Skip to main content

How to add your existing lights and fans to your HomeKit-enabled home

One of the biggest barriers to entry for the connected home life is cost: It's not cheap to replace your current crop of home hardware (lights, fans, locks, garage door openers, coffee makers, plugs, etc.) and replace them with comparatively expensive HomeKit-enabled hardware.

When I first started getting into connected home products, I bought a bunch of Philips Hue bulbs and outfitted my various lamps and overhead lights. Unfortunately, that meant having to tell my partner and my guests that they couldn't use the wall switch to control the lights — they had to use the Philips Hue remote I'd purchased or pull out their phone. That's an acceptable compromise for lamps, but I couldn't convince anyone that it was cooler to have to pull out a phone every time than just flip a switch on the wall (they were right).

It wasn't until I moved into a house with fan-light combo fixtures in each of the main living spaces that I finally snapped out of my Philips Hue fog and looked for another solution … mostly out of necessity. The fan-light combo fixtures in my home are only compatible with E12 candelabra bulbs, which meant I couldn't use my A19 Philips Hue bulbs.

I started looking elsewhere for a solution and came across several wireless in-wall switches. So the good news is you don't have to spring for all-new HomeKit-enabled bulbs and fans to upgrade your home with HomeKit — you can add smarts to your existing setup with the help of these HomeKit-enabled in-wall dimmer and light switches!

Lutron Caséta Wireless Kit

I've had Lutron's Caséta Wireless in-wall dimmers in my home for quite some time now and they're wonderful! You simply uninstall your current light switch and wire up the Caséta switch in its place. The installation is simple and the kit comes with instructions.

Note: If you're uncomfortable working with electrical components you might call in an electrician for installation. Electrical wiring can be incredibly dangerous.

Caséta Wireless products are compatible with HomeKit thanks to a bridge device (much like Philips Hue). You connect the bridge to your home network and it acts as the go-between for communicating your commands to the in-wall dimmers, switches, etc.

My Caséta setup started with a couple in-wall dimmers, but it's grown since then. I can thank TechCrunch's Matthew Panzarino for my latest Caséta upgrade. He asked my colleague Serenity Caldwell about HomeKit-enabled switches for fans and she brought me into the conversation.

See more

Coincidentally, I'd just been thinking about how to solve this exact problem in my own home. Some of my fan-light combo fixtures are wired separately (the fan and the light fixture have their own wall switches), so I wanted to be able to control them separately.

While it's not yet possible to control fan speed with HomeKit-enabled switches, it is possible to use a HomeKit-enabled switch to turn a fan on and off. Lutron's Caséta Wireless line includes a non-dimming in-wall switch. The photo shows my two-gang wall box with a non-dimming switch on the left for controlling my fan and a dimming switch on the right for controlling my light fixture.

If you spring for Lutron's Caséta Wireless line, I suggest starting with a kit. You'll need the Lutron Smart Bridge to make everything work and their kits come with one.

See at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Elgato Eve Light Switch

My colleague Serenity threw a different wiring problem at me the other day: Serenity has an area in her home with five (5!) switches. She wanted to get them all wired up for HomeKit, but wasn't sure if it'd be possible. I was happy to be the bearer of good news!

Presumably there was already a 5-gang device box in her wall (the plastic or metal box in the wall that holds electrical outlets and wall switches), so she just needed to buy five HomeKit-enabled switches and a compatible wallplate. Most HomeKit-enabled switches are compatible with modern, rectangular wallplates, so I sent her a link to a Lutron wall plate that'd work perfectly for her setup.

The Elgato Eve Light Switch is one of the easiest light switches to wire up and one of the least expensive HomeKit-enabled switches on the market. It also doesn't require a bridge for operation, so it's doubly price conscious. It'd be a perfect choice for Serenity's five switches.

Notably, the Elgato Eve Light Switch isn't a dimmer, so if you want dimming capabilities you'll need to turn to Lutron's Caséta line. That said, I love this light switch's capacitive switch — you don't have to press down or switch a button to operate your light, you just tap the rectangle with your finger.

iDevices Wall Switch

I have to give iDevices a mention here because the company makes my absolute favorite HomeKit-enabled plug.

iDevices took one of my favorite features of its plug — the multicolor LED strip — and put it on the front of the iDevices Wall Switch. This is a brilliant feature for bathrooms and bedrooms. Need some light as you make your way to the bathroom at night? You can keep from waking up the whole house by switching on the LED strip from your phone before you ever get out of bed to brave the perilous hallways.

It — like the Elgato Eve Switch — doesn't have dimming capabilities and also doesn't require a bridge for control. The switch isn't capacitive but instead features the modern, relatively common rocker design. Notably, iDevices has a dimmer switch in the works — the company says it's coming soon!

