Houses keep getting smarter—technologically, that is. From connected HVAC systems, security cameras, and even smart kitchen appliances, today it’s possible to integrate home components and control them through a local Wi-Fi network. Smart light switches are one way of configuring a home’s lighting to respond to verbal commands, program light timers, or notify the user via smartphone alerts of problems in the lighting system.
The best smart switch will vary from user to user, depending on the desired functionality, such as whether the user wants to integrate the switch with other smart-home components or prefers controlling the switch from a smart device rather than by voice command. Ahead, learn what to look for when shopping for a smart switch, and find out why the following options are well suited for a variety of home smart lighting needs.
- BEST OVERALL: Gosund Smart Light Switch In-Wall Alexa Google Home
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: GRDE Smart Light Switch Alexa Google Assistant
- BEST DIMMABLE: Gosund Smart Dimmer Switch Alexa Google Home
- BEST 3-WAY: Kasa Smart 3 Way Light Switch Alexa Google Home
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Smart Switch
Smart switches are a step up from smart bulbs that can be screwed into a light fixture and then controlled by a downloadable app from a smartphone or a tablet. While smart bulbs are handy, if the switch that turns the bulb on is in the off position, the bulb cannot wirelessly connect to the home network. Smart switches solve that problem by allowing the user to connect to a switch in the off position and turn it on remotely. Smart switches perform a host of functions, but each one specializes in certain tasks, so choose accordingly.
Traditional light switches can perform a variety of functions, and smart switches are no different. Consider the lighting needs in each room when choosing the right switch.
- A dimmable smart switch, which allows the user to dim the light remotely, is beneficial for saving energy by not running the light at full illumination all the time. But there’s a catch: In order for a smart switch to dim a bulb, the bulb itself must be dimmer enabled. Attempting to dim a non-dimmable bulb could destroy the bulb or reduce its useful life.
- A 3-way switch features three locations where wires connect: two at switches and one at the light fixture itself. A stairway light operated by two switches, one at the top of the stairs and another at the bottom, is a 3-way switch. A smart 3-way switch can replace one of the two switches, allowing the user to control the stairway light from a smart device.
- A 4-way switch has one more wiring connection than a 3-way switch; three individual light switches will all operate the same light. An example might be a home with three entrances, with each entry having a switch that controls a living room light. A 4-way smart switch can replace one of the existing three wall switches. There’s no need to replace more than one of the switches.
- Motion-sensing smart switches come with the ability to sense motion and automatically turn on the corresponding light. The switch itself features a sensor that detects when someone enters the room to turn on the light. Depending on the app, it may also be possible to configure the switch to turn the light off after a few minutes of inactivity.
Light Bulb Compatibility
Smart switches work with standard, ordinary bulbs, with a caveat being dimmer switches. In order to dim a bulb, the bulb itself must be dimmable. Smart switches can control most smart bulbs; however, depending on the switch, all the bulb’s functions may not be available. For example, if a smart bulb features color-changing hues, controlling those colors may not be possible from a smart switch. The user must control the bulb’s special effects through a separate app that coordinates with the bulb itself. Examples of smart bulbs are Phillips Hue, Wyze, and Sengled Smart bulbs.
Most smart switches sync with popular smart-home systems, such as Alexa, Google Home, and Samsung SmartThings. By syncing with a smart-home system, users can control the switch and the other connected smart-home components (such as security cameras and thermostats) from a single app. When connected to a system, such as Alexa, users can use verbal commands to turn on lights from smart switches.
Most smart switches connect with a 24 gigahertz (GHz) Wi-Fi home network, and others connect with either a 24 GHz or a 5 GHz network. However, some don’t connect with a 5 GHz network, so know your network’s capacity before buying. Typically, a network router features a label on the back that says whether it’s a 24 GHz or a 5 GHz system. If not, consult the owner’s manual or check the manufacturer’s website to determine the router’s capacity.
Most smart switches come with designated apps as well as the ability to sync with smart-home systems. Even if a home doesn’t have a smart-home system, the user can usually download the switch’s corresponding app and control the switch from a smartphone or other digital device.
Installing a smart switch is no more difficult than replacing a standard light switch or installing a dimmer switch. Before tackling the project yourself, check with your local building authority; in some communities homeowners are not permitted to replace electrical switches, and an electrician is required.
