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Should you get a smart bulb or smart switch? And what are your options?
Turning your homebase into a smart home can be a complicated and costly affair if you go all-in. For newcomers, however, there are some products you can choose that avoid breaking the bank. The most popular entry points tend to be smart speakers and light bulbs, since both are rental-friendly and require minimal setup. Smart light switches are more complex to install, but not horrendously expensive — might they be worth the investment?
The best smart light switches:
Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list of the best smart light switches regularly as new ones launch.
Pros and cons
Advantages to buying smart light switches:
- Smart switches retain the manual option of conventional ones, while expanding control to apps and smart speakers.
- A single switch can control many lights, which could actually save you money versus replacing every light in your home with smart bulbs.
- A smart bulb can’t be controlled at all if a traditional wall switch is off. Smart switches eliminate this problem, which is particularly helpful if you have kids who like to play with switches, or house guests who aren’t accustomed to using apps or voice commands.
- You can use smart switches with any lighting or socket style. Smart bulbs tend to come in limited socket variations, primarily E26/E27. Many homes and businesses use socket types that are very hard to find in the smart bulb market, which might make a smart switch a better (if not the only) alternative.
Smart light switches don't allow for dimming or switching colors.
The downsides to smart light switches:
- There’s wiring work involved, which introduces a safety risk, and makes them a no-go for renters unless your landlord approves.
- They may not work in older homes due to the need for a neutral wire. There are a few workarounds, but they aren’t ideal.
- Smart switches usually just turn your lights on and off. You can’t change colors unless you have both a smart bulb and a smart switch. There are also smart dimming switches, but you’ll need to make sure your existing light bulbs play nice.
If you want the best of both worlds by configuring your home with both smart bulbs and switches, be aware that this can create complications and/or conflicts when organizing your devices through apps, hubs, automations, and so on. It can also cause installation costs to skyrocket.
Should you bother with getting a switch?
For most people, smart bulbs are probably the better route. They offer color changes and other special effects, and they’re easier to install — you just screw them into a socket, and finish setup in an app. But if you’re the a parent of a small child, or just a perfectionist that wants the smartest possible home, you should at least check out some of the best smart switches on the market. In rare cases, obscure socket types in your home may force you to go the switch route.
There are a ton of options in the field, regardless. Below you’ll find a list of our favorite smart switches.
Also read: The best smart light bulbs you can buy
1. C by GE Motion Sensing & Dimmer Smart Switch
C by GE isn’t as popular as other smart home brands, but they make great products and of course are backed by an industry giant, General Electric.
What makes this one of the best smart switches is that it doesn’t just work as a dimmer. It adds motion and light sensors, letting the accessory measure room lighting and activity for improved automation. It works with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can flip or combine platforms.
2. Kasa Smart Dimmer Switch by TP-Link
The Kasa Smart Dimmer Switch integrates with Alexa, Google Assistant, and even Microsoft Cortana in addition to the Kasa app. The product’s main selling point though is its low price, which makes retrofitting an entire home far more practical.
3. Wemo Smart Dimmer Switch
The Wemo Smart Dimmer Switch sits between Kasa and GE’s products in cost, but has a distinct advantage in supporting Apple HomeKit alongside Alexa and Google Assistant. If you have any iPhones, iPads, or Macs in your household, Wemo’s offering ensures no one is left out. Wemo’s own mobile app includes built-in Night and Away modes, the latter of which randomizes light schedules to make your house look occupied.
Related: The best smart lamps you can buy
4. Ecobee Switch Plus
If the idea of an Alexa speaker built into your walls sounds convenient, we highly recommend the Ecobee Switch Plus. In fact it also comes with built-in motion and ambient light sensors, and supports not just Alexa but HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Samsung SmartThings. Ecobee no longer sells the switch directly, but the tradeoff is that you can get it for a more reasonable price on sites like Amazon. It is still pricier than the Wemo.
5. Lutron Caseta
The Lutron Caseta is often considered a gold standard and was refreshed back in 2020. It’s a dimmer switch that comes with a remote control, and can automatically adjust to changing seasons and daylight savings time, though these sorts of functions require Lutron’s Wi-Fi smart bridge. Platform integration goes beyond Alexa, HomeKit, and Google Assistant to include things like Serena shades and Sonos speakers.
If you do go with Lutron, it may be worth your while to invest in a bundle instead of a single switch. In fact Lutron sells a two-pack that comes with the smart bridge, which might as well be mandatory for its features and platform support.
6. Philips Hue Smart Dimmer Switch
If, like many people, you’re already invested in the Philips Hue lighting ecosystem, you might be best off buying the Hue Smart Dimmer Switch. It’s really a remote, since it uses a battery instead of wiring, and the only thing that attaches to a wall is a magnetic storage plate. The Switch itself can stick to many metal objects, such as your fridge.
Four buttons control power, adjust brightness, and toggle between scenes created in the Hue app. The catch is that the switch requires a Hue Smart Hub, and works only with Hub-connected lights. If you’re bought into the Hue ecosystem, though, you’re probably set.
Alternatives: The best smart plugs you can buy