WeMo Switch and Insight I reviewed the Switch recently. While I liked them, it took me a while to find a use for them. When it comes to things I want to turn off remotely, the first thing that comes to mind are lights and I just donít have a lot of lights which plug into the wall. Aside from the lights in my garage and on my nightstand, everything else is in my ceilings and controlled with light switches. Luckily, the Belkin WeMo lineup also includes a light switch.
The WeMo Light Switch looks just like a standard decora light switch but itís actually connected to the internet and can be controlled using your iOS or Android device just like the rest of WeMoís lineup.
I donít normally talk about packaging but wow, as far as light switches go, the WeMoís is sick. Normally, when I buy a light switch itís from Leviton, Lutron, Cooper, etc all of whom use horrible blister packaging. The WeMo comes in a easy to open box thatís taped close.
Check out how they package the marettes!
If youíve ever installed a specialty switch like a dimmer, timer, etc switch youíll know that they can take up a lot of space.
Here it is next to a Lutron remote controlled digital dimmer. Theyíre similar in size though the WeMo also includes a bunch of fairly thick wires (thick wires are not uncommon).
I installed the WeMo in a 2 gang box: The WeMo went on the left while thereís a 3-way switch on the right. Regular 3 way switches doesnít take up much space so I was able to tuck all the WeMoís wires behind it. While it comes with a faceplate the switch will also fit standard decora plates though the front is a little thicker than normal so you might have to screw it down tighter while leaving your other switches a little looser.
My feeling is that while 2 WeMo switches will be able to fit in a standard 2 gang box it will be an extremely tight fit so try to keep your wiring neat and organized
Since itís only a single-pole setup, installation itself was very easy. The back of the switch is labeled nicely.
Right now, there is only one WeMo light switch which only supports single pole setups. It wonít work if you have a 3 way+ setup. Itís also only a light switch and doesnít allow you to dim. My guess this is due to space constraints.
Unfortunately I couldnít really test the the WeMoís range because I donít have any single pole switches outside of my house. I do suspect the WeMo light switch range will be reduced by the metal utility box it will be installed in. My 802.11AC router recently went haywire so I was forced to press my old 802.11N router back into service. My observation has been that my AC router has better range and indeed, Iíve noticed that it takes the WeMo app longer to find the light switch.
Note that the switch is actually a button. Only the bottom part goes in when you press it. If you have stupid relatives be careful - one of them may press the top part really hard in an effort to turn it on.
Once itís installed thereís circle on the switch which lights up green when the switch is on. I wish it lit up white as the green looks kind of cheap. When youíre connecting it to your network thereís actually WiFi icon that shines through the switch (sorry I didnít take a picture). There is also a reset and restart button in front in case you ever want to start over again.
The WeMo light switch has the same capabilities as the WeMo Switch I reviewed recently. Setup is very easy; when you first turn it on it will broadcast a WiFi access point. Download the WeMo and then go to your settings and connect to the new access point. After that it will automatically setup everything.
Once I had it setup, the WeMo app asked me if I wanted to update the switchís firmware.
After that you can control the switch remotely.
At first I wasnít sure where to install it. Aside from the lights in my bedrooms, washrooms, den and family room, all the lights in my house are on 3+ way switches (hallways, kitchen, dining, living room, laundry, garage, basement lights, etc). I donít care about being able to control my bedroom, washroom and den lights remotely and I would only be interested in using it in my family room if it had a dimmer.
Luckily, I have the perfect spot. The lights in front of my house are controlled by a single switch.
In the winter itís dark when you get home from work so you leave the front lights on. Iíve noticed one thing about many of the houses on my street. A lot of them have their front lights on 24/7.
However, once youíre inside you donít notice that theyíre still on so you end up leave them on all night. Then, when you leave the house in the morning you notice that theyíre on but canít do anything about it since youíve already left the house and are too busy to run back in to turn them off.
Letís say you have 3 lights in front each of which have 2 60 watt bulbs in them. You probably only need them on, on weekdays for maybe say 3 hrs a night: thatís 3 hrs x 5 days x 4 weeks = 60 hours a month. However, since theyíre on 24 hrs a day theyíre on for 30.5 days a month x 24 hours = 732hrs per month.
