things to consider before installing smart light switches

When turning your old, dumb house into a smart home, one of the best places to start is with lighting. For starters, you can test the waters with a single smart bulb or set of lights — letting you dip a toe in the smart light pool before diving in head-first.

When it comes to smart lighting, one of the most seamless and natural ways to upgrade your home is with smart switches. They work as intended, even when the internet goes out and you can hardly notice them once they’re installed

Smart bulbs

or 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 the modest midpoint between the other two and the most natural to use. 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 that may not accommodate a smart bulb. That said, installation is much more hands-on and permanent

 

How To: Install a Dimmer Switch

I like mood lighting as much as anyone, particularly first thing in the morning when the full blast of light from a 100 watt bulb makes me scream like a vampire at high noon. Could be that I’m just not a morning person. Regardless, I like to be able to adjust the brightness in a room, and installing a dimmer switch is a pretty easy way to get control over your lighting.

GETTING STARTED

Before you go around ripping switches out of the wall, there are a couple of things you should know about wiring and dimmer switches

Not all dimmer switches are compatible with Compact Fluorescent Lights.  If you have CFL bulbs you will need to go with one of the newer varieties, like those from Lutron.

Check to see if the switch you want to replace is a single pole (one switch) or three-way (can be turned on/off from multiple locations) switch—that too will determine the type of dimmer you need

Some dimmer switches use resistors so you’re paying for the electricity even though you’re seeing less light. Newer dimmer switches will actually conserve energy when you’re not lighting the bulb at full capacity

 

How to install a smart switch

The process of installing a smart switch is no different than replacing any other type of electrical switch in your home. You’ll want to take the proper precautions (we’ll help you with that, too), but you don’t need to hire an electrician, and you won’t need any special tools. You can do the job with a screwdriver and a pair of pliers or wirecutters. A non-contact voltage tester is handy if you want to be extra safe, but you can buy one of those for less than $15 on Amazon.

There are many types of smart switches, and while this story isn’t intended to help you decide which smart switch is best for your needs, it will guide you through the process of installing any one of them. That’s because they’re all essentially the same in terms of their wiring

There are a few important distinctions you’ll want to keep in mind. First and foremost, an on/off switch will do just that: In one position, it will send electricity to the socket your light bulb is screwed into, turning it on. In the other position, it will stop electricity from flowing to that socket, turning the bulb off. A dimmer switch can also vary the amount of electricity flowing to the socket, so that you can brighten or dim the light bulb as well as turn it on or off.

If you want to change the color of your lighting, you’ll need a smart bulb, not a smart switch. Unfortunately, smart dimmer switches and smart bulbs typically don’t work together. That’s because smart bulbs are equipped with radios that depend on a steady supply of electricity to operate, and a dimmer varies the amount of electricity flowing to the bulb.

Next, you’ll need to determine if you need a single-pole or a three-way switch. If only one switch controls the flow of electricity to that bulb you want to control, you have a single-pole switch. If two switches can control it—for example, switches on opposite sides of the room—you have a three-way switch (if more than two switches control the same light, it’s described as a four-way circuit.)

 

How to Install a Dimmer Switch

There’s more to changing a switch than connecting a few wires. You have to check grounding and box size for a safe, first-class job. It’s easy to install a dimmer switch, but make sure to upgrade the wiring if necessary to make it safer and meet Electrical Code requirements. We’ll show you how to assure a safe installation

Getting Started: Tools and Power

It doesn’t take long to replace an ordinary light switch with full-feature dimmable switches. But while you’re at it, to make your home safer, you should upgrade the wiring to meet the latest requirements of the National Electrical Code. Our step-by-step instructions will show you how to install the dimming switch, concentrating on details that will guarantee a safe installation.

The tools you’ll need to install a toggle dimmer switch are inexpensive and will come in handy for all your electrical projects. You’ll need a screwdriver, wire stripper, inexpensive (2 lead wire type) voltage tester and needle-nose pliers to install a dimmer.

Choosing a Dimmer

There are several types of dimmer switches out there. We show the single switch but there are also three-way dimmers, CFL and LED dimmer switches

Check for Hot Wires

To begin, turn off the power and double-check for hot wires in the box. Turn on the light and have a helper watch as you switch off the circuit breakers, or unscrew the fuses one at a time until the light goes out. Leave this circuit turned off while you work.

 

Dim and Dimmer: Why and How to Install Better Light Switches

You might think that all you need in a light switch is the ability to turn your lights on and off — but you’re wrong. That conventional version of the light switch, which merely toggles lights off and on, was invented in 1884, and in the intervening 135 years, there have been dozens of updates and improvements that make modern light switches safer and easier to install and use. Many of these changes you shouldn’t ever worry about, but there is one feature that should be on every homeowner’s mind: the dimmer switch.

Dimmers Give You More Control

It’s the reason behind the smart home technology craze and the reason home renovations have been on the rise: Homeowners want more control over their personal environments. Dimmers provide more of that coveted control, and that isn’t as insignificant as you might expect. Controlling light is a major element of modern civilization; by not only being able to bring illumination to dark indoor spaces but alter the color and intensity of that light on your whim, you gain a significant advantage in creating the exact atmosphere you want and need.

Dimmers Save You Money

Simple toggle switches (the ones that only turn on and off) flick lights from their brightest setting to their darkest. The only way to overcome this is to go out of your way to set lights dimmer, which takes work and usually isn’t ideal in most situations. That means whenever you use your lights, they are automatically pulling the most possible power, costing you more on your energy bill than absolutely necessary. Meanwhile, if you use dimmer switches, you can reduce the energy demanded by your lights in most circumstances and cut your energy bill drastically.

Dimmers Increase System Longevity

For a similar reason that non-dimmed lights increase your energy bill, lights without dimmer switches place more stress on your electrical system and the bulbs themselves. Bulbs working at maximum capacity are more likely to die sooner than bulbs that are slightly dimmed, even when those bulbs are relatively long-lasting CFLs or LEDs. Estimates suggest that dimming lights could increase their lifespan by as much as 25 percent, meaning you don’t need to worry as much about keeping an inventory of bulbs on hand.

How to Install Dimmer Switches

If your handiness skill is abysmally low and you have never worked with electricity in your life, it might be best to call in a professional for this job. Home warranty companies, like American Home Shield,  might be able to provide you with a list of service providers, and they might also help you pay for the upgrade if your electrical system is experiencing issues covered by your plan