If we were writing the definitive guidebook for smart-home technology integration, the probability is high that we would add flexibility to the guide’s checklist of desirable attributes for these dwellings. In what could be viewed as a nod to that as-yet-unpublished work, electronics maker Lutron has elevated flexibility to the forefront with recent updates to its Caséta Wireless app and Smart Bridge. This home-automation framework links Lutron’s wireless product lines—including Caséta Wireless light switches, dimmers, and remote controls plus Serena wireless window shades—to mobile apps running on iOS, Apple Watch, and Android devices.
But wait, there’s much more: This mantra of flexibility the Smart Bridge brings is manifested not only through smartphone in-app gestures and automated scenes for Lutron products, but also through very smooth integrations with the popular Works with Nest and Works with Apple HomeKit programs. In addition, many leading smart thermostats—including those from Carrier, ecobee, Honeywell, Lutron, as well as Nest—can be easily integrated into the app.
We have long been advocates of the standalone Lutron Caséta Wireless in-wall switches, dimmers, and diminutive Pico remotes and have deployed many of them in and around our smart-home labs. These wireless devices have proven to be very easy to install in either initial or retrofit applications, and most importantly, function reliably for the many LED can lights we have throughout the home. In addition to providing smooth dimming of our LED lights, these devices are engineered for a long wireless range. For example, in our testing we have found the range of the Pico remotes to be excellent when paired with in-wall switches—we have them clipped to the visors in our cars to enable one-touch entry pathway lighting, and they work without fail when the car is within 100 feet or so of the garage and house.
With the addition of the Smart Bridge—an unassuming small white box that requires a hard-wired Ethernet connection to your smart-home network—none of those positive traits and analog click-ability of the standalone Caséta Wireless environment go away. In fact, every Caséta or Serena component becomes digitally controllable from the mobile app, though you can elect to turn off your phone or unplug the Smart Bridge entirely and continue to use them in the usual analog method by pressing their built-in buttons. That’s nice flexibility.
The smartphone app is cleanly designed and includes a Home Page with Lights & Shades, Scenes, and Thermostats sections. Adding supported Lutron devices to the Lights & Shades section is straightforward, and simplifies the setup process for configuring these devices over that used in standalone mode. We began by adding all of our wall-mounted Lutron dimmer switches to the app, which is easily accomplished by pressing the bottom paddle of the switch for 10 seconds or so then clicking through the setup process. Once all of the dimmers are added, everything else can be done from the app. Want to associate a given Pico remote with a bank of wall switches controlling overhead LED lights? Instead of visiting the respective rooms and pressing button sequences on the wall dimmer and remote to program, all of that can be done from your armchair through the app.
After you have added one or more Lutron devices, Scenes can then be configured. Scenes are point-and-click smart-home automation actions for Lutron light switches and window shades. These can be triggered manually through icon clicks in the app or via a flexible automated schedule configured by day-of-week-, time-, or sunrise/sunset-driven parameters. For example, one could configure an Arrival scene for turning on specific lights at a specific level of intensity; that scene can then be triggered by clicking an icon in the app, through the built-in geofencing features of the Lutron app and its location awareness of a smartphone, or on a schedule.
If you have any of the supported smart thermostats already in your home, these can be easily added directly to the Thermostats section through the Lutron app by authorizing access to the respective vendor’s online management tools. Once that process is complete, the thermostat will appear in the Lutron app and can be controlled directly from there if desired. In the case of our home’s trio of Nest thermostats, controls for temperature, Home/Away, and cooling/heating mode became visible.
Some of the more useful and flexible automations we have seen are enabled through the Works with Nest program. Effective with the release of version 3.3 of the Lutron app mated with version 2 of the Smart Bridge, homes with Nest thermostats and Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors become the benefactors of deeper integrations. For example, by taking advantage of the Nest Home/Away Assist feature, Lutron devices can be seamlessly linked to control lights or shades based on the comings and goings of the home’s residents. For those homeowners with Nest thermostats concerned about maximizing energy conservation efforts when they are away, this integration only sweetens the deal.
Similarly, through the Works with Nest Emergency feature, homes fitted with one or more Nest Protects can have their lights automatically switched on and shades opened when a smoke or CO event is detected. There is one caveat, here, however, in that the more-complex Lutron Scenes cannot be used with the Works with Nest program—we would like to see this capability added in a future release of the app.
Through its certification with the Works with Apple HomeKit program, all of the Lutron devices in the home can become controllable from other iOS HomeKit apps or through Siri voice commands. For example, we have the iDevices Switch installed on our network, which is a HomeKit-compatible smart-plug device. After we added the Lutron Smart Bridge to our network, the Lutron devices became immediately visible and controllable through the iDevices Connect app. Furthermore, any HomeKit-compatible smart thermostat can be integrated and controlled through the Lutron app.
There are other available integrations here, including lighting control through Amazon Alexa, automation recipes for the If This Then That (IFTTT) environment, and more. All of these additional integrations can only add to the high degree of flexibility the Lutron Smart Bridge and Caséta Wireless app can bring to the increasingly-digitized house.