‘Hello Julie, This is John. I Have Some Questions about Home Automation’

Email from a do-it-yourselfer illustrates everything wrong with home automation today: ‘Will Lutron Caseta work with Z-Wave, ADT, Honeywell, Vera? Do I need a bridge?’

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When a do-it-yourselfer emailed me with a few little questions about home automation, I could barely contain my guffaws. The innocent query illustrated everything wrong with the smart-home movement today, including technology, marketing, service and support.

I figured I would write the blog to end all DIY home automation blogs, but really John’s letter speaks more eloquently than I ever could.

With John’s permission, here is the letter, only slightly edited to correct a few misspellings.

Hello Julie,

My name is John and I hope you don't mind me writing you.

I got your email at the bottom of an article you wrote about the Lutron Connect Bridge and App.

I'm beginning to automate my home and want to ask a couple of questions if you don't mind as I am a newbie with all this stuff.

I started by buying the Lutron Caseta wireless switch for some lighting I have.

Then I wanted to integrate some other lighting into my ADT system and found out it will only recognize Z-Wave so I have some of those as well. They are made by Jasco or GE.

I was going to purchase something called the Vera Edge Plus due out shortly but found out it won't talk to Lutron.

I was told it would with a plug-in they have. Which I think would have to go with the Lutron equipment which I currently don't own. So I'd have to buy the Vera plus Lutron equipment.

Having said all that I want the bulk of my system to be Lutron so I'm leaning toward purchasing the Lutron Bridge.

Can you tell me if I would need any other equipment from Lutron to make it work with my Lutron Caseta lighting or is the bridge all I need?

I'm not going to do anything fancy with scenes and all that other stuff.

Also is there any way to get it to talk to my Z-Wave switches? I only have one set I would need to integrate. I just spent a few bucks on the Z-Wave and don't want to scrap it if I can help it.

I also have Honeywell thermostats that have a wireless control module and I can get that online now with Honeywell software but wanted to integrate it into whatever I use so I don't have to use different programs and connections to do different things.

Finally if I go with the bridge and it's plugged into my home network do they have desktop software?

I don't mind the phone when I'm out but when I'm home I like using the computer to set things up instead of doing it by phone.

John ended the note with many words of gratitude and humility.

First, my response to John was to have him call two online shops that specialize in home control: Home Controls Inc. and Smart Home. Their specialists, I said, could probably steer him in the right direction.

The answer to his specific question goes something like this: You don’t want the Lutron Connect Bridge. That is for Lutron’s professional lighting products, such as RadioRa and HomeWorks. The Bridge you want is the Lutron Smart Bridge if you’re going DIY, or the Smart Bridge Pro if you want some extra bells and whistles that a professional installer can provide. Both of those products work with Caseta.

Alternatively, you can use a series of IP/Wi-Fi bridges from the individual manufacturers and sometimes those bridges can talk to each other, usually via the cloud. …

By the way, all of the Lutron wireless lighting controls feature Clear Connect technology, but the Caseta Clear Connect doesn’t work with the RadioRa and HomeWorks Clear Connect. So be careful there.

Clear Connect is a proprietary RF technology, unlike Z-Wave. So if you want to bridge Clear Connect with Z-Wave, you need a hub that has both technologies built in, such as Wink or Staples Connect, both of which are struggling these days.

Alternatively, you can use a series of IP/Wi-Fi bridges from the individual manufacturers and sometimes those bridges can talk to each other, usually via the cloud.

Indeed, Z-Wave-enabled Vera hubs from MiOS do communicate with Lutron Smart Bridges (not Lutron Connect Bridges) over IP, so you would get your Z-Wave and Caseta control in one package.

You could likewise bridge the two technologies via the cloud with “Works with Caseta” partners including Logitech, Xfinity Home, AT&T Digital Life and IFTTT. Not SmartThings. And not Apple HomeKit yet because, while Lutron Caseta supports HomeKit, Z-Wave hubs do not (it’s coming …).

With Smart Bridge Pro, you can also bridge via Alarm.com, but that’s another story.

Still with me?

As for ADT, I don’t believe Lutron Caseta currently is supported by ADT Pulse, but if ADT creates an IFTTT channel like it has said it would, then you could communicate across the two protocols. Currently, ADT has no channel on IFTTT, although there are some IFTTT recipes that incorporate ADT Pulse.

Are you following?

I don’t know which Honeywell thermostat you’re referencing – there are several types from the new Lyric family and legacy Honeywell line — but that gets a little more complicated when you’re talking about Lutron integration.

As for who has desktop software for any of this, I have no clue.

By the way, not all of these integration “solutions” are elegant. For example, you can't necessarily program, group, monitor and control Z-Wave and Caseta devices in a single interface.

Here’s a question to John and other DIYs: Who do you think you will call when something goes awry with one of your devices or services? By the way, how’s your home network? You better make sure it’s rock solid.

John promises to follow up on his experience navigating the journey to a smarter home. I personally would hire a professional to integrate it all, but where would I find such a person? That is smart-home challenge #294.

The Lessons

Truly, the smart-home user experience for DIYs is atrocious, from product packaging to installation to service and more. The letter and my (exaggerated) response should speak for themselves.

In a follow-up story, I'll explain what some organizations like Plum Choice and the Z-Wave Alliance are doing to try to support confused consumers like John. Meanwhile, there are some 15,000 home-technology installation professionals out there that could clear up some of this confusion, but it's hard to find a pro with the experience — or the inclination — to support DIY-type devices.

In the meantime, might I suggest: