Smart Switches Explained: 2020 Edition

How Do Smart Switches Work

iDISRUPTED Lighting & Power Best Smart Light Switch Smart Switches Explained (2020 Edition)

Read Time: 17 mins

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Your complete guide to Smart Switches in 2020.

From 101 smart switch essentials to all the critical details you need to be aware of when choosing a smart switch.

Together we'll deep dive on what they are, how they work and everything you need to know to make the right choice for your home in 2020.

With over 44 hours of research distilled down to a 17 minute read time across the four chapters, we’re confident there is something to benefit all our readers.

Whether you're right at the start of your home automation journey or looking for the most up-to-date compatibility info for an existing setup, this guide has been updated with all the latest advances in smart switch technology for 2020.

And with a completely fresh layout and updated navigation to make things easier to find and easier to read, we hope you get as much use from it as the fun we had bringing it to life!

So roll up your sleeves my friends, let's get stuck in...

What Is A Smart Switch

Smart switches are a direct replacement for your traditional built-in switches.

They are installed using your existing in-wall back boxes.  

The best smart switches still work as a regular light switch, but also provide you with new ways to control your home lighting and switch-wired devices.

True remote-control through a dedicated app, connected over your home wifi network, so you can access your switches from anywhere, anytime.

Lutron Caseta Smart Home Switch, Works with Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant | 6-Amp, for Ceiling Fans, Exhaust Fans, LED Light Bulbs, Incandescent Bulbs and Halogen Bulbs | PD-6ANS-WH | White

What Can a Smart Switch Do?

Smart switches can control lights, hardwired appliances like waste disposal units and fireplaces, even the ceiling and bathroom fans throughout your home.

The most common smart switch uses include:

  • Voice control using a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo
  • Remote control with your smartphone - no more wondering if you left the the lights on when you get to work
  • Creation of time-based schedules to turn your lights on or off at a specific time of day
  • Setting up different scenes and “moods” for certain activities like watching movies, reading a book, or hosting a dinner party
  • More complex event-based automations involving multiple smart devices using a smart home hub or a task automation service in the cloud, like Stringify or IFTTT

Benefits Of Using A Smart Switch

To help you decide if the investment is worth it, lets explore the main things smart switches bring to the party.


Few would argue the main thing smart switches provide is convenience, enabling you to easily control your lights with your smartphone.  

From the core on-off and dimming functions using your voice or an app, to some seriously clever stuff like lights that turn on automatically when you enter the room.

Smart dimmers can automatically adjust your bedroom lights, slowly growing brighter as you wake up.

Even a whole-of-house rule programmed to switch off every light automatically when you leave the house.

All of this while maintaining the existing ability to manually toggle the wall switch for a simple on-off capability for family or guests in your home.

Convenience really has come home and is the number one reason for upgrading your home lighting setup.  

But we’re literally just scratching the surface here, so lets dive a little deeper.

Greater Control

When you start linking your smart lighting system to other smart devices, things get really interesting.

From sensors to geofencing and event-based automation, you can create a truly personalized experience and get your home technology working for you.   

What does all that mean in English?  

Well imagine your home HVAC adjusting the temperature to your exact specifications an hour before you arrive home from the office.  

And when you are a few blocks from your front door, your hallway lights turn on (nobody likes arriving home to a dark, empty house), your living room blinds shut and Alexa starts playing your “chilling after a hard day” playlist.  

It's these multi-device interactions that adapt your home technology to fit your lifestyle and can benefit your daily life and routines.

Better Security

From the most basic timed schedules; switching lights on or off to give the appearance of your property having people in it when you are actually on vacation.

To smart outdoor lighting linked to motion sensors, lighting up your yard when the sensor is triggered, smart lighting is a great step towards a more secure home.  

Even more so when integrated with an alarm system, DIY or a monitored solution by the likes of ADT.  

Its of no surprise that smart security systems are one of the fastest growing technologies in the smart home space.  

And smart light switches are one key component to a smarter safer home for your family.

