Wemo Light Switch Review

posted in: Reviews, Wemo | 0

372The Good: Once physically installed, setup is relatively easy through the app.  Works with Amazon Echo out of the box.  Highly customizable with built in rules and IFTTT integration.  Easily converts any “dumb” light fixtures or appliances to smart devices.  Wemo communicates over wifi, making it great for anyone starting out with home automation, since it doesn’t require a hub.  Once set up, Wemo light switches can be triggered from anywhere your device has connectivity.

The Bad: Installing the switch requires some electrical know how, and knowing whether or not your house has the required neutral wire.  There are no official Wemo widgets, although there are poorly rated third party apps, so creating quick access on/off buttons on your phone is not currently possible.  It does not work as a dimmer, limiting the applications.

Overall: The Wemo smart switch is fantastic for upgrading interior and exterior lighting, or automating appliances.  The lack of dimming capabilities means it can’t compete with other offerings like those from Insteon, Leviton or Lutron, but unlike those devices the Wemo doesn’t require a hub.  When properly configured with rules and or integration with Amazon Echo, you may never have to access the  Wemo app outside of the initial setup of your devices.

When I first started automating my home, I didn’t have a lot of money to spend, but I wanted to make sure that all of my exterior lights were fully automated.  This wasn’t just a matter of convenience or saving money, but it was important for safety and security as well.  In most situations around the house I installed smart fixtures with daylight and/or motion sensors.  My backyard, however, had some special situations that would either require extensive professional electrical work or a smart switch solution.  Enter the Wemo Light Switch.

What makes the Wemo Light Switch stand apart from other smart switches and smart bulbs on the market is that it works over wifi and doesn’t require a hub to control it.  The switch is fully self contained, so once it is installed and configured through the app, you’re done.  Since I wasn’t exactly flush with cash at the time, not having to buy a hub along with the one switch was a big cost savings.

I am using two Wemo Light Switches to control lights that do not have switches in my house, and are too inconvenient to constantly have to operate manually.  The first switch controls two lights on the exterior of my shed, which light up a good portion of my backyard.  The only switch for these lights is inside the shed, and in order to use it I would have to walk across my deck, down the stairs, around the pool, across the grass, into the shed and flip the switch…all in the dark.  This was not something I wanted to do on a good day, let alone in the dead of winter.  The second Wemo Light Switch that I installed controls my pool light.  The only switch for the pool light is off in a dark, damp corner of the yard that no one other than me would walk over to at night and I got sick of having to do it every night of the summer, so I automated it!

Since installing these switches almost two years ago, I have never had a single communication issue.  I attribute this entirely to one simple fact; I planned ahead and made sure I had a rock solid router with good wifi coverage before I ever considered buying wifi switches.  As with any other wifi device, I can’t stress this enough: If your router is crap, your communication will be spotty.  I’d be willing to bet if you asked every person complaining on Amazon about their Wemo losing communication, the majority would be because of their router and not because of the Wemo.

The Wemo Light Switch installation is about the same as installing any other light switch.  This switch does require a neutral wire, which some older houses may not have, so it’s a good idea to check that before you buy one.  To my knowledge, there isn’t a workaround if you don’t have one.  The switch itself is a little big, so you will want to be sure that the gang box has some room behind where you plan to install it.  If you plan to install this in a single gang box, the switch comes with a screwless wall plate that snaps on and off.  It is attractive enough, as far as wall plates go, and will not come loose if you bump into it.  I actually had a hard time getting it to come off when I wanted to remove it.

The Wemo app is simple and clean.  I like that you can take pictures of the devices that it controls and use them as the icons in the app.  If you have a lot of Wemo devices this may make things quicker than reading all of the names.  Since I only have two Wemo’s, it just looks pretty.  You can turn your devices on and off with little power buttons next to each device in the main menu.  I don’t know why, but Wemo doesn’t provide any sort of widget that can be placed on the desktop of an Android or in the notifications pull down of an iPhone.  This would make controlling your Wemo’s much quicker and easier.  You can also build rules for things like auto off timers, sunrise/sunset or time based actions and away mode which randomizes when your lights turn on and off while you are away.  Applying rules to your devices is as simple as checking them off in the list.

Last, all Wemo’s work out of the box with Amazon Echo.  I had bought mine long before Echo existed, so I was thrilled to see this integration when I got an Echo as a gift.  The simplicity of pairing Wemo’s with Echo can’t be understated.  I set up my Echo and went to the “Connected Home” section of the Alexa app, expecting to have to scan for my devices and pair them, but what I found was that it had already discovered my Wemo’s.  All I had to do was create the groups I wanted, one for “pool light,” one for “shed lights,” and one for “backyard lights” (controlling both the pool and the shed), and that was it.  Literally minutes after installing my Echo I could control my Wemo’s by name.  Now whenever anyone wants to use my backyard at night they don’t have to flip a switch, they don’t need an app, they just say “Alexa, turn on the backyard lights” and its party time!

While I used these switches primarily for exterior lighting, Wemo switches are great for any application that just needs on/off functionality.  Being one of the few switches that uses wifi for communication, the Wemo light switch can be used in situations that other switches can’t, and they’re great for anyone that doesn’t want to be locked into an automation standard.