Lutron Caseta Lighting Summary – First – a short version: Great gear, works extremely well, configures pretty easily. Reasonably priced (but not bargain basement)! The App is well thought out, and works well! There are a few more features that could be added, but that’s the point behind Apps, the makers are frequently updating them, and improving their capabilities.
Lutron Pricing vs. The Competition:
One thing you will have to reckon with, is the price of Lutron Caseta devices, be they in wall dimmers, plug-in dimmers, basic smart switches and more. Lutron’s devices are typically well less than their high end lines, but they are more expensive than the garden variety in wall smart dimmers, etc. that you can buy from brands like GE, Aeon Labs, Belkin, Enerwave, Leviton, etc.
Consider, a standard Lutron in wall dimmer typically sells online at Amazon or at Best Buy for $55, or $60 with a pico remote included (but no stand for the remote – that’s a few bucks extra). By comparison, GE, Enerwave, etc., are mostly in the $35-$45 range for a Z-wave dimmer, so you are likely paying as little as $10 extra, as much as $20 extra for Lutron Caseta. Still, let’s say $15 average.
If you are putting in 25 smart light dimmers in your house, (that’s a lot for most folks – especially since not everything needs to be connected). For example: how about closet lights in unused bedrooms, or the coat closet in the hallway? Based on having 25 dimmers – the difference between Lutron Caseta, and various brands of Z-wave switches would set you back up to an additional $250-$500 across your whole home. That’s real money, but in the grand scheme of things, with smart light bulbs typically costing upward of $30 a piece (a lot more for color), to me it seems extra money well spent.
Then there’s also the Smart Bridge. Technically that sells for $79 online, etc. But you really don’t need to pay anywhere near that much. Lutron offers a number of different starter kits, all of which mostly reduce the price of the Smart Bridge greatly. Consider the least expensive one. It’s available on both Amazon and BestBuy, so probably a thousand other places, for $99. You get the Smart Bridge, but you also get a standard in wall dimmer and pico remote, which I just pointed out sell together for $60. So in reality that $79 bridge could be considered no more than $40. Folks that’s nothing, relative to the amount you will spend over the next few years, making your home smarter and more connected.
It doesn’t hurt, either that Lutron is a well established market leader that seems on top of things, while (no offense intended) a lot of the competition are crowdsourced companies with only a couple of products. (Some of those companies have been very successful, some will not be.)
There are all kinds of advantages to Caseta – starting with that none of the others work directly with Siri, unless the hub you have chosen has HomeKit support, and so far, those are pretty rare. Whether those Z-wave switches work with Amazon’s personal assistant Alexa – that folks, also depends on which Z-Wave Hub you use.
So, I’m more than happy to let Lutron do it’s internal thing, since they are so good at working well with just about everyone important out there.
Overall, I am most impressed with Lutron’s lighting solution. I also realize there’s more than one school of thought, relating to the Caseta system itself being proprietary. You’ll have to decide if that’s important to you. It’s a little bit like thinking about whether you like Apple’s whole ecosystem or not, because it is proprietary. That is, both Apple, and Lutron have control as to what is allowed to work with their ecosystems. With Lutron, it’s the SmartBridge that let’s you interface with other protocols, be it Bluetooth, Z-Wave, etc. By comparison, there’s Android – an open system. Both have theoretical weaknesses and strengths. Apple, they say, somewhat stifles the ability of developers to break new ground, but at the same time, you get a tight eco-system with great interoperability, and it is truly superior in terms of security. With Android, you run across the issue of not everything works with every phone or tablet, as each company can add enhancements. That is mostly fine as long as you stick with the same brand of products. Switch from one Android phone to another’s brand, and some things you are used to may no longer work. Security is typically a mess because Android phone owners aren’t known for keeping up with the latest upgrades, which even if they try to, could take months, not days to get out there.
Personally, I’m pro-proprietary as long as common sense is supplied. That pretty much makes me an “Apple fan boy” as we can be derogatorily labeled. I certainly have no issues with the Lutron Caseta’s solution.
And that’s because Lutron is working overtime to make sure it integrates with other solutions, notably Alexa, SmartThings, Siri, Wink, and others. The DIY types that want to hack their own solutions, however, may well prefer to stick to more generic Z-Wave or ZigBee dimmers, which in theory, work with every Z-wave or Zigbee hub (which we should note, really isn’t true, as some of those devices have features that not all of those hubs support.
Items of Interest, not fully covered earlier
Here’s the strangest thing: I’ve installed a number of the Caseta in-wall dimmers. Each one has a button on top for on, one one the bottom for Off, and then two in the middle for raising, lowering the dimming level.
What isn’t there, is the ability to turn on the lights and have them return to the last dimming setting. If you don’t want full on, you have to push and hold the up dimmer switch until the light is as bright as you want it. I’m talking about working the physical switch, as you can certainly schedule the switch to turn on, say at 25% brightness, I do that now.
