Swapping to smart switches can make a lot of sense. For one thing, you can boost your entire home’s energy efficiency since lights can be operated remotely via an app on your smartphone. You can also cut down on security threats by enabling vacation mode, which turns lights on and off randomly to fool potential intruders.
Smart switches work by connecting to your home’s Wi-Fi network or secure Z-Wave or ZigBee hubs, which operate via radio signal. Some models are also Bluetooth enabled. Fortunately, the best smart switch for you may not require a hub or home assistant to function flawlessly.
Instead, just install and operate from your phone. Whatever features you choose, there is a smart switch out there for you. This guide has suggestions for any household—whether you’re a smart home pro or getting started with home automation.
- BEST OVERALL: Single Pole Treatlife Smart Light Switch, 4 Pack
- RUNNER UP: Kasa Smart HS200P3 WiFi Switch by TP-Link (3-Pack)
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Refoss Smart Wi-Fi Wall Switch
- UPGRADE PICK: Lutron Caseta Smart Home Dimmer Switch
- BEST MOTION SENSING: GE Enbrighten Z-Wave Plus Smart Motion Light Switch
- BEST THREE-WAY SWITCH: Treatlife 3 Way Smart Switch 4 Pack
Before You Buy a Smart Light Switch
You have a few different options for boosting your home’s IQ. Smart light switches are a good choice for folks who may not have a home automation system but want to get started.
Switches add the ease of voice control to your life and allow you to monitor your lighting when you’re away from home or in another room. You can use smart switches with a range of bulb types, from LED to incandescent. Switches also provide different brightness levels, including dimmable and motion-sensing options.
Smart bulbs, in contrast, are mostly a single style of bulb (A-shape with a standard screw-in base), offering a range of colors and voice-activated controls. Smart plugs are probably the most versatile of all smart home tech options, allowing you to plug in a range of devices, including lamps, and monitor power usage.
Whether you choose smart switches, bulbs, or plugs comes down to your needs, familiarity with the technology, and the installation requirements with which you’re comfortable. You will also have to decide whether to invest in a home automation hub or not.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Smart Light Switch
While smart homes take a little research when you’re starting out, the end result is worth it. Fortunately, you don’t need to invest in an entire home system to get the benefits of smart switches. Just be sure to know what kind of network and wireless technology you’ll be using to operate them as well as their compatibility with the rest of your home’s lighting and electrical wiring.
Smart switches need some form of wireless technology to function. Each brand will state on the packaging whether their model uses Wi-Fi (typically 2.4G), Z-Wave, ZigBee, or Bluetooth to operate. Each has its strengths and drawbacks, depending on your needs and preferences.
Switches that connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network are the most straightforward to install, especially if you don’t have a smart hub device. With Wi-Fi, your switch can connect directly to your smartphone via an app that you can download for free. If you want the benefits of smart controls without investing in a smart hub or smart security system, go for WiFi-enabled switches.
Z-Wave and ZigBee are radio protocols that do require a hub to operate. They work especially well when you have an entire smart home setup already up and running. Both Z-Wave and ZigBee networks use less power than Wi-Fi and are also highly secure and encrypted. Either option is a good choice for integrating your lighting and security system into your smart home hub.
Bluetooth has the shortest range of wireless networks. On the plus side, it doesn’t require a smart hub to operate and has the lowest barriers to entry and installation, especially if you’re considering smart home technology for the first time.
Bluetooth connects each light switch to your phone through an app, allowing you to monitor and control your lights from anywhere around the house. However, you won’t be able to monitor or control your switches from the internet or longer distances.
Whatever smart tech is already part of your daily life should guide your choice of smart switches too. In general, if you have a smart home system you already use and trust, it’s best to buy other intelligent devices that are compatible with it. If, on the other hand, you are new to the smart home world, you’ll want to do some comparison shopping.
In addition to smart home compatibility, you will also want to make sure your smart switch is compatible with your lamps and light bulb types. The most common types of bulbs are LEDs, CFLs, halogen, fluorescent, and incandescent. Most smart switches will list what types of bulbs they are compatible with on the packaging. On the whole, they are highly versatile and can operate with many different bulbs.
Most smart switches can be easily installed too. In general, they are hardwired into your home’s electrical system, replacing your regular switches. The majority of smart switches require a neutral wire, which allows power to return to its original source. Neutral wires are almost always white in color.
If your home doesn’t have a neutral wire, you can have one installed, invest in smart bulbs instead, or find a brand of smart switch that doesn’t require a neutral wire for safe installation.
With smart switches, you get all the functionality you’d expect from a regular light switch and then some. Beyond single pole switches, which just turn lights on or off, you have the following features to choose from:
- Dimmable switches offer the greatest brightness options, including mood lighting. They can be programmed and controlled through your home hub or smartphone to change levels depending on the seasons, time of day, or your travel schedule.
