Build your smart home with a light touch
Have you ever left home and wish you'd turned the light on (or off)? With a smart light switch you don't have to head back home – you can just switch it off using your smartphone.
What is a smart light switch?
The Ctec Smart Light Switch is a Wi-Fi enabled switch designed to replace an existing light switch panel on your wall. We borrowed one to see how well it worked. The switch is made to Australian standards and sizes and can be installed in a few minutes. Since it's wired into your home's main electrical circuits you'll need a qualified electrician. Don't try it yourself.
Of course, the switch has a companion smartphone app and this is where the versatility of a smart light switch shines. Via the app you can remotely (across the room or across the planet) turn lights on or off, create groups, create scenes, or set a time to automatically turn lights on or off.
Groups can control a number of lights and scenes can set the mood for dinner, sleep, away-from-home and more. Scenes can be switched on and off via one tap (though this requires at least two lights or multiple switches for best effect).
Tip: Don't worry if your Wi-Fi drops out – the Ctec switch will still work as a normal touch panel switch.
We found the app wasn't really self-explanatory but had the switch working after a few tries. It was unclear to us at first how the Wi-Fi settings needed to be entered. The phone must first be connected to your wireless network before initiating the Wi-Fi set-up on the switch. Then you run the app's auto-search. It works almost like WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) that you find on routers. In fact, if you could actually use WPS on your router and forego the app for set-up, it might be easier to get up and running.
The documentation doesn't say that the switch only works on the 2.4GHz band via the 802.11b/g protocols. We found that information on the box and the website. Of course, as it's a Wi-Fi switch, you'll need to make sure your home network can reach the areas that you want to install it.
Once installed, we found the switch responsive, but we were fairly close to our router in testing. You might find a slight delay if the switch is set at the extreme range of your network.
An electrician will need to prepare the switch for installation by ensuring that its dip switches are in the correct position before wiring it in, though the default setting should be fine. A tiny configuration button is located under the front panel to put it into discovery mode so that it can be added to your wireless network.
The Ctec Smart Light Switches come in one, two, or three-switch versions. They're available through a range of lighting retailers and you can expect to pay around $150 for the Wi-Fi version and less than half that for the non-Wi-Fi touch-panel version.
If you like the look of the switches (which come in white or black) and want consistency throughout the home, Ctec also has lookalike non-Wi-Fi switches to match. If you want to extend your smart capabilities there's also a Wi-Fi Dimmer switch and Wi-Fi Curtain Controller.
The Ctec switches give you a relatively affordable option that means you don't have to go whole-hog when adding wired-in home automation. It's not quite DIY, because you need an electrician, but it lets you put a toe in the water and gradually make your home smarter, one room at a time.
Tip: For a hassle-free installation, ask your retailer for an electrician with experience in setting up the app as well as the wiring.