Cheaper Electricity Bills

Lighting your home makes up on average 12% of your total electricity bill each year according to research from Energy Star.

On the face of it, 12% may not sound that much, landing somewhere around $260 each year for the average American household.

Research from one of the top smart light switch manufacturers, Lutron, indicates the average home could realise lighting energy savings up to 60% by combining dimming and occupancy sensing in a residence.

And this is before you even factor in the use of LED bulbs over traditional incandescent alternatives.

Manufacturers like Philips Hue are now producing bulbs that use 90% less energy than traditional incandescent lights, while producing the same warm and familiar light.

This means combined, you could be saving a whole lot more.

Your mileage will vary depending on usage, but this is a real indicator your smart light switch project could have paid for itself within the first few years, if not sooner.

It’s also worth noting that smart switches are a cheaper alternative to smart bulbs in a whole-house setup.

One smart switch can control multiple bulbs and the price of some smart bulbs is comparable to the cost of a single smart switch.

Consider how many bulbs you will need to replace.

You can see how quickly smart bulbs vs smart switches becomes a question of cost in your home improvement project.

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How Do Smart Switches Work

Smart switches are connected to your home network, providing access through Wi-Fi to remotely control the switch using an app on your smartphone or tablet.  

You can still turn the lights on or off as you previously did by toggling the in-wall switch; clearly a good thing if you have guests or if your phone isn’t nearby.

For even greater control, they can be managed by a home automation controller like Samsung SmartThings, or by voice using a smart speaker.

The best part, they work just as well from thousands of miles away - so no need to worry ever again if you have left the bedroom lights on.

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, so buckle up, lets deep dive.

Smart Switch Lighting Control

All smart switches use a radio transmitter to communicate with each other and to connect to your home network.

This provides you with access to the ‘smart’ functionality through an app on your smartphone or tablet.

You access the app via WiFi, but this common communication standard isn’t always the way each individual switch will communicate with each other.

There are many different types of broadcast frequency and protocols used in smart home technology, the most common types are WiFi, Bluetooth, Zigbee and Z-Wave.

Broadly speaking, we can group these different communication standards into three main buckets:

WIFI & Bluetooth

Arguably the easiest to integrate.

You don’t need to use a hub or a gateway device to get your switches talking across your existing home network.

You can connect directly to your switches and not have to worry about incompatibilities between devices.  

Brands like Wemo from Belkin live here.

Generally WiFi is used for smart light switches, with some smart plug brands like GE providing devices that use Bluetooth.

The draw-back with WIFI only smart switches, and it’s a big one, the more devices you add to your existing wifi network, the more bandwidth you are eating up.

And lets face it, you don’t want to run out of bandwidth during the latest season finale streaming on your Amazon Firestick, or checking out a motion alert from your Ring 2 video doorbell.

All that said, for smaller installs, in an apartment for example, you are unlikely to run into problems with only a few switches sharing bandwidth on your home network.

Zigbee & Z Wave

On the other hand, for homes with a larger footprint perhaps spread over several floors where the number of switches required will run much higher, this is where dedicated smart home wireless protocols come in; zigbee and z-wave mesh networks.

And for those who want a recap on the main home automation wireless protocols, we’ve covered everything you need to know in the article here.

Z-Wave or ZigBee light switches from brands like GE Enbrighten need some kind of hub or gateway to connect to, such as a SmartThings hub or a Smart Speaker like the Amazon Echo.

What’s the benefit?

You won’t be using bandwidth on your Wi-Fi network if you end up needing a bunch of them.

Proprietary Systems

A handful of smart switch manufacturers use their own proprietary communication standards to connect and control their switches.

Lutron Caseta and Insteon live here.

Caseta Wireless uses their patented Clear Connect® technology which operates in a low frequency band.

This keeps your home wireless network free from interference and does not impact internet performance in your home.

Insteon uses an integrated dual-mesh communication network, combining radio frequency (RF) and the existing electrical wiring system in your home.

Like Lutron, it doesn’t use your home Wifi for the switches to communicate, therefore has zero impact to your bandwidth and home internet performance.

