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Smart dimming switches, and smart devices in general, can be controlled by various technologies. And they're almost as varied as the choices you have for the lighting control options you want. Most of them require a Wi-Fi connection of some sort, if only to set them up with an app on your phone.

Smart Dimming Switch Tech

Steve Maurer, IME
Smart dimming switches, and smart devices in general, can be controlled by various technologies. And they're almost as varied as the choices you have for the lighting control options you want.

Most of them require a Wi-Fi connection of some sort, if only to set them up with an app on your phone.

Connected to your WLAN (wireless local area network), you link them to your phone for programming and control. It also means that you can control them when away from the house.

(Did I remember to shut my office lights off? No problem!)

But before we start, I want to remind you of one important fact, regardless of whether you use smart dimming switches or not.

In a word … compatibility.

While many brands of smart dimming switches don't play well with each other (meaning you should stick to one brand and carry on with it), it also can wreak havoc on the bulbs you use.

Sure, the old incandescents are dimmable. We've been doing that for eons.

But dimming is a relatively new technology when applied to fluorescent and even LED bulbs. Since dimming has become a normal use in lighting applications, most LEDs and CFLs are manufactured with dimming drivers in them. But that wasn't always the case. Older bulbs may not be dimmable, so be sure to check that out.

With fluorescent tubes in most troffers and other ceiling fixtures, the ballast installed must be dimming capable.

Just wanted to give you a heads up so you're not caught with your lamps down!

Where were we?

Oh yeah, dimming switch tech. While Wi-Fi is often required to operate these switches, that's not always the case.

Common communication technologies are:

  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • Zigbee and Z-Wave
  • Clear Connect® from Lutron
  • Insteon

The last three act more like mesh networks, using hubs to create a proprietary home network. The devices themselves act like repeaters, giving a better range for large applications, like two-story dwellings.

There are two more advantages for using non Wi-Fi technologies.

One is fairly obvious. If your Wi-Fi network goes down, your devices still operate. Unless your internet provider never has issues (yeah, right), you may consider one of these mesh network solutions for smart home connectivity.

The other reason is one that's not as obvious.

Every time you connect a device of any kind to your wireless network, it uses up some of your bandwidth. And that means your network slows down, even if it's just a little.

You might not notice it at first. But eventually it will slow down enough that someone's going to gripe about it. It may even be you as you're streaming the season finale to your favorite TV show.

You're first inclination is to blame your service provider.

In reality, it may be all those devices that are consuming Wi-Fi bandwidth …

Even when they're turned off.
Photo courtesy of Lutron Electronics
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