Lutron’s Pico Remote may be among the greatest unsung products available for today’s smart home. The small, sturdy device enables physical control for smart devices from multiple locations. It comes in multiple colors and finishes and can be pedestal-, clip-, or wall-mounted—even fitting perfectly in a Decora switch plate. And even though it starts at around just $16, it sports a battery that lasts up to ten years!
If you’ve used these remotes at all, you’re probably already familiar with their versatility. And if you listen to Home: On, you probably know that we love them.
But there’s a problem: Pico Remotes operate on Lutron’s proprietary ClearConnect wireless protocol, which limits their use with third-party products. Staples’ now-defunct Connect hub was one of the few devices that supported Picos in a way that let you use them to control anything in your home. Wink supports Pico remotes, but only for controlling Lutron devices.
We’ve advocated heavily, through our product contacts at Lutron, that the Pico Remote should work with HomeKit. And numerous threads on Lutron’s support forums confirm that many other customers want the same thing. Lutron hasn’t delivered on this yet, but some clever forum participant have documented a brilliant workaround. It’s a bit of a hack that requires some work and additional equipment, but we’ve tested it, and it works great!
We found the hack we’re detailing here first discussed by SouthboHomeKitGuy and smart_home_guy in Lutron’s forums. The basic gist of it is this: By pairing one or more Pico remotes with a Lutron Lamp Dimmer module that isn’t otherwise controlling anything, you can use the remote to control that module. Based on the status of that module, you’ll use HomeKit automation rules to trigger scenes or control devices in HomeKit. Think of the lamp module as a “proxy.”
What You Need
We’re going to assume you already have some HomeKit-compatible devices that you want to control—perhaps some smart bulbs or switches. You should also be running some HomeKit Hub device like an Apple TV, HomePod, or stay-at-home iPad.
On the Lutron side, you’ll need the following products:
- a Lutron Caséta or RA2 Select bridge assigned to your HomeKit system
- a compatible Lamp Dimmer module (Caséta or RA2 Select)
- a Pico remote or scene keypad (we’ll use a standard, 5-button remote in our example)
You’ll also want a HomeKit control app with an expanded rules set. HomeKit’s rules engine is actually way more capable than Apple’s own Home app enables. We recommend Elgato’s free Eve for HomeKit app—you can use it regardless of whether you own any Eve products, and it doesn’t require a customer account.
Set the Scenes
In short, pressing a button on your Pico remote is going to trigger some HomeKit scene. On a standard 5-button Pico, you’ll want to map the On, Off, and Preset buttons to individual scenes. To make things easier, you should create those scenes up front.
For the On state, we created a scene called Border Accents On, which sets a group of Hue bulbs to a bright warm white tone. Family Room Off turns them all off. And for our preset setting, we’ll be triggering Movie Time, which is set up to dim all the border lights to 10% at an even warmer tone and turn on a color strip near the entertainment center. Use your imagination, but try to define scenes that you’ll use regularly.
Prep the Pico Proxy
If you haven’t already set up your Lamp Dimmer module and Pico remote, then do that now. Add both to HomeKit using your Lutron app, and be sure to assign them to the same room. As expected, the lamp module will appear in HomeKit, but the Pico will not.
If you’re using a 5-button Pico, you should also set up the Preset (round center) button on your remote. You’ll need to do this manually. Using an app, set the dim level of your new lamp module to a specific value. Anything between 1 and 99 should work. Once that’s set, in view of your proxy module, press and hold the Preset button for about six seconds—until the LED on the module blinks a few times.
Test out the hardware and HomeKit configuration by pressing the buttons on your Pico remote. You should see the setting of the proxy module updating appropriately in HomeKit. If not, go back and make sure you have added the devices properly and assigned them to the right room. And if other devices are going on or off in that room, check our tips in Avoid Potential Problems, below.
Now the fun part—tying it all together with some automation. Since we need to exercise more of HomeKit’s power than Apple’s Home app supports, you’ll need a third-party app that’s a little more powerful. Elgato’s Eve for HomeKit doesn’t necessarily offer the best experience, but it lets you access and use an extensive set of device attributes and settings. But if you already have a favorite, more powerful HomeKit app, you may be able to use that instead.
For the standard, 5-button Pico, we’ll create three automation rules—one for each of the On, Off, and Preset buttons.
Off. We’ll tackle this one first, because it’s the easiest. It’s simple enough that, technically, you could just use the Home app, but we’ll show all of our examples using Elgato’s app. In Eve for HomeKit, tap the Scenes button on the bottom tab bar, then select Rules using the sliding control at the top. Select Add Rule. For each rule, we’ll set a trigger and scene. Tap Next to begin.
In the list of triggers, select Other Value, then scroll to the bottom and select Power. Find your proxy lamp module and flip the switch next to it. Then adjust the value slider to Off and tap Add.
