The Best In-Wall Wireless Light Switch and Dimmer

The Best In-Wall Wireless Light Switch and Dimmer

Every one of the in-wall switches we tested can remotely turn lights on and off and trigger lighting based on time of day. However, the Lutron Caséta Wireless In-Wall Dimmer offers the most smart-home perks via support for Amazon Alexa, HomeKit, Google Assistant, SmartThings, Sonos, Logitech, Nest, and many others. It’s also easy to use, and it’s easy to install because it doesn’t require a neutral wire. Even better, it works with Lutron’s wireless remote (you can buy the two together), which you can leave on a table, or even mount on a wall to act as a two-way switch. However, anything beyond on, off, and dimming requires Lutron’s Caséta Smart Bridge or a Wink hub, which adds to the overall cost. (It’s cheaper if you buy a starter kit).


Belkin Wemo Light Switch

This standard Wi-Fi switch doesn’t need a hub, yet it still has plenty of smart-home integration. It also has a Long Press feature to trigger other devices in the home.

Like the other products we tested, you can control the Belkin WeMo Light Switch remotely with an app, and it allows for scheduling. It also features plenty of smart-home integration via support for Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Nest, and IFTTT, and doesn’t require a hub. Those smart-home perks are nice, but this switch doesn’t offer any dimming features.

Budget pick

TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Light Switch

The TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Light Switch is the least expensive stand-alone model available, with a simple app for Android and iOS devices and limited smart-home support.

The TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Light Switch makes putting multiple Wi-Fi light switches in your home slightly more affordable than any other product on our list. It performed well in our testing, has an extremely simple app for iOS and Android users, and features support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice control.

Table of contents

Why you should trust me

I’ve written about consumer electronics for over 15 years and have tested smart-home products from remotes and security cameras to AV receivers and speakers. As an editor for Electronic House and Big Picture Big Sound, I’ve written buyer’s guides for all kinds of consumer electronics. I’ve also done tech-related work for Wired, Woman’s Day, GeekMom, Men’s Health, USA Today, and others.

Although I performed hours of testing on each product myself, my husband, who is a licensed electrician, completed each switch installation. He’s installed literally thousands of switches and was able to help evaluate each installation and the build quality of each switch; this also made swapping out switches 10 times faster than if I’d done it. If you aren’t comfortable or familiar with wiring, it’s always best to have a professional do it.

Who should get this

Everyone can benefit from smart lighting. Most of us have left lights on, or walked into a completely dark house. Smart lighting allows you to turn those lights on and off from almost anywhere using a smartphone, as well as use an app to set schedules so the lights will, for example, power on and off automatically based on certain times of day.

There are many smart lighting products available, including bulbs, plug-in switches, and dimmers. Some connect directly to your Wi-Fi network; others connect to a smart-home hub using wireless technologies such as Z-Wave or ZigBee. A Wi-Fi–enabled smart bulb is easy to get up and running (pretty much everyone knows how to screw in a lightbulb, right?), and they’re great if you want to automate or control a single lamp.

A smart switch is a more permanent fixture, allowing you to control one or more lights on a circuit. These in-wall controllers work with almost any type of bulb—except smart bulbs, which would be redundant, plus smart bulbs on smart switches often create a humming noise.

We recently took an in-depth look at Z-Wave in-wall dimmers designed specifically for owners of Z-Wave smart-home hubs, such as SmartThings or Wink. For this guide, we looked at a few different wireless switches, with the bulk using Wi-Fi technology. All of these models can add ambiance and save electricity. Most of these wireless switches also work without the need for a smart-home hub (though some may require their own Internet bridge), easily connecting to your home’s existing wireless network. In-wall wireless switches can control one or more lights in the home and typically integrate with other smart devices in the home.

Because no other devices are needed in most cases, swapping your current switches with wireless switches should be easy. However, all but one of them—the Lutron Caséta—require a neutral wire in the switch box. It should be there already, but some older homes may not have this readily available. Just know that swapping out light switches isn’t for everyone. It can actually be dangerous. If you aren’t comfortable with turning off the power and poking around inside the wall, please hire a licensed electrician to do the job.

How we picked

Most of the dimmers and switches we installed share the same rocker-button style, with the exception of the Lutron Caséta, which sports multiple buttons.

We started our research by looking specifically for in-wall wireless dimmers (which also act as switches). We searched Google, Amazon, and other websites, and we combed through a few smart-lighting product roundups. However, the current selection of Wi-Fi dimmers is surprisingly small. We then looked for Wi-Fi switches without dimmers—and, again, found the selection to be on the slim side. In the end, we considered standard switches and ones with dimming functionality: To be considered, the product needed to be wireless and designed for installation inside the wall.