A comment on cosmetics – in the image above, I’m using a 3 switch wall plate, the one that previously was in that location, it is not Lutron, which makes plates without visible screws. Unfortunately, when the gear arrived, all of the wall plates were single ones. So I used those where I had only a single switch, and used existing plates for the rest. BTW their Platinum wall plates are gorgeous if they work in your decor.
Now here’s the strangeness: If you use a Pico remote with that switch, it has one more feature. It has a “ball” in between the up and down dimmers. With the Pico, pressing the ball returns one to the previous dimming settings. I cannot figure out why Lutron has that extra “ball” on the Pico, but not in the in-wall switch itself.
Speaking of dimming, when working with LED lights sometimes certain levels of brightness can cause the bulbs to flicker. Most manufacturers warn you of that. I have that problem in my house with my 3 pendant lights. They were originally halogen, but I had a suitable transformer put in, and switched to LED. With my last dumb dimmer switch I had 2-3 general brightness levels where the lights flickered. With the Lutron, it flickers in most settings other than full bright or close to it. Lutron does let you set a working range, but in my case, I can’t dim safely, more than 10-20%.
Now in fairness – and no insult intended to any nationality, the changes I made were over 5 years ago, and I was using inexpensive Chinese transformers, etc., as that was the only solution I could find. Since I have many other LED lights being controlled by Lutron dimmers, without any flicker problem at all, I attribute the problem to my DIY transformer solution, rather than Lutron. One of these days, I’ll find a new transformer and replace the current one. Still, that’s the kind of thing you want to be made aware of as a potential issue with Lutron, or any other wall dimmer, smart or stupid.
Lutron Caseta Standard or Pro? There are Pro versions of most of Lutron’s Caseta dimmers and switches. They typically cost only a few bucks more ($5 seems typical). The Pro versions are almost identical, but typical might be a regular Lutron dimmer being able to handle up to 150 watts (that’s 10 smart bulbs), while the Pro might handle 500 watts or more. Do you need the Pro? Perhaps you might want to consider them in special places. In our “Smart Home” we have two wall switches each controlling 15 LED or CFL combinations. The Pro versions have no problem with that, but with all lights on, the standard version doesn’t have enough wattage. But then how many places in your home do you have a switch with 10+ lights on it? In our installation we have both regular and pro versions installed of different switches, dimmers, and Pico remotes.
Pico Remote – In Wall – For a 3 Way
I mentioned this on the Lutron App page, when showing you how to configure a Pico Remote to an in-wall dimmer. More specifically Lutron’s solution let’s you use the Pico as an out of wall remote.
But Lutron also let’s you create a dual switch setup (oft called a 3 way) – for example at the top and bottom of the stairs, or at two different entrances to a room. Because the Pico remote is wireless, there are no issues with having to change wiring.
So, how to put a Pico remote in-wall? Easy, buy the adapter for a few bucks. I recently saw it for $6.97 on Amazon.
I have the pico in wall at the bottom of my staircase, and their standard in-wall dimmer at the top of the stairs. Works great, although more often than not I’m turning them on and off by schedule, or using Siri or Alexa.
This you might find interesting (or amusing?). At the top of the stairs I either touch the wall dimmer, or I use Siri because my phone is always on me. But on the landing the Echo, Dot and Amazon remote for Echo are out of range. At the bottom of the stairs, or by the kitchen (10 feet away) is my Amazon Dot, so I can use Alexa or Siri easily. ‘Nuff said!
On the other side of the living room, unless I really shout, the Alexa Dot is too far away, but Hey Siri! gets the job done no problem. In other words, I’m rather happy having both Alexa and Siri personally assisting me. Wow, remember the bad old days when you had to walk up to a light switch to turn a light off or on?
I could spend pages discussing other minor details, however, many will be mentioned below in the Pros and Cons, especially Cons. On many Cons -because they might be minor, or of interest to only a handful of people, there are often comments to clarify the importance.
The Bottom Line: Lutron Caseta Wireless Lighting with Smart Bridge
I have had my frustrations with straight Z-wave switches and dimmers (which of course, this Lutron gear is not). True most of the aggravation has happened when changing out one Z-Wave hub for another. (I still have two in-wall outlets, that refuse to recognize that I’m no longer using a Nexia Hub, but a SmartThings hub, and won’t interface. I also struggled “un-pairing” a couple other dimmers and switches. I don’t look forward to replacing the SmartThings hub for that reason.
On the other hand, I have my Lutron devices all talking to the world via their own Caseta Smart Bridge, so that when I do change out my Z-Wave hub for another one that’s compatible with Lutron, the transition should be pretty painless. Once the Smart Bridge is recognized, so will be all the Lutron Caseta devices that are configured for it. That’s keeping things simple.
Of course the trade-off is that if changing out hubs, you want one that they be compatible with Lutron’s gear…
Except! You don’t need a hub at all. The Lutron Smart Bridge inherently talks directly to your Wifi. Where hubs come into play is when you have devices you want to tie in, that aren’t directly Lutron compatible (remember many are, such as Google Nest) Those hubs – typically Z-Wave or Zigbee, can control the various compatible devices you interface with them. The Lutron Caseta is just one of those “devices.” But let’s say you don’t have a “Z” hub?
