How Does a Wireless Light Switch Work?

Since the advent of electric lighting, the placement of light switches has been an important consideration. The traditional light switch is connected to your light fixtures, and electrical system, via wires. A wireless light switch functions in the same way except it uses radio frequency (RF) signals to turn lights on and off.

The switch has a built-in transmitter. A corresponding receiver is installed in the light fitting or wired somewhere along the circuit. Pressing the switch causes an RF signal to be sent between the transmitter and receiver. The receiver itself acts as a switch. Turn it off and the circuit is broken; power will not reach the light fitting. When turned on, the flow of power is restored and the light goes on, while many devices also function as dimmers.

What Powers the Wireless Switch?

Many wall-mounted wireless switches for lights are battery powered. But once the battery drains, the switch will not work. Self-powered wireless switches are available that don’t need batteries. They’re wirelessly linked to a relay in an electrical box in the ceiling. The device remains powered as long as it’s within 100 feet of this receiver/relay component.

Smart switches can be connected via Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, Zigbee, or Bluetooth depending on the type you install. More products are including smartphone control, so you can operate lights in your home using a smartphone app.

Is It Difficult to Install a Wireless Light Switch?

There’s no need to break walls to upgrade to one. You can add a receiver to your existing light switch, depending on the model. Some receivers install behind the switch panel, while others plug into a power outlet. But it’s generally easy to install a wireless light switch; it just requires installing the receiver and switch element.

To install the receiver, identify the three wires, each which has an exposed end. A wireless antenna is included too. While this antenna looks like a wire, doesn’t actually have an exposed end to attach to the circuit.

To proceed with installation:

  1. Turn off the power at the circuit breaker.
  2. Unscrew the light fitting/switch.
  3. Disconnect/remove the existing light fixture.
  4. Attach the new fixture’s ground wire to the incoming ground wire.
  5. Splice the neutral wires together and cover with a wire nut.
  6. Splice the module’s black wire with the wireless module’s red wire; cover with a wire nut.
  7. Attach the light fixture and mount the wireless light switch.
  8. Turn on the circuit breaker and test the light.

Mounting the switch itself is easy. Just find a convenient location, use a level to place the fitting, and screw it in. The main consideration is range, but your light should work fine if the receiver is within the rated distance of the transmitter.

Where Does a Wireless Light Switch Work Best?

Wireless switches are convenient anywhere you need to control a light fixture. You might want to place a lamp where it’s out of reach of an outlet, for example. If you’re remodeling your home, wireless switches avoid having to run new wiring and tear down drywall. You can avoid extra work and potential damage if you have concrete, brick, or plaster walls; those with tiled wall benefit as well. A Wi-Fi or other wireless model is also suited for a log home, where wiring would require a great deal of drilling and routing work.

Contact Black Hills Inc. for Electrical Services

When you need wiring or other electrical work, Black Hills Inc. Home Services is the licensed, bonded electrical contractor in Olympia to trust. We’ve been serving the region since 1993 and can meet all your family’s electrical needs. Our electricians are highly trained to provide any type of electrical service. If you need assistance installing a wireless light switch or require house rewiring, a panel upgrade, or electric generator, call 888-402-3514 today!