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Home automation. Once belonging to the realm of science fiction movies, the home of the future is here today. Certainly, convenience is one of the benefits that springs to mind immediately. I love the fact that I can traverse from my bedroom to the kitchen via a lighted path … no toe stubbing potential at all.

Smarter Lighting Through Smarter Dimming Switches

Steve Maurer, IME
Home automation. Once belonging to the realm of science fiction movies, the home of the future is here today.

Certainly, convenience is one of the benefits that springs to mind immediately. I love the fact that I can traverse from my bedroom to the kitchen via a lighted path … no toe stubbing potential at all.

Of course, I use a dimmer setting so the wife doesn’t catch me raiding the fridge … wait a minute .. I meant so as not to disturb her sound sleep. Yeah, that's what I meant to say.

Anyway, there are several ways to implement smart lighting. Of course, using smart bulbs is one option. Various forms and flavors of smart lighting can be found most anywhere quality electronics are sold.

Even the store with the big W.

That's the route I took for the most part. But honestly, that can get a little expensive.

Quick example.

A smart bulb can cost anywhere from about $12 to $40. One that I use for my office ceiling fan runs $24 per bulb. It's dimmable, changes color temperature to match my mood and/or viewing requirements, and connects to my Echo Show device. I can talk to it (and often do … not always politely) to change the setting.

Here's the kicker.

There are four of them in the fixture. Four times $24 is over a hundred bucks, adding in tax. So going that road might not be for everyone.

I've actually installed them all over the house. But not all at one time.

And there are areas where it's not feasible because of the fixtures I have installed. The kitchen, for example, has a really cool LED fixture that's not smart-enabled.

So what if I need/want to control it by means other than the standard wall switch? I mean, toggles and rotary dimmers are so last year, right?

Enter the smart dimming switch.

These take the place of existing wall switches (some even fit over them). Often you just turn the switch on, secure a mounting base, and snap on the device.

With these devices, you can control your lighting a little more economically. Sure, they may cost more than the toggle switch you can get for a few bucks. But they're considerably less expensive than forking out a hundred dollars for a ceiling fan's worth of smart bulbs.

While many of them, in fact, most of them can be controlled via apps and smart home devices, some can also be used just like a regular switch. If you forget that it's a smart switch and turn it off by hand, no problem with syncing up with the bulbs again.

That's especially helpful if you have guests that don't know how your system works. They don't have the app either. So letting them turn lights on and off without your assistance is the neighborly thing to do.

The technology behind smart dimming switches is a whole other story.

One that I'll cover … in a whole other article.
Photo courtesy of Lutron Electronics
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