Surely you remember The Clapper. It’s been 30 plus years, but you can probably still sing the jingle “Clap On, Clap Off, The Clapper!” The Clapper – marketed by the way by a man actually named Clapper! – is still sold. But there are smarter ways to control lights and appliances in your home.
Having a “smart home” is appealing to many people, but when you get down to doing it, you might find that you need an electrician to hard-wire in all the switches necessary to be able to control even just your lights from an app.
But now there’s Switchmate, a smart light switch that needs no installation because it attaches magnetically OVER your light switch – standard toggle or “Decora” rocker – and a little motor inside the Switchmate turns the switch underneath on and off with an app on your phone or tablet.
Really that’s all there is to it: you insert two AA batteries in the Switchmate, place it on top of the switch you want to control, and pair it via Bluetooth to the app you download to your phone or tablet. If you have more than one Switchmate you can label them by location – bedroom, living room, front porch, etc. – and turn them on and off either individually or as a group. You can create a “vacation” schedule for the lights to turn on and off in different places at different times and configure lights to go on when you come home.
I tried a Switchmate over the toggle switch in my office, and it works as advertised; I can control the room light from 35 to 40 feet away. Beyond that, I had no connectivity, although Switchmate says it should work from up to 150 feet away. It does not, at the moment, work over Wi-Fi.
I tried to use a Switchmate over a rocker switch in my bathroom, but while I could hear the Switchmate moving, it didn’t move the rocker. Maybe it’s how the rocker is sitting in the wall plate.
With a Switchmate in place, you can also turn the light on and off by pushing a big button on it, which makes it easier to use manually than some other smart home switches. Each Switchmate is a little too large to fit more than one next to another on a wall plate, and if you have anything other than a standard flat wall plate, it may not magnetically attach.
Switchmate is going to work with Alexa, Amazon’s voice-controlled assistant, but as of this writing, it does not. It is also a little noisy – remember there’s a motor inside flipping the switch – and it does stick out from the wall plate about an inch. The app tells you when a switch’s batteries run down, but otherwise there are no notifications, and you must be in or very near your home for the app to work.