Smart home on the cheap – Sonoff Basic Review

These smart switches aren’t new, but I’ve recently kitted my house out with a few of them and think that others would benefit from this post.

What is the Sonoff Basic? It’s a wireless smart switch, much like the ones that plug into the mains however these are a lot cheaper at the cost of a little more effort to implement. Here in the UK these can be had for less than £5, maybe even less than £4 if you shop about or bulk buy.

One of the great things about the Sonoff Basic is that it’s compatible with the Amazon Echo (Alexa) and Google Home services. For less than £5 and 10 minutes of your time, you can be controlling your lamp from your phone or by calling out “Alexa turn off the lamp”.

Here we can see inside of the item – I’m no expert with these but I believe the Neutral is almost straight through from one end to the other and the Live is switched with a solenoid. A crimp is screwed in at each end to hold the cable in place.

You might wonder what you’d do with a three core cable – where does the Earth go? A few solutions have been posted online for consideration that range from not running an earth at all on something like an extension cable that unearthed devices will be connected to or some people have cut the casing of the Sonoff inside and run the earth straight through.

I’ve only used mines with lamps that only use a two core cable. I actually prepared some in advance by attaching two core flex and a socket to the input end then simply removing the socket from a lamp and attaching the cable to the output end of the Sonoff.

For those that worry about their network connection going down and having no ability to control the device, there is a manual on/off button on the device next to the RoHS Compliance logo. If you previously had a lamp with a toggle switch, this makes a great alternative. In theory you can make any lamp a “Smart Lamp” cheaply… or any device that demands less than a 10A load. (For higher loads, there are options available – don’t connect your tumble dryer or three bar heater through one of these!)

The app used to set up the app is called eWeLink, it’s available on both the iOS App Store and Google Play Store. It’s basic but does the job well. If your smartphone is connected via a 5GHz network you will need to temporarily change it to 2.4GHz (I posted about it here…) but it’s a minor inconvenience in my opinion.

Once the switches show in the app they are easily managed no matter where you are, providing you have an internet connection. Once they are showing here, they are easily added to the Alexa and Google Home services – the Alexa does require the eWeLink skill.

What if you don’t have an internet connection? The software provides a scheduling feature. Not a lot really to say about this but you can set multiple on and off times for specific days that you choose. We use this primarily and override using the Amazon Echo if we are up earlier or later.

For each smart switch you can also set some specific settings as shown above. They’ll automatically download and install firmware though my experience with them so far has been pretty solid. If you don’t like the green LED on the device this can be disabled and also if you have a preference on the power-on state you can set this too.

Overall I think that these are outstanding value for money, reliable and discreet enough. If you have a family member who doesn’t want to use them and prefers the manual operation this can be retained using the button or power on state. They aren’t as easy as a simple plug-and-play effort but if you can wire a plug these take less than 10 minutes to set up each and look like a much neater and discreet implementation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *