What is it?
It’s a light switch … “boring!” But wait, there’s more. It’s a light switch without wires, and sometimes, without batteries … “ooh aaah!”
Wireless light switches have been around for about a decade and are now cost competitive with wired switches – especially in retrofit applications. In fact, “The Old House” has a quick YouTube video that shows how to install one.
How does it work?
Wireless switches use a receiver, located at the light fixture, that receives a low-power signal from a transmitter located in the switch. It works a lot like Bluetooth on your smartphone.
Most wireless switches are powered by a watch battery that can last up to ten years. However, some wireless switches go a step further and use energy-harvesting to power the switch instead of a battery. A small amount of energy is created to power the device as you push the rocker switch. You can identify these switches because they are slightly harder to press than a normal light switch. Kinetic wrist watches use a similar energy-harvesting technology.
What are the most appropriate applications?
If there isn’t a wired light switch where you need it to be, there is a very good chance that a wireless light switch is a cost-competitive option. They are often used in retrofit projects and new construction.
What are the savings?
Light switches don’t really use energy, so there isn’t any to save. Better (and easier) control of lighting can save energy, but a wireless switch would have to be combined with occupancy sensors or some other sort of automatic control to be eligible for most rebate programs. Installation is cheap, so it’s possible to save on the total cost of a project. However, the switches are more expensive, so it may be a wash.
What are the non-energy benefits?
A light switch can be moved anywhere in a room, which makes control easier.
What is the cost?
$150 gets you started with a single fixture DIY kit. Costs go up with project complexity and system capability.
What is the status/availability of the technology?
This technology is readily available.