Review: Lutron's Caseta Wireless Lighting System

Lighting control has been one of the pillars of home automation for years, and it’s really no surprise considering electricity has like 99.9 percent market penetration in the U.S.
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Lighting control has been one of the pillars of home automation for years, and it’s really no surprise considering electricity has like 99.9 percent market penetration in the U.S. And regardless of the automation system you prefer– Control4, RTI, Crestron, URC, Savant, ELAN, etc.–there’s a lighting control solution to serve both the needs of your business and your clients.

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Lutron’s Smart Bridge Pro is a wireless bridge that connects Lutron’s Caséta Wireless dimmers, Pico remote controls, Serena and Sivoia QS Triathlon remote-controlled shades, and third-party devices to a new Lutron App for iOS and Android devices. Unfortunately, most lighting control systems are still pretty expensive, and at $150-200 per device, even a modest-sized home can quickly crest into a five-figure quote making many people stick with the electrician’s $1.95 switch. This is especially true when trying to convince someone to invest in a lighting control system for the first time.

It’s not too surprising that Lutron, the company that literally invented the dimmer, would “reinvent” a less expensive, modern, app-based lighting control solution. Caséta translates to “little house,” and with its ability to control up to 50 devices it could be the perfect automation starter for small to medium-sized homes with lower budgets.

There are two different Caséta hubs, the Smart Bridge and the Smart Bridge Pro, but as integrators the Pro model is definitely the preferred choice. First, it is available exclusively through our channel. Second, the pro model integrates with additional Lutron shade solutions such as Triathlon and Sivoia QS wireless. Third, the Pro version integrates with third-party security (currently Elk Products and Alarm.com) and automation systems (Control4, RTI, ELAN, BitWise, B&O, Savant, URC, and others).

I received a Smart Bridge Pro along with five Caséta dimmers that I used to update my custom installation showroom’s Lutron RadioRA dollhouse, a demo system dating back about 14 years. The dimmers can be ordered alone or in a package that includes a singlegang screwless wallplate and a Pico battery-powered remote control. Picos can serve multiple roles and are necessary when controlling any multi-pole dimmer or switch locations. It’s important to remember that every device–the Bridge, Pico, dimmer, switch, lamp control module, and shades–counts toward the system’s maximum of 50.

Caséta dimmers and switches only require a twowire connection (no neutral), making them a breeze to install and compatible with nearly any wiring situation. The dimmers can handle LEDs, CFLs, halogen, and incandescent loads. You can also adjust the high-end and low-end trim levels of lights to optimize performance and to ensure a smooth dimming range without any buzzing or flickering.

One potential concern is the dimmers are only rated to 600-watts, meaning you might need to drop back to lower wattage bulbs in rooms with a lot of lights.

Caséta switches handle loads up to 5 amps and include a minimum load cap for switching LED, CFL, and ELV loads. The plug-in lamp dimmer module can be configured as a switch for nondimmable loads and features two outlets able to control two lamps at once (though adjusted together, not independently).

The Smart Bridge Pro connects via Ethernet cable to the home’s network and uses Lutron’s Clear Connect RF technology to communicate with Caséta devices in a “conservatively rated” 30- foot bubble.

All set-up and programming is performed via Lutron’s iOS or Android control app. Once installed, the app prompts you to create an account and then reaches out to locate the Smart Bridge over the local network. Once discovered, it prompts you to press a button on the back of the Bridge to complete the link-up. No special adjustments, settings, or subscriptions are required for remote home access.

The app’s advanced setting section gives options for setting a static IP address, enabling Telnet support (necessary for automation control), and displays integration IDs for every Caséta device.

With the Bridge in “add devices” mode, supported Caséta devices are displayed and then activated by pressing a button on the new device and naming it. As it is app-based, walking around a home and activating devices is a straightforward, fast, and simple process.

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Embedded with Lutron’s Clear Connect wireless technology, Lutron’s Smart Bridge Pro plugs directly into a home’s Wi-Fi router and sends wireless RF communication signals to Caséta Wireless dimmers and Lutron shades. Scenes can be created once lights and shades have been added, and can be triggered manually by the user or automatically based on time of day or before/after sunrise/sunset. Adding or editing a scene merely requires selecting which lights/shades you want to be included and then setting the levels.

Picos can be assigned to control any number of devices from one to all. Any devices assigned then respond to the full on and off buttons on that Pico. Pressing and holding the middle button on a Pico for 10 seconds stores a “favorite” light and shade level in memory, allowing a homeowner to easily create and recall a specific “scene” at the press of a button. The Pico is the only keypad-type control for Caséta, which might seem a bit limiting to anyone that has lived with a light control system before.

The system can also integrate with a variety of Honeywell’s WiFi thermostats. After creating an account at Honeywell and entering the user name and password into the Lutron app, the system immediately pulls in the thermostat’s info, showing current temp as well as heat and cool set points. You can also enable or disable any programmed schedules. At CES, Lutron announced Nest integration as well.

Adding Contro4 integration was a breeze. I just installed the Caséta drivers, associated the Lutron integration IDs, and then programmed them as I would any Control4 device. They appeared in my Control4 GUIs along with light level feedback. Setting up events like “lights on” when the alarm disarms or when a motion sensor is tripped or turning off when a movie begins playing is all simple.

Caséta takes the best parts of lighting control and brings them to a more affordable price, opening up installs to a broader range of clientele. And with a limit of 50 devices and no keypad options there is still a clear and logical step-up path for your larger lighting control projects.

888.588.7661
casetawireless.com

Kudos
Incredibly simple installation with very fast and easy activation and scene programming; easily integrates with many 3rd party control system

Concerns
Keypad limited to Pico; dimmers only rated to 600-watts

Product Specs
► System supports up to 50 devices
► 600-watt dimmer controls dimmable LED, CFL, incandescent and halogen loads (complete list of compatible bulbs available at Lutron.com)
► Free iOS and Android control apps provide local and remote control
► Integrates with third-party security and automation control systems along with a variety of Honeywell Wi-Fi and Nest thermostats
► Pico runs up to 10-years on battery
► Compatible with Lutron Serena and Triathlon battery-powered shades and select styles of Sivoia QS Wireless shades

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