Smart light switches can make a world of difference in your home, giving you more control over the ambiance and truly taking your lighting setup to the next level. But before you go all-in on installing them, there are a few things you should know. 

Here we’ll look into some of the options to help you decide if smart light switches really are the best choice for you. We’ll also dive into an overview of their smart features, compatibility, cost and more. 

Are light switches right for your home?

First, make sure you’re getting the right kind of smart lighting for your home. Smart switches are one of the more common options when it comes to smart lighting. You can find them at pretty much every big box home improvement store.

That said, smart switches aren’t the only or definitive best option for upgrading your home. There are two other common types of smart lighting: smart bulbs and smart plugs. And there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to which is the best.

Smart bulbs, for instance, not only let you remotely control the lights or put them on a schedule, they often also let you change the color of the lighting on the fly. 

Smart plugs keep things simple while letting you turn an existing lamp with a regular light bulb into one you can turn off and on from anywhere. They sometimes let you track energy consumption, as well. Both of these options come with a plug-and-play installation. If you don’t like it or want to move it later on, you can with little to no effort.

Smart switches, on the other hand, are more integrated into the home and require some electrical work. You can still control the lights from the wall switch like you always have, but you’ll get some added benefits, like dimming or a pop-out remote that will still give you easier manual control of the lights. But they’ll also work with existing light fixtures. 

Consider your needs and determine if switches make sense, although you don’t have to choose just one type of lighting, either. You can mix and match throughout your home, fitting each individual light with the most appropriate smart light option.

Read more: High Electric Bills: One Small Change to Slash the Cost

Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri

When choosing a smart switch, think about your voice control options. If the smart switches you choose can communicate with Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri (or some combination of the three), there are even more possibilities for how you can control your lights.

You might find that telling a Google Assistant- or Alexa-enabled speaker to “Turn on the living room lights” is faster and more convenient than reaching for your phone and fumbling through an app. You’ll be able to integrate the lights into your daily routine and use commands that make the most sense for you. One of our favorites is, “Hey, Google, turn off all the lights,” when we’re heading out the door.

Compatibility check

Like any dimmer switch, ensure that your smart switch is compatible with the lights you have installed — especially if they’re LED lights. Lutron, for example, has a compatibility tool you can use to find out which light bulbs (including recessed and can lights) are compatible with their switches. 

Keep in mind that you’ll likely want to swap out your smart bulbs for the standard “dumb” variety if you’re planning on installing smart light switches so the two smart technologies aren’t competing with one another.

Three-way switches

If you have three-way switches (as many of us do in hallways and large rooms, like living rooms) consider how you’ll tackle these. At the CNET Smart Home, an actual house where we test products, we used Lutron Caseta remotes to make the installation simple, since they look and act like three-way switches, but don’t require as much handiwork to pull off.

What’s the cost?

That brings me to the next point, and it’s a big one: cost. Smart switches are not cheap, especially if you plan to install them throughout your entire home.

Dumb light switches cost just a couple bucks apiece. Installing all new switches in my home would cost roughly $60. That’s just a few dollars more than the cost of one Lutron Caseta Wireless Light Switch, which retails for around $55. Installing them around my house would cost approximately $1,100.

Given this, you can likely install a few smart bulbs and plugs around the house for a lot less money. But the installation won’t be nearly as seamless.

To be fair, not every light in your home needs to be connected. And some switches are redundant, so you wouldn’t want to install two smart switches for one set of lights. But the difference in cost is still considerable.

After you’ve investigated all these factors, you might decide smart switches are a good option for you. If so, take a look at our buying guide for smart light switches if you still have questions and take a look at some of our other lighting coverage below. 

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