If you're interested in smart lighting and you want to do it right, you've got to go with a smart dimmer switch. Unlike smart bulbs, which become dumb with the flick of a switch, these dimmers always stay powered since they have a direct power line. After all of our testing, it was clear that Lutron's Caséta Wireless system was the best dimmer around. While dimmers, and even smart dimmers, have been around for decades, these new models are taking off thanks to the promise of anywhere smartphone control, as well as voice control via Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, and Google Home. Even though pretty much all dimmers work the same, there can be big differences in the quality of their app-connected smarts.
We tested out the dimmer kit with a smart bridge for wall and ceiling lights, which includes the aforementioned bridge, two in-wall smart dimmers with a wall plate, and a pico remote. Just turn off relevant light switch's power at the breaker, remove the wallplate from the switch, and then remove the switch from the wall. After disconnecting the three wires connected to it, you use the included wire connectors to re-attach them to the Lutron wall switch. Unlike some hubs, the Lutron smart bridge requires an ethernet connection so you'll want to make sure your current router has a free port before you bring home any Caséta kit.
Leviton is the latest connected lighting company to loosen its dependence on the hub, and it's about time. Leviton's Decora Smart Wi-Fi dimmers and switches connect directly to your wireless network, letting you control the lights with a smartphone app or with a digital assistant (the Amazon Echo and Google Home are both supported). By sticking with plain old Wi-Fi instead of smart home-specific protocols such as ZigBee or Z-Wave, Leviton's in-wall and plug-in modules eliminate the need for a hub or bridge. But while ditching the hub reduces the cost and complexity of smart home lighting, it also means Leviton must work harder to connect with other smart home ecosystems. Right now, the Decora Smart Wi-Fi series is currently detached from nearly all of them, severely limiting how you can control your lights.
When it comes to standards wars, Jasco isn't taking any chances. The manufacturer builds in-wall dimmers and plug-in lamp controllers based on both the Z-Wave and ZigBee platforms, marketing them with GE branding under a licensing agreement. Both classes can be controlled with voice commands via Alexa or Google Assistant, but the Z-Wave products require a third-party hub. The ZigBee products require a third-party hub, too, unless you're connecting them to an Amazon Echo Plus (that smart speaker has a ZigBee controller built in). You'll need to look elsewhere if you're interested in Apple HomeKit compatibility.
If flexibility is what you're looking for in a smart plug, Lutron's Caseta Wireless Smart Lighting Lamp Dimmer kit is worth serious consideration. Whether you simply want to add a dimmer to an existing outlet or wish to integrate the system with a more complex smart home setup, Lutron has you covered. Lutron's kit is unique in that it includes a variety of components that don't all necessarily have to be used. In the box you'll find two plug-in dimmer boxes, each with controls built into the face. Four buttons--on, off, dim, and brighten--fill the face of the switch.