Smart Home Wall Switch Overview

Smart switches like these GE Smart Light Switches look and work like normal paddle switches, but they can also be controlled by a smart hub. Note the subtle blue LED light that can be set to turn on when the switch is off. Very handy for finding the light switch in a dark room.

Applications for Smart Wall Switches

The smart home wall switch was my main motivation in creating a smart home. Here are some of my favorites uses of the smart home wall switch:

  • Kids leave lights on in basement. (Did I mention that yet?)
  • Stairs – Someone comes home and leaves the main stairs lights on, which shine right down into the family room in our house. This happens all the time.
  • Program – Set the front porch light to automatically turn on and off at sunrise and sunset.
  • All Off – Turn all (smart) lights off in the house at once when you leave.
  • Trigger certain lights to turn on automatically when you get home.
  • Laziness – Just plain being lazy when watching TV and being able to turn lights on or off from the couch.
Smart wall switch
The open floor plan is great, except when someone leaves the stairs lights on. The stairs floodlights shine right down on the family room couch below. With the stairs light switch all the way across the house from the family room, saying “Alexa turn the stairs lights off” is so nice!

Wiring Note

Installing wall switches requires just a bit of wiring. This may be a slight deterrent, but don’t let is stop you! It is not as hard as you think! I have covered wiring of smart switches below. In this section, I am going to stick to switch types and usage.

Smart light Alexa control
Controlling switches in the smart home is very easy and reliable. Alexa app shown here.

GE Z-Wave Paddle Switch

The most basic smart switch is a single on/off switch like the one shown below. This a GE Z-Wave Plus Smart Control Light Switch. What I like about these switches is they look and work like normal paddle switches, but they can also be controlled by a smart hub. That also means that if the smart hub or the web goes down, you can still operate the switch at the wall, just like always.

Basic GE Z-Wave Smart Control Light Switch

Wemo Wifi Switch

I also have one Wemo light switch installed. Wemo is a line of home automation products by the trusted brand of Belkin. The switch works great and was easy to install and configure. I even like that it looks a little different and more moderns and “techy” than a traditional light switch. However, there are a few things that I don’t like about this switch.

Wemo smart light switch
Wemo WiFi light switch. The switch works great but WiFi reliability can be a pain.

Issues with Wemo Switches

The first and more minor issue is the power indicator light. It is just a little odd looking to have a power button symbol like that on a light switch. But I could live with that – it’s not a big deal.

The next issue is that the Wemo devices have their own app for programming and controlling the devices. This is necessary because they are WiFi devices and don’t connect directly to a smart hub. This is not a big deal, but it is just one more app to learn and mess with. With the Z-Wave or Zigbee devices, they can all be programmed in the SmartThings app or the Alexa app.

The last item is more of a deal breaker for me – it uses WiFi for communications. For some, this might be considered a plus, because it means you don’t need a smart home hub to use it. That is the general selling point of the Belkin Wemo line. But for me, it is a big negative, because I find WiFi to just be generally flaky and require annoying regular rebooting.

When the WiFi is down, you can’t control the switch through your home network. This is not a fatal flaw, because you can still just operate the switch at the wall. But it is annoying when you are in the tub and want to turn the jacuzzi on (what this switch controls in our house) and you notice the WiFi is down – after – you get in the tub!

If I could do it over again, I would not have installed this single WiFi switch. Maybe one day I will invest the $36 dollars and 10 minutes it would take to change it out!

Smart Dimmer Switches

GE also makes a Smart Control Dimmer Switch. These are a little more expensive than the basic switch ($42 versis $36), but can be well worth it to have the ability to dim the lights. They look and work exactly like the paddle switches shown above, but they also dim. This function is also supported by Alexa so you can issue commands like:

Alexa dim the family room lights to 20%


Smart dimmer light switch
Example of light dimming in the Alexa app.

The function and design of the GE smart dimmer switches is perfect. If you click the paddle at the top or bottom it turns the lights on or off. If you hold the paddle down on the top or bottom it dims the lights. It is very intuitive and works exactly like you would expect. They integrate flawlessly with Alexa and have been super reliable since I installed them. I really like these dimmer switches!

Three Way Switches

We all have three-way switches somewhere in our homes. These are switches where one light can be controlled by two (or more) switches. They are most common on stairs, where there is a switch at the bottom and top of the stairs to control the lights. In our house, because of the floor plan layout, the stairs light switch is a five-way switch!

Three way smart switch
Three of the switches that make up the five-way switch in the stairs of our house.

GE also makes an Add-On Smart Switch for integrating into a three-way switch. These switches have to be matched to another GE Smart Switch in the same three-way circuit. (I cover wiring of three-way smart switches below in the wiring section).

The way a three-way smart home wall switch works is actually very simple. Only one of the switches actually controls the light. The other add-one switch just tells the main switch what to do. Installation makes use of existing wiring for most modernly wired homes. This makes them simple to install. See detailed wiring instruction.

Conclusions

A smart home wall switch is a great way to control lights around your house. Their great design and functionality give a real nice permanent, professional touch to your smart home.

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