How to install a smart light switch

Smart light switches allow you to remotely control your lights by voice command or with your smartphone. They have an advantage over smart bulbs because you can turn your existing lights and ceiling fans into smart devices. Once installed, you will turn your lights on and off effortlessly, leaving your hands free for more important matters.

The installation process for a smart light switch can be tricky if you’ve never installed one before. We have done the research for you and put together this how-to list to make installing your smart light switch an easy task.

Things you’ll need

  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • Smart light switch that fits your wall switch and wiring setup (more on this later)
  • Wire cutters
  • Wire connectors
  • Flashlight or battery-operated lantern
  • Electrical tape

How to install a smart light switch

Step 1: Learn your existing wall switch and wiring setup. Before you purchase a smart light switch, you’ll need to figure out the type of switch you need. If the wall panel only has one switch, you need a single-gang. If it has two switches (maybe one switch for a light and one for a ceiling fan), you’ll need a two-gang smart light switch. If it has three switches, you’ll need a three-gang switch.

You also need to know what type of wiring you have. Turn off the power at the fuse box to avoid getting electrocuted. Then, open up the existing switch where you want to install your smart switch and examine the wiring. To open up the switch, unscrew the screws on the wall plate (they’re usually located on the top and bottom of the plate). Use a butter knife or flat-head screwdriver to pry the plate off of the wall, as it can stick in place (often because of paint). Then, unscrew the screws on the actual light switch and gently pull the switch forward.

Erika Rawes/Digital Trends

Look at the wiring setup. Most smart light switches require a ground wire, an “in” wire, an “out” wire, and a neutral wire. Most homes have the in, out, and ground wires, but some homes built before the 1980s don’t have neutral wires. Typically, the neutral wire is a white wire (or group of white wires). If you don’t have a neutral wire, you can still install many smart light switches, but you’ll need to purchase a specific type of smart light switch that doesn’t require a neutral wire. For instance, the Lutron P-PKG1W-WH-R Smart Lighting Dimmer Switch will work without a neutral wire, but it does require its own bridge.

Step 2: Choose a smart light switch. Once you familiarize yourself with your wiring setup, choose a smart light switch that fits your situation.

With two-gang switches, you can run into traveler wires and other unique situations. Therefore, the instructions moving forward will assume a single-gang smart light switch with a neutral wire, like Wemo’s smart light switch.

Erika Rawes/Digital Trends

Step 3: Remove your old light switch. Ensure the power is off at the breaker. Disconnect the old light switch completely by disconnecting each wire one by one. Take note of which wire is which as you disconnect them to avoid confusion later. If the wires aren’t clearly labeled, a volt tester can help you identify which is which with some experimentation, but call in an electrician if you get lost. It helps to label the wires with colored electrical tape so you can keep track of them as you identify them.

Step 4: Connect the wires on your smart light switch to the wires inside your wall. Connect the in wire to the in wire, the out wire to the out wire, the ground wire to the ground wire, and the neutral wire to the neutral wire. Secure your connections with wire connectors, and make sure you don’t have any loose or exposed wire in the box. (Keep in mind that the ground wire might be a bare wire.) Depending on your wiring, you may need to use a wire stripper to properly prepare the wires for your new switch.

Once you’ve made all of the connections and secured them, test your connections by turning on the power. If your switch has power, move on to the next step. If your switch does not have power, re-check all of your connections.

Step 5: Secure the smart light switch in place. Turn the power off at the breaker. Neatly place the wire connections into the wall box. It may be a tight fit, and it can be hard to get the wires into the box. As tempting as it is to forcefully shove them in the box, take your time and neatly place them to avoid loosening the connections or creating a fire hazard. You can sometimes bind together wiring with electrical tape, but it’s important to not increase the risks of an electrical fire.

Once you’ve fit the wires in the box, screw the smart light switch into place. Then, turn the power back on at the breaker to make sure you didn’t break any of the connections. If your connections are all intact, snap on the wall plate, and begin setup in the app.

Step 6: Connect your smart light switch to Wi-Fi. Install the smart light switch’s corresponding app and connect the switch to your network. Once you get the switch connected to the app, name the switch and connect it to Alexa or Google Home to start voice-controlling your lights.

Tips

  • Read the smart light switch’s instruction manual thoroughly to ensure you understand its wiring and setup. Smart light switch designs can vary, but don’t be afraid if they look different from your traditional switch. They still act the same.
  • Your wiring setup might be different in different rooms throughout your home. Don’t assume all of your wall switches have the same wiring setup.
  • If you experience issues connecting your switch to the app, make sure you have it on a 2.4GHz network. You can also try resetting the switch, which typically involves holding down the button that turns the light on for about ten to 15 seconds.
  • Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions on how to install a two- or three-gang smart light switch and/or how to install a smart light switch without a neutral wire.

Editors' Recommendations