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In recent years, more and more people are beginning to recognize the benefits and opportunities that lie behind a fully interconnected smart home. Advancements in hardware, software, and technologies have made smart home features available to all. If you’re reading this article, it probably means that you have at least a rudimentary knowledge of smart homes and how they work.
Arguably the most significant benefit of having a smart home is the capability to control lights, switches, and outlets from your phone or tablet. This article will review two of the more popular smart home systems, the Leviton Decora Smart Collection and the Lutron Caseta Wireless System.
These systems each offer their own benefits and features, so without further ado, let’s take a look at how they compare to one another.
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Lutron has been a recognized name in the smart lighting arena for some time now, especially considering it created one of the first smart lighting control systems that worked through a wireless network. Typically, however, Lutron has been associated with solutions for high-end consumers.
When it came time to develop and build a HomeKit-compatible lighting control system, Lutron used a system that was already in place, its Caseta Wireless Smart Bridge, and launched Caseta Wireless Smart Bridge Pro. Lutron’s Smart Bridge is a small device about the size of a deck of playing cards, with a white LED around its midsection.
This device uses an AC adapter for power and plugs directly into your router with a network cable. The Smart Bridge talks with your automated window blinds and lighting controls using proprietary technology created by Lutron called Clear Connect. Garage-door openers, motions sensors, and other smart devices reside on the same spectrum as the Lutron Smart Bridge.
Lutron’s plug-in dimmer device and in-wall dimmer switch come with thin remote controls adorned with buttons that allow you to turn on and off your lights or control the dimness or brightness of your bulbs. For the in-wall dimmer remote, there is a fifth button on the remote allows you to set a personal light level preference. Just push that button, and your lights will immediately set to the level you want.
If you choose to go with the plug-in option, you’ll have a pair of two-pronged receptacles, with each able to handle up to two dimmable bulbs. The remote for this device has four buttons, which allow you to turn on and off the lights, or dim and brighten. The drawback is that all lights are controlled by the remote and cannot be changed independently of one another.
Selecting Lutron’s Smart Bridge allows you to operate thermostats (Honeywell or Nest), window shades (Lutron), and of course, your lighting. In addition to being able to control these devices, you also have geofencing capabilities. That means you can create events that will trigger when you arrive to or leave your home, as long as you have your smartphone on you.
Setting up and installing your Lutron HomeKit system is simple and straightforward. First, you attach the Smart Bridge to your router and then supply power to it. Once that is done, you’ll download the Lutron application from either the Apple or Google marketplace. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, you do have the ability to control the Homekit bridge with an Android device.
When the time comes to add a new device to the Lutron Smart Bridge, choose if from the list of options, and then the app will provide animation to walk you through the process. After you follow the provided instructions, a message will show up letting you know that your connection to the bridge was successful.
Every device you add will need a name and an icon, however, keep in mind that Lutron has a small selection from which to choose. You can choose between a desk lamp, a few light stands, table lamps, and lighting for holidays. If you’re adding a Pico remote, they are all given the same icon, so you don’t have the ability to change it.
There aren’t many drawbacks to using Lutron’s app. However, one item to keep an eye on is a short delay when initializing a device. You may experience this intermittently, so the concern is a small one. Offsetting the delay is the ability to view your icons right on the homepage of the application. You can tap directly on the icon to view your device, as opposed to drilling down through a menu.
Another nice feature of the app is the ability to create shortcuts and widgets to your smartphone home screen. So whether you’re using an iOS widget or an Android notification drawer, there’s no need to launch the application. Just find the appropriate icon, and control your devices with a tap.
Schedules and Scenes
Lutron’s scenes allow you to establish window shade and lighting controls at specific values that run with just a touch of an icon. For instance, if you decide to create a scene which makes the shades in your home pull halfway up, you can do so. Just remember that while you can add all the devices you want, you have to choose each one separately.
You can also set scenes to happen automatically. Using the automatic shades scenario in the previous paragraph, you can set them to retract each morning to allow the sun into your home. But you can get more creative if you want. For instance, you can exclude Saturday from that schedule if you decide you want to sleep a little later than usual. Schedules can be set to occur at a specific time each day, or at sunrise or sunset. An added benefit is that random schedules give the appearance that your home is lived in if you’re away on vacation or traveling for work.
Individual Device Control
Lutron’s system is organized by allowing up to four devices on the application home screen, as well as the same number of scenes. If you select a device icon, you’ll be greeted with a screen providing you with three options: A slider to adjust brightness (if you’re viewing a dimmer), on, and off.
If you decide to use your Pico remote to make changes to a device, the same changes will be reflected in the application automatically. While it’s nice to see the changes showing up in the application, it’s frustrating to wait for the application to reconnect to Lutron’s bridge.
The Lutron smart home system is a solid solution that offers support for many devices. If you are looking to get started with a home system, this might be a good option. It is a quality system with a user-friendly application. Lutron provides high-quality hardware with simple setup and installation. Going with this smart home system is not a decision you will soon regret.
The Leviton smart home system is one of the more recent companies to stop relying on the need for a hub. That means that your smart switches and dimmers are able to communicate directly with your wifi network. As a result, you can control your devices with the use of a smartphone app, or by instructing a digital assistant like the Google Home or Amazon Echo.
