One of the key foundations of having a fully integrated Smart Home is to make sure almost every possible item your house – normal lights, ambient coloured lights, blinds, etc – is well, controllable. This can mean using a controller module or a Smart Switch to turn “normal” everyday things into part of your smart home.
Having said that, it’s important to make the decision to get everything controllable early in the beginning as you will need to get your interior designer or contractor to plan for it in advance. In our case where we designed and built our Smart Home from scratch, we directly got our electrician to modify the wiring circuit that came with the place to introduce a neutral wire (blue wire).
This is a very crucial part of the whole setup: Many smart switches, controller modules, and such require a neutral wire so that they can be “always on” in a low power state awaiting commands.
This way, we could literally turn every existing and new switch in the house to a smart one, one that is remotely controllable via Z-wave.
Why do you need a neutral wire?
Some of you might ask why not just use a WiFi Smart Plug? You know, the ones which look something like this:
Yea, and save all the trouble with complicated platforms, protocols, these cheem wiring setups and all.
I mean, sure, you could. Why not?
Well, in our humble opinion, these huge devices are quite ugly and bulky – really not seamless enough. Also, for high usage (or high power draw) sockets, the chances of the smart plug burning out are pretty damn high.
Do you honestly want your nicely flushed wall sockets to be crowded with these plugs when you could have something way nicer?
Also, WiFi networks aren’t really made to support that many devices at the same time, unless you actually invest in setting up a really high capacity WiFi network, but that’s really another topic for another time.
How to select a suitable Smart Switch for your house?
Currently, we are using mainly two brands of Z-wave enabled Smart Switches – TKBHome and MCOHome.
For TKBHome, most of their models come with (some sort of) tactile feedback, so that when you toggle between on and off, you actually know that the switch is being pressed. It also has a subtle blue LED to notify you of current the on/off status.
Design-wise, it’s actually very simple and non-intrusive. We didn’t want our switches to actively scream “HEY THIS IS A SMART HOME”, but instead blend into the surrounding home design.
Installation-wise, it’s also a breeze because the size (86mm) fits into our existing Singapore standard switch. You (or your electrician) could easily replace this into the existing socket box after installing the neutral wire. There’s really no guide needed on how to install it because it’s just so simple – unlike the other brand that we use – MCOHome.
As compared to TKBHome switches, MCOHome’s is obviously looking way more “high-tech” with its glass panel and glowing lights. It’s extremely touch-sensitive which can a good or bad thing depending on your habits.
Price-wise, MCOHome is almost triple the price of the TKBHome Smart Switches. Of course, from reviews, MCOHome stuff is supposedly better in quality too.
Installation-wise, it’s a real pain to install them due to the different thickness of the switches. MCOHome switches are built for European standard switch boxes which is slightly different from our Singapore standard – the European boxes are way deeper than the local boxes, and this can pose a bit of a problem if you’re using the existing switch boxes which are inside your wall already.
If you do somehow end up with a Smart Switch with super thick depth like the MCOHome and have no idea how to install it, fret not! I’m gonna write down a step by step guide on how to get it fixed.