Most people begin their smart home journey with a set of smart bulbs. But at $15 to $20 a pop, smart bulbs might be more trouble than they’re worth. Smart switches and dimmer switches are much cheaper options that can provide the same smart controls, scheduling features, and dimming effects as a set of expensive bulbs.
Smart switches and dimmers replace your regular light switch and connect to your home internet for wireless or voice control. They effectively turn any set of regular lightbulbs into smart bulbs. This saves you from buying and setting up a mess of smart bulbs and allows you to turn the lights on and off from an in-wall switch—not just your phone or smart speaker (smart bulbs only work when their light switch is in the “on” position).
Before Buying a Smart Switch
Shopping for a smart switch is easier than shopping for smart bulbs. There are fewer options to choose from, and you don’t have to worry about sticking to brands or styles. Still, there are things to consider before spending any of your hard-earned cash.
- Installation: A smart switch won’t work unless it’s wired into your wall. This means shutting off your power, removing your current light switch, and installing the new smart switch or dimmer. This isn’t a difficult process, but it’s harder than screwing in a lightbulb. Additionally, smart switches require a neutral wire—something that old homes often lack. (The Lutron Caseta is an exception. It doesn’t use a neutral wire.)
- Finding the Right Fit: Smart switches and dimmers come with replacement faceplates. They will also fit behind 2-gang and 3-gang faceplates, provided that the plates are sized for large switches. If you have a 2-gang or 3-gang plate that’s sized for small switches, then you’ll have to spend $2 or $3 on a combination plate. People with older homes should also measure the size and depth of their gang box to make sure that a large smart switch will actually fit.
- Two-Pole or Three-Way Lights: Some living room lights are hooked up to two light switches. Unless you’re an experienced electrician, you may need professional help installing a smart switch in a two-pole setup. WeMo and GE sell smart switches that work with two-pole/three-way setups, but they cost more than most smart bulb 4-packs.
- To Dim or Not to Dim: Basic smart switches lack the dimming option that you’ll find in most smart bulbs. But a smart dimmer, which costs about $10 more than a basic switch, does have dimming features when used with dimmable bulbs.
- Smart Home Compatibility: Make sure that a smart switch works with your preferred smart assistant before spending any money. Most smart switches work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but Apple HomeKit and Z-Wave options are rare. (The WeMo switch works with HomeKit, and the GE Enbrighten switch works with Z-Wave.)
Keep in mind that smart switches and dimmers can’t change the color of your lights, and that smart dimming features will only worth with dimmable bulbs (which are much cheaper than smart bulbs).
Now that you have an idea of what you’re looking at, it’s time to hop right in. Here are the best smart switches and dimmers in 2020.
Best Basic Smart Switch: TP-Link Kasa Smart Switch
The TP-Link Kasa smart switch is incredibly affordable, easy to install, and easy to use. If you’re just looking for a simple smart switch that works with Google Assistant and Alexa, then this is your best bet. This TP-Link smart switch may not have any dimming features, but it’s good for scheduling lights that are used every day, like porch lights or floor lamps that are connected to a switched outlet.
Kasa Smart Light Switch HS200, Single Pole, Needs Neutral Wire, 2.4GHz Wi-Fi Light Switch Works with Alexa and Google Home, UL Certified, No Hub Required , White
The TP-Link Kasa smart switch is affordable, easy to install, and works with both Google Assistant and Alexa.
Best Smart Dimmer: TP-Link Kasa Smart Dimmer
The TP-Link Kasa smart dimmer is, as you might expect, a dimmable version of the basic TP-Link smart switch. It has handy dimming buttons built-in and works with both Google Assistant and Alexa.
This is the best smart dimmer for most people and costs much less than a standard set of smart bulbs. Still, you may have to buy an inexpensive set of dimmable bulbs to actually use this smart dimmer.
