Home Automation

2022-05-09 03:20 PM Comment(s) By Cavan Kelly

Don't Waste Your Money, Start With Lutron Caséta

This isn't a review - it's advice. It's advice from someone who has done it wrong. Twice.

I started my foray into home automation with Best Buy's Insignia product line. It was disastrous. The switches didn't work from the start. I worked with Insignia support for months trying to resolve the issue but achieved nothing approaching reliability. To their credit, Best Buy did the right thing and refunded me fully. The product is no longer sold at Bestbuy.ca.

Next up was Meross, purchased from Amazon.ca. Installation was wonderful. The problem with so many smart switches is their bulk. Combine that with the four wires that require connection with wire nuts and, well, installation is not a treat for those of us with larger hands. Getting everything packed into the wall is not a lot of fun. Having done it three times now, take my word on this. Meross, however, was the exception. Their wiring setup was a treat to work with, especially where I had two or three switches ganged together. The ability to daisy-chain the hot, neutral, and grounds made for a clean and easy installation. And everything worked. For a while. Switches would occasionally become unresponsive. Sometimes, even physically touching the switch would not turn it on (or off). But that was only occasionally, and we lived with it. Around the 24 month mark, we noticed switches dropping of the wireless network completely. They had to be re-added to our setup. Then, at 30 months, give or take, switches started turning off, then back on, at random. With no satisfactory response from Meross, I started researching alternatives. The final straw was the day my office light cycled 23 times during a 40-minute meeting.

Lutron Caséta is not the inexpensive option. At more than double the cost of the Meross product, I had to consider seriously whether I was willing to do a complete rip and replace. I started slowly, replacing only the six switches that were causing the most grief. It was a revelation! The improved responsiveness from the phone app has to be seen to be believed. In addition, the Lutron switches don't require wi-fi for operation. This has two benefits, the first being the ability to operate during an ISP outage, the second, and more important, is that it will take 30+ devices off my wireless network reducing congestion for "real" wi-fi devices (computers, phones, tablets, and televisions). Lutron Caséta devices communicate with a required smart bridge over a proprietary network that operates well outside the 2.4 and 5 Ghz frequencies used by wi-fi networks. The smart bridge is wired into your home network and external communications are handled that way.

Will they last? I can't answer that, though anecdotal evidence has me hopeful. Caséta switches for the rest of my home are on order. I'll update here next year and let you know.

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