In many homes today, you go into a room and then flick a wall switch to turn on the lights. But if you want smart lights, then you’d generally have to have to buy smart light bulbs, which can be a rather expensive investment if you buy a bunch of them. But then there’s the GE Z-Wave Plus Smart Lighting Control Switch, which gives you a way to make your traditional light bulbs operate in a much “smarter” way.

The GE Z-Wave Plus is an improvement on the Z-Wave Classic models. Its processor is actually 2.5 times faster and you get 4 times more memory. The range has also been improved by 50%.

But is it really any good? Let’s find out.

A General Overview

These look like your traditional wall switches for your lights. It does have a tiny Z-Wave indicator light at the bottom of the switches so you’re able to find the switch more easily in the dark. This can work manually, even when the hub is only.

The GE switch seems like a traditional switch with on and off positions. But actually it rests in the “neutral” position, when it seems like the on and off positions are balanced.

Press the top of the switch, and you turn the light (and other devices) on. Press the bottom of the switch and you turn off the lights. So far, it’s like a traditional wall switch.

But this works with the Z-Wave wireless technology. The switch sends a signal to the hub, which should be in range of the switch. The wireless range for the new Z-Wave Plus switch is now 150 feet, so it doesn’t have to be all that close.

This hub enables you to control your lights with your smartphone or even with your voice assistant device. It’s a bit like a version of the smart plug, which enables you to turn your ordinary electrical appliances into smart devices. But now the lights you have at home that you control with the wall switch can now be smart as well.

Installing the GE Z-Wave Plus

You probably need some electrical DIY know how if you’re to install this on your wall yourself. That’s because the instructions in the manual can be quite complicated. You’re dealing with hardwired connections after all.

Still, if you do have some DIY electrical knowledge then you can just use the current wing in your house. If you’re not sure about doing this yourself, hire an electrician or a handyman. You just first need to make sure that your house has a neutral wire before you buy this.

This works with several types of lights, including incandescent, halogen, CFL, and LED light bulbs. It also works with other hardwired devices like fans and pumps. It can handle up to a combined load of 960 watts for incandescent lights.

If you have a Z-Wave certified hub, this can work with the hub when you also buy a Z-Wave certified gateway. It will then become compatible with the following hubs:

  • ADT Pulse
  • Wink
  • SmartThings
  • Nexia
  • Vivint
  • HomeSeer
  • Honeywell
  • Harmony Home Hub Extender
  • Iris
  • Connect
  • Vera

It can also work with Alexa too so you can get voice control, but then you’ll need to buy the Alexa device and the hub that works with Alexa. You can also use your smartphone with this, though you’ll need to find your own app.

So What Can You Do With This?

With this, you can do the following:

  • You can now control your light from anywhere. If you’re at work doing overtime, you can turn on your lights at home so burglars don’t realize that your home is unoccupied. Conversely, you can also turn off your light at home when you’re at work and forgot to turn on the lights.
  • Your lights can also be scheduled to activate at certain times. You can pinpoint the time they can turn on or off, so that you won’t have to do it manually day in and day out. Perhaps you like to read a bit before you go to sleep, so you can nod off and not worry about the light because it’s programmed to turn off at midnight.
  • You can also create customized scenes that involve your lights. For example, you may have a setting for reading a nice long novel on your couch. You may have a certain light bulb cast light on your spot, while it turns off some of the other lights so that you have a nice cozy setting for your reading. Or perhaps you want to set up the lights so that it seems like your home even when you’re not. That’s always a nice precaution against burglars. So you can automatically have your program turn on and off some of the lights in your house so that people outside think you’re home.

Other settings can be for parties, intimate dinners, for TV bingeing, or whatever. It’s all up to you.

Pros

So why go with this option? There are several reasons why this may appeal to you.

  • Going with this smart switch will be a much more economical option that trying to replace all your lights with expensive smart light bulb replacements. Some of these lights can cost about $180 each. If you have a fairly large home and you have plenty of lights, the costs can balloon to a rather exorbitant amount. With this light switch, you only need to spend about $35 for each switch, and of course you probably have fewer light switches in the house. You may end up outfitting your entire house with these wall switches and you won’t spend more than what a single name-brand smart light bulb will cost.
  • Now that you have this installed, you now have complete control over your lights. You still have manual control, but you can also have smartphone control over the lights. Even voice commands are possible.
  • You can now turn your lights off when you’re at work and you forget to turn them off. You can check if they’re on or off, and just turn them off to save on energy. If you’re on vacation, this can really keep you from worrying.
  • You can also turn on your lights when you’re not home, which works to enhance your home security.
  • Burglars are a lot more likely to avoid breaking into your home when they think you’re home. That’s the impression you give when you turn on your lights from work or vacation as if you’re there.
  • Scheduling the lights will also be possible. So instead of manually turning on the lights yourself, you can program them to turn on at specific times. Now depending on your app and your home automation system, you may even program your lights to turn on at sunset, whatever that time may be depending on the season.
  • This works with all just about all bulbs. So you don’t have to get rid of your halogen or CLF bulbs, or your non-smart light bulbs. In fact, you can still use incandescent bulbs if that’s what you really want.
  • This is an impressive improvement over the Z-wave classical light switches. It works faster and better, and its range is also longer.
  • It can also work with many hubs. If your hub is Z-wave certified, you’re good to go.
  • It comes with a 2-year warranty.

Cons

However, you need to make sure you’re aware of some issues:

  • First of all, forget what the ads say about how you can install this in 15 minutes top. If you’re an electrical expert and familiar with Z-wave, then yes, that might be possible. But most of us aren’t, and you’re probably like most of us. So you will most likely find the installation very complicated, so you may as well find an electrician to do it for you. In fact, find an electrician with experience in Z-wave. Or better yet, see if you can find an electrician who has already done installations for the GE Z-Wave Plus smart wall switch.
  • In addition, quite a few people have expressed frustrated comments about its inconsistent performance. Admittedly, plenty of people say it works reliably. But a sizable number of people say otherwise. They say that sometimes it just doesn’t work. Now how many of these complaints are due to faulty installations? We don’t know. We also don’t know either whether the complaints are from people who aren’t overly familiar with their home automation systems either.
  • Your investment on the switch does require the Z-wave certified gateway if you wish to make full use of this with your smartphone. That’s an additional expense.

Conclusion

It is true that it’s an affordable way to smarten up your dumb house lights without having to replace all of them with smart light bulbs. But the proper installation is crucial if you want this to work flawlessly. You need experienced experts to help you. If you’re going the DIY route, then you better be an expert yourself. If not… well, don’t say we didn’t warn you!