Both Lutron & Insteon devices also act as repeaters, much like zigbee and zwave mesh networks, which provides significantly greater broadcast range than a standard single home router wireless counterpart.  

Importantly they can function without a central controller.

So where a wifi only smart switch - like the iDevices range - loses functionality when the network goes down, depending on your setup, these switches keep functioning.   

And of course, you can choose to manage them by a central controller to take advantage of smartphone and tablet control or more complex scenes and automations using a smart home hub.

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Do Smart Switches Need A Neutral Wire

Now you understand how the devices communicate and the different options available to you, let’s get a critical detail out of the way.

Most smart switches require a neutral wire to operate.  But why?

To fully understand, let’s look at how regular switches work and how they’re different from a smart light switch.

How Does A Light Switch Work - The Conventional Switch Circuit

Most conventional light switches are configured using a classic 2-wire circuit.

This consists of two wires - hot and ground.

One is a permanent live feed from your mains power to the switch.

The other is controlled by the switch which directly feeds the power to the lamp.

When you turn off the switch, you’re simply disconnecting the power from the circuit.  

When you flip the switch back on, you ‘complete’ the circuit allowing the current to flow from the switch to the bulb.

This type of circuit doesn’t require a neutral wire.

The Smart Switch Circuit

With a smart switch, you need to maintain power to the switch electronics (the ‘smart’ bit of the switch), which are in series with the bulb.

This allows the switch to remain powered on while the electricity flowing to the bulb is returned using the neutral wire, keeping the bulb turned off.

In the case of most brands and manufacturers, this is a typical smart switch circuit.

How Do I Know If I Have A Neutral Wire

Every single dwelling, from apartments to mansions, all have a neutral wire.

With properties built pre-1980’s however, a lot won’t have the neutrals in the switch back boxes.

For those built 1980 onwards, there is a high likelihood you will have neutrals already wired throughout your property.

Indication of neutral wires - things to keep an eye out for:

  1. Your property was built, renovated or rewired after the 1980s
  2. Existing multi-gang switch boxes have the highest likelihood of neutral wires
  3. Any in-wall power outlet located in the immediate area to your light switch will, in most cases, have a neutral already in place.

As neutrals can usually be drawn from nearby outlets, a licensed electrician should be able to run a feed direct to your light switch gang-box.

Sure you might have to patch some drywall afterwards, but this could be a considerably more cost effective option than a full house rewire.

Regardless of the signs listed above, you’ll still need to confirm if neutral wires are available in the switch gang-boxes to understand which devices can be used.

As always we recommend hiring a professional to do this investigative work for you.

If nothing else, this provides you with a 3rd party to defer to should something not go according to plan.  

If you are planning on doing this yourself, before you even think about starting to unscrew the nearest light switch and poking around, lets get the single most important thing out of the way first - YOUR SAFETY

Never assume a wire is live or not based purely on its color.

Although there are standardized and regulated colors for each type of wire to indicate if a live current is present, NEVER take that on face value and treat EVERY wire as if it is ‘hot’ until you know otherwise.  

ALWAYS contact a licensed electrician to confirm your findings or if you have any doubts or are uncertain of anything.

Checking Your Switch Box For Neutral Wires

  1. Locate your home electrical service panel box (also known as a distribution board, panelboard, breaker box, breaker panel, or electric panel)
  2. Switch OFF the main electricity feed
  3. Remove the existing switch faceplate
  4. Gently move the existing switch electronics outwards from the gang box to expose the wires at the back
  5. With the wires in view, look for a white wire.  If one or a group of white wires are exposed, you are almost guaranteed that you will have a neutral in that switch box

Consult an electrician to check the voltage (110V/120V) between the white wire and the live wire (which is usually black) to confirm which wire is the live one and if you have a neutral wire already in the gangbox.

For more detail about wiring color system in the USA, it’s worth checking out this article;

Can I Use An Earth Or Ground Wire As A Neutral?

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you use a ground wire as a neutral as it creates the likelihood for electrical shock.

