The process of installing a smart switch is no different than replacing another type of electrical switch in your home. You want to take the right precautions (we'll help you with that), but you don't need to hire an electrician and you don't need any special tools. You can do the work with a screwdriver and a pair of pliers or cutters. A contactless voltage tester is useful if you want to be extra safe, but you can buy one for less than $ 15 on Amazon.
There are many types of smart switches, and although this story is not intended to help you decide which smart switch is best for your needs, it will guide you through the installation process of one of them. That is because they are all essentially the same with regard to their wiring.
There are a few important differences that you want to keep in mind. First and foremost, an on / off switch will do exactly that: in one position it sends electricity to the connection into which your light bulb is screwed, so that it is switched on. In the other position, it stops the power to that outlet and turns off the lamp. A dimmer switch can also vary the amount of power that flows to the socket, so that you can illuminate or dim the light bulb and switch it on or off.
If you want the color of your lighting, you need a smart lamp, not a smart switch. Unfortunately, smart dimmers and smart lamps usually do not work together. That is because smart lamps are equipped with radios that depend on a constant power supply to work, and a dimmer varies the amount of current that flows to the lamp.
Do you need a single-pole switch or three-way?
Next, determine whether you need a single-pole or a three-way switch. If only one switch controls the flow of electricity to that lamp that you want to control, you have a single-pole switch. If two switches can control it – for example switches on either side of the room – you have a three-way switch (if more than two switches control the same light, this is described as a four-way switch.)
If you have a dumb replace a switch on a three- or four-way circuit, you usually have to replace the other switch or switches on that circuit with accompanying switches from the same company that created the smart swtich that you are installing. (The latest Wemo WiFi Smart Light Switch 3-way is an exception to that rule and can also be used in a single-pole installation. However, it cannot dim light.)
In this manual, we will replace a single-pole switch with a C from GE Start Smart Switch Motion Sensing + Dimmer, but the process is not radically different for a multi-way circuit. (And if you don't need all the functions of this dimmer, GE Lighting offers four simpler and cheaper alternatives.) The first step – and the most important – is to determine which circuit breaker controls the power to that switch and
The next step is to remove the cover plate so that you can access the switch itself. It is the best way to confirm that no current is flowing to the switch by swinging a contactless voltage tester into the junction box. The battery-operated tool must beep and light up when it detects power. If there is more than one switch in the box, make sure that no electricity flows to them.
Once you have confirmed that the power is off, remove the screws securing the switch to the junction box and pull it out so that you can reach the electrical wires. Most smart switches require four wires to work, including a "neutral" wire that must be colored white or gray. The neutral wire carries the current back to the circuit breaker panel to complete the circuit, so despite the innocent sounding name, an electrified neutral shock may occur if current flows through it. If your wiring does not contain a neutral wire, your choice of smart switch is limited (more about that a bit).
The "line wire" that carries current from to the breaker panel to the switch is usually black, red or blue colored. The "charge" wire supplies electricity to the fitting (and by extension to the lamp) and is usually colored white or gray, such as the line wire. The last wire, protective earth, will be a bare wire or a wire in a green sheath. The ground wire prevents you from being shocked if there is a short circuit.
If your house does not have an earth wire, you might not be able to install a smart switch, although there are several solutions that we will not discuss here. If your home does not have a neutral wire, consider installing a Lutron Caséta smart dimmer because it does not require a neutral wire to work.
Installing a smart switch
Now that you have determined the wiring situation of your home and purchased a smart switch or dimmer, you are ready to install it. Once again, make sure you have turned off the power to the switch. It is always a good idea to check again if the power to the switch is still turned off using the voltage tester.
Disconnect your old switch from the wiring of your house. You may need to cut and strip about half a centimeter of the wire jacket to expose the copper wire underneath. You can use the wire cutters or a special tool for this step.
Smart switch manufacturers use different wiring techniques. Some have screw connections that bend the wire that comes out of your wall around, others have pigtail wires that bind you to the wiring of your house with wire nuts, and others have back stitches into which you push the (solid) wires of your house.
The C door GE switch that we are installing in this example uses pigtails, so twist each of the line, load, neutral, and ground wires to the matching wires that come out of the junction box and use a wire nut to to hold together. If you have installed a switch that does not require a neutral wire (such as the aforementioned Lutron Caséta), place a wire nut on the end of that neutral wire that comes out of the wall and make sure nothing of the bare copper wire remains exposed ( you can cut off the excess or wrap the thread and the threaded nut in electrical tape).
Push the excess wire length back into the junction box, and do the same with the switch and attach it to the box with the supplied screws or the screws that you removed from the existing switch. Now replace the cover plate. Note: it is best to use plastic cover plates with smart switches. Metal plates are nice, but they can block the signals on which the radio depends on the smart switch to work.
Finally go to your switch panel and restore the power to the switch.
Turn the switch to ensure that it controls the armature correctly. Do not panic if the light bulb is not turned on, there is always a chance that the light bulb has burned out, even if it worked before you changed the switches. To check if it still works, screw it into a fixture that you know works and check before doing anything else.
Finally, if the switch works correctly, install the mobile app that you must operate from your smartphone or tablet. Congratulations! You have just replaced a stupid switch with a smart one.