How to Decide Between a Smartswitch and a Timer for Your Smarthome

I have 29 light switches in my home. 29. I counted it twice just to be sure. That's just ridiculous. If I was to go ahead and blindly upgrade them all to smart switches, I would end up spending somewhere around US$1,500 on switches. Fifteen-HUNDRED dollars. That, too, is just ridiculous. 

Lutron Caseta Wireless Dimmer Switch

So where do I draw the line? How do I decide which switches will become 'the chosen ones'? The deciding factor for me came down to answering a simple question: how long will a light remain on? 

What does that mean? Well, for example, my hallway light is on probably 4-8 hours a day. Not everyday but almost everyday. It's the main light for the first floor of my home so it gets used constantly. That light (and its switches) are a perfect candidate for an upgrade to the Lutron Caseta Wireless Dimmer switch (Amazon - $56.51). Since it's on so many hours a day, it has the greatest potential for being left on accidentally, so I can use my homes auto-away feature to turn it off.

I can also tie it into my front door sensor so that it can turn on automatically for us when we arrive after sunset. Lastly, I can place it on a schedule to make it seem like someone is home when we are on vacation. Each of these reasons on their own would be a perfectly good use of home automation—the fact that I use this light for all three makes it an even better choice for the upgrade investment.

Which light would not be a wise investment for home automation? The light in my utility closet. I think it only gets turned on for 30 minutes twice a year during our bi-annual HVAC maintenance. We use it so infrequently, I often forget we have a light in that closet. Paying $50 to upgrade that switch would not make sense financially; it's just not worth it for me. Not only would it pretty much always remain off, it would add one more device to my home automation app "Lights" section, which is already pretty full as it is.

My "Lights" section in my Wink App

Now, I'm not just going to leave that switch alone, am I? Of course not! I live in a 'smart' home. I'm not going to be happy seeing a lonely dumb switch in my home, plus, think of the way the other switches will make fun of it when no one is around.

So what's the happy medium? I found it to be the Lutron Maestro eco-timer switch (Amazon - $36.75), as shown below. These can be purchased for about half the price of a smart switch (sometimes even less than that) and it fits the bill perfectly. I can easily program this switch to stay on from 5 - 60 minutes (in 5 minute increments) and am fully confident that the light will go off when the time runs out, thus keeping in-line with my energy savings principle.

The switch I chose even gives you a nice warning flash (it literally flashes the light) 1 minute before the light goes out, in case you need more time. Its the perfect semi-smart solution to my quest of never leaving a light on accidentally.

Lutron Maestro eco-timer switch

And do you want to know where this type of switch has come in even more handy? Our bedroom closets. You wouldn't believe the number of times we have rushed out of the house in the morning and left that light on. So I slapped in a few of these switches, set them for 20 minutes and never have to worry about them being left on again.

In my quest to make my home smarter, I quickly realized that I simply just can't afford to make every single thing in my home smart. As it turns out, semi-smart is sometimes a smarter solution, especially financially.