WeMo light switch.

Off, on. Off, on — Belkin's WeMo makes controlling things fun

I think more that a few of us have plans of using our Android smartphones to control everything in our homes. You can already control things like your television, your thermostat, your car's door locks and now your lights and small electrical appliances thanks to Belkin's WeMo line of smart home automation equipment. It's easy to use, fairly easy to install, and won't cut too deep into your wallet.

The idea is simple — install Belkin's smart switches or receptacles, connect them to your home Wifi network via the Android app, and go. Belkin doesn't give away their secret sauce, but from the looks of things you're connecting your switches to the cloud, and sending commands to it from your Android. The commands come down to the always-connected switches in turn. They install like standard residential electrical products and while the Android app is still new and has a bug or two, they generally work really well. They can also connect to IFTTT, which opens up a huge library of online apps for folks who want to get really serious about automating their house.

We picked ours up from Amazon for $49 or so. Read on, and see how they worked out for me.

WeMo light switch.

The specifications of the single-pole switches, which are what we ordered and tried out, are:

  • Single-pole, single-throw
  • Max 1800-watt (resistive); no minimum wattage requirement
  • Max load of 600 Watt or 1/2 HP
  • Residential and dry locations only

These are important specs, and if you don't understand them and know if they will work with your use-case, contact an electrician, because if you try to exceed them you can burn your house down. Electrical fires suck. And while we're talking about safety, don't try to install these yourself unless you know what you're doing. There's nothing special about the way they hook up, you've got the standard poles for switched input and output, a common (the tiny computer inside them needs one) and a ground. I might make a joke or two about getting electrocuted, but it's serious business — take it from a man who's been in the ER because he caught a face full of voltage.

If you're unsure about what you're doing, call an electrician.

Once installed, you can operate them like a standard switch with your finger, but that's pretty boring and you'll want to install the Android app. (Android 4.0 and up.) Then, stand next to the switch, and start it up. The directions are clear and precise, and as long as you know the password of your local Wifi network you will have no issues. And if you're a total nerd, when you see the light switches in your house getting an OTA you'll feel warm and fuzzy inside.

WeMo light switch.  WeMo light switch.

Would I recommend these to anyone? Why, hell yes I would. A standard decor switch from your local electric supply house or home center will cost you about $10. These will cost you about $50. The fun factor alone is worth the $40 difference, and the ability to control and automate your home right from your Android opens up a world of convenience. I've already ordered two more switches for my front porch light and the lights on my patio, and the wife and I are discussing how and where we might find a use for the receptacles. If you're interested, find out all about the WeMo switches and get ordering information from Belkin


 
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Belkin WeMo light switch review: Easy, fun and worth the $50

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I was waiting for this, but then found out that my outlets don't have the common wire. Double check before buying.

Then your outlets don't work. A "common" or neutral wire is necessary for your outlets to work.

I used to do this with a school project that cost 5 bucks and took 10 minutes to code in LabView :) Downside? LabView runtime is living in the past and it's only supported on PCs and PalmOS... ¬¬' If they released a kit for iOS and/or Android, the things one could do!

It's not "voltage" that you got a face full of, but a high "current" that stuck you in the ER. In a residential environment it's not the voltage of your lines you need to be afraid of.

Great review though. I honestly can't wait until I own my own home and can automate to my hearts content! :D

It was voltage. 480vac. There was no current involved, as the control circuit for the lights was non-operational (which is what i was working on). Opened a junction box that was crammed too full, everything sprung out, crappy ideal wirenut popped off and I took one on the chin.

Got two days off with pay, so I ain't crying :P

The fact that Jerry has been to the ER from electrocution is quite possibly the least surprising fact I have learned all week.

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If he had been hit by a high current he'd probably been dead. Common misconception is that voltage kills but in reality its the current.

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Sorry, but 480V will whup your ass, without high amperage. I am a State Certified Electrician and HVAC/R Technician. Shall we continue?

The current (amperage) merely sticks you to the source by contracting your muscles involuntarily...It is the voltage, in the end, that kills. (Not gonna' argue if warm or cold water freezes first, which is similar to the current/voltage theories) As long as it's AC voltage, you can usually let go. DC voltage at 24V with 2A of current is enough to kill you if you're compromised. In reality it is the ENERGY that kills you, and without both current and voltage combined, nothing bad will happen. Current doesn't exist without voltage, but voltage exists without current. 480VAC at 1/2 an amp can kill you just like 24V DC at 1A. It all depends on how long you are stuck to the source.

Neither voltage or amps alone are critical factors. It's the product of the two that is key.

Power = Voltage (Electric Potential) x Amps (Current)

Static electricity can have up to 10,000 Volts but very little current. A car battery has 12-13 Volts with 50-100 Amps. The product of that would not be good for you.

Same. Plus other systems give you control over the rise and fall rate. Makes tuning for home theater look fancy. :)

I did with this with the X10 system a while back. X10 is way cheaper but was not super reliable. Not that I cared too much if a switch didn't turn on. I didn't have a phone app back then but allowed remote controls or motion detectors. It was fun to play with. I'd say other than my bedroom overhead light, no switch is worth $50. I currently have a remote control for the fan/light on my bedside table but maybe this with an app is in order.

