Have you ever wondered how do smart light switches work? Well, you’re not alone.
We were wondering about the same thing, and it turns out there are a lot of us out there. So we decided to figure out how do smart light switches work and help everyone else understand it as well.
It turned out to be surprisingly simple and quite interesting as well. After you’re done reading the article, I bet you’ll want these cool switches in your home as well.
How Do Smart Light Switches Work
Smart light switches are anything but smart; they are clever though.
They can connect to our local network using our Wi-Fi network and allow us to remotely access the switch using our smartphones or tablets.
So, instead of walking over the switch, we can simply use our smartphone to turn a light on or off.
The best part, it works just as well from thousands of miles away. This is usually the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about smart light switches, but there is a lot more to it than just that.
Smart Bulbs or Smart Switches
The main reason for opting for a smart light switch despite the option of smart light bulbs is that it acts as a control center for the entire room or even the house’s entire lighting system.
Moreover, smart light switches can be quite cost-effective as well. A smart light switch costs about the same as a smart light bulb but doesn’t require smart bulbs to offer network connectivity to the lighting system.
A single light switch can turn a large number of conventional bulbs into smart bulbs by simply remotely connecting and controlling a smart light switch.
One thing to remember is that, although a smart light switch will allow you to dim your lights, your lights must be dimmable for it to work.
Since most modern LED and CFL bulbs are dimmable by design, it shouldn’t be much of a concern.
So, a smart light switch will allow you to use your standard conventional bulbs to create the perfect ambiance in the room by simply dimming the light through a smartphone.
In fact, you can even control your ceiling fan remotely if you have your smart switch connected to the ceiling fan.
Normal Light Switches and Smart Light Switches
Despite the name, smart light switches are basically outlets that can connect to a Wi-Fi network and offer remote access to anything it is connected to.
However, unlike most other smart devices, you can’t just plug a smart switch into a power outlet.
Smart bulbs, on the other hand, normally work with conventional lighting fixtures and bulb holders.
So, in order to use a smart light switch, you will have to replace the preexisting in-wall switch.
How They Work and the Need for Neutral Wires
Let’s look at how normal switches work and how they’re different from a smart light switch.
Most conventional light switches have two power or hot wires that are directly powering the light bulb.
When we turn off the switch, we’re simply disconnecting the power wires from the fixtures. This is called a classic two-wire circuit. It doesn’t require a neutral wire because when the switch is turned off, the bulb doesn’t have any electricity going through it because it is directly connected to the power source.
If we add a smart switch to the mix, we can’t completely disconnect the power, as we still need to power the switch so it can remain connected to the Wi-Fi network. If the electronics in the switch turn off as well, we won’t be able to remotely access with it our smartphones.
So in order to deal with this problem, we need neutral wires. This allows the switch to remain powered while the electricity going into the bulb would be redirected back using the neutral wires, keeping the bulb turned off while the switch powered on.
This is why we have to remove the previous light switch and replace it with a smart light switch.
This can be a lengthy process as you would have to go through all of the switches one by one and manually remove, replace and rewire them. So, make sure you’ve properly planned out the project, especially in terms of the time you can dedicate to the project.
Since neutral wires are a prerequisite for most smart light switches, you want to make sure your wiring system has neutral wires.
In the case that your home does not have neutral wires, you’ll probably be unable to install most smart light switches.
However, most homes since the 1970s were built using the current wiring system.
So, it shouldn’t be a problem unless you live in a really old building, but even then there are some smart light switches that can work without neutral wires.
To help you make the right decision, we've put together the ultimate guide to the best smart light switches available. The resource is updated regularly to include all the latest models, detailed buyers guide and tips, tricks and troubleshooting advice.