding Mi|Home ecosystem
CONS
  • Build quality not the best
  • Only single sockets
  • No Google Assistant / HomeKit

Bright ideas: The best smart light switches and dimmers for your home

Switchmate Rocker

$35.99, simplysmarthome.com | Amazon

The big draw with the Switchmate is that it can be placed on top of existing switches, making it incredibly easy to install. You simply plug in some AA batteries into the Switchmate Rocker device itself, then place it over your wall switch – in our case, a rocker wall switch, but there's a toggle wall switch model available should you need to use that. Both have the same features, and both use magnets to stick to your wall plate. Similar to the Hue Dimmer, but unlike the Hue Dimmer it doesn't just work with Hue bulbs.

As for those features, it works with both Google Assistant and the Wink Hub, so you can use either of those smart home ecosystems to control your Switchmate.

Further, the Switchmate comes with some interesting smart features of its own. The big one is motion detection, which you can customise to your needs. You can set the motion detection to only be on during certain times of the day. For instance, you can set it up to only turn on with motion at night, which is handy when you're half asleep and stumbling to the bathroom. You can also set the motion detection-activated light to turn off after a specified length of time, from one minute to four hours.

There are timers that activate the lights too, and a Welcome Home feature that will turn on the lights once per day when you approach them. You can also use the companion app to turn your light on or off via voice, but you need to have the app open to use this.

We have a few niggles with the way it works. On our rocker model, the lights turning off and on is quite loud – that's because there's a little motor that's moving to flick your existing wall switch. Alexa support is also a bit convoluted, as you'll need a Switchmate Bridge Device.

But if you want a smart wall switch without having to deal with doing some light wiring, or you're not allowed to have a traditional smart light switch because of a rental agreement, the Switchmate is a pretty simple and affordable alternative.

the ambient verdict
Switchmate Rocker
The Switchmate is designed to turn your existing wall switches smart in the most affordable and simple way possible: you simply place it over your existing switch. You then get to control your lights from your phone and add features like motion tracking and scheduling. While it works with Google Assistant, it doesn't work with Alexa – at least not without jumping through some hoops.
PROS
  • Easy to install
  • Feature packed
  • Affordable
CONS
  • No Alexa support
  • Bulky
  • Quite loud


Best smart light switches: Others to consider

We haven't yet tested the options below – we're rating them on the merits of their features alone – but rest assured we'll be trying them out soon.

Bright ideas: The best smart light switches and dimmers for your home

Philips Hue Dimmer

From $24.99, meethue.com | Amazon

There's a good chance you're already familiar with, or even using, Philips Hue bulbs in your home. The Dimmer needs little explanation, but what makes this one unique is that you don't have to do any wiring at all. Instead you can just stick the Dimmer somewhere on the wall, and, once it's paired with the Hue Bridge, it'll start controlling all of your Hue bulbs.

Even cooler? The controller attaches to the base plate magnetically, meaning you can take it off the wall and wave it about as you control your Hue army.

But as you might expect, like the Tap (above), this does mean it only works with Hue bulbs. If you're a Hue-heavy household, it's a great dimmer switch; if you have a lot of "dumb" bulbs wanting a smart controller, this might not be the most cost effective or useful route.

Bright ideas: The best smart light switches and dimmers for your home

Ecobee Switch+

From $99.99, ecobee.com | Amazon

The Ecobee Switch+ is crammed with features, which is why it's also one of the more expensive options in the catalogue. The switch actually has Alexa built in, who you can not only ask to control the lights, but call on to answer questions, read the news, whatever you'd do with any Echo device. There's a physical button, but who uses those any more? Especially with a motion sensor that turns lights on when you enter the room – and switches them off when you're away.

The Switch+ works with Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings, Google Assistant and IFTTT too, and if you have an Ecobee thermostat, you'll soon be able to pair the two together, taking advantage of the switch's built-in temperature sensor. One drawback: The Switch+ won't work with a three-way switch – single switch setups only.

What do you think?

Reply to
Your comment