That means theyíre on unnecessarily, for 672hrs a month. At 3 fixtures x two 60 watt bulbs per fixture thatís around $15 of electricity per month youíre wasting. More on that later.
Now if youíre aware of this you can go out and buy a switch with a timer on in it. In fact, my house came with one. In order to minimize the amount of money you spend on electricity you want the lights to turn on as close to sunset as possible. The problem with that is that you have to figure out when to turn the light on and when to turn it off. During the winter it can get dark as soon as 4:30 while in the summer, while in the winter there can be light until around 9PM at night.
What makes this problem worse is that many timer switches arenít easy to program. My house actually came with one and I never bothered to use it because I didnít want to go through the hassle of programming it.
And donít get me started with Daylight savings.
Hereís where the WeMo switch comes in. You can tell it to turn on at sunset. Since itís connected to the web, it actually knows the exact time sunset is that day. If youíre one of those types who wants the lights on at night you can tell the WeMo to turn off at sunrise.
What I did is on the days I want the lights on, I tell it to turn on at sunset and turn off at 9PM. Belkin needs to add a Ďstay on for 5 hrs settingí.
Like other WeMo products the Light Switch has built-in IFTTT support. Iíve noticed that the IFTTT app on iOS recently became location aware.
Now I can have it so my lights turn on when I get close to my house.
Since I work from home I donít usually have a set schedule so this is very convenient.
Of course, thereís a small problem. Currently, the only options when I get home are:
- Turn on
- Turn off
- Turn on then off
- Turn off then on
- Toggle on/off
For me to use this feature I need a ĎTurn on if itís after sunset and then off after X minutesí because Iím never going to remember to turn the outside light off once Iím home.
The turn on then off does exactly what it says. I was driving home one day and when I turned onto my street my house lights turned on, before I could crack a smile they turned off again. What use is this feature?
Hopefully Belkin or IFTTT will fix this feature soon.
If youíre wondering whether you should buy a WeMo switch let me whip out my calculator again.
If the WeMo light switch is able to keep my 360 watts worth of lighting from being on unnecessarily for 672hrs months then thatís around $20 worth of electricity (360 watts x 672 hours = 240kWh x $0.09 per/kWh) saved per MONTH. Since the WeMo light switch goes for around $50 you can get a return on investment in as little as 2.5months. Damn.
Of course, there are probably other solutions some of which may be more cost effective. Iím talking CFL light bulbs with light sensors, LED light bulbs, a family member with OCD who will always remember to turn the light off, etc. Then again, with WeMo youíre also getting a fancy internet connected switch thrown
I donít have much experience with other home automations setups but I do like how all you need to use WeMo is WiFi and a Smartphone. This eliminates the barrier of having to buy a proprietary controller which you have to learn to setup. Itís also worth pointing out that Belkin products have very good distribution so theyíre pretty easy to source.
While the WeMo lineup currently consists of 5 products, Belkin seems to be slowly adding new products plus they regularly update the WeMo app which is encouraging.
Here are my suggestions for new WeMo products:
- WeMo power bar
- 3-way wall light switch
- wall dimmers with the ability to dim fluorescent, incandescent and LED
- motion sensors which can be mounted to the wall easily
- make WeMo motion able trigger recording on the Belkin Netcam (motion sensing on IP cameras isnít usually very good)
- WeMo Insight electrical panel switches, A 30AMP model could tell you exactly how much power your A/C is using (will probably never happen but I can wish, plus a bunch of nerds killing themselves when they open their electrical panel and saying ĎIím Homer SimĒ is bad press)
- Wall timers with selectable countdown, 3-way options and the ability to handle 1hp loads (like what youíd use on a bathroom fan)
- Stand-alone WeMo controller
As for the WeMo app, the default screen needs an easy way to turn a light on for x number of minutes and then turn off. For example, if I turn the outside light on when a friend is leaving I want it to automatically shut off after 10 minutes. Another change I'd like to see is whether a switch stays off or on after a power outage. Right now they automatically stay off after an outage - imagine if you had a refrigerator hooked up to it.