TechnologyTell

TechnologyTell Review: Lutron Caseta Dimmers, Smart Bridge

Sections: Internet of Things, Lighting control, Remote control, Reviews, Smart Home

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Wireless LED bulbs are currently a big hit with consumers, drawing much attention with energy efficiency and app connectivity. The ‘smart’ home is definitely the next frontier when it comes to developing new and (hopefully) useful technology.

But upgrading a bulb isn’t the only way to gain remotely-operated lights. Lutron happens to have a couple of options which are equally effective (and in some ways better) in their own way.

Installation & Performance

The Lutron Caseta Wireless Plug-In Dimmer is a simple wall adapter with light switch controls on the front. Since the box has outlets on either side, you gain an additional plug for the whole wall socket. Not bad. Keep in mind that both outlets on the plug-in dimmer are simultaneously controlled. Due to the position of the plug-in dimmer’s prongs, the device remains low enough to keep the outlet above it open and clear. As long as it’s placed on the bottom, that is.

Lutron Caseta wireless dimmer in-wall plug-in smart bridge

Definitely matches well with white-painted walls.

I guess one could connect it up at the top, which would use up both wall sockets. Pretty unnecessary, especially if you want an open spot free for any non-lamp electronic. Double-especially if you need the grounding plug, which the Caseta plug-in dimmer does not provide.

The whole device seats firmly and doesn’t shift, even when you press the dimmer’s off button at the bottom. Buttons respond well, requiring just a light press to activate.

Setup, including pairing the remote, is super simple. Once complete, you’re free to move the Caseta plug-in dimmer wherever you wish. The remote mirrors the buttons found on the face of the plug-in device – on, off, and levels in between – but with an additional one to save a favorite setting. These remote buttons, too, work well. So far the effective range is well over 15 meters. Since it has wireless operation, you don’t need to concern with any line-of-sight.

Lutron Caseta wireless dimmer smart bridge

Plug-in & smart bridge (shown) are small and tuck away out of sight.

I like how the back of the remote has a removable mount. It can be mounted temporarily with the attached tape (and if it gets used up, any 3M tape will do), or permanently with a pair of screws through the eye holes. You can place the remote anywhere you’d want the convenience of a switch. And if you need to bring it with you, the remote just slides right off.

When it comes to best-use, I’d say the Lutron Caseta plug-in dimmer is ideal for any lamp whose outlet is not connected to a wall switch. Or a convenient wall switch, whether or not the dimming function is critical. Or maybe a power strip. If you’ve experienced this hassle before, then you know exactly what I mean.

The remote is essentially the switch (especially if it’s mounted), since the outlet may not always be in reach for the on-board button controls (e.g. behind a couch or entertainment system).

Lutron Caseta wireless dimmer plug-in wall

Compact to leave enough space for all plugs.

Equally useful, yet different, is the Lutron Caseta Wireless In-Wall Dimmer. Instead of controlling lights at the socket level, this device replaces your standard wall flipper/dimmer switch.

Unlike the plug-in dimmer, the in-wall dimmer does not have shaded buttons for light/dark, but it does provide a series of seven LEDs on the plate to indicate brightness level. It’s too bad the remotes don’t also share this feature!

The in-wall dimmer has a trio of stranded wires (two black and one green, for ground) for installation with the included wiring nuts. If you’re totally new to this, the included instructions completely empower you to do it yourself. The process is pretty standard for installing a light switch. Just remember to shut the power off from the breakers first.

Lutron Caseta wireless dimmer smart bridge router

Smart bridge alongside router.

If you have an older house as I do (1950s), the box for the Caseta wireless in-wall dimmer may end up as a snug fit due to the width. I had to chip away some sheetrock in order to align it correctly. It looks great once wired up and screwed in, and I appreciate the included wall plate that hides the screws and gives the switch a fresh clean look.

The included documentation with each of the Lutron Caseta products is quite good. But if you want the comprehensive installation guide, which covers practically every scenario with images, it’s available at the Caseta Wireless website.

The step-by-step is clear and easy. Some modifications of interest would be 3-way installation (in-wall), setting either dimmer devices to act as switch-only (can safely control non-lamp/-dimming loads), or unpairing existing remotes.

Lutron App for Caseta Wireless

Although the Lutron Caseta wireless in-wall and plug-in dimmers are fantastic on their own with the included remotes, you can expand on the functionality with the Lutron Caseta Wireless Smart Bridge.

Lutron Caseta wireless dimmer remote

Equally tiny and surface mountable.

The smart bridge installs just as easy as the power cord to the wall and the ethernet cable to your home router. Once it’s powered on, install the Lutron app and follow the instructions to connect all existing Caseta wireless products. It’s very simple.

Individual remotes will have to be re-added via the app in order for them to work as before. Yes, even if you choose to control only the lights from the app, ignoring the remotes.

I have to say that I really like this app, and it’s one of the best I’ve used of it’s kind to date. The layout is uncomplicated, yet quick and powerful. The step-by-step instructions for adding lights/shades and creating/editing scenes are few and clear.

You can easily rename/delete lights/scenes/shades and change the associated icons to match. And activating anything requires just a tap or two.

Lutron Caseta wireless dimmer app

The app is the best part.

Best of all, the Lutron app with the Caseta wireless smart bridge is fast. Once the app has launched and connected to the smart bridge, there is no additional wait to wirelessly control devices. And there is no in-app lag or funky (i.e. irritating) delays with buttons, sliders, or menus. I won’t name any names, but some other apps out there feel even sloppier than normal by comparison. The app, smart bridge, and dimmers just work.

In terms of depth of options, there really isn’t any. At least not yet – who knows what future updates have in store. But ease of use and reliability are more important as far as I’m concerned, and I think the design team behind the app and hardware understand that.

The Lutron app with the smart bridge are minimally intrusive to one’s normal habits while providing seamless control for connected devices. Even if you’re away from home, since it works equally well on 3G/4G.

Verdict

I’m very pleased with how well the Lutron Caseta Wireless Plug-In Dimmer and Wireless In-Wall Dimmer work individually and in concert with the Wireless Smart Bridge. The hardware is simple, easy to install, and performs admirably. There isn’t much more one could ask for (unless it’s more and advanced features). Although these products are absolutely fantastic to use, I think the real star is the Lutron app for Caseta Wireless.

Hardware is hardware, and dimmer switches and plug-in adapters have been around for years. The addition of a wireless component is a relatively new thing – not a very complicated one at that, considering how long the technology has seen use across a wide variety of electronics. The way the Lutron app smoothly connects and operates various Caseta products caters to users who want minimal fuss and maximum excellence.

The plug-in and in-wall dimmers are a great alternative to wireless LED bulbs. You get the choice of controlling non-wireless lamps at either the socket or the switch level. By turning off the dimming function, standard devices can be safely operated, too. The added benefit of these Caseta products is being able to activate multiple light sources for the price of one. If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to introduce quality wireless control to the home, Lutron should definitely be at the top of the list.

 

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