HOME LIGHTING – Lutron Caséta, Serena, Smart Bridge & Clear Connect
Mayflower London review Lutron’s acclaimed dimming system and motorised shades, not forgetting to include the mobile app and proprietary radio technology that controls them both.
The prices of SMART dimmers and shades have seen a great reduction in price over the last few years for the average consumer,, although the fanciest and most powerful examples will still force you to dig deep into your pockets, yet are still regarded as being worth every penny. With regards to this, in this blog we review Lutron’s dimming system and their motorised shades, not forgetting the mobile app and radio technology that controls them both. This set of SMART Home compatible products are acclaimed for their clean functionality yet doubted due to their high price tag.
So the question remains, do you get that extra bang for that extra buck?
Although the product ecosystem is far more restricted than the other popular smart lighting platforms such as Z-Wave or Zigbee, Lutron literally invented the dimmer switch and have remained the original and most respected source of dimmers and switches, with the company now constantly striving to support other classes of third-party products within the Caséta dimmer ecosystem. In addition to its own line of motorized smart shades, ceiling fan controllers, plug-in devices, occupancy sensors, and remote controls, you can also create time and location based SMART home “scenes” incorporating any Caséta or Serena products, with Sonos speakers, as well as several brands of SMART thermostats, not to mention Hunter ceiling fans.
With a high level of aesthetic consideration going into their design, the dimmer switches that come as part of the Lutron Caséta Smart Lighting Dimmer Switch Kit exude ergonomic and minimalistic elegance with four plate-style buttons: One up top to switch on, one down below to switch off, and the triangular brighten and dim buttons at the centre. Then on the left-hand side, there is a vertical strip of LEDs to indicate the current brightness level. This dimmer starter kit also comes with Lutron’s Pico, their miniature wireless remote controls, rather handy for those who aren’t so keen on repeatedly barking at a smart speaker to dim the lights.
Lutron also offers one of, if not the only dimmer that doesn’t require a neutral power line. Although this may sound like something quite elementary, it is somewhat of a rarity in the electrical wiring of older properties and buildings. If your home’s electrical system does not already have a neutral line, Mayflower London would recommend this system over getting an electrician to add a new neutral line to your home, as it is something that can quickly become expensive and time consuming, also often involving structural alteration of your home.
On the other hand, if you have been thinking about investing in upgrading your home’s infrastructure with a bespoke SMART technology automation system, Mayflower London offers far more than just designing and installing bespoke automation systems. Any accompanying renovation and refurbishment that is required can also be carried out as part of the process through Mayflower London and in particular our network of skilled professionals and creatives from across Europe, a network that includes some of the most highly regarded architects and interior designers currently working in London.
Widely considered as the best dimmer set on the market, the software incorporated into Lutron’s Caséta Wireless system hits the nail right on the head, even responding to the scrubbing of the app’s digital dim slider in real time. The app works well on both Android and iOS, and is easily connected and controllable with the three most popular smart home ecosystems being Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Home.
While the Caséta Wireless starter kit is probably the best and most scalable of dimmer systems, it is almost twice as expensive as the competition, but still most worthy of its price tag. Once it is up and running, additional Lutron dimmers and Lutron switches can be added to your system rapidly with minimal fuss.
The only disadvantage to Lutron’s dimmer system is that it fails to support three-way switches where you have multiple switches to control the same light. Instead, the company offers Pico wireless remote kits to mount its remotes over additional switch boxes. It’s not a perfect solution, as you will have to replace the batteries in the remote every now and then, but still works a treat nonetheless.
Lutron Clear Connect, App & SMART Bridge
Clear Connect is the dedicated wireless protocol used by all of the Lutron Caséta Wireless SMART home devices, including their dedicated dimmers, switches, ceiling fan controllers, motorized shades, occupancy sensors, and battery-powered remote controls. Essentially, it is a mini wireless network specifically for Lutron products. Through the Lutron app, Clear Connect has the ability to incorporate any of the associated Lutron devices or compatible third party apps or devices into your chosen SMART Home ‘scenes’, i.e your preferred preset combinations of heating, lighting, audio and visual etc.
For a while now, Lutron have however been upgrading their dedicated app to work with an ever growing number of third party apps and devices, including thermostats and Wi-Fi speakers. The range of third party apps and devices that Lutron’s app works with is increasing every year.
Clear Connect operates independently of your Wi-Fi network, but it will not work unless a Lutron Smart Bridge Hub is connected to your router. Once the bridge is connected, it is capable of controlling any compatible devices based on scenes, schedule presets or as chosen by the user. Scenes can also operate on the concept of geofencing triggers, i.e closing your shades and turning down your thermostat when you leave the home as initiated by the departure of your mobile device. Upon returning to your home, it will open your shades, turn on your lights, and play your favourite homecoming songs once it detects your mobile device’s presence.
Programming SMART Home ‘scenes’ is a task which Mayflower London’s experienced team of automation sequencers specialise in, so naturally the team remains more than happy to set it up and ensure it is all running smoothly. Our clients needn’t do so much as to have to lift a single finger.
