If you want to automate your home lighting, Lutron Casèta is definitely the way to go. For lighting, the system is simple- it’s comprised of a Smart Bridge, wireless in-wall switches, and smart plugs. The bridge is just a hub that relays information from the Lutron app to the Lutron devices in your home. The Smart Bridge is required to communicate wirelessly with the other Lutron devices. The other components are optional (obviously, you will need something for the smart bridge to control). You don’t have to set up the system all at once either. It’s expandable and can be done piece by piece. You can even automate your window shades by adding wireless, motorized shades if you want. The Smart Bridge can have up to 50 devices assigned to it. This includes all in-wall switches, Pico remotes, window shades, and thermostats.
Lutron Casèta is a reliable (but costly) home automation solution for lighting, featuring select integration with other smart home products. Switch installation, Smart Bridge setup, and Serena Shades installation are fairly simple, and this definitely can be installed as a do-it-yourself job. Documentation is easy to follow, and support is available and helpful if needed.
Lutron Casèta Smart Bridge
I own the Lutron Casèta Smart Bridge v2 . It’s compatible with Siri, but I don’t use Apple devices. My wife has an iPhone and she has used Siri once or twice to control the lights, and it worked great. The Smart Bridge also works with Google Assistant. You can issue natural commands such as “turn off the living room light”. Voice control in Android is still a little shaky at the moment. Google Assistant was working rather well, now it’s only working about 50% of the time. Otherwise, the Smart Bridge has performed flawlessly for me. Though I don’t own an Amazon Echo, Alexa voice commands are another way to voice-control your lights and generally receive good reviews from what I’ve read.
One downside to the Lutron Casèta Smart Bridge is that it has limited control of other devices. It’s not meant to be a replacement for SmartThings. It does integrate well with the Nest thermostat, which I use. You’ll need to have everything setup in Nest first, and then add your Nest thermostat through the Lutron app. From then on, you can control your thermostat from the Lutron app. Other smart home devices that will work with Lutron are products I don’t use: Sonos Play:1 and other smart thermostats (Honeywell Wi-Fi Thermostats (such as the Lyric Round), ecobee3 smart thermostat, and Carrier Wi-Fi thermostats (such as Carrier Cor).
Lutron allows other apps to control the lights too! It works well with my Logitech Harmony Home remote. This allows me to turn the lights off from my TV remote control. There’s a few seconds delay when using the Logitech to control the lights, and the lights don’t dim the same as using the Lutron app, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless. To do this, you’ll also need Logitech’s Harmony hub, which came with my remote.
Update 4/6/17. Lutron now allows you to automate your lights using SmartThings ! You’ll need both a SmartThings hub and Lutron hub for this to work. It works great for controlling lights individually or by room. You can also have Google Assistant control your lights through SmartThings!
Update 8/1/17. Scenes are now supported in Google Assistant!. You will have to de-authorize Lutron in the “Home control” section of Google Assistant settings. When you reauthorize it, you will be able to choose any of your scenes and add them to Google Assistant!
Lutron Casèta in-wall dimmers and switches
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The wall switches are where the magic really happens. You can get simple on/off switches, or dimmers. Most of the switches I have in my home are dimmers, because they were cheaper by a few bucks when I bought them on Amazon. Of course there are certain places where you won’t want a dimmer, but you may still want automated lighting, like porch lights. In this case you would use the Lutron on/off switch, which also work for ceiling fans as long the fan draws less than 5 amps of power. These aren’t your standard $1 toggle switches that you buy at Lowe’s or Home Depot. Be prepared for a $55-65 price tag per in-wall dimmer kit (for the P-PKG1W-WH ) or light switch (for the PD-5WS-DV-WH ). But these things are extremely reliable. I’ve had mine for a year and a half and have had no problems out of the switches. I consider this a one-time expense, with maybe an occasional repair sometime in the future, for the convenience of automation.
Once you begin replacing your light switches, you’ll find that lighting can have a profound effect on the way your home looks. Just dimming the lights can change the entire atmosphere in a room. It’s also a good way to save a little energy.
Come up with a plan
Before you start, you want to spend some time thinking about your needs and what you want to achieve. Do you need wireless lights at this location? Would a motion sensor light be a better fit for this area? Or can I get by with a normal “dumb” switch? Keep in mind that if you don’t want to mix the Lutron “decora” style with toggle switches (I didn’t like the mixed look at all), you can always replace your toggle switches with cheap decora style rocker switches for a more aesthetic look. Also take into consideration wireless in-wall dimmers vs. on/off switches vs. Pico remotes. This is a big expensive project. You don’t want to buy more than you need.
