Review: Elgato Eve Light Switch
Elgato is one of the more prolific HomeKit accessory makers we've covered, with a diverse lineup of accessories ranging from weather sensors to outlets, so it's no surprise that the company has continued to expand its HomeKit lineup in unique new directions with the recent debut of Eve Light Switch, a Bluetooth-based HomeKit in-wall switch for controlling lighting or any other fixtures and appliances that are controlled via a standard wall switch. Although Lutron's Caséta Wireless System was the first to offer HomeKit-compatible in-wall dimmers, it's worth noting that Elgato's new Light Switch represents the first completely standalone HomeKit light switch solution — it connects directly to HomeKit via Bluetooth and no additional hub or bridge is required.
In addition to the switch and cover plate, the Elgato Eve Light Switch package includes the necessary screws and wire nuts for connecting it into your existing switch receptacle and an installation guide to get you started. While the instructions are straightforward, you’ll need to be comfortable working with electrical fixtures in order to get it installed — but it mostly just requires that you’re willing to turn off the power at your fuse or breaker panel and then pull out a screwdriver to remove the existing switch and replace it with the Eve Light Switch. The instructions are clear enough and the installation shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes even if it’s not something you’ve done before, but if you’re experienced with such things it’s not much different than swapping in a normal light switch.
There is one big caveat with installing the Eve Light Switch, however: it requires that you have a third “neutral” wire running into the switch box. Like many “smart” switches we’ve looked at, this third wire is required to supply power to the switch via an alternate path when the connected light is turned off. Unfortunately, many older homes and apartments won’t have neutral wires running into all of your light switch boxes as they’re not technically required for light switches. We’d recommend checking the light switch box where you plan to install Eve Light Switch before making a purchase, as if it lacks a neutral wire it’s going to be a non-starter. (A useful tip: in most homes, a light switch that is located above a power outlet will likely have a neutral wire running through the box, since AC outlets do in fact require the neutral wire. But we’d still recommend checking just to make sure.)
Without getting into too many technical details, it’s worth noting that the use of a neutral wire does allow Elgato Eve Switch to work with a wider variety of lighting solutions, such as Compact Fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, without any problems, but that’s a small consolation if you don’t have the neutral wires available. By comparison, we were impressed that Lutron’s Caséta Wireless Dimmers don’t require the third neutral wire, but the tradeoff is much more limited support for CFL and other ballast-based lighting solutions. Lutron’s dimmers are designed solely for use in lighting applications, whereas Elgato’s Eve Light Switch can be used to control a switched power outlet or ceiling fan. Of course, it’s also worth keeping in mind that Eve Light Switch is not a dimmer — Elgato suggests that you could pair it with a Philips Hue system for dimming support, although that seems somewhat redundant to us. Since Hue lights can already be controlled directly via HomeKit, it would have the slight advantage of allowing you to control your Hue lights from a wall switch without losing the ability to remotely control them when they’re switched off.
Once the Elgato Eve Light Switch is properly installed, you’ll be able to manually control your lights right away without any additional configuration. It works as a capacitive light switch right out of the box — you should see a green LED illuminate behind the center of the switch as soon as you restore power to the circuit, and a quick tap will toggle the connected light on. The process of setting it up for HomeKit works like any other HomeKit accessory; you can start from the iOS 10 Home app or Elgato’s own Eve app to go through the HomeKit pairing process, and Elgato has helpfully placed the HomeKit pairing code on the back of the instruction manual and on the plastic snap plate that sits behind the faceplate. Once paired with HomeKit, you can choose to designate the switch as controlling a fan, a light, or a generic switch, which primarily affects how it participates in Siri commands such as “Turn off all the lights.” You can also assign a name and room to it for Siri use and grouping in HomeKit apps.
While Eve Light Switch can be controlled from Apple Home app (or any other third-party HomeKit-compatible app), Elgato’s Eve app provides the additional feature of allowing you to log when the switch has been turned on or off. In a manner similar to the open and closed logging for Elgato’s Eve Door & Window Sensor. Like Elgato’s other sensors, this data is stored for a certain period of time in the Light Switch itself, and downloaded to the Elgato Eve app whenever you open it, so there’s no need to actually use the Elgato Eve app to control the switch — if you’re interested in keeping track of this data, you can just leave the Eve app on your iPhone and open it on a semi-regular basis to sync it up.
It’s also worth noting that like Elgato’s Eve Energy, Eve Light Switch’s reliance on Bluetooth is a double-edged sword; you’ll avoid crowding your Wi-Fi network and dealing with the extra setup requirement, but on the flip side you’ll need an Apple TV to be within Bluetooth LE range in order to control the Light Switch remotely. That said, Bluetooth LE has a much longer range than those who are used to Bluetooth headphones would expect — theoretically you should be good for up to 300 feet, although walls and other obstacles can limit that somewhat. This may be a concern if you’ve got a medium-to-large home and you’re planning on putting the Eve Light Switch on the other end of the house from your Apple TV, but we’ve never had any problems with Bluetooth range in the house where we’ve deployed Elgato’s various devices.
Elgato differentiates Eve Light Switch from its only HomeKit-compatible competitor, Lutron’s Caséta Wireless System, by providing a relatively inexpensive standalone solution, although the cost factor ultimately depends on the scale of what you’re trying to do. If you’re looking to install only two or three light switches, then at $50 a pop, Eve Light Switch will get you up and running with a minimal investment — a little over half the price of an equivalent Caséta Wireless configuration. However, Elgato’s comes with a few caveats compared to Lutron’s solution — you’re getting a switch and not a dimmer, your home has to have the necessary neutral wires in place where you want to install the switch, and Eve Light Switch also isn’t designed to handle three-way-switch configurations (i.e., where a set of lights is controlled by more than one switch). While it’s a subjective comparison, Eve Light Switch does offer a cleaner aesthetic than Lutron’s dimmers; although we have to mention that we’re not really fans of Elgato’s choice to put the “Eve” logo on the face plate. If you’re really concerned about that, you can swap it out for your own face plate. While we’re not convinced of the value of Eve Light Switch for a whole home lighting solution, Elgato’s done a great job here of providing a cost-effective solution for those who are just getting started with HomeKit.