An increasing number of homeowners are adding “smart” devices to their homes. These connected devices and appliances perform tasks or automated routines to save energy, money or time or improve security. In fact, consumers are expected to spend $62 billion worldwide on smart home-related devices in 2021. Smart switches can be an important part of home automation. Read on to learn how smart switches work and why you may want to consider incorporating them into your home.
How Smart Switches Work
A smart switch is different from a traditional light switch in that it can control just about anything it is connected with, including hardwired appliances, fans, and of course lights. Also, unlike a traditional light switch, smart switches can be controlled remotely, through a smartphone app, or via a remote control by connecting to the home’s WiFi network. Smart switches are available in different shapes and sizes. Some smart switches also function as a traditional light switch, while others can only be controlled by a smart app or device. Personal preferences of how to utilize smart switches vary from one person to the next. Some folks prefer voice commands, like “turn on the kitchen light”, while others prefer to use an app on their smartphone or tablet. For this reason, at Milton Electric we make recommendations and install smart switches, but leave the actual programming to our clients. Here are some features offered by many smart switches:
- Voice-enabled control through a device such as the Google Home, Amazon Echo, or other home speaker.
- Programmable timing. For example, lights may be set to turn off at bedtime each evening or a coffee maker may be set to turn on at a certain time each morning.
- Mood lighting based on activity (e.g. watching a movie, reading a book or working).
- Remote monitor and control. For example, checking on activity in the home and adjusting temperature while away or unlocking a door remotely for a delivery or service.
- Integration with other smart home devices, such as a smart home hub, the command center of all smart home devices.
Smart Switches vs. Traditional Light Switches
Smart switches vary in price, depending on the model. While smart switches are more expensive than traditional light switches, they offer several benefits:
- Convenience. Smart switches can be controlled at any time and from anywhere, as long as there is a WiFi connection. For example, if a homeowner is out for the day or is traveling, lights or appliances can be turned off to save on energy. Similarly, lights can be turned on remotely at night for added security. Smart switches can even be programmed to turn on when someone enters a room and turn off when they leave.
- Ambiance. A smart switch can be set to adjust based on activity. For example, the switch may be programmed to gradually increase the brightness of lights during the morning make-up time and gradually dim them at bedtime.
- Multi-device Integration. As part of smart home automation, most smart switches can integrate several devices for a more convenient living experience. For example, a smart switch could be programmed as a custom alarm – turning on lighting in the morning along with favorite music. Similarly, a smart switch may be programmed to turn on lighting as well as air conditioning prior to homeowners arriving home on a summer evening.
- Increased security. Some smart switches can be connected to home alarm and security systems for greater security when homeowners are away. Many video doorbells can be linked to a smart light switch and even a video cam and motion sensors for added security.
- Cost savings. Using smart switches to efficiently regulate lighting, heating, and cooling and appliance usage can result in significant savings in energy costs each month.
Smart Switches vs. Smart Bulbs
Smart bulbs install just like a traditional light bulb, but can be controlled remotely and can also change color. A smart bulb does not require the installation of a switch, so it can be a good option for homes with older wiring or for temporary solutions like in a dorm. It is important to understand that a smart bulb will render the old wall switch useless and can actually turn it into an inconvenience. If the old wall switch is used to turn off a smart bulb, the bulb will switch off and the power for the bulb’s wireless communication will switch off as well. This means that the voice command will not work to turn the smart bulb on until the old wall switch is manually flipped back to the on position. Some smart switches (but not all models) can be used with smart bulbs. A qualified electrician can make recommendations for smart home technology that will best suit your needs and help you evaluate the options.