Replacing your standard wall switches with Lutron’s wireless switches is definitely a DIY project, but if you just don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself you’ll either need to find someone that can help or hire a licensed electrician. It may take a little longer to install the first switch while you figure out the wiring. Most of my switches were replaced in 5-10 minutes per switch, so let’s get to it!
You’ll want to find the breaker for the circuit you’re working on and kill the power. The easiest way to ensure you have turned off the right breaker is to turn on the light before you turn off the breaker. If the light goes off, you’ve turned off the correct breaker. If you have multiple switches behind a wallplate, make sure you do this for each switch. You may have multiple circuits wired into the same gang box. If you’re not sure if the circuit is dead, make sure you check for voltage with a multimeter . Next you’ll unwire the existing switch, paying close attention to how it’s currently wired in. Then you’ll wire up the new switch the same way. This is important if you have 2 or 3 switches on a single box, where the hot wire is jumped between them. The last thing you want is to mix up the wiring and have a single switch turn off all the lights wired into your triple gang box.
Watch the Lutron installation video for installing a single-pole switch .
3-way switches are a little different. The best thing to do here is to simply rewire your switches. Your 3-way switch should be wired up using a 3-wire cable plus a ground. In my home, the black wire is power, white is neutral, and red is used as a traveler (older homes may not use this convention). Unwire and remove one of the existing 3-way switches. Take your traveler wire (red in my case) and cap it off at both 3-way switches with wire nuts. Wire all the black wires together with a wire nut. You’ll replace this switch with a Pico remote. The Pico remote looks similar to the in-wall dimmer, except it has a small round button in the middle for presetting your preferred dimmer output. It will wirelessly communicate with the Lutron Smart Bridge the same as the in-wall dimmer. On the other end, you’ll install your in-wall dimmer. The in-wall dimmer will be wired up normally as if it weren’t a 3-way switch, because it isn’t anymore. Later on you’ll program the Pico remote to “act” as a 3-way switch, or if you never needed the 3-way switch anyway, you can program the Pico remote to control a totally separate light or many lights! I know my builder went a little overboard on 3-way switches!
If you are installing in a multi-gang box, you will need to remove the fins on the side or sides of the switches. You will end up with fins on the outside switches only. You can use a pair of needle-nose pliers to bend the tabs back and forth until they break. Keep in mind that you are removing part of the switch’s heatsink, and the switch will be de-rated depending on how many fins are removed. A 5 amp Lutron switch is only rated for 5A when both fins are attached. If you remove one, then it drops to 4 amps. Remove both and it drops to 3 amps. This won’t be a problem if you use CFL or LED bulbs because the wattages are so low.
The Casèta in-wall dimmers and switches come with what is basically a load resistor. If you use low-wattage CFLs or only have one or two LEDs on your circuit, you may not have enough load for the switches to work correctly. I had a few LED lights that would only power on once. As soon as I turned the switch off and tried to power up the lights again, it wouldn’t work. You’ll also see red flashing LED on the switch. For CFLs you will probably see flicker at lower levels of dimming. In both these cases, you will need to install the LUT-MLC. The instructions will tell you to mount this on the fixture side, but if you have enough room in the gang box, then that’s ok. As long as it’s there. Unlike the switches, you’ll need to access the neutral wire. One wire goes to power (black wire) on the load side of the switch, one wire goes to neutral (white wire).
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Watch the Lutron installation video for installing a 3-way switch .
It’s your system- make it what you want
The Pico remotes are versatile lighting tools. They’re small, battery-powered remotes that Lutron claims will last an exceptional 10 years before the batteries need to be replaced. There are various uses for these remotes. For instance, we use one wall-mounted Pico remote near our garage door to turn on multiple lights to create a “pathway” to our son’s room so that we can just take him up to bed when we arrive home late and he’s asleep. You don’t have to wall-mount your remotes though. If you want to keep one on the coffee table and tie your kitchen, dining room, and living rooms lights to a single remote for one-touch dimming, you can do that. We also use the Pico remote preset as a night light for our son. It’s set up to dim the lights low enough that he can sleep, but there’s enough light so he can make it to the bathroom if he needs to go. All we do is hit the round button after we put him to bed. You can also pair multiple Pico remotes to control a single in-wall dimmer.
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You can also tailor your Smart Bridge to suit your lighting needs. I have my Smart Bridge set up to turn my kids’ ceiling fans off after they leave for school, Monday through Friday, because they never remember to turn them off. These are just a few ideas, but the possibilities are really only limited by you!
