Caséta Wireless Kit with Smart Bridge REVIEW
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For many years now I’ve been working to upgrade my home to a smart home. For those of you who have attempted this feat, you know that migrating a ‘dumb’ home to a smart one can be tricky and also expensive. So, I’ve been adding products one by one. My first venture into smart technology was with Philips Hue and the Hue Bulbs. The technology was still new at that point and had a few kinks, but the Hue bulbs worked. Fast forward a couple of years and we find Apple announcing HomeKit, a software framework that allows users to connect and communicate with smart devices. I thought this was a great innovation because it meant that all my smart devices could be working as one through my iPhone. So, I began upgrading to HomeKit enabled devices. Lutron, a company known for the invention of the modern dimmer switch, partnered with Apple to bring some of the first HomeKit enabled devices to market. Just this week, we installed two of the Lutron Caséta products in our home — the Smart Lamp Dimmer Control and the In-Wall Light Dimmer.
Installation of both the dimmer switch and lamp timer were very easy. Starting with the lamp kit — the most complicated part of it is getting it out of the plastic packaging. Keep in mind, this kit comes with the lamp dimmer, remote, and the Smart Bridge, which you need for HomeKit integration. The lamp dimmer is essentially a box that looks like the Caséta Dimmer Switch. It has the same basic controls and all you have to do is plug it into the wall (or power strip). Keep in mind that it has a little weight to it and should be put in a stable area.
Once you plug it in, you simply plug your lamp (or lamps) into the device and then you can control it from the switch. Like the Dimmer Switch, you have the ability to turn the lamp on or off and adjust the brightness by turning it up and down. The remote that comes with the Lamp Dimmer is not pre-programmed, but you can pair it to the Lamp Dimmer once you have the Lutron app setup.
The Dimmer Switch installation is a bit more involved as it’s an ‘in-wall’ switch. With that in mind, you have to be prepared to do a little light electrical work. Our house is a bit on the older side (built in the late 1960s) so we had an electrician handle the install. That said, it’s nothing that you can’t handle on your own. We were just being cautious because of the age of the house and wiring. To start, you select the light switch you want to replace. Keep in mind that you will be completely removing the switch, but not the box in the wall. You want to remove the three wires that lead to the switch — the ground and the live wires. These wires will be used to hook up the Caséta Dimmer Switch to your home’s power.
After the original switch is replaced, you simply attach the existing wires to the new dimmer switch and then attach its body to the wall outlet. That’s about it. There is no programming needed to just use the switch as a switch. You can turn the lights on or off and turn them brighter or dimmer. There are seven small LED lights on the side of the controls that indicate the level of brightness of the switch.
One thing that you need to be cautious of is the type of bulbs you are using. While most bulbs will be fine, there are some restrictions on what should be used. Lutron provides a compatibility tool on their website so that you make sure you have the right type of light bulb.
Now, here comes the fun part — connecting to HomeKit. This involves installing the Smart Bridge onto your home network. If you have used Philips Hue lights before, this is a similar process. The bridge is a WiFi hub that connects all the Caséta Wireless products to your network. This is again a very simple process. You plug the Smart Bridge into a power source and then plug the provided ethernet cable into your wireless router. At this point, you turn to your iPhone and use the Lutron app to complete the setup process. The connection process can take a few minutes depending on the speed of your network. You will be asked to enter the HomeKit code for the Smart Bridge, which can be found on the bottom of the bridge device.
You may also have to pair your remote to devices. You will end up connecting each Lutron device to the bridge separately and the remote will be one of them. Add your main devices first and then the remotes. This way you can tell the remote which device it controls. We had actually paired the remote to the Wall Dimmer before adding it to the Smart Bridge and found that the remote didn’t have to be paired again since it was already connected to a device. The lamp remote hadn’t been paired, but when it was added to the Smart Bridge, I was able to assign it to the lamp dimmer with just a couple of taps in the app. The app is very easy to navigate and not confusing at all.
The installation process of the two devices and the Smart Bridge took maybe about an hour. This included the planning and HomeKit setup time that was needed. I can’t tell you what kind of relief it is to have our previously ‘dumb’ dining room light now controlled by a smart switch. It’s so nice to ask Siri to, “Turn on the Dining Room,” and have the lights snap on brightly. As I mentioned before, I’ve been a long-term user of Philips Hue lights. I wanted to point that out as the user experience between the Lutron products and the Hue products are somewhat different. The Hue lights have been wonderful, but I’ve found that the Lutron switches provide a very smooth user experience. They have worked flawlessly and I’ve not had any issues with them dropping off the network (that’s an issue I had with some iDevices switches at one point). The lights in our dining room come on a bit faster (about 1 second) than the Hue lights that are in the same area. In my testing, I found that Siri seemed to respond and send the signal to the Philips Hue bridge and the Caséta Smart Bridge in about the same amount of time. It was the response between the bridge and the lights it was controlling that seems to be faster.
Summary As a user and fanatic of smart home devices, I am now an enthusiastic user of the Lutron Caséta Wireless devices. Once I had the initial two devices installed, I couldn’t wait to add more to my home. It’s been a very smooth transition to these devices and the technology has been very solid. Again, it’s not necessarily the most budget-friendly device to purchase for your home, but you could spend $140 to acquire a Dimmer Switch and Smart Bridge, or you could spend $200 for the Philips Hue Starter Kit (3 color/white bulbs and Hue Bridge). If you are updating the hardware in your home to ‘smart’ devices, I would recommend adding Lutron Caséta Wireless accessories to your list.
For more information, visit casetawireless.com
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Originally published at macsources.com on February 16, 2017.