We also considered two models that use proprietary wireless technologies because, frankly, they don’t really fit anywhere else and, more important, they fill the same need as Wi-Fi–based models. Lutron Caséta Wireless uses the company’s Clear Connect RF technology, and Insteon is a dual-mesh technology that combines wireless radio frequency (RF) and your existing electrical wiring.

Prices for these switches vary widely, but the majority are in the $30 to $50 range. Two of the selections (Plum and iDevices) are double that price but offer customizable “night-light” features.

How we tested

My husband, a licensed-electrician, installed each product. Some switches came with electrical leads attached; others have only terminals. Having leads should make the installation easier, depending on the size of your wall box.

The part of a wireless switch that goes inside the wall is bulkier than the average light switch, due to the extra technology built in. This doesn’t mean you’ll need to get out a handsaw, but it does make the installation slightly more difficult than your average light-switch swap. Except for the Lutron dimmer, each in-wall product we reviewed also requires a neutral wire. If you have older switches, you may not have this wire inside the existing box. If this is the case, you’ll have to hire an electrician to rewire the entire switch configuration or you should reconsider putting a wireless in-wall switch in that location. Without digging into every switch in our house, we opted to do our testing in the living room and dining room, where we knew we had the right wiring already.

It’s important to note that some switches are designed for single-pole operation, and others offer three-way (and in the case of iDevices, four-way) functionality. A single-pole switch can control one light or a series of lights from one switch, and a three-way switch can control one or more lights from two locations, such as at the bottom and top of the stairs. A four-way switch can control lights from multiple locations. When installing non-smart switches, a single-pole switch has two terminals, three-way switches have three, and four-way switches have four. However, in the case of smart in-wall switches, most install the same as a single-pole switch. The lone exception of the models we tested is the Leviton, which will operate as a three-way switch only if you have the appropriate wiring.

Even with the larger switch body and the wiring requirements, it took my in-house electrician less than 10 minutes to complete each installation, which included shutting off the electricity at the circuit breaker and removing the old switches.

We tested each switch separately for approximately two weeks, and all allowed us to turn lights on and off, as well as set schedules using each device’s respective smartphone app. Dimmers added the option to trigger the applicable light to dim at a certain time of day. We also tested to see if any of the switches had a noticeable delay between when we used a control and when the connected lights responded. All of the models we tested switched lights on and off immediately, both when physically touching the switch and when using the controls through its app.

To test remote functionality and features, we used apps on an iPhone 5, an iPad, and a Samsung Galaxy S6. We also used the Amazon Echo Dot for devices compatible with Alexa voice commands.

Our pick

The Lutron Caséta Wireless In-Wall Dimmer is a reliable smart replacement that provides remote on-off, dimming, and scheduling, similar to its competition. However, the single-pole dimmer offers support for more smart-home platforms, including HomeKit, Alexa, and Google Home, than any model we tested. (More on that below.) It’s also the only model with a multi-button keypad, and the only wireless switch we tested that doesn’t require a neutral wire, which means you can install it in locations where most other models won’t work. The easy-to-use app includes geofencing, scenes, and a Smart Away feature that makes it look like you’re home when you’re not.

Unlike most of the models we tested, the Lutron Caséta Wireless doesn’t tap directly into your home’s Wi-Fi. Instead, this dimmer operates via Clear Connect, Lutron’s proprietary radio-frequency protocol. This approach boasts a more reliable connection because it’s not conflicting with all of the Wi-Fi devices around your house; however, it also means that the setup needs a hub, known as the Lutron Caséta Smart Bridge, which connects to your network or router with an Ethernet cable and allows your smartphone to talk, via Wi-Fi, to the wall units. This might be a problem if you keep your router in an out-of-the-way place, because the Smart Bridge has to be close enough to each dimmer to get a reliable connection. Several Wirecutter editors use Caséta Wireless and haven’t experienced any range problems. (Lutron sells a starter package with the hub, one dimmer, and one remote control—this package is cheaper than some of the stand-alone switches on our list.) Alternatively, if you already have a Wink smart-home hub, you can use Lutron Caséta dimmers without the Smart Bridge, because Wink has a Clear Connect radio built in.

Lutron Caséta dimmers (left) require either Lutron’s Smart Bridge (right) or a Wink hub.