See at iDevices

Inspired?

Are you ready to rip out all those boring light switches and replace them with HomeKit-enabled varieties? Gonna stick with the connected-bulb technique? I want to hear your thoughts! Share them in the comments below or over on Twitter.

Mikah Sargent is Senior Editor at Mobile Nations. When he's not bothering his chihuahuas, Mikah spends entirely too much time and money on HomeKit products. You can follow him on Twitter at @mikahsargent if you're so inclined.

6 Comments
  • Home Depot & Amazon both sell candelabra to Medium and intermediate to medium base convertors. Using medium base LED bulbs, means you don't have to worry about over driving the fixture and you can use whatever bulbs you want, (Within reason) I have done this to some degree in my house but you are right about the cost - OUCH - you need to be really wealthy, or really want/need those light automated if. you are going to replace those $1 light switches with ones that cost $40+. I'm waiting until they hit the under $20 mark to really go nuts.
  • My fingers are crossed for that $20 mark, too! Here's hoping we'll soon have fully HomeKit-enabled houses without having to break the bank.
  • Just did the same thing as you a few weeks ago actually. Moved in to a new house 2 weeks ago and replaced all of my Phillips Hue bulbs with Lutron products, got the hub, 10 light switches, 1 electronic light switch and 3 lamp dimmers. Kept some Of my Hue Lights for the office, mostly because I enjoy being able to change the colour in there, thinking of getting nanoleaf maybe for the Office as well. Got some pico audio remotes for my Sonos speakers and just this weekend ordered 3 Serena shades for 3 large windows in the living room. All I really need now is Google home to support Lutron and I'm all set!
  • I am entirely jealous of your Serena shades! I keep eyeballing. Yes, Google Home needs to get with it in terms of connected home support.
  • I actually had to call Lutron this weekend to ask them a question about the shades and in passing I mentioned that google home support would be nice and he mentioned that they were working on it so that's nice!
  • With our new home last year I went almost all in on HomeKit. Here's what we have/use and what I have learned. Ecobee 3 X 2 with a total of 4 remote sensors.
    - I love our Ecobee 3's and largely I don't touch them. For me, the remote sensors are terrific especially for sleep time. As I said, I don't really adjust the temperature often, but when I do it is through the Ecobee app. The reason for this is if I use Siri, or the Home app it changes the temperature to "(insert temp) and Holding". It effectively stops my schedule. I've discovered this to be a little annoying thus I don't used Siri/Home app often for temperature changes. Serena Shades
    - So far we have installed 10 Serena shades (battery powered). Pro tip: They have frequent sales (25% off), so wait for those to appear to take advantage. In one year I still haven't changed the batteries and they have worked flawlessly. Flawlessly. They have opened and closed according to schedule 100% of the time. Siri commands for the shades have become much better over the last few months and making changes in the Home app is easy/reliable. Triathlon Shades
    - We have three Windows in a great room that are quite high up, so we installed low voltage wiring (during construction) and used triathlon shades (Lutron). These have been just as easy and reliable as the Serena Shades. If I was doing it all over again, for a minimal cost I would have put low voltage wiring to more windows during construction. Lutron Switches
    - We have a number of Lutron Switches/Pico remotes throughout the house. Like the Serena shades above (all Lutron products). They have been 100% reliable on any set schedule through the Lutron App. What I wish I knew with regards to buying in to Caseta is there are two different types of Smart Bridge (normal end user/Pro version). The pro version enables a little more integration with other home automation/security systems. Phillips Hue bulbs/light strip
    - While I was initially excited about Hue bulbs I don't think I would do it again. The color options are great, but I just don't find I use them often enough. I'd rather just get dimmable LED bulbs and use Lutron switches. I have a light strip installed above the cabinets in the kitchen that turn on automatically at sunset, and the bulbs on the porch/lanai. Hunter Fans (Signal)
    - I have five of these installed. Pro Tip: Order directly from Hunter. I placed an order one morning. Within an hour got a call from them asking if I really wanted five (apparently that was an large order) and two days later they arrived. The instructions for "physically" installing these fans are brilliant and easy. Unfortunately, their app and setup instructions are really terrible/wrong. I actually turned to a few Amazon reviews which really helped. After four fans though I had the fifth installed and operating within 10 minutes. As I said, the Hunter App is terrible and the supplied instructions actually recommended the wrong app. It was only useful for turning off the annoying beeps during set-up. The short version. I can't recommend the Lutron Smart Bridge and related products highly enough. The shades are expensive, but beautiful and easy to install.