Smart Switches or Smart bulbs – which is better?

When I was getting started with home automation I didn’t know if it was better to buy smart bulbs and replace the traditional bulbs in my current fixtures or if I should replace all the regular switches in my home with smart switches. After reading a bunch of articles and thinking about my particular situation I realized that smart switches were the way to go in the long run.

Smart Switches or Smart bulbs – which is better?

If you are a homeowner I highly recommend making the investment to change all the switches in your home to smart switches. However if you are leasing or a renter the better way to go is a smart bulbs. There are two reasons this is the best case. First in your home, you may have custom lighting installed or special bulbs. Trying to find a bulb to replace all of them that works in your automated ecosystem may be difficult. Additionally most homeowners stay in their house for many years.

Renters probably shouldn’t be changing electrical switches and making modifications to the house they are losing. Also when renters leave it’s much easier to take and replace a lightbulb and it is to uninstall a hardwire switch.

Pros and cons of Smart Switches vs Bulbs

How to turn off lights Automatically with Homekit

Picking between bulbs or switches in your home automation system is probably one of the biggest choices you’re going to make. The other one is which home automation ecosystem are you going to use. When I got started I had several different kinds of bulbs from several different manufacturers and although they all worked together it wasn’t easy managing all the different apps, bridges, and wires.

It’s not really that difficult to replace the light switch for a room. Of course anytime you work with electricity or wiring it is extremely important to be safe. If you don’t feel comfortable with basic wiring, I always recommend to hire an electrician or qualified handyman.

Once I realized that I would be in the Apple HomeKit ecosystem and that I had my own home the choice really revealed itself. For me changing the switches in the wall to smart switches was the best way. And after much research I learned that the Lutron Caseta Light Switch would be my final choice. But there are lots of different switches to choose from.

Smart SwitchesSmart Bulbs
Controls ColorsNoYes
Needs Hub or BridgeYesYes
Pros & Cons of Smart Switches vs Smart Bulbs

If changing the switch is something you want to tackle, it only takes about 15 minutes once you have everything together. The tools needed are very simple, usually only a screwdriver and wire stripper are what is needed.

Lightbulbs on the other hand even smart ones are super easy to change or install. I know we’ve all heard the jokes about how many people it takes to change the lightbulb, but with smart bulbs you can easily do it in just a few moments.

Do you need smart bulbs with a smart switch?

Having smart bulbs with a smart switch is sort of like having a belt and suspenders. Of course you can do both at the same time but there’s no real reason to do so. There is a lot of similar features between smart bulbs and smart switches, the only real different one that I can think of is that smart bulbs can have the ability to change color while switches don’t really manage that setting.

All other controls are the same. You can turn bulbs off and on from your app or voice control, or you can turn them on or off from a smart switch the same way. Some switches and bulbs also have the ability to be dimmed or made brighter or darker, and these can both be controlled by voice or through an app as well.

Overall there’s no real need to have both. If you’re interested in having color changing bulbs, I suggest you only get the bulbs and not change the switch.

What can you do with a smart switch?

You can do lots of different things with a smart switch. A normal light switch usually just goes on and off, or sometimes they have a dimmer feature. Smart switches have this functionality the two that you can add voice control from Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa or even Google Home Assistant.

  • Automations – Turn lights on and off based on some other input (time of day, arriving home, motion sensor)
  • Scenes – Create different looks (Movie scene, party scene, dining scene, etc)
  • Dim – Control the brightness from 0-100%
  • Control other smart devices – when you press the switch, not only does the light turn on, but music starts playing.

One of my favorite features of smart switches is that they don’t have to just control the light. In my office when I’m ready to leave I simply hit the off switch on the wall and it turns off the light the ceiling fan, any music I may have playing, and a few other things.

Are smart switches worth it?

Smart switches are more expensive as you get started. They may not be right for renters or if you’re not sure you’re going to continue with home automation. But if you plan on staying in your house, I believe that smart switches are the way to go. Nothing is easier than asking Siri to “turn off the lights in the playroom” when you’re on the other side of the home.

Also a smart switches never burn out. Sure a smart bulb may have a long lifespan, but eventually it will burn out and you’ll have to dispose of it like a battery, or electronic device, because it’s not something you can just throw away in the regular trash.

Do smart switches work with regular light bulbs?

Smart switches absolutely work with regular lightbulbs. In fact I prefer smart switches because not only do they work with regular lightbulbs but they also work with halogen, LED, incandescent, and even fluorescent bulbs.

This is the number one reason I prefer do you smart switches over smart bulbs. My wife and I have spent a lot of time picking out the lighting for our house. We have special fixtures, antique chandeliers, recessed Canlite’s, and even Edison bulbs. Every room is color matched by bulb temperature to our exact preference. If I were to change these bulbs, the way the room looks and feels would be different. That’s why I use smart switches to control the lighting instead of changing the lighting itself.

Do smart switches use electricity when off?

When it comes to saving energy and looking out for the environment that is one of my first priorities. If you compare an old Stiles switch and an old style incandescent bulb, to a new smart switch and an LED bulb the newer style uses much much less electricity.

Most of the cost savings is in the bulb change. Smart switches do you use a tiny bit of electricity all the time, but when you add up the system together the savings is greater with the technology.

Studies have shown that newer LED bulbs use up to 75% less energy.

Why are smart switches so expensive?

The reason smart switches are so expensive is because there are mini computers inside. It’s switch has some electronics that talk to other switches your phone nearby bridge or the lightbulb itself in addition to being the regular hardwired switch that we all know from before. Basically it’s like having two switches in the wall. An old-school traditional switch, and a newer high tech one too.

Do smart switches work without Wi-Fi?

This was one of my biggest concerns, do Lutron Casita smart switches work without Wi-Fi. And the answer is yes they do. You don’t need Wi-Fi for the switch to work. But what if the power goes out you may ask? Well if the power goes out you like to go out to, so it won’t work in that case. As long as the Lutron bridge is plugged in your switches will work just fine without Wi-Fi. You will need an Internet connection to set up the switch but that was one time only.

This is super important to me, because not everybody is high tech and I wanted people who visit my house to be able to turn the switches on and off without any extra trouble.

Why Use Smart Bulbs?

There are a couple of reasons you might want to use smart bulbs over smart switches, but for me switches were a better long-term solution.

The first reason you might want to use smart bulbs is cost. No smart bulbs are in the $20-$30 range for a multi pack of 2 to 4. This means that the average bulk cost is usually less than 10 bucks. Smart switches on the other hand are more expensive ranging in the $40-$60 range per switch.

The other reason you might want to use smart bulbs just because they’re not permanent. This is great for renters in apartments or people who lease a house. When it’s time to move you can simply unscrew the lightbulb and replace it with the original one (if you saved it). Smart switches on the other hand or a permanent installation, and more difficult to remove.

Related Questions

Is it better to have smart switch or smart bulb?

Overall, experts agree it is better to have a smart switch over a smart bulb. Yes it is more expensive to get started with smart switches, but in the long run do you actually save money because you don’t have to replace bulbs, and the switch can be used like a regular switch that everybody is so used to in the house at home.

Are Smart Switches Worth it?

After doing a lot of homework and research on my own spending a lot of money on smart switches and smart bulbs I’ve learned that smart switches are completely worth it. Of course I still have some smart bulbs because they’re fun to play with and a cool colors but the majority of my house he was a smart switches.