The smart home market is an exploding category, filled with do-it-yourself WiFi-based products that allow you to remotely monitor and control your home’s lights, thermostat, security, locks, and more. I recently reviewed the Logitech Harmony Home Control system that’s designed to integrate these smart home products alongside your AV components in a single control platform. To complete my Harmony review, I requested a few compatible smart home products, including two of Lutron’s Caseta wireless lighting starter kits.
Lutron is certainly a familiar name in custom home automation circles, arguably the most recognizable name in lighting systems. The Caseta product line is aimed more at the DIY market, for people who want to add some modest lighting control to an existing home and control it wirelessly via remote or mobile device. Caseta products can be found at your local Home Depot or online via sites like Amazon. I requested two Caseta starter kits: the P-PKG1P-WH plug-in dimmer kit and the P-PKG1W-WH in-wall dimmer kit, both of which cost $59.95. To add network control of the Caseta products, you also need to buy the Lutron Smart Bridge at $119.95.
The plug-in dimmer kit is the fastest, easiest way to add wireless control of your home’s lamps. The kit includes a wall module with two plugs and Lutron’s tiny Pico remote, which measures just 1.25 by 2.5 inches and includes five buttons: on, off, brighter, darker, and favorite (the wall module itself has buttons for on, off, brighter, and darker). Just plug the module into a wall outlet, connect one or two lamps, and pair the remote with the wall module. That’s all it takes if all you want is to control the lamps with the Pico remote. The wall module and remote communicate using RF technology through walls and floors, and the range is listed at a conservative 30 feet. I was actually able to control the assigned lamp from anywhere in my home via the Pico remote.
If you connect two lamps to the same wall module, you can control both lamps simultaneously, but not independently. For that, you need another wall module. The remote’s Favorite button is preset to 50 percent lamp brightness, but you can easily change that to whatever brightness level you desire.
Next, I installed the in-wall dimmer kit, which is obviously a bit more labor-intensive because you have to remove your existing wall dimmer or switch and install the new model. This kit comes with the in-wall dimmer, the Pico remote, a Claro screw-less wallplate, and the necessary screws and wire connectors. If you’re replacing a basic single-pole lighting switch with three wires, you should have no trouble following Lutron’s setup instructions (the dimmer does not require a neutral wire). Unfortunately, I ran into some confusion trying to swap out my existing Control4 adaptive phase dimmer with the Lutron in-wall dimmer. The wires didn’t match up, and I chose…poorly, inadvertently frying the new Lutron dimmer. So, off to Home Depot I went to get another one. But hey, after learning the hard way which wires to use, the second install was a piece of cake…The lesson here is, if you are new to DIY lighting controls and you encounter an anomaly that leaves you uncertain how to proceed, hire a professional, or be prepared to pay for your mistake.
The in-wall dimmer will work with a three-way switch, too. Lutron provides separate instructions and video tutorials on its dedicated Caseta website for this type of installation: www.casetawireless.com/3way. Once the dimmer is installed, just pair the Pico remote with it, and you’re all set for in-home wireless control.
In my setup, I used a different Pico remote for each dimmer. You can pair a single Pico remote with multiple dimmers, but then it will control all lights simultaneously, not each one independently.
For independent and more advanced control options, we turn to the Lutron Smart Bridge, which is also quite easy to set up. Connect the Smart Bridge to your router via Ethernet, download the Lutron app for iOS or Android to your mobile device, make sure your mobile device is connected to the same network as the Smart Bridge, and follow a few simple steps to find and name each Caseta light and each Pico remote in the house.
The Lutron app is a model of simplicity. I can’t overstate how easy it was to set up each light and to create customized scenes. I created Goodnight (all lights off), Evening (all lights to 30 percent), and TV Watching (theater room light to 10 percent) in about one minute. You can set up scenes for manual or automatic control, based on time. The app provides instant visual feedback as to which lights are on and off.
Beyond the starter kits that I auditioned, Lutron offers a variety of Caseta elements that you can mix and match to build the system as your needs and budget allow. You can view the entire Caseta lineup here (http://www.casetawireless.com/Pages/Products.aspx). Some helpful accessories include additional Pico remotes (PJ2-WALL-WH), Claro wallplates in various configurations, a tabletop mount for the Pico remote (L-PED1-WH), and wallplate brackets (PICO-WBX-ADAPT) that let you turn the Pico remote into its own wall-mounted dimmer.
• The Caseta wireless system is very easy to set up, especially the plug-in dimmer.
• Add in the Smart Bridge and Lutron mobile app to monitor and control lights via your smartphone or tablet, even away from home. I experienced no connection/reliability issues between the Smart Bridge, the Caseta lights, and my mobile device.
• The Lutron app makes it easy to program manual and automatic lighting scenes.
• The Caseta dimmers work with LED, CFL, Halogen, and incandescent light bulbs.
• The Pico remote works over RF to control its assigned lights from up to 30 feet away.
• The Smart Bridge also works with Lutron’s wireless Serena shades (http://www.serenashades.com ), so you can control them from the mobile app and easily add them to your lighting scenes.
• The Smart Bridge also allows for third-party integration, with current support for Honeywell and Nest thermostats. Adding control of my Honeywell WiFi thermostat via the Lutron app was a breeze. The Lutron Caseta lighting system is also compatible with other control platforms, like Harmony, Wink, and Staples Connect.
• The list of supported third-party products is currently limited to the Nest and Honeywell thermostats, but I’m sure it will continue to grow.
• Some competing smart lighting products have the WiFi functionality built in and don’t require the addition of a bridge device.
Comparison & Competition
“WiFi-connected” light bulbs is now its own category at Home Depot; Philips Hue is probably the most recognizable competitor, while other options include GE Link, TCP, and Belkin WeMo. If you’re looking for a smart hub to control a variety of lighting and other smart automation products, options include Wink, Belkin WeMo, Staples Connect, SmartThings, Lowe Iris, and Insteon.
I’m very impressed the quality, reliability, and easy setup of the Lutron Caseta wireless lighting system. If you’re looking for a flexible DIY way to build up a whole-home lighting system as your needs and budget allows, the Caseta system certainly delivers the goods, and the addition of the Lutron Smart Bridge provides a nice foundation for a complete smart home solution, as more third-party partners are added. The system I reviewed–two Caseta starter kits and the Smart Bridge–carries a price tag of $239.85. There are certainly lower-priced alternatives in basic smart lighting control; but, if you want a simple, reliable system that works as advertised every time, I highly recommend you take a closer look at the Lutron Caseta/Smart Bridge combination.
• Check out our Remotes & System Control category page for similar reviews.
• Visit the Lutron Caseta website for mor eproduct information.
• Logitech Harmony Home Control System Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.