Published on July 17th, 2015 | by Greg0
Lutron’s HomeKit-Ready Caséta Wireless Lighting Starter Kit
It’s been about a year since Apple made an important announcement at WWDC. One big piece of news: Apple would finally enter the home automation space, and do so by partnering with multiple manufacturers on a new specification called HomeKit. Built into iOS 8, the platform wouldn’t have Apple creating it’s own hardware, but instead creating a way for iOS devices to communicate with varied smart locks, lights, and other solutions. Developers have been able to test out the system for a while, and though there doesn’t appear to have been a big announcement from Apple or a firm release date, the initial consumer-ready, certified products are just coming onto market.
The first one available widely is Lutron’s Caseta Wireless Lighting Starter Kit, which comes in two basic flavors. In reading some other reviews, you may get a misimpression- many places (including Amazon at press time) list only one or the other, but in reality, you’ll first want to decide between the P-BDG-PKG2P (Plug-In) or the P-BDG-PKG2W (In-Wall). We’ve been testing out the former package, which is aimed at minimizing installation requirements and is for those who use lamps as primary lighting in a room. The latter package requires replacing your wall switches, which control your in-room, overhead lights. Either way, you get the Lutron Smart Bridge, two pico remote controllers, and two tabletop pedestals that can hold the controllers. In fact, the hardware in the package is basically identical to the components that we checked out last Fall.
You can easily add additional pieces- remotes, wallplates, dimmer modules- and they work with CFL, incandescent or LED lights, with a maximum of 50 different accessories addressable in any one system (which should be more than enough for just about any household). The real strength of this updated unit is in the HomeKit compatibility, and it’s pretty nifty- you can use Siri to control your lights now, just by speaking commands! The same is true for some other products too, including Lutron’s own Serena battery-powered window shades, Honeywell Wi-Fi thermostats, and even Logitech Harmony remotes and certain Nest peripherals. Setup hasn’t changed much- you still connect the bridge to your wireless router first, then follow the instructions on the app to pair the accessories, mostly by pressing and holding buttons on each of them until their lights blink to indicate successful connectivity. Resetting can be a pain, but our initial installation was easy. Unlike some competitors, each dimmer has built-in controls, so you don’t need to find a remote or use an app to flick off the light. Lutron’s app, though, is pretty amazing, with just about every feature you could want, including the ability to create custom scenes, and combine multiple lights into a schedule.
One of the coolest new additions to the smart home feature set is geofencing, which allows the system to automatically turn the lights off when you leave (or when your phone does, technically). You can even control your lights from afar, through a fairly complex workaround- you need a third-generation Apple TV and to be signed in to the same Apple account. We thankfully had one handy, and tried it out to mixed results- at first, we were pretty impressed, but after initial success did find that the system would irregularly fail to respond. You can also use an Apple Watch to manage your home lighting, but with a critical caveat- it’s part of the Handoff system, which requires you to use an iPhone, rendering it pretty limited. As a first release, HomeKit isn’t yet a huge success, or even a necessity for even those living deep within the iOS ecosystem. But the signs of a solid foundation are there, and Lutron’s already-excellent home automation peripherals and lighting solutions definitely help bring it to life. Thanks to the magic of iterative design and always-improving technology, it’s simple to see a couple of steps into the future, and we like what we see. Which means that the Lutron Caseta Wireless Lighting Starter Kit is an easy recommendation- available now, for around $230.