How To Install Smart Light Switches For Home Automation

by Ashley

If you’re interested in the convince of home automation, then you are going to love this smart lighting tutorial.  We walk you through everything you need to know to get your system up and running: from smart light switches, to the smart hub you’ll need to get everything connected! 

A phone app controlling a smart light switch

Home Lighting Automation: Smart Light Switches!

We recently added lighting to our home automation system with smart light switches, and I absolutely LOVE the convenience it has added to our lives! No more forgetting to turn the porch lights off before bed, or worse, having to leave the recliner to dim the lights for an impromptu movie night! I am now convinced that EVERYONE should have this feature in their home!

Want to control the lights in your home with an app on your phone? It’s affordable and simple: install smart light switches!

Being able to shut off the lights in the bedroom without getting out of bed is just one of the many perks of smart lighting. You can also schedule exterior lights to automatically turn on at dusk and shut off at dawn. I’ve done the research and testing for you. Below, I’m sharing exactly what you need to get started, and which smart light switches work best, along with a few helpful tips to get your home lighting automation up and running in no time!

Smart Lighting Supplies

(Affiliate links are provided below for convenience. For more information see my disclosure, here.)

Smart Hub

Wink Hub 2 for controlling smart lighting

The Smart ‘Hub’ is the brains of the smart lighting operation.  All the smart devices used in your installation will report back to the Hub for orders. Once the Hub is connected to your home internet, it’s able to talk to the app on your smartphone. This allows you to easily control lights, or set dusk/dawn schedules from your phone.

There’s a few different brands of Smart Hubs to choose from. However, I wouldn’t look any further than the Wink Hub 2 (or ‘Wink’ for short). It has the most features for the best price. Plus, it’s compatible with nearly all smart home automation products, regardless of brand.  Pairing Wink with other smart devices is easy, and the Wink App has all the features you’ll need!

Smart Light Switch

1. Smart Light Switches

A smart switch for controlling smart lighting

Most Smart Lighting systems use one of two setups:

1) Smart  light switches with ‘dumb’ light bulbs

OR

2) ‘Dumb’ switches with smart light bulbs

Installing smart bulbs is easier, but it doesn’t always work well. Also, it’s more expensive.  This is why I recommend installing smart light switches. Plus, Smart Light Switches are compatible with any light bulb, not just expensive smart bulbs. A smart light switch functions like any normal light switch when toggling on or off manually. The difference is that it can also be remotely controlled.  I recommend using the GE Z-Wave Plus Smart Dimmer Switch.  It has best-in-class wireless range and the fastest response time when controlling remotely. Plus, it’s dimmable!

Learn from my mistakes – avoid the cheap off-brand options. These cheaper brands are notorious for making the lights flicker, having connectivity issues due to poor range and delayed response times – not a ‘smart’ choice for smart lighting!

2. Smart Outlets

Z-Wave Plus Outlet for integrating with Smart Lighting

If you prefer lamps to overhead lighting, like Ashley, then Smart Outlets are the perfect solution. For outlets that are not connected to a light switch, upgrading the outlet is the easiest path to automation. Like the Smart Switches, you can either set them to an automated schedule, or turn them ON/OFF with the Wink App. Easily customize the schedule to best suit your needs.

For example, a schedule for a lamp in the living room could look like this: ON from 6AM-10AM, OFF during the day, ON from 1 hour before dusk, OFF at 11PM.

3. Smart Occupancy Sensors

Smart Occupancy Sensor for integrating with Smart Lighting

Smart Occupancy Sensors, also referred to as Occ. sensors, are more expensive than Smart Switches. However, the added cost can be worth it because they’re extremely convenient for certain rooms. An Occ. sensor automatically turns on the lights when someone enters a room, and shuts them off when they leave.  It’s perfect for common areas like a living room, great room, or kitchen.  Occ. sensors are also equipped with an ambient light sensor.  This sensor is adjustable and allows you to prevent the switch from activating during the day when there is plenty of natural light.

When it comes to choosing a Smart Occupancy Sensor, the GE Z-Wave Plus / Occupancy Sensor is my top pick.

You can also setup your Occ. sensors with ‘vacancy mode.’  This setting automatically turns the lights off when a room is vacant, however, it doesn’t turn the lights on when a room is occupied. This is really convenient for members of the household that are notorious for leaving the lights on, like… yours truly. Not only does this smart lighting feature save power, but it also gives peace of mind to those who are a little OCD about lights being left on… (lookin’ at you, Ash)

LED Light Bulbs

LED Light Bulbs that are perfect for smart lighting

I couldn’t write this post without mentioning a quick word on LED light bulbs. If you’re still using incandescent light bulbs, now is a great time to upgrade. My personal favorite – which occupies every light socket in our home – is the Hyperikon 3000K Dimmable LED Bulb. It saves money on the power bill, and lasts up to 26+ years. Although they aren’t necessary, LED bulbs are the smart way to go. (NOTE: many other LED and CFL bulbs are non-dimmable.  If you plan to use a dimmer switch, then make sure your light bulbs are also dimmable.)

