If you have a smart home, you probably don’t want to use your phone (or voice) for every interaction. You probably want to use a remote, switch or button to control your smart home devices. The definition is home AUTOMATION means not having to do anything – but there are many situations where you need to do something different than the robot or program.
Options for Physical Buttons and Remotes
There are three main options for controlling your smart home with physical switches:
- Remotes (like the Lutron Smart Remote)
- Built in controls (like a Zwave light switch).
- Buttons (like the Flic).
Let’s dive into the three different options for physical controls to smart home devices.
Remotes to control your smart home
I, personally like Remotes to control all my home automation products. I primarily use the Lutron Connected Bulb Remote (controlled by Wink, more on that in a second) and the Philips Hue Dimmer Switch.
The Lutron Connected Bulb Remote is designed to control a single light bulb. It works GREAT for this purpose. It also is INSTANT. However, it’s more convenient to me to use the Connected Bulb Remote to Control Scenes within Wink. Here’s a quick video I made on how to Control Scenes within Wink with a Lutron Connected Bulb.
The bad with the Lutron Connected Bulb? Hue and Wink are notoriously slow together. It works almost instantly with items paired directly with the Wink Hub (like Osram lights). However it can take several seconds for Philips Hue products to respond. It also seems like it take longer when you use to button to trigger a scene with a lot of lights (like turning off all the lights in the home).
I use the Philips Hue Dimmer Switch the most in my home – but that’s because I believe Philip Hue are the best smart lighting out there (read my full Smart Lights Review here). I only have a handful of lights in my home that are no Philips Hue, so this Dimmer switch acts as a remote in my smart home.
The best part about the Philips Hue Dimmer is that it is INSTANT. It works flawlessly with the Hue Lights. That’s also the downfall – it only works with Hue Lights. I’ve set up some other robots within Wink to help deal with this, however, it is a downfall of the Hue Dimmer Switch. You can see how to get more from your Hue Dimmer Switch in this video.
The Philips Hue Dimmer also is magnetic and can look like a switch on your standard light switch area. The Dimmer switch comes with a faceplate for your wall. The actual remote is magnetic, so you can simply take it off the wall.
Which brings me to to the next option for physical buttons to control your smart home…
Built in Switches for your Smart Home
The second option is probably one of the most popular – using a smart switch that looks like a dumb switch. These smart light switches, like this one from GE, replace the current “dumb” light switch you have installed in the wall right now.
I’ll be honest. I don’t have any of these. I have tried them and don’t like them. However, some people SWEAR by them. These are simply switches that look like normal switches or have a smart ZWave radio inside.
I’ve tested out both versions and I have had some difficulties.
For one, anywhere with a three-way switch is difficult. I’m not an electrician and my mind hurts whenever I have to think about how to make a three-way switch work (these are switches that can be turned on or off in different locations. My home is almost ALL three way switches and there are a lot of switches in general. It would be difficult to do this in my set up.
However, if you have a simple setup that controls a lot of lights, this may be the right option for you.
Two words of warning:
- It involves changing the wiring in your home. If you aren’t comfortable with this, you might want to pass. It’s easy when you get the hang of it, but has a slight learning curve.
- Not all LED lights work with smart switches. If you are like me, you want LED lights because they are supposed to last a long time and lose less energy. However, since they are SO energy efficient, even a small amount of electricity will power the lights. I had a smart switch on a giant light fixture in our great room. The light fixture is full of LED lights. When the smart switch was turned off – the lights were slightly on. This is because there is a small amount of electricity used to keep the Zwave radios on (and the little light indicator in the smart switch).
Physical Buttons for your Smart Home
On paper, I like these options the best. However, in practice, I like them the least. Since they aren’t as easy to control. In full disclosure, I haven’t tested out Flic since it was an official partner of Wink. I was simply using it through an IFTTT channel. That was SLOW! The Flic is just one button, but it does allow you to cycle through different scenes, etc. However, it is just one button.
The same is true with the Logitec Pop. I tried this product out when it was first released and it ONLY worked with Philips Hue lights at the time. The main place I wanted to use it was the office, which has two Osram lights, so that didn’t work very well. You also need to hook up a separate hub to a outlet. I wasn’t too crazy about that either. The Logitech Pop might make sense if you already have a Logitech-centered home (with the fancy remote and all).
Bottom Line: What’s the best physical way to control your smart home?
The answer, like almost everything in life, is: it depends. For me, the Lutron Connected Bulb Remote and the Philips Hue Dimmer Switch worked wonders for me. For others, they prefer the Smart Switches. I haven’t met anyone that swears by the Flic or the Logitec Pop – but I’m sure they are out there. Hopefully this helps you decide what the best option is to control your smart home with physical buttons, remotes or switches.