This is due to the earth always being grounded at zero volts and as the neutral wire carries an unbalanced load on a return path, it has the potential to pass voltage through it.

As ground wires are usually uninsulated, this creates the potential for starting a fire.

It is also seriously hazardous for anyone working on the power system, as a ground wire should never have any voltage on it and they will not be expecting it to be present.

Electrical Codes & Building Regulations

The NEC, or National Electrical Code, forms part of the National Fire Codes series run by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) here in the USA.  

Although the NFPA is a private trade association and the NEC itself is not bound by federal law, it is typically used by states and municipalities in a drive to standardize safe electrical practices.

In many cases, it can be amended or changed by your local governing body.

Since the NEC code revisions in 2014 and most recently in 2017, assuming your city follows them and doesn't have a city specific code, all new electrical installations are required to have a dedicated neutral wire at all switch locations.  

Also, an existing ground conductor can extend to the neutral (only for smart switches with 5 or less devices on a single circuit) to specifically deal with this new breed of smart switch

Regardless who is undertaking your smart lighting project, yourself or a licensed electrical contractor, you should get yourself up to speed on any local, regional or national regulations that could impact your project and may need to conform to.  

Remember that any work done to your home that doesn't meet safety standards could, for example, render your insurance void should something happen during or after the installation, or be in violation of a regional law.

Choosing A Smart Switch

Options If You Don’t Have A Neutral Wire

Thankfully, they do exist.

Although you are limited to only a handful of devices to chose from including dimmer switches and in-wall nano-dimmers that work with existing switches.

Head on over to this article to see all your options for a no-neutral install.

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Does A Smart Switch Work Without Wifi

Yes, but without the “smarts” is the answer for most situations.

Many smart switches rely on the cloud to communicate, even if you have a smart home hub to tie your smart devices together.

The rule of thumb and situation for most installs is If you physically toggle a load bearing smart switch (not an auxiliary), the lamp attached to the circuit will operate as expected without the internet.

Any rules or scenes you have setup, however, will not work again until your wifi is reconnected to the cloud.

Once the connection is re-established, most Smart switches will return to the state they were in before the connection was lost.

If you want to keep the smart capability even if the internet breaks, certain brands like Insteon and Lutron will continue to provide your smart schedules, scenes and sensors you have programmed when the internet is down.  

This is due to their proprietary communication network and centralized controllers which work locally and without the need for the cloud or a home wifi network.

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Going one step further, there are home automation controllers designed to work on your local network and without the cloud, such as the Hubitat, a smart home hub capable of running everything locally and off-grid, connecting to your devices via IP and the local network, including any Z-Wave and Zigbee devices…no cloud access or internet required.

For an even more robust and responsive user experience, pairing Hubitat with a Lutron system via Telnet (available using the Lutron smart bridge pro), brings you professional-grade performance, both in terms of speed and availability.  It also helps future-proof your investment as you can add multiple Lutron smart bridge pro's to your Hubitat and do away with the 50 device limit on the single bridge.

Compatibility With Your Ecosystem

A critical but often overlooked aspect when shortlisting switches and brands ahead of making your purchase.

Make sure your switches are compatible with your existing smart devices or ones you plan to buy in the future, a smart thermostat for example.

Remember not all smart switch brands play well, or indeed work at all, with the various flavours of communication protocols or different brands currently on the market - even the wifi only switches, like the Kasa Smart range from TP Link.

And you certainly can’t mix and match between all systems.

For example you can't control Lutron lighting with an Insteon hub, and you can't use a Lutron Caseta bridge to manage Insteon devices.

Even if you buy a switch that states it has zigbee, there is a nuance to be aware of in the wording - as they may not even work well with other zigbee devices.

The standard allows for different "profiles,"including manufacturer proprietary ones.

This means they may not be understood by your existing devices or controller.

Equally as frustrating, your new switches may lose connectivity and provide sporadic service.

So when shopping for your switches, always double check (then check again!) compatibility with communication standards and any home automation hub or smart speaker depending on your preferred ecosystem.

