HomeKit Weekly is a series focused on smart home accessories, automation tips and tricks, and everything to do with Apple’s smart home framework. 

In our fifth installment of HomeKit Weekly, we’re going to explore how to use HomeKit-enabled hardware buttons to make using smart lights familiar for guests and family. 9to5Mac has also teamed up with FIBARO to offer a HomeKit bundle giveaway so enter now for a chance to receive free HomeKit gear including The Button.

Deploying Siri- and iPhone-controlled smart home accessories is great if you’re comfortable with using voice and apps to control the experience, but smart homes can be totally foreign to guests and family members if traditional controls like wall switches aren’t functional.

In the case a lot of HomeKit lights, there is often a need to leave the light source powered on whether it’s a lamp or a ceiling fixture. The connected bulb then receives the signal to set brightness between 0% (or off) and 100%. Flipping the light switch off will turn the bulb off, but also turn off any “smart” features until the light switch is flipped back on.

While there are alternative smart light options on the market that use dimmable bulbs and replacement light switches to avoid this problem, it can be cheaper to deploy buttons or switches that also work with HomeKit.

If you use Hue lights and already have a HomeKit compatible bridge from Philips, both the Hue Dimmer Switch and Hue Tap Switch are good options for wall switch alternatives. You still need to keep the source light switch flipped on (unless you do some wiring work behind the wall plate), but mounting a Dimmer or Tap Switch can give both visitors and yourself a traditional on/off wall switch in addition to voice and app control.

These can be mounted with included adhesive in-place of wall switches or even in places where wall switches previously couldn’t be located. If a light switch was poorly positioned when your home was designed, remote wall switches like these can remedy that.

Philips lets you program Hue switches from their iOS app which, limits you to Hue light control, but you can also opt to program Hue switches in Apple’s Home app to assign control of any HomeKit lights regardless of the brand.

Apple’s Home app doesn’t yet offer a way to assign basic state toggles for buttons so you’ll need to specify what each button does. For example, one button for on, one button for off, and two more buttons for other variations. In the future, Apple’s Home app could support toggling states for accessories with each button so you could toggle up to four different lights on and off.

Hue Dimmer has a more traditional look and can even be removed from the wall plate magnetically for remote control if needed. Tap Switch has a more gadgety appeal that’s geared more toward assigning scenes to buttons.

Wall switches aren’t always intuitive for controlling desk lamps and light strips, however, so conveniently located buttons can be more beneficial. Fibaro’s The Button is a new HomeKit option with a tactile click that lets you program up to three actions to various click combinations.

For example, you can assign one click to turn your desk lamp on, two clicks to turn on both the desk lamp and light strips, and a long click to turn off both sets of lights. Buttons can be especially useful for controlling groups of accessories and setting scenes like Movie Night since there is no built-in assumption that they control a specific accessory and they can be located in clever spots like under a table.

Stay tuned for the next installment of HomeKit Weekly next Wednesday, and catch up on the first four entries below:

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About the Author

Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news, hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour podcast, and created SpaceExplored.com.