I love it! A few hours ago it was a different story. Fun Friday wasn’t so fun. I was having problems with my garbage disposal (weird flappy sound), my satellite dish wasn’t working (apparently my SWiM is bad??) and so naturally I decided it was good time to do some electrical work. Probably not my best idea. BUT, now I am so pleased with my work. Here’s my WeMo story…
I used to have a mechanical timer/switch on my front porch lights that looked terrible and was hard to program (you know, it was the kind that had a dial that you had to push in, then turn clockwise two full rotations to select the start time, then you stood on one foot while patting your head and then pushing it in again to set the stop time?!) We had given up on any predictable on/off time, so it pretty much stayed on all the time. Many days as I would pull out of the drive way, I’d see all 8 bulbs burning away at high noon (yes I have “candelabra” style lights, and yes I know they need an update!) I did some research and found the WeMo Light Switch made by Belkin. I was able to order it via Amazon Prime, and get free same-day delivery!
The WeMo switch is awesome, it looks great, is easy to control and set schedules via my iPhone, and as a bonus I’m able to also control the switch via my Echo Dot. Before you buy, verify these four things:
- It only works in “single-pole” locations. So if you have more than one switch controlling your lights, you won’t be able to use the WeMo light switch.
- Your wiring MUST include a neutral wire. If you look at your current setup, you should see your black (hot) wires, your copper (ground) wire, and a white (neutral) wire. Normal switches bypass the neutral wire, so they are likely to be bound together. This neutral wire is what allows the WeMo device to stay powered on and connected to WiFi.
- You must have adequate space in your electrical box for the device. It’s significantly larger than a typical wall switch.
- Make sure you have a WiFi signal at your install location. (Check by verifying that your phone has a WiFi signal at the proposed switch location.) No WiFi, No Worky!
If you aren’t pretty comfortable with electrical work, I would suggest calling an electrician. This was kind of complicated in my case, because of the number of switches in the box, but in an ideal situation this is a pretty quick (less than 1 hour) install. I had to do a lot of wire reorganization to get it all to fit, so it too me a bit longer, and several cups of coffee!
Ready, Set, Reconsider!!!! I’m all for self-sufficiency but there is no shame is calling an electrician for this, you could get all that other stuff wonky electrical stuff taken care of too. If you are sure, get the necessary tools and proceed to STEP 1.
STEP 1: Turn off the power to the switch at your electrical box. Verify that the electricity to the switch is off by toggling the switch. To be completely sure, use your voltmeter!
STEP 2: Remove your wall plate, and your current switch.
Here is where it got kind of ugly… I disconnected the porch light switch and put the orange wire nuts on the “hot” wires so that I didn’t lose them in the mess. I had to pull out the other two switches as well to find my bundle of “neutral” wires. (Jumping ahead a bit: I wasted some time finding the neutral wire associated with one of my “hot” wires, and initially wired the WeMo to this. It did not work!)
STEP 3: Open up the WeMo box and notice how nicely packaged it is!!
STEP 4: Using the supplied connectors (those orange things are called “wire nuts!), connect the WeMo “switch” wires to the “hot” wires, connect the WeMo “neutral” wire to you neutral bundle of wires, and connect the WeMo ground to your ground wire. After tightly screwing on the wire nut, I like to use electrical tape to secure them. Just makes me feel better! It took quite a bit of effort (@#$%&!) to get all of the wires back in to the box. I taught the dog some new vocabulary, but he doesn’t look too shocked.
STEP 5: Replace switch plate (the WeMo comes with one that snaps on, but it’s only for a single switch installation). I reinstalled the plastic one that I had (WeMo does not recommend a metal switch plate as it may interfere with WiFi reception.)
STEP 6: Turn power back on, blinking orange light appears on the switch. Depress the bottom of the switch, to verify that it indeed turns your lights on/off. If it does not, it’s not installed correctly. Check your wiring (after turning back OFF the electricity!)
When the lights are on, the the indicator in the little black circle will have a green power symbol.
STEP 7: Hurray! You’ve done the hard part. Install the WeMo App from the App Store, and walk through the setup. You’ll need the password to your home WiFi to go through the setup process.
STEP 8: Connect to the WeMo WiFi connection by going to Settings –> WiFI and selecting the device (it will be named WeMo.Light.XXX).
STEP 9: Open the WeMo App, it takes a while as it is searching for your newly installed device. It will open to a screen prompting you to rename your WeMo switch. I called my “Porch Lights” (because remember there are many bulbs in those candelabra style lights from the 1980’s). When prompted, enter your email and select/deselect the box letting them contact you for non-essential reasons!
STEP 10: Select your home network, and enter the password. Your list of devices will appear. To turn a device on/off, simply select it. To set a schedule, select “Rules”.
But there’s more! You can setup your Echo Dot or Alexa to control the WeMo switch. Simply ask, “Alexa, discover my appliances.” After confirmation you can control your WeMo switch (by name)!