If this is your one main takeaway from this chapter, you’ll be thanking us for it later!

Can Alexa Control A Light Switch

Yes.  Although how complex it is to set things up depends on which switch you choose, the ecosystem you are buying into and the communication protocol used to communicate.

This is the same for all smart speakers with built in voice assistants - Google Home, Apple Homekit or even Microsoft Cortana.  

Get it right and the possibilities for how you control your lights are entirely open to your imagination.

For example using Alexa, Logitech Harmony Hub, a Nanoleaf Canvas or Nanoleaf alternative and your chosen smart light switch all linked using IFTTT, you can tell Alexa to trigger “Movie Night”.

What happens?  

Your lights will dim to a pre-chosen level, Harmony opens Netflix on your TV and the Nanoleaf light panels activate a pre-programmed scene to complement the movie watching atmosphere.

And all this from one single spoken command.  Even Iron Man would be proud!

Dimmers & Bulbs

Many smart switches provide the ability to dim the light bulbs attached to the circuit.

If this is one of your requirements, make sure to confirm your chosen switch has this desired functionality before purchase.  

One major thing to remember, however, is that although a smart light switch will allow you to dim your lights, your bulbs must be capable of dimming for things to work.

Even though most modern CFL & LED bulbs are dimmable by design,make sure to check compatibility with the types of bulb you intend to control in that discrete circuit.

Thankfully help is at hand with certain brands.  Lutron provide a compatibility table so you can find out which lamps are compatible with their switch range.

Another point of consideration are smart bulbs like the LIFX or Hue range.  

If you are planning to use them as part of your overall smart lighting installation, smart switches are not your best option for control by a country mile.  


When you disconnect power to the smart bulb, they lose their “smarts” and render them dumb.  

Not only that, it can drastically shorten the lifespan of both your switch and the smart bulb.

If your use-case requires smart bulbs, you are better off opting for switch covers or one of the battery operated devices that mimic the look of an in-wall light switch, but leave your smart bulbs always powered on.

Fans, Shades & Hardwired Appliances

Aside from simply providing control of your lights, smart switches with higher power amperage can control your shades, fans, fireplaces and other hardwired appliances like air conditioners.    

And for bedside lamps which are not commonly connected to a wall switch, you can either use a smart bulb like one from the LIFX smart bulb range or a smart plug to match the capability and work harmoniously with your smart light switches and other smart home gear.

How Much Does A Smart Switch Cost?

Smart switches tend to cost anywhere between $30-$100.  

This varies from brand to brand and is directly linked to the features you require, like a 3 way smart switch for your stairs for example.  

As this can quickly add up to an expensive home renovation project, we suggest starting with the switches in your home that get the most use, like the living room.  

Pick the features and the brand that is right for you, do the install and live with it for a few months.  

Once you have got used to the convenience your new switches provide, it will then be easier to decide on which ones to install next.  

For example, in a utility room or somewhere you often have your hands full,   investing in the best motion sensor light switch that works with your existing setup can bring significant benefits, providing you with lights that automatically turn on when you walk in the room, and then switch off when you leave - all completely hands (and voice) free. Now that's smart!

What Are The Best Smart Switches

Best 'No-Neutral' Switch: Lutron Caseta

Lutron Caseta Deluxe Smart Dimmer Switch (2 Count) Kit | Works with Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and the Google Assistant | P-BDG-PKG2W-A | White

Lutron Caseta, arguably the the best smart switch without neutral.  

It's our recommended pick of all the smart switches currently on the market.

They use their own proprietary controller, the Smart Bridge and Smart Bridge PRO, which connects over a custom radio frequency creating a robust and highly resilient mesh network.  

If you suffer from WiFi dead spots, or use a lot of bandwidth on your home network (2 or more consecutive 4k netflix streams), this helps avoid signal drop-outs and misbehaving devices.

Accommodating up to 50 devices on each bridge, the app lets you easily create rooms, zones, scenes, and automated schedules.

Their widely available kits include a super handy remote that acts as an additional wireless dimmer switch which can be mounted on a wall bracket if you don't want it hanging around on a table or the edge of the couch.