The in-wall dimmers, of course, can be manually operated just like a normal light switch. If you have problems with your Smart Bridge, then these switches will still function to turn on and off lights and fans. You just won’t be able to wirelessly control them.
You also don’t have to worry about Lutron wireless wall switches interfering with or being interfered by Wifi, Bluetooth, Z-wave, ZigBee or any other wireless standard. They call their wireless technology Clear Connect, and it uses a relatively low frequency (434 MHz, not GHz) that ensures the signal will be transmitted, every time. In a 3000 sq. ft. home, I have never had an issue with a light not turning on or off wirelessly.
Lutron Casèta isn’t the only way to go
You probably won’t want automated lights everywhere, which is where the Lutron Maestro line comes in. These aren’t “smart” devices and they cannot wirelessly connect to or be controlled by the Casèta system. But they are quite useful. In areas where I know I’m going to need the light on when I walk in, windowless areas (closets, kitchen pantry, the laundry room, half-bath, etc.), we opted for motion sensing lights. We installed the Lutron Maestro motion sensor switch (MS-OPS2-WH) to take care of these areas. Just walk in, and bam, you have lights!
On top of that, we also installed Lutron Maestro dimmable motion sensor switches (MSCL-OP153MH-WH) in the kids’ rooms. They love the fact that they can dim their lights, and we don’t have to worry about them leaving their lights on. After a preset time with no motion (we set theirs to 5 minutes), the lights turn off. The motion sensors are very sensitive, and do a good job of distinguishing if they are still in their rooms. We operate their motion sensing switches as occupancy sensors, but you can also set these up as vacancy sensors.
Well, what’s the difference? Occupancy sensors will turn the light on when it senses motion, and turn the light off when no motion is sensed for a preset time. That’s great for knowing if a person is still in the room or not, but what if you know you won’t be moving around, like in the shower? This is where the vacancy sensor comes in. With the vacancy sensor you turn the light on manually, and it turns itself off after a preset time with no motion.
All of the Lutron wall switches, whether from the Casèta or Maestro line, will be the “decora” style switch. If you have regular toggle switches, you’ll of course need to buy new wallplates. If you buy the in-wall dimmer kits, they do come with Lutron’s Claro screwless wallplate. Be aware that these wallplates are very small. My builder decided to use jumbo-sized wallplates, and it took me a while to find wallplates that were the same size. Just something to consider.
Also understand that Lutron offers other “whole home” solutions, but these seem to be higher-end systems. Casèta is perfectly capable of running most people’s lighting from top to bottom. The advantage of Casèta is the Smart Bridge, and the ability to integrate with other smart devices.
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Lutron Casèta Smart Plugs
The Lutron Casèta Smart Plug allows you to turn any lamp into a dimmable lamp. The module is pretty simplistic…it plugs into a wall outlet, then you plug your lamps in. It supports 2 lamps, with an outlet on each side of the module. From there, you can adjust your lamps at the module, you can voice-control it (Siri and Alexa at the moment, requires Smart Bridge), or you can pair a Pico Remote with it. You can buy just the dimmer module for $55 on Amazon, or for $5 more, you can get the dimmer kit that includes the Pico remote.
The Smart Plug isn’t the most visually pleasing appliance to look at. It’s a “wall wart”. I think Lutron really missed an opportunity to provide a good-looking replacement outlet and possibly expand their smart home products into the realm of smart outlets. I know Lutron is a lighting company, but remember when Google used to be just a search engine?
Operationally, the lamp dimmer works exactly like the in-wall dimmer. You even program the dimmer range in the same manner. It can be used as a standalone product, with the Smart Bridge, or with the Pico remote without the Smart Bridge. If you want to pair the remote directly to the dimmer (no Smart Bridge), simply hold down the off button on the dimmer for 6 seconds. Then hold the off button on the remote for 6 seconds. If you decide later on that you do want to use it with the Smart Bridge, you will have to add both devices to the app and then set the Pico remote to control the lamp dimmer.
If you really want to add a nice touch to your home, Serena Shades can definitely help you do that. These are beautifully-made shades that you can setup with your Smart Bridge to work alongside your lights. They are wireless, battery-operated, and motorized.
We have a lot of windows in our home that let in plenty of daylight, which can keep you from enjoying television due to the glare. In late afternoon, the sun hits the windows on the wall where our television is mounted just right to where the sunlight is quite a nuisance. Serena Shades block it all out. They also keep the neighbor’s motion detection security lights from creeping into the bedroom late at night.