Yes X-10 has its problems but if you use filters on the power line it is pretty good. I have been running X-10 for over 20 years in my past 3 houses. Yes the newer stuff is better but I can buy gear to control many things with X-10 for $5 to $15 per device, sometimes less. I have tons of lights and devices controlled with X-10 at my house and I can't begin to think the total cost if it was $50 a pop.

Look at X-10 on ebay and you will see many people still use it and buy it. My co-worker just purchased a X-10 system because of the cost. Get the price down to $10 to $20 on something like this and it will take over the market (assuming they come up with a dimming model). Some will pay thousands to automate their home but with a low price point it will be a flood of people coming on board.

Seems pretty simple and easy to use, but I'm a big fan of Insteon for o automation already. The always connected aspect here is kind of nice, but it doesn't seem like the support for local devices talking to each other is great, which is where Insteon really shines.

I was just about to pick one of these up from Best Buy, but Belkin's website says it doesn't support 3-way switches. Hopefully they will release one that will soon.

I can see big time use. Forget about regular automation stuff. A bunch of these and an app like tasker and you can do all sorts of cool things for vacation and such.

I do have an issue with them being attached to the cloud. Direct control to your home network would be better. For those that have a VPN (yeah, I'm a gook and I have my own cloud via VPN)direct control would be more secure.

I was looking for this all over Calgary.... Anyone knows where I can find this here? I would prefer a local store I am case it won't work.

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Thank you so much. Yes the Calgary store also sells them. I got two of them and may be installing a Z-wave system so, I will have to think about this before buying more. Thank you millions of times. :)

It's not worth $50 not when you can pay $2.50 or so for a light switch operated by hand. If the price comes down to around five dollars it will be worth it.

I was actually going to buy one so that I can use it while I'm on vacation to give the impression that someone is home. A $2.50 manually operated light switch cannot do this for me. Timers run about half the price, but I can only find ones that are "random" within an hour or so from the programmed time. This will offer true randomness. Some days, I can flip the switch at 2000 hrs. Others, I could totally forget. If you think of it as a security device like I do, $50 can seem like a good deal.

Seeing the ability to schedule when the light comes on, and goes off, makes this more than worth the $50 I can set it to come on when my alarm goes off, and with my bedroom light shinning in my face, will make it hard to try and go back to sleep.

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The only free apps that I have, are apps that do not have paid versions.

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OK. But you aren't the OP.

I also pay for some apps. I was using his specific stinginess to comment on Android users' general cheapness.

Thanks for the review Jerry, I'll be picking up some outlet switches now... I.m also a little disappointed in the lack of 3-way support

"I.m also a little disappointed in the lack of 3-way support"

That's what she said....in your dreams.

"Dude, turn off the lights, the movie's starting."

"Hold on man, I'm waiting for the OTA for my light switches!"

I really want this situation to happen.

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Needs dining plus multizone unit as my rf units is starting to show its age. I would like to replace all my media room rf controls with Bluetooth or WiFi controls.

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$50 a pop and the fact that the majority of light switch junction boxes don't have a neutral wire in them so you'll have to pull another wire. Add in the drywall repair now. What ever happened to "Clap On, Clap Off"?

Houses built after mid-80's definitely have a neutral, but it pays to look before buying the switches. My last house was built in 1977 and had neutrals in every box.

For real good home automation check out the Micasavede Vera lite. Using Z wave technology you can control light switches, light plug-ins, thermostats, motion sensors, door/window sensors, locks, cameras, and more. You can create scenes that automate things, setup remote access, and use Tasker for even more capabilities.

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Jerry, the question I've had about these and nobody has been able to answer is: Does it work through mobile data to WiFi? In other words, if I'm on mobile data, and not near my wifi at home (at work) can I turn a light on when it gets dark outside instead of leaving it on all day when I leave? Can I connect to my house from my phone when away, on 3G/4G?

Yes. Quoted from Belkin's site: "It works with your existing Wi-Fi network and anywhere your smartphone or tablet has an Internet connection (3G or 4G LTE)."

Guess I'll go get a couple of these then...I work nights and hate leaving a light on when there's daylight outside. Thx.

Yes. Quoted from Belkin's site: "It works with your existing Wi-Fi network and anywhere your smartphone or tablet has an Internet connection (3G or 4G LTE)."

I use a gsm operated controller to receive commands from any phone via SMS commands.depending on command it control 4 rooms..water heater,air conditioning etc. all your electricity at home is centralized in one board.the controller is connected to the board .i do pay for additional gsm line ... this belkin is a good toy...I saw here electricians talking about voltage etc... just do some research about programmable controllers...maybe you know how to create smart home using Alters Development board with VHDL...that's will be much smarter to do...than to spend 50 bucks on one switch... its like to buy one brick of the LEGO...

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I use Tellstick Net. With this you can keep your current switches and put the radio receiver behind the switch.

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I use the light switch for my porch lights. Nice to come home and have them already on and it’s nice that they turn off by themselves. You can manually turn on the lights through the switch or app on phone, or you can let the programmed time take care of it all. You can control the switch from anywhere in the world that has wifi access.

I use the receptacle to control my on wall water fountains. Nice to be watching a movie and turn off / on the fountains for mood enhancement.

I will pick up a couple more light switches to add to my home automation. Not only are they cool but also convenient. I would also recommend the Nest Thermostat for home automation. We have saved enough money over the last half year using the Nest that it has paid for itself.