The app’s level of programmability is second to none, though at present it depends on only using Lutron lighting, window covering, and ceiling fan controls, along with the limited number of third-party products that Lutron currently supports. With respect to this, it is likely that Lutron will in the near future create and release more devices that are part of the Lutron ecosystem, or decide to support more third party products and apps, especially if the Lutron app is to keep its high standing in the world of automation systems.
Lutron Caséta devices can be controlled via Lutron’s app, with voice commands spoken to SMART speakers or from any of your favourite mobile devices anywhere you have internet access. Several SMART home systems, including Samsung SmartThings and Apple HomeKit, also incorporate Lutron’s SMART home products.
Lutron Serena (motorised shades/blinds)
These might be more expensive than much of the competition, but Lutron’s classy, smooth operating shades deliver some great features in return for that extra investment, which are apparent in both the shade’s industrial design and its absolute ease of use and installation. For starters, with the battery-powered option, the battery compartment is integrated into the shade’s head rail.
If the battery approach is not your cup of tea for some particular reason,, the shades can be ordered with an AC adapter and a 15-foot power cord that’s coiled inside the head rail, allowing you to only have to pull out as much as you need to reach the nearest plug power socket. And if you can’t stand plugs and adapters, one of Mayflower London’s fully licensed and thoroughly experienced automation electricians can install a Lutron Power Panel in your wall. One of these power panels, although on the pricey side of things, will work to power up to ten honeycomb-style shades, so it remains an excellent option for anyone who needs numerous windows shaded.
Lutron further offers an optional back cover for the Serena shades that not only reduces the amount of light leaking from around the top edge of the shade when mounted inside the window frame, but also works to hide the mounting brackets when the shade is viewed from outside the window. This back cover effectively maximises the shading so definitely justifies the small additional cost. Alternatively, the shade can be mounted to the outside of the window frame or above it, for which 1/2-inch spacers that ensure the shade clears the frame are provided.
One of the biggest advantages of Lutron shades is that they work without fail every time, as no missed commands are even noticed as Lutron’s software cleverly takes this into account by resending commands if the shades don’t respond right away. Serena shades are controlled by Lutron’s proprietary Clear Connect radio technology, so part of the added cost is the requirement to buy a Lutron SMART Bridge. However, if any Lutron Caséta lighting or ceiling fan controller has already been acquired, one already has the bridge and the app that goes with it. The same app integrates all of Lutron’s SMART home devices, including its lighting controls, smart plugs, programmable remote controls, and Serena shades, as well as ceiling fan controllers.
There are several other ways to control your Serena shades. Voice commands directed at your smart speaker are the most convenient way to manually control Serena shades, but if you don’t have an Echo or Google Home and you don’t want to pull out your smartphone, Lutron offers two small but user-friendly remote controls for the task. The Pico remote is relatively small at a mere 1.25 inches wide by 2.5 inches high, and it’s wafer thin. It has five stacked buttons: fully open at the top, fully closed at the bottom, manual up, manual down, and “favorite” position in the center.
The Pico Remote’s size makes it easy to misplace, but you can mount a plastic block to the wall and slide the remote onto it, so the shades can be controlled from the wall just like a light switch. If you want a more formal look, Lutron also offers an aesthetically pleasing wallplate bracket that gives the Pico remote a built-in look, though this is dependent on the presence of a junction box in the wall. Both mounting options give you the option to dismount the Pico remote from the wall and use it remotely.
When installing more than one Serena shade within a specific room, Lutron’s 4-Group RF Remote Control can control up to four shades, either individually or all at the same time although both remotes rely on the presence of the Lutron SMART Bridge.
The actual fabric of the shade is itself lined with aluminum to enhance its insulation value, although Lutron only offers a 9/16-inch single-celled material for its room-darkening shades. The fabric itself feels particularly well made when compared to other brands of shade, as well as the fact that the entire shade is aesthetically appealing when both closed or partially open. In terms of the noise produced by its motor, it comes in at a relatively quiet 8.3dB while the shade was opening from fully closed to fully open.
Summary – Always the preferred option?
In conclusion, Lutron’s Caséta dimmer sets are internationally regarded as best in class, while their Serena shade’s battery compartment with its now improved design, additional back cover to cover the side of the blind which has its parts on display, and its superior yet compact remote control provide the extra benefits that justify its higher price tag.
Along with Lutron Clear Connect as enabled by their Smart Bridge, Caséta dimmers and Serena Shades come fully recommended by Mayflower London, and will always be one of the first sets of products offered as an option to our clients who are upgrading their household lighting and climate control systems.
However, while Lutron’s proprietary Clear Connect wireless wi-fi enabled radio technology means the Caséta dimmer system and Serena shades are not widely supported by third-party smart home systems, they are compatible with Samsung SmartThings, Apple HomeKit, and both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Furthermore, Lutron’s SMART bridge and the dedicated Lutron app working together makes it all much more simple and convenient to use, even if as a small part of a complete smart home system from a different manufacturer.
As mentioned above, Lutron’s product ecosystem offers integration with a small variety of third-party products, including smart thermostats from reputable brands such Honeywell, Ecobee and Nest, along with the all important Sonos speakers. This makes the Lutron app and SMART bridge combo a miniature yet decent starting point for building your dream smart home on its own, Lutron based merits.