Wireless dimmers are often a smarter choice than wireless light bulbs for a smart lighting system.
We hear a lot about smart light bulbs, especially smart LED bulbs, some that can change colors (like the Philips Hue), some that can play music and some that just allow you to control them from your iPad or Android device. Smart light bulbs are an easy way to get started in home automation or lighting control (you can read about some of those wireless light bulbs here) but in many situations, they’re not the best long-term solution?
Why not? Well, for starters, wireless smart light bulbs can be expensive. The ones that do tricks like change colors or play music cost $50-$70 or more. Even just basic wireless LED light bulbs cost about $15 (though they may pay for themselves in energy savings). The biggest reason is that we’re already conditioned to use light switches to control our lights. If you replace all your standard dumb light bulbs with smart light bulbs, then the only way you can control them is via the app on your phone or tablet. That might not be the most convenient way to control all your home lights, though it’s great when you want to turn on or off all your lights at once.
A smarter smart lighting solution is to use wireless light switches and dimmers (or a combination of dimmers and smart bulbs). Wireless smart dimmers will function just like a standard dimmer—you can walk up to it and turn on or dim a light, but you also get the benefit of control via a smart automation app. Plus, it allows you to control lights that otherwise aren’t compatible with wireless light bulbs (such as sconce or chandelier lights.
Most wireless light switches and dimmers will require some central automation hub. You can usually purchase the hub separately and then add the number of dimmers/switches you need for your home.
One thing to keep in mind is that while we refer to these as “wireless,” that’s just because the communication to the home automation system or network is wireless. The dimmers still need to be connected via electrical wires just like any other dimmer or switch.
Here are some of the wireless dimmers you may want to try:
Linear Z-Wave Dimmer
Linear makes a host of Z-Wave products for smart lighting and automation. This dimmer works with various Z-Wave hubs such as the VeraEdge controller and uses Z-Wave’s Scene Command Class. One convenient feature of this wireless dimmer is that it is compatible with incandescent and most dimmable fluorescent, halogen, Xenon and LED fixtures, so you won’t have to worry about what kind of lighting load you have it operating.
$33.53 via Amazon
Belkin WeMo Light Switch
The Belkin WeMo line includes smart bulbs, outlets and even some kitchen appliances. A nice thing about the WeMo system is you don’t actually need a home automation hub, just a Wifi network and an iOS device (not Android, at least at the moment). Requires a neutral wire. This WeMo switch also works with SmartThings.
$38.55 via Amazon
GE Z-Wave Wireless Dimmer
This is another Z-Wave dimmer, and will work with many different Z-wave hubs, such as the SmartThings system. Includes white and light almond paddles that will match most standard wall plates (wall plate not included). Easily locate the switch in a dark room with the integrated blue LED indicator.
$43.15 via Amazon
Lutron Caseta Dimmer and Pico Remote
Lutron invented the lighting dimmer many years ago, so it’s no surprise the company is one of the leaders in smart wireless dimmers. This kit includes both the Lutron dimmer and a small Pico remote. It works with Lutron’s own Caseta Smart Bridge system or the WINK hub. Compatible with up to 600 watts of incandescent or halogen, 150 watts of dimmable LED or dimmable CFL bulbs.
$59.95 via Amazon
This is great stuff, but is it fair to call it “smart?” If a dimmer were smart, it would do something more interesting than respond to a push or a signal from a phone. It would learn, anticipate, and adjust to the devices it’s controlling. Perhaps it would adjust it’s curve to the technology it detects and, with a properly placed sensor, linearizes the fade curve or lights a task in progress automatically. It seems we have plenty of room for these devices to get smart. These are simply wired dimmers that accept wireless remote control.
grant clauser says
I agree, to a point. Smart is just the word the industry has chosen (or that happened by default) for things that are “connected” and controllable by a larger system. In this case, it’s a way to differentiate it from a plain-old dimmer. No devices, not even something like the Nest, is smart in itself. The smarts come from the integration with a larger system and the creative programming someone applies to it.
EH Reader says
No mention of Insteon?
grant clauser says
Sure, Insteon makes wireless dimmers too. This article was not meant cover all of the wireless dimmers on the market, just a few popular models to teach readers a little about the technology. Here you can find several Electronic House articles about Insteon.
Aesthetics are widely ignored or at best an afterthought by manufacturers in this industry. A typical article, like this one, shows the product, describes a feature set and how it works. But if the product is Fugly, I don’t want it on my wall and I don’t care what it does or how it does it. The way the product looks, its design, should make people WANT it. Design matters.
Can’t agree more. Other than the Adorne product line, any other aesthetically well-designed switches and receptacles? Check out the options available in Europe… Why not here in the US?