5 Things To Consider When Choosing & Installing Smart Light Switches
So you've decided to get smart light switches, but there's a few things you need to consider first.
If you're wiring from scratch on a new build or renovation then you can simply take this into account and you'll be fine, if however you are planning to retrofit your smart light switches into an existing installation then there are a few things to check first...
1. Do You Have A Neutral
Most on/off smart light switches on the market will require a neutral cable, and most commonly there is no neutral at the light switch itself in UK homes.
The light switch requires a neutral so that it can remain powered at all times, as it needs to communicate back to the WiFi or hub (depending on which switches you choose).
If you do not have a neutral then look for dimmable versions such as LightwaveRF and Energenie. Dimmable light switches can work without a neutral cable as in a dimmable circuit there is always a very low current flowing even when the lights are off, meaning the electronics in the switch can continue to communicate with the hub/WiFi.
If you have a neutral - you can have any switch
If you have no neutral - you need to go for a dimmable system.
This brings me onto...
2. Switching or Dimming
Most smart light switches, especially no-neutral ones, are on/off switching only.
So the next thing to consider is whether you want the ability to dim the lights, create scenes with different lighting levels etc.
If so then you need to look at dimmable light switches such as LightwaveRF, Energenie etc.
But don't forget that if you choose a dimmable light switch then your light fitting / lamps need to be dimmable! So bear this in mind.
We recommend keeping all switches to the same brand where possible, but if you're using a voice assistant such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant then you can often mix and match, yet still control them all seamlessly via the voice assistant.
3. How Deep Is Your Box
Smart light switches are deep, and as such they need a deep back box!
You can usually work them into a 35mm deep UK back box without too much aggro, however if you're wiring from scratch then do yourself a favour and install 47mm deep ones!
You (or your electrician) will thank us later!
If your boxes are less than 35mm deep and you can't replace them then smart switches are going to be difficult to fit, however there is a solution for that in point 4...
4. Wired or Wireless
There are two ways of doing smart light switches:
- wired and
- wireless (which still requires some wiring...).
The ones you've most commonly seen will be a direct replacement switch, if you have a deep box and a neutral then you simply remove the existing switch and install the replacement - boom, you're now smart!
However there is another option...
There are quite a few higher end brands that utilise wireless wall switches to control a remotely mounted dimmer module.
The module sits behind your light fitting in the ceiling void and talks to the light switch wirelessly.
This means you can get around no neutrals, you can get around no deep boxes and you can even achieve new switching arrangements and additional switch positions without any wiring!
We recommend the Gira eNet Smart Home range and Lutron RA2 - no they aren't the cheapest, but they are the most reliable, the best quality and you'll save labour time and money in the long run anyway.
A £150 smart switch that takes an hour to install would still be a lot cheaper than a £30 smart switch that takes your electrician half a day as they need to re-wire the circuit, chase in new deeper boxes etc...
5. Cost - Don't Go Cheap
And further to the cost argument above....
Don't go cheap, otherwise you'll be unhappy with the product and performance and it'll put you off smart light switches in general, meaning you miss out on all the benefits!
Smart light switches are meant to benefit you and improve your life, not stress you out.
Spend a bit more on quality items like the ones you'll find on our website including Gira eNet Smart Home, Lutron Retrotouch Iotty, Smart Life etc. Choose switches that are well supported in the UK, with someone you can talk to, with good quality apps, warranties etc.
Avoid cheap and nasty, non-CE marked items from eBay/Amazon.
You can read our Ultimate Smart Light Switches Buying Guide by clicking here.