When you first think of smart light switches, they may seem a bit contradictory, as electrical switches have two states: on or off. However, any smart device must always remain in the "on" state in order to be intelligently controlled. So, how do smart appliance switches remain "sensing" (and ultimately switch on) even when they are turned off? Smart appliance switches with a neutral wire easily power themselves through the hot and neutral wires, while switches without a neutral wire deliver a small amount of electricity to the bulb from the power source – enough to slightly illuminate them in the process.
Smart light switches are a useful invention, and some people prefer them over smart light bulbs because they allow you to turn on and off the lights in your room in a fairly natural way. Smart appliance switches connect to the appliances in your home, replacing the existing light switches in the room. Therefore, they can only control the bulb that was previously controlled by the switch (unlike smart bulbs, which can be independently managed as long as they have electricity).
Therefore, smart appliance switches are very suitable for many "practical" or "task-oriented" rooms, such as kitchens, utility rooms, and bathrooms, where you may only want to turn the lights on or off. Smart appliance switches are ideal for this, especially since some models come equipped with motion sensors that automatically turn on the lights when you enter these rooms.
Once they are connected to your home, smart appliance switches draw power (which we will discuss in more detail later) and then "communicate" with a central hub using a communication protocol, allowing you to use a smartphone app or smart speaker to turn the switch (and, therefore, the light) on and off.
This "communication protocol" is usually WiFi, which means that smart switches can be connected to your home network like your TV, phone, and other devices. They can then communicate with the smart appliance switch via the internet (safely). Alternatively, smart appliance switches sometimes use different communication protocols, such as ZigBee and Z-wave, which use less power and are more reliable than WiFi.
Regardless of the method, the main thing to know is that smart appliance switches must consume some power (with or without a neutral wire) in order to be intelligently managed through your app or smart speaker. The next two sections will go into more detail about this.