Even if your community allows DIY replacement, make sure to follow the instructions that come with the switch. That includes shutting off the power to the switch before removing the switch cover. The main difference between a standard switch and a smart switch is that the latter will likely require a neutral wire. If the wiring in the switch box contains a neutral wire, it can often be found at the back of the box capped with a wire fastener. A smart switch requires a neutral wire because the wire transmits a small amount of electricity to the switch even when the switch is in the off position. This minimal power is necessary for the switch to communicate with the home’s Wi-Fi network. If the switch box does not contain a neutral wire, an electrician will need to install one.
The second part of installation requires downloading the app and following the prompts to connect the switch to a smartphone or a smart-home system. Smart switches that connect with a central hub, such as Phillips Hue switches, require plugging the hub directly into the router and then following the prompts to configure the switches.
Our Top Picks
To qualify as a top pick, a smart switch must be easy to install and configure. It should also allow the user to control the lights remotely. If the switch is compatible with a smart-home system, it should integrate seamlessly. While the best smart switch will vary by user needs and existing home technology, the following were chosen for their intuitive controls and dependable functionality.
Save energy with the Gosund Smart Light Switch that comes with Alexa preinstalled. Buyers will receive a set of four smart switches designed for use on a single-pole wiring setup, which means the switch is not a 2-way or 3-way switch—it controls only a single light, and no other switch controls the light.
The switch requires a neutral wire for installation. Once installed, it can be configured to work with Amazon Alexa or Google Home for use with voice commands. No hub is necessary. The corresponding app allows the user to turn the lights on and off, set a shut-off timer, or schedule a time for them to turn on. The Gosund smart switch connects with a 24 GHz Wi-Fi network, and buyers will receive step-by-step installation instructions.
Experience the convenience of controlling lights remotely with the GRDE Smart Light Switch that syncs with both Alexa and Google Assistant for hands-free verbal control. To connect with Alexa, an Echo Dot or another Amazon hub device is required. To communicate with Google Assistant, only a smartphone with the Google Assistant app installed is necessary. Users can set timers to turn the lights on or off, add more GRDE smart switches (sold separately), and control them individually by giving them labels and using voice commands, such as “Alexa. Turn off the bedroom lights.”
This single-pole GRDE switch requires a neutral wire for installation and connects to a 24 GHz Wi-Fi network. Easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions make replacing an old switch with a new GRDE switch a snap. Perhaps best of all, the switch is available at an attractive price point.
Dimming lights just got simpler and smarter. The Gosund Smart Dimmer Switch not only allows users to turn the lights on and off remotely, but it also allows the lights to be dimmed either by remote (from a smartphone) or by verbal command for hands-free control.
Buyers receive two smart dimmer switches; each is a single-pole switch that requires a neutral wire for installation. Users can control the switches from the Gosund app or through the Google Assistant app. A 24 GHz Wi-Fi connection is required. The switches also come with preinstalled Alexa compatibility—no hub required. In order for the dimmer function to work, certified dimmer lights must be installed in the light fixtures. However, the Gosund smart dimmer switch will not control smart bulbs.
Control a 3-way light with the Kasa Smart Light Switch. Like other smart switches, the Kasa switch can be controlled remotely from the installed Kasa app on a smart device or synced with Alexa or Google Home to issue verbal, hands-free commands. Like many other smart switches, the Kasa switch connects only with a 24 GHz Wi-Fi connection.
The Kasa app walks the user through the installation process, which is slightly different from single-pole installation because the Kasa switch must be installed on the load side of the 3-way wiring setup for its smart functions to work. The app explains how to identify the correct switch in the wiring setup by its wire configuration.
FAQs About Smart Switches
Like many smart-home components, smart switches can make life easier and can help save on energy costs. If this is your first time shopping for a smart switch, it’s common to have a few questions.
Q. Do smart switches need a hub?
Possibly. It all depends on the type of switch. Some smart switches connect directly to a smartphone and do not require a hub, which is also called a “controller.” Others, such as ZigBee-enabled switches, connect to a ZigBee hub. The user’s smartphone or other digital devices also connect through the hub to control the lights and any other connected components.
Q. Is there a 4-way smart switch?
Yes. A 4-way smart switch can control all the functions of an existing 4-way switch. The trick is to replace the existing switch on the load side, which means the switch that sends feedback to the other two switches. The instructions that come with the 4-way smart switch will help the user determine which switch to replace.
Q. How do you install a smart light switch?
Unless you’re familiar with wiring techniques, this may best be left to an electrician. If you decide to tackle the project, you’ll first have to turn off the power to the switch, remove the existing switch, and then connect the wires (as shown in the directions that come with the switch). Once the switch is installed into the wall, you’ll need to download the corresponding app on your digital device and follow the prompts to set up the app and to control the switch.