Lutron’s Caséta Smart Bridge is part of a larger lighting ecosystem that includes plug-in switches, wireless remotes (which can act like two-way dimmers/switches), and even wirelessly controlled window shades. The hub also makes it possible for the dimmer to work with a variety of third-party products: The hub supports Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant (Google Home), SmartThings, Sonos speakers, Logitech Harmony, Nest, IFTTT and many other third-party products. So though this dimmer does need a hub, it does a lot with it.

As mentioned above, the Lutron Caséta is the only switch we tested that didn’t require a neutral wire. This makes installation a little easier, and it’s great if you have an older home or older switches, as many homes don’t have the extra wire inside the existing box. The Caséta is also the only switch that has a multi-button keypad: Instead of a rocker, slider, or button, this dimmer features four separate keys to turn lights on or off, or raise or lower brightness; those keys are slick, sturdy, and give a nice little “snap” after pressing each one. The Caséta also has a strip of LEDs along the side to indicate the brightness level.

Lutron designed a good-looking app, available for iOS and Android devices, that’s easy to use, with options for schedules, scenes, and the Smart Away feature that can trigger lights randomly during a set period. Devices and scenes are easy to access from the home screen, and can be customized by name and with a small selection of preset icons. Schedules can be easily set and customized for any and all days of the week. Scenes are equally simple to set with a few taps, allowing you to group different devices, as well as set dimming levels that can be turned on and off with one touch.

Lutron’s app (iPad screenshot shown here) allows individual light control as well as control of scenes, grouped lights, and geofencing.

Finally, it’s notable that the Lutron dimmer supports up to 600 watts of on/off/dim control. Why does that wattage matter? If you use it with a single bulb, or a few, it won’t, but if you plan to control multiple lights using the same switch, it’s good to know. For instance, if you need to control a room with 10 recessed lights, and each of those fixtures holds a 75-watt bulb, this dimmer wouldn’t work, because the overall load of 750 watts would exceed the dimmer’s capabilities. This is less of a concern if you’ve replaced your old incandescent bulbs with LEDs, as a standard LED bulb is only about 9 watts.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

As mentioned, the Lutron Caséta Wireless In-Wall Dimmer isn’t a Wi-Fi dimmer. It uses Clear Connect RF technology, so you’ll need the Smart Bridge hub (or a Wink hub). That up-front cost makes it a little pricier than some of the stand-alone Wi-Fi switches on our list, so if you’re upgrading only one switch, you might be better off with one of our other picks. However, Lutron does have a starter package that makes it slightly more affordable. Once you have that hub in place, the cost of spreading smart lighting to other areas of your home is comparable to (or less than) that of the other dimmers on our list.

Who else likes our pick

Lutron is a well-known, popular lighting pick. We found nothing but the highest praise for the Caséta system, including CNET’s Ry Crist calling these dimmers “the best smart switches money can currently buy.” Similarly, Zac Hall at 9to5Mac compared the Lutron Caséta setup to the Philips Hue (our smart bulb pick), saying that “Lutron takes the crown for having the most elegant solution to HomeKit lighting.” And finally, Art Feierman at called the overall Caséta lineup “a well thought out system, that is about as bulletproof as any home automation gear in my house, and a lot more so than most.”



Belkin Wemo Light Switch

This standard Wi-Fi switch doesn’t need a hub, yet it still has plenty of smart-home integration. It also has a Long Press feature to trigger other devices in the home.

The Belkin WeMo Light Switch is a great choice for the smart-home enthusiast who doesn’t require dimming features, or who doesn’t want a hub—which makes it good for someone who wants to upgrade only one or two switches. It works with Amazon Alexa and Google Home voice commands, as well as Nest and IFTTT. The single-pole rocker (on-off) provides all of the standard Wi-Fi switch features, including remote control, schedules, and an Away mode that automatically turns the switch on and off at random intervals to make it look like someone is home.

Once installed, the Belkin WeMo Light Switch performed like every other switch we tested. It reacted quickly and reliably, and the button snaps back nicely after a press. It doesn’t look fancy, but it does have a teeny light so you can find it in the dark, though there’s no way to shut that light off if you find it distracting.

One of our favorite perks of the WeMo is the Long Press feature, which you won’t find on any other Wi-Fi switch at this price. This feature allows you to trigger one other WeMo device or the Away mode by holding the switch for two seconds. For instance, we set the Long Press option on the switch to turn on both the connected light and a fan connected to a WeMo Mini.

The downside to the WeMo Switch? First, unlike the Lutron, the WeMo requires a neutral wire, so if your electrical boxes don’t have that, you’re out of luck. Also, we’d love to see this switch (and any other WeMo device) get HomeKit support. And finally, for the price, it would be nice if this model had dimming features, but Belkin is planning a separate (and more expensive) product release this spring that provides dimming.

