Not all smart light switches are created equal. And while many of them have basically the same features, there are some things you should know about smart light switches so you can choose the best one for your needs.

RELATED: Smart Light Switches vs. Smart Light Bulbs: Which One Should You Buy?

You could just go with some smart bulbs (we’re big fans of Philips Hue), but unless you really need fun, color-changing bulbs for your home parties, smart light switches can be just as good (if not better) and cheaper than smart light bulbs. However, there are a few things you should be aware of before buying smart switches.

Neutral wire

First of all, the most important thing to pay attention to is whether the smart light switch requires the use of a neutral wire.


Some light switch junction boxes have a white neutral wire inside. It is used on every electrical appliance so that the electricity has a return path to earth. In a junction box, the switch usually just bypasses this wire, but it’s still accessible.

Some smart light switches take advantage of this neutral wire and must function with it. The problem, however, is that inside the light switch box, there may not be access to the neutral wire, especially in older homes, which can severely limit the choice of a smart light switch.


Depending on the smart light switch, there are several ways to connect them to your network. The most common connection types are either via regular Wi-Fi or using Z-Wave or ZigBee. However, some smart switches use their own proprietary wireless protocol, notably Lutron with their Caseta devices.

RELATED: How to install and set up the Lutron Caseta Dimmer Switch Starter Kit

Smart switches that connect directly to Wi-Fi (like the Belkin WeMo Light Switch) are the most convenient since you don’t have to deal with hubs. On the other hand, a Z-Wave or ZigBee light switch will need some kind of hub to connect to, such as a SmartThings hub or a Wink hub, but they won’t overwhelm your Wi-Fi network much unless you need a bunch of them.

With the Lutron Caseta line of light switches, you’ll need the company’s own branded hub as it uses a custom RF version to connect the switches. Luckily, you can buy a kit that comes with a hub and it’s easy to set up.

Which one should you buy?

While you have some choice in this matter, it ultimately comes down to the neutral wire and whether a smart light switch is needed or not.

Lutron Caseta light switches do not require a neutral wire, making them a good choice if you don’t have a neutral wire available inside the junction box. The Caseta switches are very good anyway, and the fact that you don’t have to mess with the neutral wire is a nice convenience.

But if you have a neutral wire, you have a few other options.

If you don’t want to deal with hubs, a Wi-Fi switch is your best bet. Unfortunately, there aren’t many, but TP-Link’s Kasa Smart Wi-Fi switch is a cheap and decent option, and the Kasa app is one of my favorites.

The Belkin WeMo model is also pretty decent, but a couple of bucks more than the Kasa switch, and the app interface isn’t as nice. However, if you already have WeMo devices in your home, the WeMo Light Switch is worth considering.

RELATED: How to Install and Set Up a Belkin WeMo Light Switch

If you don’t mind dealing with a hub (or if you already have one), then using Z-Wave or ZigBee is ideal. GE has a huge line of Z-Wave lighting products including light switches. They offer ZigBee versions, but ZigBee light switches are not as common. In addition, Z-Wave has a longer range and is more reliable. ZigBee has the advantage of monitoring energy consumption, but this is usually not important when it comes to lighting, especially when you are using efficient LED lamps.

You can also find Z-Wave light switches from brands like GoControl, HomeSeer, Leviton, and even Honeywell, which offer most of the same features and can be controlled from your hub’s companion app.

RELATED: Enough already with all Smarthome hubs

Whatever you choose, stick to the same connection protocol. Therefore, if you start with Z-Wave switches, only use Z-Wave in the future. Mixing wireless protocols isn’t the end of the world, but you’ll get better reliability if everyone in your home uses the same connection, and it’ll be easier to manage once you start equipping your home with smart switches.

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