Kasa Smart Dimmer Switch HS220, Single Pole, Needs Neutral Wire, 2.4GHz Wi-Fi Light Switch Works with Alexa and Google Home, UL Certified, No Hub Required
The TP-Link Smart Dimmer is affordable, easy to install, and has two buttons to adjust dimmable bulbs. It's a low-cost alternative to a typical smart bulb setup.
Best Homekit Option: WeMo Smart Switch or Dimmer
If you’re an Apple HomeKit user, then WeMo’s smart switch and smart dimmer are the best smart lighting solutions for you. They’re attractive, easy to install, and easy to use. These switches also work with Google Assistant and Alexa, so they may stand as solid alternatives to the TP-Link switch and dimmer (especially if you prefer the WeMo dimmer’s slider over a pair of dimming buttons).
WeMo Smart Light Switch 2ND Gen
The WeMo Smart Switch is compatible with Apple HomeKit, making it a stellar option for hardcore Apple fans.
Best Z-Wave Option: GE Enbrighten Switch
GE Enbrighten smart switches and dimmers are some of the only smart light switch options available to Z-Wave users. They’re affordable, easy to install, and they come in a variety of colors. GE also sells its switches and dimmers for two-pole or three-way lighting setups, but these configurations cost about as much as a 4-pack of smart bulbs.
The GE Enbrighten smart switch cannot connect directly to Google Assistant or Alexa products. But you can control it by connecting your Z-Wave hub to a preferred smart assistant.
Enbrighten Z-Wave Smart Rocker Light Switch with QuickFit and SimpleWire, 3-Way Ready, Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, ZWave Hub Required, Repeater/Range Extender, White & Light Almond, 46201
GE is one of the few companies to sell a Z-Wave compatible smart switch, which is available in a variety of colors.
Best Non-Neutral Wire Option: Cync Smart Switch
If your light switches don’t have a neutral wire, then the Cync (formerly known as C by GE) 3-Wire Smart Switch is the most affordable option you put in your home. It doesn’t require a hub, and connects over Wi-Fi. Installing it isn’t any more difficult than any other smart switch, though you will need to connect an adapter to your light fixture. But that’s simple as screwing the bulb into the adapter, then putting that in the light fixture. Its low cost makes it the perfect solutions for older smart homes. If you prefer a paddle, you can spend a bit more to get that look.
If you prefer something that doesn’t run on Wi-Fi, the Lutron Caseta is another option, but you’ll spend a lot more to get into ecosystem.
Cync 3-Wire Smart Switch
If you home is older and doesn't have neutral wires in the gang box, the Cync Smart Switch will work perfectly without breaking the bank. You could even use it in a gang box with neutral wires, if you want.
Best for Philips Hue Bulbs: Philips Hue Dimmer
The Philips Hue smart dimmer is a bit of an outlier on this list, but it’s a worthwhile investment for anyone who happens to own Philips Hue bulbs. It doesn’t work with regular lightbulbs, but it requires no installation (it’s wireless and sticks to the wall with adhesive) and allows you to control your Hue bulbs the old fashioned way. For less than $30, the Hue smart dimmer is an essential Hue add-on and can make your Hue bulbs more accessible for guests or family members.
Again, this smart dimmer only works with Philips Hue bulbs. It won’t work with “dumb” light bulbs or non-Hue branded smart bulbs.
Just to be as clear as possible, the Hue smart dimmer does not replace your regular light switch. If you want a Hue controller that does replace your light switch, then consider buying the Lutron Aurora instead. It sticks on the end of your existing light switch and provides the same dimming controls as the Hue smart dimmer by locking the light switch to the “on” position and syncing the built-in dimmer with the Hue Bridge.
Philips Hue Smart Dimming Kit (Installation-Free, Exclusive for Philips Hue Lights, Compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Assistant)
The Philips Hue Dimmer allows you to use Philips Hue bulbs from your wall, not just your phone or smart speaker. This option only works with Hue bulbs, not regular dimming bulbs.