After years of trying to find the perfect light switch, and avoiding hubs at all cost, I recently gave in and purchased a Lutron Caseta Smart Lighting Dimmer Switch Starter Kit. While I had always known that Lutron’s Caseta line was hailed as being the fastest responding, most reliable lighting solution on the market, I was still holding out for a simpler device that would allow me to keep my precious router ports open. My journey led me to try switches from Insignia, Leviton & Eve Systems, each coming with their own trade-offs, ranging from slow response time and neutral wire requirements to being just plain un-reliable. Being fed up with these issues, I went and picked up the Caseta kit, and just a few moments after setting it up, I knew that I had finally found the best HomeKit lighting solution, even if does use a hub.
Unboxing and setting up the Lutron Caseta kit was easy, but different from the typical hub-less light switches that I am accustomed to. Inside the box is an in-wall dimmer switch, Claro style switch plate, wiring nuts and screws, a pico remote control and the hub. Wiring up the dimmer switch was simple and straight forward, thanks to its lack of dependance of a neutral wire, and can be accomplished in less than a half an hour. After wiring up the switch, it was time to set up the hub for the Caseta system, which consisted of plugging in the supplied micro-USB power supply, connecting the included network cable into a router, and then following the registration process within the Lutron Caseta app. The registration process did require making an account with Lutron, which I typically try to shy away from if possible, but it only required an email address and minor details. After registering, I was greeted with a prompt stating that a firmware update was required, which took around 10 minutes and unplugging the power supply once to complete. Next, the Caseta app will prompt users to add a device to their account, which was a simple process. After selecting to add a new device, and then selecting the device type, the system will be in pairing mode. At the switch itself, one must press and hold the off button for a total of 10 seconds, which will cause the status indicator lights on the switch to flash. Once paired, the Caseta app walked through a few screens on placing the switch within the home, which also allowed the opportunity to scan the HomeKit set up code, which was located on the hub. The placement process recognized the rooms that were already set up through HomeKit, which was nice, and eased my fears about alterations it could have made, which I have had issues with when using the Philips Hue app. After completing the entire set up process for the switch, other devices, such as the included Pico remote, can be set up in a similar fashion. Once you are done adding devices, you will be able to find them in the native iOS home app. Unfortunately, the Pico remote is not a device that makes it way over to HomeKit, which hopefully is something that can come in the future.
When it comes to design, the Caseta dimmer switch, while being solidly built, is a little busy, and is certainly not the prettiest of the available HomeKit switches on the market. The switch features icons for each of the button functions, making it easy to understand, but it does require physically pushing in a button to trigger a result, a small, but significant change for those used to flicking a toggle or rocker switch. The face of the switch also has a raised portion on the up arrow for changing light levels, which can provide a sense of where your hand is on the switch when entering a dark room. On the off button, Lutron’s branding can be seen, and while not as bad as Leviton’s usage of logo’s on their line of HomeKit switches, it still is not aesthetically pleasing. Below the off button sits a small rectangular piece that Lutron describes as a “FASS” switch. From my understanding, pulling this will remove power from the switch, allowing for a safer method when it comes to changing light bulbs. Finally, the dimmer switch has 7 LED status indicator lights, which illuminate with a light green color. These lights provide a quick visual of the light levels that the switch is set to, which is nice, but I found them to be unnecessary as one would easily be able to see the change in levels as they toggle their lights up or down. The LED lights also come with a potentially large downside, depending on your situation. When the switch is off, the indicator lights will illuminate (all 7 of them), causing them to be seen in a dark room. While I understand the purpose of this, to allow them to be located easily, they also can be a distraction at night, even though they are pretty dim. Unfortunately, there is no way to disable this functionality currently within the Caseta app, which is surprising considering that Lutron’s devices have been on the market for a few years now, and competitors have included this ability. The included Pico remote sports a similar design to the dimmer switch, with the addition of a circular button which protrudes outward. This button provides quick access to a favorite light level, and is easily programmable.
Performance is where the Caseta system shines. In the two weeks that I have had my first dimmer switch installed, I have not seen a single issue with the device going into the dreaded “no response” status in the Home app. In fact, the switch updates pretty much instantly upon opening the iOS Home app, and is certainly the quickest out of all my HomeKit devices. Commands sent via an app or Siri through the HomePod are also executed instantly, which is a pleasant change from the slower times that I have grown accustomed to from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth based devices. The response times and lack of having to sit through updating or no response status is refreshing, so much so that I have already added 4 additional Caseta switches to my home, all replacing other HomeKit based switches. Two of the switches that I have installed are the same dimmer switches that came along in the starter kit, and the other two are simple on and off switches that control ceiling fans. I will be doing a separate review for these switches soon.
In the end, I am extremely happy with the Lutron Caseta switches, and am kicking myself for not going with them at the very beginning of my HomeKit journey. As I mentioned, I have already replaced some other HomeKit switches in my home, and I am pretty much committed to going entirely with Lutron’s offerings throughout. There is only one limitation that could potentially hamper others from doing their entire home in Caseta devices, which is a limitation of 50 devices per hub. This can be worked around with purchasing another hub, and setting up another account, but it is odd, and from what I have gathered is purely an arbitrary limitation imposed to push sales of the “pro” model hub that the company sells. Otherwise, I can proclaim the Caseta line to be the best HomeKit switches on the market, and one that I can easily recommend to those starting on their lighting projects. While the system can be a little pricey to start, with the kit itself usually ranging from $89-$99, subsequent switches can be found for the standard smart switch price of $49-$59 making it a no-brainer in the long run.