Serena Shades are available in many options that allow you to personalize your shades and obtain the look you want to match your home’s decor. The two main styles are roller or honeycomb shades. There are many different colors that should make it easy to match any room. The picture above is the honeycomb style shade, mounted inside the window frame with room darkening fabric. You can choose shades that filter light, or block it all out. You can decide whether you want to mount your shades inside the window frame, or outside of it. There’s also options for powering your shades. We opted for the battery-operated ones, but you can buy them to plug into a wall outlet too.
You can operate the shades automatically using the Smart Bridge, with a Pico Remote, or both. The shades use 6 D alkaline batteries to operate, and will last a year according to Lutron. Once installed, there is no need to remove the shades from the mount, as the batteries can be replaced by flipping down the head rail.
There are two mounts, one on either side of the shade. The head rail snaps into those mounts, which allows the rail to swivel downward. Installation takes about 10 minutes once you figure out how the head rail snaps in.
The shades aren’t loud by any means, but they’re not the whisper quiet motors that were advertised either. You will need to custom order Serena Shades through their website, unless you can find a Home Depot or Lowe’s that sells them.
To give you an idea of how they block out light, see the images in the slideshow below.
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Serena Shades are very expensive. You will pay anywhere from $400 to $600 per shade for the wireless, motorized shades.
Programming Casèta Devices
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Programming Maestro Devices
Maestro Motion Sensor Switch (MS-OPS2-WH)
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Maestro Motion Sensor Dimmer (MSCL-OP153MH-WH)
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Lutron Casèta App
The app is a little boring in terms of looks, but it’s extremely functional and does its job well. When you initially setup your Smart Bridge, you’ll connect it to your network and power it up. Next you’ll download the app, it’s available on both iOS and Android. It’ll search for your Smart Bridge, then prompt you to create an account. Once you’ve got all that setup, it will log you in and walk you through adding your devices. I have around 30 Casèta devices in my home and setting them all up took less than an hour. It’s a lot of repetition. So let’s dive into the app. All screenshots are from Android, but iOS should look very similar.
This is the first screen you’ll see when you log in, minus all the devices. Your screen will start to fill in as you add more devices. It’s broken down into 3 main categories, “Lights & Shades”, “Scenes”, and “Thermostats”. As you add devices, “Lights & Shades” will fill in. You can swipe horizontally to scroll through them and control them from this screen, or click “More” to get a more readable vertical list with larger icons. Any time you see a device that you added, simply tap on the icon in order to operate it. You’ll get a pop-up control with on and off buttons, and if appropriate, a slick slider to set your dimmer. You can fine tune your dimmer setting by tapping the up and down arrows.
You will need at least one device in “Lights & Shades” before you can set up a “Scene”. Scenes are powerful lighting controls that operate one or more lights at the same time. A scene can be used to set the mood for a romantic dinner, conveniently dim the lights for a movie, or simply turn off all your lights when you leave.
The below slideshow will walk you through the features of the rest of the app.
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Lutron products are the best on the market because they’re extremely reliable, but that reliability does come with higher prices than you’ll find on competing Z-wave products. I picked up the Lutron Smart Bridge v2 for $120 back in August 2015 on Amazon. It’s currently going for a mere $80 at the moment for Prime members, which is a steal for the level of reliability you get. Lutron also offers a starter pack that consists of the Smart Bridge, 2 wall dimmers, 2 Pico remotes, and 2 wallplates for $190. The in-wall dimmers haven’t really changed in price. For a combo pack that includes 1 in-wall dimmer and a Pico remote, you’ll pay $60. Generally the Pico remote will make up $5 of the cost of any cost, so for just the dimmers you’ll pay $55 each.
To give you an idea of the overall cost, we upgraded our entire home’s lighting using Lutron. For a home with 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, garage and outside lighting, kitchen, dining, office, and living room we spent $1,600 for the entire project. This includes the cost of: 10 Casèta in-wall dimmers (Pico remotes included) for lights, 8 Casèta on/off switches for outside lights and ceiling fans, 2 Smart Plugs for lamps, 4 Maestro motion sensor dimmers, 5 Maestro motion sensor switches, the Smart Bridge, and 11 rocker switches to match the Lutron switches.
Remember, you don’t have to replace every switch in your house if you don’t want to. You also don’t have to buy everything at once if you do want to renovate your entire home’s lighting. You can do it room by room. Also keep this in mind, your lighting project may actually help increase the resale value of your home and separate your home from the others in your area if you ever decide to sell it.
- Read more about the SmartThings ecosystem
- Read more about adding Lutron Casèta to Google Assistant
- Read more about automating your home with Tasker
- Read more about creating a SmartThings routine