As promised a few days back, here’s the post which I wanted to write since quite some time.
While browsing on AliExpress several months back for some timer-based lights, I stumbled upon some interesting wifi-enabled switches which allows you to control your lights and any other electrical devices differently. On top of being able to control them from anywhere through the internet, you can easily create schedules to switch them on / off, set repeated timers and even use them through remote controls.
This also means that you don’t need to get off your sofa to switch a light on or off. No need to run to switch off your oven when you feel the burning smell. Seriously, you can do more than that.
That sounded really exciting and I started to look for similar switches on the net. One brand which was constantly popping up in search results was SONOFF. There was a good set of positive feedback around the brand commercialized by a Shenzhen based company named ITEAD.
Range of products
Their official web site gives a very good overview of the different type of devices they sell, ranging from the basic wifi switch up to temperature and humidity sensors or even a bridge device allowing you to register remote control patterns so that the device is able to “mimic” them and make them controllable through internet.
Always connected to your wifi router, each of these products communicate constantly to an Amazon cloud server to provide an update of their states and also, to receive instructions to switch on / off according to your planned schedules or whenever you use the dedicated app to switch them. These devices also get firmware updates and installation is done through a single button.
On the basic Sonoff switch and on the light touch switches, there’s a led light which provides feedback on the connectivity state of the device. The light touch switches also have additional led lights corresponding to each light connected. At night, you only have to follow the light… to your switch 🙂
Although you can purchase them through eBay, I prefer going through AliExpress since Sonoff have their official store. Also, watch out for frequent promotional offers. For indicative purposes:
- Basic Switch – $7 ~ Rs 240
You can install this switch before or after absolutely any other switch or appliance to control electricity flow.
- 3 Gang Touch (UK) – $30 ~ Rs 1, 000
Used to replace any existing typical light switches we have in our homes in Mauritius. Each gang controls 1 light.
- Remote control (433 Mhz) – $6 – Rs 200
You can program a remote control for up to 4 different lights
And yes, if you are planning to buy the touch switch to replace your existing light switch, go for the UK version one. It perfectly suits the existing base you have at home.
A step towards making your home intelligent
I have already purchased and installed several of their 3-gang light switches and Sonoff Basic devices, all configured to work over the internet and through remote controls. Working flawlessly for the past months, I’m pretty much satisfied with this concept which easily makes your home more intelligent through
- Automatic switching of lights at specific times and days
- Triggering other lights / switches automatically when a specific light is switched on or off
- Use of sensors to trigger events (Yet to experiment on my side)
A quick guide to install the switches
Depending on what you have purchased, installation will vary but generally, the devices are quite easy to install. For instance, a socket is just plug and play and you should be able to configure it without getting your hands dirty. For other switches, generally, you will need:
- Being able to identify colors in wires
- Basic electrical knowledge
- An Android / iOS mobile
- A wifi internet access and password
- Finally, some simple tools (screw driver, knife and a hammer in case things do now work correctly)
For example, here’s a shot of a normal 3 gang by a Sonoff 3 gang touch (UK version);
And here’s a Sonoff Basic placed just before a 3 gang switch. So, I’m able to control electricity input to the switch and any physical switch in the “on” position will be switched on / off through a single Sonoff Basic device:
The EWeLink mobile app
Freely available on Android and iOS, the app allows you to register your devices and hence control them from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection. You can also share your devices to anyone as long as they have a EWeLink account.
The screenshots below will give you a better idea of what to expect.
Other ways of controlling the devices
Google Home and Alexa are 2 additional ways you can easily switch your lights but I can’t test yet.
It is too bad that Siri can’t do that yet natively but it can be achieved using the IFTTT and iOS Shortcut app as per screenshots below
Thanks to Jason who shared a tutorial showing the steps above. Now, it is even more fun.
Just imagine saying
“Siri, switch on the front lights”….
You can replace Siri with Google or Alexa but remember, I’m nearly an Apple fan boy now…
Update 31 July 2020
Yesterday, Sonoff posted on Facebook that it is now possible to get Siri working with Sonoff devices via eWelink. And guess what? I tried immediately and it is wonderful! No more IFTTT or any other hacks.
What happens if they unplug their server one day?
I did ask myself this question too…
As mentioned earlier, each of the Sonoff devices are connected to an Amazon cloud server. So, what if the server is pulled down or the Sonoff company stops providing this service? Well, your devices will still work through their own switches and also through their remotes.
Now, if you are a geek, this will definitely make things more exciting… No need to wait for the server to go down. You can take control of the devices by flashing it and also, doing simple api requests. This opens endless possibilities of doing things…
And what happens if you don’t have electricity?
Huh. You can’t switch on lights without electricity dude!
Before ending this post, it is worth mentioning that there are several other brands doing the same thing or even more. It is your money. You do whatever you want. The choice is yours. As for future plans, I’m very tempted to purchase the bridging device and also the colored led strip lights. And if ever I get bored for some days, I might try to control the devices directly without going through the AWS server.
So, keep tuned to this blog for more updates.
Hi, thank you for that very useful article, before I purchase online, my electrician said that it will not work in my house as I need a return neutral line from my lamp to my switch! Is he right? Or will it work in any house/setup?
Not exact. You can connect the neutral from the smart switch to any neutral line running across your house along with the live wire.