No problem. Consider our Smart Home – we have lots of smart lighting, most of which right now, is either Wifi or Bluetooth, neither requiring a hub. Or if one has some Zigbee solutions, such as Philips Hue lighting, Hue has its own bridge that is also Lutron friendly.
I can control my LIFX white and color smart bulbs, Philips Hue, and even my Osram/Sylvania Lightify products (again – they have a Zigbee type bridge), directly from their own apps, through my Wifi router, without having to have some “universal” Hub that can control almost everything.
I find it more elegant, rather to avoid Z-Wave type hubs at times because they don’t normally support every feature of the devices you hook up to them. That folks is the huge advantage of controlling devices via their own Apps, as I can do with Lutron. And I’m happy with limited control via Personal Assistants, relying on Apps primarily for setup type stuff (such as setting schedules), but relying on voice for normal day to day operation
Lot’s of pluses to using the Lutron Caseta, as I’ve discussed, a few things not so great, so let’s wrap things up with bullet lists of Pros and Cons:
Lutron Caseta Pros
- Easy to setup and configure
- Very good App, easy to learn
- App offers most capabilities you can think of
- Works with Personal Assistants: Siri and Alexa, Apple’s Today Widget, and Apple Watch
- Works with Sonos
- Works with several top selling Z-Wave Hubs
- Interfaces with Nest, Philips Hue and others
- Affordable: Definitely not high end pricing (found Lutron’s other two lines, Radio Ra2 and HomeWorks)
- Overall, attractive in-wall switches and dimmers – good ergonomics
- Devices can be organized into Scenes, Rooms and Zones, allowing for lots combinations
- Scenes can be controlled by Siri: “Siri, Set the After Dinner Scene” (In my case, that dims a number of lights)
- Can directly control some smart thermostats and shades
- Most popular devices (switches/dimmers, even thermostats, can be placed on the home screen, saving extra navigating, saving time
- Supports basic Geo-Fencing
- Reliable! (In several months, I have never once lost access to Lutron dimmers or switches or the Smart Bridge for that matter, as long as Wifi is working.)
- Good looking switches, etc. Nice wall plates (no visible screws), available in multiple colors
Lutron Caseta Cons (with commentary)
- Individual smart dimmers and switches are slightly more expensive than equivalent Z-wave devices
- In-wall dimmer doesn’t have a button to return to the previously dimmed setting (which their Pico remote does have)
- Strangely, Lutron does not support “timed dimming” allowing slowly dimming the attached dimmable lights, over 20 seconds or 5 minutes, or…but that seems to be the type of feature that could be added to future versions of the app
- Scheduling around sunrise and sunset limited to +/- 2 hours (first hour in 5 minute increments, 2nd hour in 15 minute ones) – that shouldn’t normally be an issue for the vast majority
- The Lutron Smart Bridge and switches are not using a “mesh” protocol (unlike Z-Wave). Mesh has each device repeating all signals, so the more devices the more robust the network. (Still, I have had no problems at all, with range.)
- Icon selection is rather limited. So if not voice controlling you may have many lights/switches using the same icons – need the text name to determine which is which (minor, very minor issue)
- Limited number of icons on home screen (of course), but you can scroll to the right if you have assigned more to the home screen than it can fit, true of lights/shades, scenes, thermostats, or you can tap to get the full list (on an iPhone 6 (not a plus) you can see 5 icons across in each section
- There are four Themes – looks for the App – the default is “clean” but none are impressive looking
- To create a Scene (10 icons available) to save, you can’t use Groups, or Rooms directly. You create a scene, set up individual devices the way you want them: i.e. set Side lights to on at 15%
- If you buy Lutron dimmers and switches without the Smart Bridge, or a Hub that is compatible (Wink, Insteon) that doesn’t need the Smart Bridge), you end up with expensive switches that are not smart
- When you open the app, takes about two seconds to initialize. If you (iPhone) switch to another app, and return, it may initialize again, rather than resuming on the screen you were on.
The very bottom line: When I started contacting Lutron for gear to review, I was really thinking that I was going to be working with “more of the same” – that is, a number of different Lutron switches and dimmers, that would mostly have the same strengths and weaknesses as the other ones I have, from the Wifi based WeMo’s to Z-Wave switches. Instead I encountered a well thought out system, that is about as bullet proof as any home automation gear in my house, and a lot more so than most. That is to say, working the Lutron system should prove a pleasure, as long as you meet one important criteria that relates to everyone’s Smart Home: Reliable (bulletproof) wifi.
The App is fine, well featured, easy setup, pretty intuitive as these things go – if you have set up a number of Apps on your iPhone, Android, etc., you shouldn’t break a sweat with using Lutron as an ordinary “end user.” You just don’t have to be a DIY type, so hire Best Buy’s Geek squad, or some other install company, put them to work and before you know it you’ll have all your main lighting switches, and other things under friendly app or voice control.
I am impressed, thus the Lutron system is only the second product we’ve reviewed to earn our top regular award, because – as the award states in this case, the Lutron Caseta Lighting system is: Beyond Awesome!
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