Lutron Caseta Deluxe Smart Dimmer Switch (2 Count) Kit | Works with Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and the Google Assistant | P-BDG-PKG2W-A | White
496 Reviews
Lutron Caseta Deluxe Smart Dimmer Switch (2 Count) Kit | Works with Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and the Google Assistant | P-BDG-PKG2W-A | White
  • PEACE OF MIND: Set lights to automatically adjust with changing seasons so your family always comes back to a well-lit home; you can also enable the Smart Away feature to randomly turn your lights on...
  • MOST CONNECTED: Caseta connects with more leading smart home devices – including Alexa, Apple HomeKit, the Google Assistant, Serena shades and Sonos – than any other smart lighting control brand

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You can also control the dimmer with your voice via Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri, and it plays well with SmartThings, Sonos, Logitech, Nest, and many other popular home automation controllers.

It lets you convert your existing lighting system to smart lighting while still allowing you to control your lights the old-fashioned way if you want or if your internet connection is disrupted by a power outage.

And the best thing, it’s relatively easy to configure and the kits bring down the cost.  

If you are serious about your smart lighting, investing in the Lutron ecosystem is a safe bet.

Best For WiFi: WeMo Smart Dimmer Switch

Wemo Wi-Fi Smart Dimmer 2-Pack

It’s true that wifi switches such as the WeMo from Belkin which piggybacks on your existing home WiFi network are the easiest to setup.

There is no need for an intermediary hub, bridge or gateway and they work with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and more, straight out the box.

The best WiFi smart switch on the market by a significant margin, the range also expands to cover almost every device you could need in your smart home, from plugs to thermostat integration.

Wemo Wi-Fi Smart Dimmer 2-Pack
154 Reviews
Wemo Wi-Fi Smart Dimmer 2-Pack
  • Control WeMo dimmer from the wall, the WeMo app, and even your voice Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple home Kit. No hub or subscription required. Enable the WeMo skill in the Alexa app to pair.
  • Syncs with your schedule. Easily set schedules and timers so your lights do what you want when you want. You can even sync lights to adjust with the sunset and sunrise.

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If you’re looking for the most straight forward option, easiest to configure, have a reliable internet connection and are simply kitting out a smaller dwelling like an apartment, buying into the WeMo ecosystem is a safe and affordable bet.

Best For Z-Wave Or Zigbee: GE Smart Switch

GE Enbrighten, White & Light Almond, Z-Wave Plus Smart Light Dimmer, Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, SmartThings, Wink, Zwave Hub Required, Repeater/Range Extender, 3-Way Compatible, 14294, 1 Pack

The GE Z-Wave switch line gets our vote as they have devices which work with the two main smart home standards, zwave and zigbee.

Built by Jasco under license from GE, both platforms can be controlled with voice commands via Alexa or Google Assistant, but will require a third-party hub unless you’re connecting them to an Amazon Echo Plus with its built-in ZigBee controller.

GE Enbrighten, White & Light Almond, Z-Wave Plus Smart Light Dimmer, Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, SmartThings, Wink, Zwave Hub Required, Repeater/Range Extender, 3-Way Compatible, 14294, 1 Pack
672 Reviews
GE Enbrighten, White & Light Almond, Z-Wave Plus Smart Light Dimmer, Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, SmartThings, Wink, Zwave Hub Required, Repeater/Range Extender, 3-Way Compatible, 14294, 1 Pack
  • VOICE CONTROL – ALEXA & GOOGLE ASSISTANT COMPATIBLE (requires a Z-Wave certified hub). Works with the following Z-Wave certified hubs: SmartThings, Ring Alarm, Wink, ADT Pulse, ADT Command, Trane,...
  • VERSATILE DIMMING OPTIONS – Easily replace any standard in-wall switch equipped with a neutral wire to remotely turn ON/OFF, adjust lighting brightness and create schedules for a wide range of...

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Are you up-to-your-elbows in the Caseta ecosystem, or thinking about starting your smart lighting journey with WiFi dimmers?  

