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The best smart switches and dimmers: Lighting is the foundation of the smart home

In-wall smart lighting controls bring convenience, security, luxury, and sophistication into your home.

smart switch hub art Rob Schultz / IDG

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No lighting solution is as elegant as having smart switches and smart dimmers embedded in your walls. Sure, you could screw smart bulbs into your fixtures, or plug a couple of lamps into smart plugs and call it a day, but if the light fixture in question is controlled by a dumb switch, you’ll never be able to control that smart bulb if the switch is in the off position.

Once installed, a smart switch lets you turn your lights on and off according to a schedule, with a smartphone app, and—with the installation of accessories—in response to voice commands, motion, or even your location (provided you have your smartphone with you). Where a smart switch simply turns a connected light bulb or fixture on and off, a smart dimmer can also adjust the brightness of the bulbs in the fixtures it controls. Since a dimmer is essentially a switch with an added function, we’ll use the terms interchangeably here, but our reviews focus primarily on dimmers. We’ll discuss the difference in more detail in the buyers’ guide on the next page.

The prices of smart switches and dimmers have come down a lot in the past year or two, although the fanciest and most powerful examples remain expensive. You’ll encounter products from familiar names such as Leviton and Lutron, as well as a host of newcomers to this space, including Noon and Hogar. In most cases, replacing a dumb switch with a smart one is a relatively simple DIY project, but there’s no shame in hiring an electrician to do the job if you don’t feel comfortable dealing with high voltage (and a few products are available only from professional installers).

Here are our top picks in smart dimmers, followed by a guide to the features and terminology you’ll encounter when you shop for one. You can also go straight to a list of our most recent smart-switch reviews.

Updated September 22, 2020 to add our C by GE 3-wire Smart Dimmer review. This is one of the rare smart dimmers that doesn’t depend on the presence of a neutral wire in the box in which it’s to be installed. Lutron has one, too, but GE’s product connects to your network via Wi-Fi and therefore doesn’t need a bridge, like Lutron’s product does. GE’s dimmer also delivers some great benefits when it’s used with other GE smart lighting devices (although the diverse Lutron ecosystem is nothing to sneeze at).

Best smart dimmer overall

Lutron’s Caséta ecosystem is much less open than the other big three smart lighting platforms: Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, and Zigbee. Lutron is the only source of dimmers and switches, but the company is great about supporting other classes of third-party products within the Caséta ecosystem. In addition to its own line of motorized smart shades, ceiling fan controllers, plug-in devices, occupancy sensors, and remote controls, you can also create time- and location-based smart home “scenes” incorporating any Caséta or Serena product along with Sonos speakers, several brands of smart thermostats, and Hunter ceiling fans. The Caséta Smart Bridge is Apple HomeKit compatible, too, and it can be integrated with a Samsung SmartThings hub.

The dimmer switches in the Lutron Caséta Smart Lighting Dimmer Switch Kit are elegantly designed with four plate-style buttons: On at the top, off at the bottom, and triangular brighten and dim buttons in the middle. A stack of LEDs on the left-hand side indicates the brightness level. The kit also comes with Lutron’s Pico wireless remote controls, for those situations where you don’t want to bark at a smart speaker to dim the lights. The Caséta dimmer is also ideal for installations where there is no neutral wire in the box—it’s one of the few smart switches that doesn’t require one.

Best Wi-Fi smart dimmer

GE doesn’t build the prettiest dimmer on the market, but its C-Start Smart Switch Motion Sensing+Dimmer switch sure packs the features. And if you happen to own C by GE smart bulbs, the switch can also control them even if they’re not wired to the dimmer. Being a Wi-Fi device, this dimmer switch doesn’t require the presence of a smart home hub or any other bridge to your home network. An onboard motion sensor can turn the light switch on when the room is occupied, and an ambient light sensor will stop that from happening if there’s enough daylight that the extra light isn’t needed. There’s also night light in the form of a ring around the on/off button, but that can be turned off in the app if you find that adds to your indoor light pollution. There’s now also a 3-wire version of this product that doesn’t require a neutral wire

Best Zigbee smart dimmer

If you’ve settled on Zigbee as your smart lighting protocol of choice—and it’s certainly not a bad one, considering the only other thing you’ll need is an Amazon Echo Plus smart speaker—allow us to recommend Jasco’s Enbrighten Zigbee In-Wall Smart Dimmer. This in-wall dimmer not only has a slimline design that isn’t tough to shove back into the box when you install it, it has enough onboard intelligence to distinguish the line wire from the load wire, so you don’t need to worry about mixing them up if you’re doing the work for yourself. This smart dimmer is affordably priced, too.

Best Z-Wave smart dimmer

Putting this roundup together exposed a hole in our editorial coverage. I’ve had Leviton’s Decora Smart Z-Wave switches and dimmers (along with other brands of Z-Wave switches) installed in my own smart home for many years (we built the house in 2007), but we’ve never officially reviewed them. That said, Leviton’s Z-Wave lighting controls are among my favorites; so, while TechHive hasn’t officially reviewed Leviton’s product, I strongly recommend it.

Most sophisticated smart dimmer

Unfortunately, our current favorite smart lighting system of all time is not only very expensive, it’s also now available only through professional installers after the company was acquired by Racepoint Energy. But if you can afford it, this is the most sophisticated—and the most beautiful—in-wall lighting on the market. The system consists of a Room Director dimmer with a color OLED touchscreen display that replaces a primary switch in a room, and up to 10 slightly more ordinary-looking (they don’t have displays) Extension switches. You can build multiple lighting scenes with this system that can turn on every light in the room at a preset brightness level based on the mood you wish to set. Read our in-depth review to learn more about this ultra-sophisticated home lighting solution.

Runner-up

Brilliant predated Noon in integrating a touch panel with a smart switch, and this smart dimmer has some very cool tricks up its sleeve, ranging from being able to stream video from a doorbell camera to controlling a Sonos multi-room audio system. Unlike Noon, a DIYer can buy Brilliant’s products direct, though we

experienced a few installation headaches during our review (which, to be fair to Brilliant, involved pre-release hardware).

Best multi-function smart dimmer

Just how many features can you cram in a single-gang light switch? Leviton squeezes a Wi-Fi radio, a dimmer switch, and an entire Amazon Alexa-compatible smart speaker into its Decora Smart Voice Wi-Fi Dimmer with Alexa. Yes, Ecobee pulled off a similar trick earlier, but with an on/off switch, not a dimmer. Leviton also has deeper catalog of other Wi-Fi components—switches, dimmers, ceiling fan controllers, multi-button controllers, and more—to go with it.

Best budget-priced smart dimmer

Best known for building inexpensive routers, TP-Link has steadily increased its footprint in the smart home space with its Kasa Smart product line. Its model HS-220 in-wall smart dimmer connects directly to your Wi-Fi network, so you don’t need a hub, and it’s currently street priced less than $20. One of the biggest downsides? You can’t use it in a three-way configuration.

On the next page, we’ll provide you with helpful tips to keep in mind when you shop for smart lighting controls. Or can you click here to see our latest smart dimmer reviews.

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