Putting in a switch for an overhead fan, switching an outlet, or converting a two-way switch to a three-way switch can be a nightmare if you have to fish new wire through old walls and floors. With wallpapered walls and textured ceilings, it can be impossible. Until recently, the only way around the problem was to buy a clunky battery-powered transmitter/receiver.
An entirely different type of switch is available: It converts the energy of a human finger pushing a switch into a radio signal strong enough to be picked up by a receiver in a light fixture or outlet up to 150 ft. away. Only 1/2 in. thick, the switch can be mounted on walls or woodwork or even glued to glass. The receivers come in two different types—one that’s hidden inside the light box or outlet and one that plugs into the outlet.
Although the range is reduced by walls and ceilings, one switch can control an unlimited number of receivers, and one receiver can respond to up to 30 switches (30-way switch, anyone?). To install the receiver, open the light or outlet and wire the receiver between the power source and the light. Then push the “Learn“ button on the receiver and click the switch so the receiver recognizes the signal. (Or buy a plug-in–type receiver.) Plastic electrical boxes work best—metal boxes can interfere with the signal. Install the receiver and try the switch a few times before you attach it to the wall to make sure it’s within range.
The switches are available in either the square European style shown here or the traditional rocker style. The switch and receiver are available separately or as sets. To buy one, check electrical suppliers or do an online search for “wireless, batteryless switches.”
Turn off the power to the light fixture or outlet before installing the receiver.