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 dimmers 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 Google Assistant and Alexa, 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 by TP-Link, Single Pole, Needs Neutral Wire, 2.4Ghz WiFi Light Switch Works with Alexa and Google Assistant, UL Certified, 1-Pack (HS200), 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 by TP-Link, Single Pole, Needs Neutral Wire,WiFi Light Switch for LED Lights, Works with Alexa and Google Assistant,UL Certified, 1-Pack(HS220)
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.
GE Enbrighten Z-Wave Plus Smart 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: The Luton Caseta Kit
If your light switches don’t have a neutral wire, then the Lutron Caseta kit is your only smart switch or smart dimmer option (at least until the GE C Hubless Switch comes out). It’s a bit expensive, but it’s a fantastic piece of smart home tech that should appeal to anyone—even in houses that have neutral wires.
The Lutron Caseta relies on a proprietary hub, which is more reliable than standard Wi-Fi smart switches. It has built-in dimmer buttons, and comes with a remote for, you know, remote use. Of the options on this list, it’s the most similar to standard dimmable lighting setups in look and feel.
Lutron also sells a discounted kit that includes two switches, which may be a smart investment if you want to wire up more than one room.
Lutron Caseta Smart Start Kit, Dimmer Switch with Smart Bridge and Wall Mount Pico Adapter, Works with Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and the Google Assistant | P-BDG-PKG1W-A | White
The Lutron Caseta dimmer kit is one of the few dimmers that works without a neutral wire connection. It's also compatible with Lutron accessories, in case you want to add smart dimming to your lamps.
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 Dimmer Switch and Remote (Requires Hue Hub, Installation-Free, Smart Home, Exclusively for Philips Hue Smart Bulbs)
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.