Drop a comment below and share your experiences and ask anything we may not (yet!) have covered in the article.

Whatever stage you’re at, we hope you found this guide useful and look forward to hearing from you!


  1. dp on January 26, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    A great overview of smart switches. But it didn’t include some additional features I wanted to know, including integrated motion detection and 3-way switches

    • iDISRUPTED Editorial Team on January 30, 2019 at 8:58 am

      Hey DP, thanks for reaching out and for the feedback. Always welcomed!

      Great suggestions and we’ll add an update to include them shortly, both integrated motion detection and 3 gang devices. And if there are any others, do let us know.

      Also, if there is a specific challenge you are having or any insight you can share, it will really help others who are in a similar situation.

      We’re aiming to make this resource as useful possible, having spent (many!) hours ourselves trying to piece the information together from multiple sources!

    • Onepapa on May 5, 2019 at 8:53 am

      I eliminated my three way switches when I installed my smart switch. The only reason I installed a smart switch was to use my Echo devices. Since I can turn the switch on or off with my voice or phone, why would I need a three way switch.
      Capped off both ends of the travel wire and placed a blank in place of the one switch.

    • Mike on January 12, 2020 at 9:31 am

      Can you install a smart switch that will not allow functionality through the old fashioned physical action of using the switch and lock control of that switch to app or remote ONLY?

  2. Brandon on April 7, 2019 at 8:10 am

    I was just casually doing a bit of research on smart light switch capabilities, without a specific project in mind really, and I was blown away by the depth of information you provide here. Clearly a lot of time and effort have gone into your research. I hope others will benefit from all your hard work and that they appreciate what you provided here. It’s impressive!

    • iDISRUPTED Editorial Team on April 8, 2019 at 7:45 am

      Great to hear from you Brandon and thank you for the kind words!

      We’re actually in the process of updating this article with fresh content and also the on-point suggestions from DP above.

      So if there’s anything specific you want to know, or perhaps a completely new guide yet to be covered, just let us know 🙂

      Best of luck with your home automation research Brandon and we look forward to helping as best we can!

    • Steve on February 24, 2020 at 9:15 am

      Can the standard smart switch control an attic fan with a ecm type motor?

  3. Jean Smith on April 17, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    I am looking for a smart switch for a light that can be controlled by two different switches in a kitchen. Does one exist that you can put on only one switch that will will work?

    • iDISRUPTED Editorial Team on April 17, 2019 at 5:44 pm

      Sure is Jean, electricians call this a 3-way switch, where two separate switches are in opposing locations (like different entrances to your kitchen for example), both controlling the one light source.

      There are more than a few 3-way smart switches to choose from, but as always the devils in the detail, so I’d recommend shortlisting based on a couple of factors before opening your wallet.

      Assuming you already have 2 regular light switches in place in your kitchen and you plan to keep the location as it is:

      1) Do you want dimming functionality?
      2) Do you have neutral wires in the existing gang boxes (where the existing switches are located)?
      3) Do you have any existing smart lighting or home automation products in your home that you want to integrate? (a smart speaker like Alexa for example)
      4) Is this a stand-alone project, or are you planning to do other rooms in your house over time?

      Lutron, Leviton, Insteon and GE all provide 3-way switches. Wemo also announced at CES2019 they are releasing a 3-way compatibile switch this year – a quick check of their website and it doesn’t look like that’s been released yet unfortunately.

      Each of these manufacturers provide switches which use different ways of communicating – Zigbee, ZWave, Proprietary Systems (specific to the manufacturer) & Wifi. Once you get a handle on what your requirements are (eg dimmer /no dimmer), your environment (do you have neutral wires in the existing switch boxes) and what communication protocol you want to use (dependent on existing smart devices you want to integrate with…and ones you’ve got on the list for future), you’ll be able to narrow down the list to one or two options that meet your needs.

      Planning things out beforehand will help future-proof your investment…and hopefully save you any integration headaches AND save you from potentially wasting time and money 🙂

      Further reading on the different protocols here:
      A guide on smart switches that work without a neutral wire here:

      Hope some of that helps Jean and feel free to reach out if you’ve got any more questions!

