Smart light switches can be smart home no man's land. First, you'll have to install and wire it all by your lonesome, and they're never particularly sexy â especially compared to smart lights themselves.
The Ecobee Switch+, on the other hand, asks another question: what if there was a light switch with Alexa built in? And what if we added a motion sensor on top of that? Yeah, the Switch+ is crammed with features. But are they actually useful?
For $99.99 you'd certainly hope so. We've spent some time with the Switch+ to see if it's worth the moolah.
Ecobee Switch+: Design and setup
For the most part, most smart switches are set up the same way. You have to head to your breaker and turn off the power, then you peel off the plate, unscrew the switch and unscrew some wire nuts.
The Switch+ is no different. So you'll be doing all of that, then attaching a couple of wires to your wall. You push them all back in, screw it up and attach the plate. Where switches tend to differ is how you sync them to your smart home systems, and this is where the Switch+ staggers a little.
When you start setting up the Switch+, the Ecobee app will give you two options. The first way is with Apple's HomeKit. You'll have to scan the HomeKit code and then you're off. It's all incredibly easy, and you'll see a number of sensors in your Home app - a light switch, temperature sensor and motion sensor, to be specific. There is, by the way, also Alexa and Google Assistant support.
Where things trip up is if you use the HomeKit way and then want to use some of Ecobee's smart features. The app seems to get confused and won't let you link your Switch+ to the Ecobee app. So you'll have to restart your Switch+ and go through Ecobee's setup. Then, once you do that, you'll be able to easily link it to HomeKit, Alexa and Google Assistant.
Ambient verdict: Ecobee SmartCamera review
Speaking of Alexa, setting up her voice recognition is pretty standard. You'll need to link your Amazon account in the app and then make sure you have the Ecobee skill installed. Once you discover devices you're all good to go and Alexa will be ready to listen to your commands.
That HomeKit gaffe takes what should be a simple setup process and bungles it a bit, which is a huge shame because everything else here is done well. Well, alright, the design leaves a little to be desired, but Ecobee seems to be going for function over form here.
The Switch+ is pretty ugly, but it also doesn't have much room to play with. This thing packs in a speaker, a light for Alexa, a motion sensor and an actual light switch in the space of a traditional light switch. On top of the switch, there are also two buttons: One for muting Alexa's mics and the other for activating Alexa.
While it can have a slightly annoying setup process and it's not really a looker, those are small quibbles once you get the Switch+ up and running, because its feature set is where it shines brightest.
Ecobee Switch+: Features
As a smart switch, the Switch+ is excellent. There are a number of features here that I wish every smart switch had. The first is Smart On. When the room turns dark, it'll just turn on the light automatically. This is perfect for a kitchen, a place you often use around sunset, when things start to get darker. There's also Smart Off, which will turn the lights off after a certain amount of time if no one is in the room.
I typically set my smart off time to five minutes for the kitchen. If I'm not back in the kitchen within five minutes, I typically don't go back for a while. There's also a motion sensor, so if you walk past the light it'll turn on. And there's a night light that'll turn on so if you need to wander past you have some guiding light.
All of these features together have meant that I literally don't have to do a thing to this light. I don't have to meddle with schedules or routines or anything. It takes care of everything itself. It turns on when I want it to, it turns off when I need it to, it lights my path when I'm getting a drink in the middle of the night. It feels smart in a way that a lot of other smart lighting doesn't â like it's adjusting to me rather than me making it adjust to me.
It is so wonderful to not have to worry about schedules that I am legit wondering how I can replace all my light switches with the Switch+. Alas, that is an expensive proposition with the Switch+'s price, but it feels like it could be worth it.
As for Alexa. Well, it works like Alexa. The sound quality is very hollow and we certainly wouldn't recommend it for music, but it is serviceable in a pinch.
More importantly, it can be used for basic Alexa stuff, like timers, flash briefings, weather reports and controlling your smart home. This is where Ecobee's switch shines, and you can kind of see the appeal of Ecobee's larger "Alexa everywhere" strategy. I have an Echo Plus and an Ecobee4 with Alexa in close proximity of the Switch+.
It's comforting to know that I'm blanketed in Alexa and that there's no way it won't hear me, but there are moments when I expect the Switch+ to pick up my request and my Echo Plus picks it up. That isn't a slight against the Switch+ specifically, it's more that these devices aren't built for Alexa like the Plus and other smart speakers are. See, devices like the Echo Plus have far-field microphones that are better at picking up your voice than the microphones stuffed in switches and thermostats, which might not hear you as well.
In fact, I've found myself wondering if I should move my Plus to another location because I have the Switch+ in my kitchen. It handles my kitchen lights, timers and flash briefings perfectly well, which means I can rearrange the Alexa setup of my home a little bit to extend Alexa's reach.
- Alexa is built in
- Smart on/off
- Motion sensor
- Setup is slightly messy