- A high-quality smart light switch should be easy for even a novice to install, have an auto shut-off function, and feature an intuitive app that helps you automate your home.
- The ecobee Switch+ Smart Light Switch (currently $49.49 on Amazon) turns off my kitchen lights a minute after someone leaves the room and has Alexa so I can voice-operate the connected devices around my house and set timers while cooking.
- Though it's more expensive than most other smart light switches, the Switch+ is backed by the user-friendly ecobee app and comes with a one-year limited warranty.
Ever since Hanna-Barbera gave us The Jetsons in the early '60s, we've had an idea of what the perfect automated home of the future could be like. Thanks to the many smart home devices on the market, home automation has never been more attainable. But I don't think even Hanna-Barbera could've imagined that we'd be able to talk to light switches to access a virtually limitless database of information and controls.
Yet, this is exactly what the ecobee Switch+ can do.
It's a smart light switch made by ecobee, a Canadian home automation company founded in 2007. The company is best known for its smart thermostats found in residences and businesses alike. Since my ancient home's wiring isn't compatible with its smart thermostat, I decided to test out the ecobee Switch+ Smart Light Switch with Alexa built in (currently $49.49 on Best Buy) instead and see how it holds up.
Read more: The best smart outlets you can buy
The Switch+ works with any lights that are controlled by a single switch and have a neutral (usually white) wire. To check compatibility, turn off power to your current switch at the breaker, remove the wall plate, and check for a neutral wire before buying the Switch+.
The smart light switch works with Alexa-enabled devices (since it has the system already built in), Apple HomeKit, Google Home, Samsung SmartThings, and IFTTT, as well as a mobile app for iOS and Android. The light switch can be used for interior and exterior lights, and the app has separate settings and features for each set.
The Switch+ has several buttons that control Alexa (putting it on Do Not Disturb mode, turning it off, and more) as well as indicator lights that let you know Alexa is responding. There's also a speaker, occupancy sensor, old-fashioned on/off button for the light, and an optional night light at the base that makes finding the Switch+ easy at night.
I had the smart light switch for a few weeks before I got around to installing it. I kept procrastinating because ecobee advertises that installation only takes 45 minutes, so I assumed that with my novice skills, I could expect an hour and a half of struggling. It didn't help that the installation guide is covered with scary warnings about electrocution hazards. But, in the end, my apprehensions were unfounded. The whole process took me 30 minutes and I felt like a capable handyman afterward.
For installation, you need both Phillips and flathead screwdrivers. Pliers aren't necessary, but I found they helped for straightening out the wires. But before you do anything, you must, must turn off the breaker that supplies power to the light switch you're replacing. For this reason, you might want to install the Switch+ during the day when you have natural light to help you see or have a good flashlight (and holder) or buddy nearby.
Next, you remove the old switch and identify the wires you'll be using. You then connect the wires to the Switch+ using the included wire nuts. Then, you fit the wire nuts into the wall, mount the Switch+, turn the power back on, and test it out.
There's no need to memorize the above steps, I'm just trying to be helpful here. Thankfully, Ecobee provides incredibly easy-to-follow steps and videos to guide you through the process. There's even a lesson on how to work with wire nuts, which I needed. Overall, the process was painless.
Read more: The best smart light bulbs you can buy
What makes the smart light switch stand out
At first, I had a long list of negative adjectives in my head to describe the Switch+ — ridiculous, extravagant, bougie, and so on. Why would I need a light that's connected to Alexa? It just seemed like another smart gadget that my five-year-old would be able to use to drive me nuts. But over time, I learned to use the light switch to my advantage.
My favorite use of the Switch+'s Alexa capability was cooking. When following recipes or making several dishes at once, it's helpful to have a timer. Previously, I would set an alarm on my phone, but that requires the use of my busy hands. But with the Switch+ nearby, I was able to set the timer without skipping a beat.
The ultimate dad move is walking around and turning off lights to shave pennies off the electric bill — which I am not ashamed to admit doing. But now I don't have to because I can set the light to turn off when no one is in the room. Through the app, you can choose to have the light turn off automatically one to 60 minutes after someone leaves the room. If I had a nickel every time it worked like a charm...
The Switch+ uses built-in motion detection sensor to turn the light on when someone enters the room. You can choose to have the light turn on whenever motion is detected; with daylight detection, it will only turn on when there isn't natural light so the lights don't come on at 3 p.m. when someone gets home. I chose to only have the light on when the room was dark.
I also like that the app offers a vacation mode. With this feature, you enter the dates and times you'll be on vacation, and the app makes it so each of your connected ecobee products gives the appearance that someone is home while you're away. For example, when vacation mode is engaged, my kitchen light turns on and off randomly to make it look like I'm there.
Cons to consider
The "Smart On" function worked well, but I wish I could adjust the level of sensitivity to ambient daylight. There were times when it was overcast outside and I wasn't getting as much light as I wanted. Overall though, I'd prefer that the switch err on the side of not turning on because I kind of like the environment and would rather not overuse resources.
If you're buying the Switch+ for its bumping speaker, you'll be disappointed. The sound quality is not impressive, which is to be expected from such a small speaker. However, it does get up to 90 decibels from a foot away. I found the speaker to be good for alarms and information, but not music.
The bottom line
Overall, the Switch+ is a fun addition to my household. My favorite part is not having to worry about turning the kitchen light off. And I've slowly found ways to use Alexa to my advantage, like setting timers and telling my robotic vacuum to get to work. I'd recommend the ecobee smart light switch to anyone interested in integrating smart lighting into their overall Jetsons-like arrangement.
Pros: Eco-friendly because it can turn off lights, works with Alexa and other popular smart home systems, vacation mode makes potential intruders think someone is home, smart capabilities adjust the amount of light depending on weather, easy to install
Cons: Expensive for the category, non-adjustable sensor sensitivity, speaker isn't ideal for music