Smart Switches 101
As smart homes become more common, some homeowners are going beyond basics like smart bulbs and assistant hubs like Google Home and Amazon Echo. This can take a number of forms, from the addition of smart electronics and security systems to sensors throughout the house that can recognize when people walk into rooms and adjust the lighting and other resources accordingly. One increasingly popular option is the installation of smart switches in lieu of simply relying on individual smart bulbs to control lighting.
So what are smart switches, anyway? How do they work? Can you install them anywhere, or are there specific things that your home needs? If you’re curious about smart switches and whether they would be a good addition to your home, here are some of the basics that you should consider.
How Smart Switches Work
At their core, smart switches operate like most standard light switches and can turn lights or other connected devices on and off. Given that the switches are smart devices, though, they can do significantly more than that. Smart switches allow you to control the lights remotely using either an app or voice control through a digital assistant or a third-party hub. Depending on the bulbs that you use with your smart switch, you may also be able to control the brightness of the lights (similar to a dimmer switch) or function as a three-way switch. It’s worth noting that unless the bulbs are designed for it, smart switches can’t give you the ability to control the light’s color the way that standard smart bulbs can.
Perhaps the greater benefit of smart switches is that they allow you to tie your lighting into a larger smart ecosystem without having to pair each individual light bulb to the network. This gives you greater control of your home as a whole and allows you to incorporate lighting into smart home routines without having to program a bunch of individual components. You can also pair your smart switches with remote controls, giving you a portable switch that lets you control your lighting even without accessing your overall smart home controls.
Smart Switch Requirements
There are two major things that you’re going to need to use smart switches in your home. Perhaps the most important is grounded wiring, as all smart switches require grounding to operate. If you’re upgrading light switches that weren’t grounded, you’ll have to ensure that a ground wire is available, or your new switches simply won’t work.
Once you’ve got your switches grounded, you’re also going to need access to a 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi network. While this is a standard Wi-Fi frequency, 5Ghz Wi-Fi is also increasingly common, but is not compatible with most smart devices (including modern smart switches). Almost all modern routers and wireless access points are capable of broadcasting on both the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands, so if you don’t have a 2.4Ghz band currently at your home then it shouldn’t be too difficult to add one.