Make A Lighting Plan

Now that you know which components are needed to get started, let’s talk next steps: coming up with a plan.

It would be costly to upgrade every switch in your home.  The good news is, you really don’t need to! When deciding which switches to upgrade, think about which lights would be convenient to control from your phone.  Next, decide if it would be useful for certain lights to automatically turn on when you enter a room. Finally, decide which lights could use an automated schedule? Now, count them up!

TIP: If your Christmas lights are controlled by a switch, consider adding a smart light switch in that location!  This makes it possible to automate the Christmas lights with an on/off time schedule.

We installed 4 smart light switches, and 1 Occupancy Sensor in our home. The smart light switches control our master bedroom, TV/bonus room, front porch, and the lights over our garage.  The smart occupancy sensor is in the kitchen.

Using a few of Ashley’s ninja Amazon tips and tricks, (Amazon Warehouse Deals + Amazon Store Card) we were able to get all of our hardware at a discounted price.

Here’s the cost breakdown for our setup:
Total: $238.67

Installation and Setup

Here’s the fun part. You’ve got your plan and purchased your hardware. Congratulations! You’re ready for installation. You’ll have your smart home lighting set up in no time!

Installing an smart occupancy sensor for use in a Smart Lighting system

Home Automation – Smart Hub

Setting up the Wink Hub 2 is simple. Start by choosing a central location in your home and connect the Hub to power. Download the Wink App on your smartphone and let the app guide you through the setup process.

Smart Light Switches (And Smart Electrical Outlets)

Removing an old light switch (or outlet), and wiring a new one can be done in around 5 minutes with basic hand tools.  Don’t be intimidated – any DIYer can safely tackle this job, even without previous electrical experience. Simply follow the instructions that came in the packaging with the your new switches.

Make sure the power is off before you get started!

Syncing Your Devices

Once the hardware is installed, sync each smart device to your Hub using the Wink App.  The app will walk you through putting the switches into ‘pairing mode’ and syncing.

Customize Your Schedules

For the lights you wish to put on an automated schedule, use the ‘Robots’ feature within the Wink App.  For example, create one ‘Robot’ to “turn on the Christmas lights at dusk”. Then, create a second ‘Robot’ to “turn off the Christmas lights at midnight”.

Wink App controlling Smart Lighting

Bonus: More Home Automation

Once you get your Wink Hub 2 set up, it’s easy to sync more smart devices.  Here are a few ideas:

  1. Garage Door Opener – With a smart garage door opener, you can remotely see the status and control whether your garage door is open or closed. Never circle back around the block to see if you forgot to shut the garage door again!
  2. Smart Deadbolt – Use your phone to unlock the front door if you misplace your key.  Or, unlock the door for a friend or family member when you aren’t home. This would have come in handy earlier this month when our garage door broke and I didn’t have my front door key!
  3. Amazon Echo (or Google Home) – Yep, your Wink Hub can communicate with either of these devices to give you hands free controls! Examples: “Hey Alexa, turn on the porch lights.” or “OK Google, turn up the heat!” (Temperature control requires smart thermostat – see #4)
  4. Nest Thermostat – Save money on your heating/cooling bill.  Nest learns your schedule and turns down the heat when you leave the house. This is on our House Upgrades wishlist!

Conclusion

Are you pumped up about getting your new smart lighting switches up and running, or what? To be honest, I’m excited for you. I love driving up to our house after dark, and seeing the welcoming glow of our front porch lights that have been on since dusk. Porch lights may not be exciting, but you cannot argue with being able to dim the lights from the comfort of your recliner as you get ready to watch a movie! Trust me, it’s a good feeling 😀

The ultimate guide to smart lighting

Easily control your Christmas lights from your phone! Setup an automated schedule, then forget it!

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2 comments

Elizabeth November 15, 2017 - 12:38 pm

Mike great job on the blogging and for sharing this with all of us. I am definitely going to show this to my hubs as I am not a techy…I am in awe of those that are. Anyway, thanks for this great summary…that comment about not getting off the couch to dim the lights for an impromptu movie night…or turning the Christmas tree lights on with a remote…all sounds incredibly enticing to me.

Thanks for writing this and you might need to start a blog soon.

Elizabeth
@elizabethbeardesigns

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Kathy Carpenter November 17, 2017 - 2:25 pm

Son, excellent work!
Not sure I can get Dad to buy into smart lighting especially in our old house, but I’ve got someone else in mind to share this post with…Zac!!!!
Thankful for a “tech guru” son who I can call when I need heeeeeelp!!!!!! Your are amazing!!!!

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