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How to install a smart switch

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?

  Single pole versus multi-way switches. Turn the switch to switch off. Daniel Masaoka / IDG

Single-pole switches are the easiest to replace because only one switch controls the circuit. In a three or four-way circuit, more than one switch can turn the lamp on and off.

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

  Smart switch installed Daniel Masaoka / IDG

Here you will find instructions for installing a C by GE C-Start Smart switch Motion Sensing + Dimmer on a multi-way circuit, but the result is that you have a smart switch from C by GE on all other legs of the circuit.

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.

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