      • Carina Brown on October 24, 2019 at 2:32 pm

        Great information here. However I am looking at a hallway that has single switches upstairs and downstairs and a double switch downstairs that operates both the upstairs and downstairs lights that the single switches work.
        I wanted to find out if I can just change the double switch leaving the original flick switches upstairs and downstairs? I have led bulbs. I’m not after dimming. Not 100% at mo about neutral wire. Just wanted to know if the methodology would work ?

        • Shelbie Carr on February 19, 2020 at 5:29 pm

          Did you get an answer to this of figure this out I’m looking to do the same?!

  4. Cecilia L. on June 6, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    Hi! I loved all the information that you provided on your article, I just have a question, can I just use a 3way smart switch in one of the ends, and leave the other one with the regular switch?


  5. ChuckvB on June 7, 2019 at 4:28 am

    I think the Lutron Caseta review is a bit inaccurate. According to there website, it does not create a Mesh network. A Smart Bridge has a 30ft range which can be extended by only one device (plug-in dimmer) another 30ft around that device.

    You can use multiple Lutron Smart Bridges and a hub like Smartthings to control lights across multiple hubs but this can create issues and in my case perhaps limit the ability of one smart switch on one hub controlling a second switch via scenes. Caseta for large homes may not be the best choice.

  6. Graeme Wenn on June 9, 2019 at 1:03 pm

    Hi there I am currently in the process of fitting my house out with the Philips Hue smart bulbs which and am looking towards purchasing a Philips Hue removable dimmer switch for each room. Just wondering could you tell me if it’s possible if I get an electrician in would he be able to remove the existing hardwires switches from each room and just have constant power running to each light fixture in the ceiling and place the Hue Dimmer Switches were the old hard wired ones were an rely solely on those or must I have a hardwire switch still incorporated to power on and off the ceiling light sockets?

  7. Fantasys on August 6, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    After testing numerous models, we think the best smart light switch is the Leviton Decora Smart in-wall switch. It supports three-way switches (so it will work in rooms with more than one light switch); has a robust app; works with Alexa, Google Assistant and Nest; and doesn’t require an extra piece of equipment to connect to your Wi-Fi network.

  8. John Wilson on August 7, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    Would it be possible to swap a normal light switch with a smart switch and then add another smart switch in a new location and get them to behave like a standard 3 way switch setup? Either switch can turn on/off light as well as be controlled via an Android app?

    Do smart switches send out ‘events’ when locally used to be used with IFTTT to control other devices?

    I used to have a Smartlinc setup like this (the main switch and a remote switch set to the same ID code). Got rid of all my X10 and looking for ways to do the same.

  9. John Wagner on November 19, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    I’ve been installing smart switches throughout my home. No problems at all with single pole switches and one three way. Now I want to install a smart switch on my upstairs hall light that is controlled by three different switches. It appears that all three existing switches are three way. My house was built in 1984, so not sure if that is significant. Is it possible that all three switches are three way? Isn’t at least one four way required for this situation? Can I just replace one of the switches with a three way smart switch? I have two switches for one light in the kitchen, and I just replaced one with a smart switch, and that works great. Thanks for any help you can provide.

  10. Jonathan Samson on December 4, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    The most important question to me is which of the smart switches can remember the status of the light (i.e. was it on or was it off) when the power goes out, and upon the power coming back, the light switches go back to where it left off.

    For example, Belkin’s WEMO lights do not remember its status. So if the light was on (either manually or because of a Rule), when the power comes back on, the light is OFF. This is a real pain for a variety of reasons. This could be worst for someone using a smart plug with an electronic device plugged into it.

  11. Alvin Clavines on December 24, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    Hi! Thank you for all the information that you provided here. I was just browsing to know more about smart light switch capabilities and your article is full of information. It’s impressive!

  12. Justin on January 9, 2020 at 5:44 pm

    Can smart 3 or 4 way switches work if one of the switches is a dual switch?