Budget pick

Budget pick

TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Light Switch

The TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Light Switch is the least expensive stand-alone model available, with a simple app for Android and iOS devices and limited smart-home support.

The TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Light Switch is a reliable performer and the least expensive stand-alone Wi-Fi in-wall light switch we tested. The single-pole switch provides all of the standard features, including remote control and scheduling. It also offers timers, an Away mode, and integration with Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant devices.

You can access the switch through the Kasa app, which is available for iOS and Android devices. The controls are easy to figure out, with access to on-off functions, scenes that can be activated with one touch of a customizable icon, and Smart Actions. The latter requires adding the SR20 Smart Home Router, which is not available yet. You also get scheduling and timer options, as well as an Away mode that can be set to randomly turn lights on and off during a set time. Also worth mentioning is that the app keeps tabs on energy usage, providing daily, weekly, and monthly stats.

Aside from an LED indicator that shines when the unit is off, the TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Light Switch doesn’t have the bells and whistles of our other two picks. Still, its reliable performance, voice-control perks, and price make it a standout for anyone on a budget.

What to look forward to

Earlier this year, both iDevices and Belkin announced plans to release Wi-Fi dimmer switches later this year. Both models are similar to each respective company’s current in-wall products, with the iDevices Wall Dimmer adding in dimming features. The WeMo Dimmer will also include dimming, as well as a Night Mode and customized bulb calibration.

As we were wrapping up testing, Koogeek started selling a pair of HomeKit-enabled in-wall Wi-Fi switches. One is designed for one-gang installs, the other for two-gang configurations.

In May, Ecobee debuted plans to get into smart lighting. The company will pack Alexa and far-field voice recognition into a smart light switch, which will be released later this year. We expect to test all of these models once they become available.

The competition

The Leviton Decora Smart In-wall 600W Dimmer (DW6HD) is the least expensive stand-alone Wi-Fi dimmer on our list. Promising single-pole and three-way functionality, it’s a no-frills device, with an app that’s also bare-bones. However, it’s also easy to use, providing reliable remote on-off dimming and scheduling. Like other models, the DW6HD provides customizable scenes, schedules, and fade rates, but smart-home functionality is currently limited to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. If you’re looking for HomeKit, Leviton just released Decora Smart with HomeKit dimmers and switches as a separate purchase, but without the Alexa support.

The Plum Lightpad provided the best visual experience of the lot via a customizable backlight feature that can greet people as they approach the switch. The Plum Lightpad dimmer also includes adjustable fade rates, energy monitoring, the option to install as a three-way switch, and the ability to control multiple lights from one switch. However, at the time of publication, its app was still an iOS exclusive, with the Android version approaching beta status. And for such a high price (around $100 each), we expect more smart-home integration. For now, it’s just Amazon Alexa; Google Home and IFTTT are in development, with SmartThings, HomeKit, and an open API also on the company’s road map.

Promising single-pole, three-way, and four-way functionality, the iDevices Wall Switch is just as expensive as the Plum, but isn’t quite as pretty, offering the same night-light feature that can be found on iDevice’s smart plug. That night-light can be turned off or tweaked to a variety of different colors using the company’s iOS and Android apps, as well as HomeKit. However, Alexa support is limited to on-off functions. It should also be noted that our test model came attached to a box with its own power supply; the company was unable to furnish an uninstalled unit.

The Insteon Dimmer Switch is the other model we tested that isn’t technically a Wi-Fi switch. This multi-way switch uses Insteon, a mesh of electrical wires and RF technology. That means it needs a hub, which runs $80 for the standard version and $150 for the HomeKit-enabled model. If you already have the hub, this switch is a no-brainer, providing reliable remote control, schedules, and dimming. Just know that Amazon Alexa and other third-party integration is limited to the standard version of the hub.

At $25 each, the Ankuoo Neo is a decent bargain option. However, it’s very no-frills. This single-pole switch can be controlled remotely using iOS and Android devices, and has options for scheduling, a countdown timer, and an anti-theft timer. It doesn’t offer any smart-home integration, though. Also worth mentioning is that we reached out to the company’s support department five times during testing and didn’t receive a response.

Like the Ankuoo Neo, the WiOn Indoor In-Wall Wi-Fi Switch is very basic. The single-pole switch offers the same limited features, including remote control via iOS and Android, schedules, timers, and countdowns. However, it’s more expensive than the Neo and the graphics in the app look “worn,” almost like they’ve been photocopied multiple times and placed inside the screen.

(Photos by Rachel Cericola.)


Published at Wed, 10 May 2017 19:19:44 +0000

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