Tap Next twice (we’re skipping the Conditions step). Now select the scene you created for the Off button. Ours was Family Room Off. Tap Next, add a name for the rule (maybe something like “Pico Proxy Off”), and tap Done to finish.
On. Now we’ll add the rule for pressing On. When you press On, the lamp module will change to 100% brightness, so we’ll create a rule that’s triggered by that. Select Add Rule again and tap Next to begin.
In the list of triggers, select Other Value again, but this time when you scroll to the bottom, select Brightness. Find your proxy lamp module and flip the switch next to it. Then adjust the value slider to 100% and tap Add.
Tap Next twice and select the scene you created for the On button. Ours was Border Accents On. Tap Next, add a name for the rule, and tap Done to finish. There’s just one rule left, and you probably already know how this one’s going to go….
Preset. What dim level did you set the Preset button to remember above? That’s the brightness level we’re watching for. Select Add Rule again and tap Next to begin creating the last rule.
In the list of triggers, select Other Value again. Scroll to the bottom and select Brightness. Find your proxy lamp module and flip the switch next to it. Adjust the value slider to the dim level you preset earlier, then tap Add.
Tap Next twice and select the scene you created for the Preset button. Tap Next, add a name for the rule, and tap Done to finish.
All done! All three rules should appear now in any HomeKit app that supports editing automation rules. Note, though, that you’ll need to use a more powerful app, like Eve for HomeKit, if you want to make any adjustments to these rules in the future.
Test It Out
Now the moment of truth. Before you test anything, be sure that your scenes each work properly on their own. Then turn everything off.
First test the On button on your Pico, followed by the Preset button. Finally, press Off. Allow a few seconds between each button press. Did those all work properly? If not, try the same functions in Apple’s Home app. Turn the proxy module on, then adjust it to your preset value, then turn it off—all from the app. Did your scenes kick off as expected? If they didn’t, you probably need to review your automation logic (remember to use Eve or some similarly capable app for that). Are the rules all “on”? Note that rules can be enabled and disabled.
Avoid Potential Problems
- If you already have other Lutron accessories in the same room, these could conflict with your setup. This is because Lutron’s app associates Pico remotes to devices by room. To get around this, assign your proxy Lamp Dimmer module and its associated Pico(s) to some new, fake room. Be sure to do this using Lutron’s own app. HomeKit will reflect this update, but you can change it back to the correct room later in HomeKit.
- If any other scenes or controllers also adjust the lights included in your scenes, your proxy may get out of sync, causing your Pico buttons to not respond properly. To avoid this, you must include the proxy lamp module in any other scenes that might also control these lights. Your proxy module should always reflect the state of the device(s) it’s controlling. For example, if your Good Night scene turns off the lights controlled by your Pico, be sure to add your new Pico proxy lamp module to that scene, turning it off, too. Similarly, if a scene or controller turns any of the lights on that could be controlled by your Pico, make sure that scene or controller also adjusts the Pico proxy module—preferably to some dim level other than 100% or your preset level. This is a little hard to wrap your head around, but it’s so HomeKit will see that your proxy module is already on (in case you want to turn the lights off with your Pico).
Push Your Luck
We ran through one particular configuration here—one 5-button Pico—but there are infinite possibilities you can play with. The two and four-button remotes will also work, including Lutron’s Pico Scene Keypads. The setup and rules logic will be different, though.
You may want to push the limits of what you can do with your Pico. By adding conditions to your rules, you might, say, trigger different scenes based on what time of day you press the On or Preset buttons. Or try to leverage the up and down buttons on the 5-button Pico by enabling different scenes triggered at different dim ranges.
You can also pair more than one Pico with a Lamp Dimmer module using the Lutron app, so you can have multiple remotes in one room. You can even mix and match Picos. We have a 2-button Pico mounted at one room entrance, a 5-button Pico at the other, and yet another 5-button remote on a pedestal by the sofa (perfect for that Movie Time scene!).
Note that if you’re going to use this hack for multiple environments in your home, be sure you set the devices up in separate rooms in the Lutron app.
Finally, it’s worth noting that much of this is possible without using HomeKit. Most other systems, however, can’t detect specific dim levels, though, so your capabilities may be limited. For example, you could use a service like Yonomi to detect whether a proxy module is on or off and use that to trigger Yonomi routines.
Have fun with it! We believe Lutron’s Pico remote is the best physical remote solution out there. It fits multiple decors, has multiple mounting solutions, and it looks like a switch—not some randomly over-designed button slapped somewhere on a wall or surface. Until Lutron’s own solution exposes the Pico to HomeKit, this hack should let you take advantage of its power and versatility.
Now we need to get on the folks over at Insteon about those Keypad controllers….