In-wall switches like the ones from HomeSeer or Lutron are ideal, but require rewiring your wall – an obstacle for renters.

Phillips Hue is also a great choice, but requires you to leave in-wall switches on (confuses guests) and doesn't work for fixtures with unchangeable bulbs.

In search of a solution, I found this clever gadget on Amazon and wanted to do a write-up.

How it Works

Demo of the actuator (controlled by HomeAssistant)

The device mounts on top of and physically interfaces with your existing light switch. If you have a rocker switch, the outermost prongs will "poke" it on/off. If you have a toggle switch, the spinning helix will slide the toggle up and down.

What's in the box: switch device, 2 mounting plates (1 rocker, 1 toggle), mounting gear (screws, washers), batteries

What You'll Need

The device operates over the Zigbee protocol, which means you'll need a Zigbee-enabled hub to use it. Fortunately, there's a range of options with various know-how required:

Easy: The Echo Plus has a built-in Zigbee hub (and in turn, direct voice control)

Medium: A tried & true multi-hub like SmartThings or Wink

Advanced: Home Assistant with a Zigbee USB radio (I use this one)

Installation

Use the regular "add device" flow in your smart home controller app (Alexa, Wink, Smartthings, etc.) If you're using Home Assistant, check the instructions here.

The device will appear as a binary switch. Better yet: it reports its status to the controller if someone toggles it manually using the front button.

Battery Life

The unit runs off of two (user replaceable) AA batteries.

My most frequently switched one (the bathroom) was the first to deplete its batteries after 7 months of use.

Downsides

There are two areas for improvement I hope to see addressed in a future version:

  • The device looks a bit bulky and unnatural compared to a regular switch
  • The on/off mechanism is noisy (can be heard in other rooms)