- Three-way switches allow you to operate a light from two different locations, such as at both ends of a staircase or hallway. In this case, you will need to replace your regular switches with smart switches at both locations.
- Motion-sensing switches are helpful for security outside your home as well as in rooms you frequent at night. Some smart switches are both dimmable and motion sensing, giving you tremendous flexibility and functionality overall.
Our Top Picks
For ease, compatibility, and versatility, you can’t go wrong with one of these seven smart switches. These user-friendly recommendations are also affordable, easy to install, and most work via Wi-Fi, with no home assistant or hub required, for ultimate flexibility and simplicity.
Like most smart switches, as long as you have a neutral wire, you can install Treatlife’s smart light switches yourself, wiring and all. These switches are compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and are connected to your devices via 2.4G Wi-Fi only, so if you have a 5G network, these may not be right for you.
This four-pack allows you to update more than just one switch in your home for hands-free voice control when you walk in the room. You can also control your smart switches using the smart life app, which helps you create schedules, monitor your light status, and turn lights on and off with the tap of your screen.
Operated via your 2.4G Wi-Fi network, Kasa Smart brings hands-free, remote convenience, and security to your home. Installation is easy; simply download the Kasa app, which will guide you through the process. Remember, though, you will need a neutral wire and standard wall plate size.
Once installed, you can monitor lights remotely (via the app) as well as set schedules and trigger “away mode,” which randomly turns lights on and off to trick possible intruders. At home, just use your voice to activate lights when you enter a dark room. UL certified for safety, Kasa’s three-pack is an affordable choice that will save energy in the long run.
Check to make sure your electric box has a white wire signifying neutral, then you’re good to go for installing Refoss smart light switches. Like many smart switches, Refoss works with 2.4G Wi-Fi and is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google home assistant.
Operated via voice control or remote control, just download the ehomelife app and you can monitor your lighting situation from your smartphone. Even if the Wi-Fi signal blinks out for a bit, the Refoss switches maintain their settings if you’ve scheduled them to turn on and off at a certain time.
Buy a single control, a two-pack, or a three-pack, all of which is a highly affordable way to boost your home’s efficiency, security, and intelligence.
Lutron’s Caseta dimmer switch is a robust addition to lighting setups. Unlike many other models, you won’t need a neutral wire, making Lutron switches even more versatile and easy to install. One switch can also control many bulbs at once, including dimmable LED, incandescent, and halogen bulbs. Note, however, that it does not work with all frequency LEDs.
This switch connects with most of the leading smart home devices, including Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Ring, Serena, and Sonos. Operate via voice control, or download the Lutron app, which allows you to schedule lights to adjust automatically with the seasons as well as your travel schedule.
Boasting added security, Z-Wave is a radio wave technology used for home automation and connectivity. So if you have a Z-Wave certified hub (like SmartThings, Ring, Wink ADT Pulse, etc.), these GE Enbrighten motion-sensing switches are designed for you.
Personalize your settings with three motion-detection options: occupied, vacant, and manual. Use the switch by itself, or add up to four additional switches for maximum efficiency. GE’s Enbrighten can control both indoor and outdoor fixtures and works smoothly with all LED, CFL, incandescent, and halogen bulbs. You will need a neutral wire to install.
Treatlife’s 3-way smart switches bring the benefits of lighting and energy efficiency, along with easy installation and integration into almost any household, hub or no hub. You will, however, need a neutral wire as well as a 2.4G Wi-Fi network.
Compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, the Smart Life app on your smartphone also provides personalized control features, including weather updates, scheduling, and a vacation mode for enhanced security.
This switch is for non-dimmable bulbs only. Install two Treatlift switches to control lights from two locations (for example, the ends of a hallway or staircase).
FAQs About Your New Smart Light Switch
Once you get the hang of them, smart switches can streamline your home lighting solutions, saving energy and headaches while boosting home security. Get up to speed on smart switches with answers to all your questions, big and small.
Q. How does a smart light switch work?
It connects to your smart home assistant via wireless signal, using your Wi-Fi network, radio signal (via a secure hub), or Bluetooth.
Q. Do smart light switches need a hub?
Some connect directly to your home’s Wi-Fi network, but others do need a hub. Product descriptions will tell you whether the switch requires one or not.
Q. Can you install a smart light switch without a neutral wire?
In some cases, yes, but always read installation instructions, which will tell you if a neutral wire is required or not.
Q. How do you install a smart light switch?
You will likely need a neutral wire, though a few brands offer neutral wire-free installation. For tools, all you’ll need are a pair of pliers or wire cutters, along with a screwdriver. A non-contact voltage tester is also a good idea. Then follow these steps, and your switch will be up and running in no time.