Going with wifi allows Leviton to eliminate the use of a hub or bridge, but it also limits how well the system will work with other smart home devices. Removing the hub does help lower the hardware costs for smart home systems, as well as the complexity of setting one up, but doing so does restrict how much you can control your devices.
Switches and Dimmers
You’ll have a few options to choose from when getting started with your Leviton smart home system. For starters, Leviton offers two in-wall dimmer switches for ceiling lights. For your lamps, you can also purchase a plug-in dimmer, along with a plug-in outlet for your small appliances or any other objects in your home you want to control remotely.
Installation of the plug-in devices is quick and simple. All you need to do is plug one into an outlet, then plug in your lamp. Leviton has an app available for both the Android and iOS marketplaces which you can use to finalize setup of your modules. Follow the instructions provided by the application, and before you know it, you’ll have a new smart device set up on your network. At this point, you’re able to control your lights through the application whether you’re sitting near them or on the other side of the country.
The in-wall modules, on the other hand, are a little more challenging. Installing the in-wall switches requires removing your old light switches and dimmers, and replacing them with Leviton’s. If you’re not familiar with electricity or wiring, you might be better off hiring an electrician to swap out the switches. Leviton does provide instructions but does assume you have some basic knowledge of circuity.
Once you have the new wall switches installed, you’ll be able to use them just like you did the old ones. The overall benefit to the in-wall switches is that they’re always available to control your lighting. If you turned off the old physical switch, you would lose the ability to control your lights, but with the Leviton switch, you retain the ability to turn them on and off (or dim them) with your smartphone or digital assistant.
The nice thing about Leviton’s decision to go hub-free is the ease of setup and use for those new to the smart home system. By going without a hub, Leviton has lowered the upfront hardware costs for customers, while also making setup much more manageable. The challenge arises when you want to add other, non-Leviton smart home devices.
Unfortunately, the only way you have to control a wifi device offered by Leviton – besides physically touching them – is a digital assistant like Google Home or Amazon Echo. The devices simply won’t work with other smart home systems like Works with Nest, SmartThings, or Wink. This means you don’t have the ability to control your smart home devices unless they are made explicitly for Leviton’s smart home ecosystem.
From a scheduling and scenes point of view, the Leviton application leaves something to be desired. While it does allow you to group your lights together by room and set up an event based on time of day, the sunrise or sunset, or the day of the week, you are unable to create actions based on geofencing.
This means that if you want to have your lights turn on when you arrive home, or have your thermostat change the temperature automatically when you leave, you won’t be able to. In addition to a lack of geofencing capabilities, the Leviton home system does not offer a vacation setting that will cause your lights to cycle at random intervals.
Whether you decide to go with Leviton or Lutron, the fact of the matter is that you’re going to be getting a good smart home system. With that in mind, however, there are a few items that need to be pointed out. Let’s take a look at some of the more distinct differences between the two systems in order to give you a better idea of which system is the right one for you.
- For devices – outlets, switches, and dimmers – Leviton holds a distinct advantage from a support perspective. Lutron works just fine. However, the system only supports dimmers. Sure, the Lutron dimmer offers the pico remote accessory, but does that really make up for the lack of additional devices?
- Color isn’t necessarily the most important feature to give consideration, but to some it’s important. All of the products you purchase from Leviton come in white, but if you want to change the smart switch color, you can choose between white, black, almond, ivory, gray, and brown. Similarly, the Lutron dimmers come in black, almond, ivory, and white. The smart home system ships with white dimmers, so if you want to have different colors, you’ll have to purchase the parts separately.
- From a technology standpoint, there are a few significant differences in the way the switches, dimmers, and outlets behave for each smart home system. In this area, Lutron comes out the victor with is proprietary Clear Connect technology. With its technology, Lutron sets a standard for reliability in smart home systems, which means you can rest easy knowing that your dimmers are going to work just the way they are supposed to.
- Considering the warranty probably isn’t the most important item on your radar when considering which smart home system to choose. However, a solid warranty might give you the confidence you need to place your trust in one over the other. Lutron provides a one year warranty on its devices, which you can extend to two by participating and completing its customer feedback survey. Leviton, on the other hand, offers a five-year warranty. In this category, there is a clear winner: Leviton.
Now that we’ve spent some time and broken down how these two smart home ecosystems compare with one another, let’s take a high-level look at specific areas and what each system provides.
|Hub||Smart Bridge Pro||No Hub|
|Amazon Alexa||Yes||Yes (But you need a third-party hub)|
|Smart Home Integration||Yes||Yes|
|Warranty||1 year||5 years|
The best thing about the Lutron smart home system is that has the ability to integrate other smart devices. This is especially helpful since there is a good chance that you’ll want to add additional devices to create a more robust and full-featured smart home system. Lutron does a great job of giving you this option.
Leviton isn’t a bad option, but it does have its limitations since it doesn’t allow for a lot of flexibility when adding devices to your smart home system. Since there are so few features and choices with Leviton’s switches and dimmers, it is tough to recommend you go with this smart home system.
When all is said and done, the choice is yours. Do your research and determine which system makes the most sense for your home and environment. Just because one system works well for one user doesn’t mean it will be the best option for everyone. No matter what, make sure you choose the plugs, dimmers, and switches that work best for you and your home.
Further read, Nanoleaf Review
Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!