If you're thinking of replacing your light switches with smart, app-enabled switches you can automate or control remotely, then Lutron belongs right at the top of your list. It's not particularly close, either.
Put simply, these are the best smart switches money can currently buy. We've been testing them throughout the CNET Smart Home for months now, and they're reliable, well-designed, easy-to-use, and loaded with helpful features. Plus, they work with just about everything: Alexa, IFTTT, Nest, Wink, Apple HomeKit -- you name it.
A two-switch starter kit with the mandatory Lutron Bridge retails for $190, which definitely isn't cheap -- especially considering that Belkin WeMo Light Switches cost about $50 each, and don't require any bridge at all. But, after testing both options extensively, I'm convinced that Lutron is the far superior choice, and well worth the extra cash. It's smart lighting that actually feels smart, and a clear Editors' Choice-winner for the connected home.
Installation and design
In terms of looks, Lutron lands right in the smart switch sweet spot. Available in a variety of colors and tones, each switch looks appropriately fancy, yet still understated enough to blend in with most home decor.
That balance applies to the way you use the switches, too. Pressing the button at the top brings the lights to full brightness, while the button at the bottom fades them out. The buttons in the middle allow for fine adjustments. The smooth, gentle fades from setting to setting make each light feel like a high-tech, luxury fixture, but the controls are still perfectly familiar to anyone who's ever used an ordinary old dimmer switch before.
Installing the switches is a cinch, so long as you're comfortable flipping the power off at the breaker. All you'll need is a screwdriver and a few minutes to swap one out. Just connect the three wires -- line, load, ground -- then screw the switch into place, snap the base plate over top of it, and flip the power back on at the breaker.
From there, you'll need to plug the Lutron Bridge into your router via Ethernet cable and connect to it using the Lutron app on your Android or iOS device. Then, you'll pair each switch with the Bridge one at a time by holding a button down when the app tells you to (each Bridge can manage up to fifty devices). If you're just talking about the two-switch starter kit, getting up and running should only take you about 30 minutes, if not less.
The Caseta switches communicate using Lutron's proprietary "Clear Connect" wireless protocol, a radio frequency designed for reliability and to minimize interference. The Bridge's job is to act as translator between the switches and your home network. You can also use the Wink Hub to control your Caseta gear, but you'll lose out on Apple HomeKit compatibility.
Lutron wouldn't share any specifics on the steps it takes to keep Clear Connect transmissions and customer data secure, but the nearly sixty-year-old company has a good track record here. A spokesperson adds, "Lutron's first principle is to take care of the customer. Lutron adheres to and/or exceeds industry standards when it comes to the security of our products and protecting our customers."
All about the app
Lutron's app is a snappy standout, with a clean, neatly-organized design and customizable themes. You can tap to control individual lights right from the home screen, or setup preset lighting "scenes" to activate with a tap later. Those scenes can also include Lutron's Serena shades if you have any.
The Lutron app will ask you to name each light as you add it to your setup, and it'll also let you group multiple lights into rooms and zones. The nomenclature comes in handy if you're planning on controlling your lights using Siri commands -- ask her to turn off the kitchen lights or the downstairs lights, and she'll know just what you're talking about.