There’s long been a debate over the use of the term “smart home.” We would certainly argue it’s a very small number of homes that can actually adapt to changing conditions in their environment. Most are remote-controlled from a smartphone, tablet, or buttons and switches throughout the home.
Without the ability to really have “smart” homes, the next best thing is a home that “senses” our presence and reacts to it. That’s where motion sensors are a great asset to home automation, not to mention that in the new reality we’re all having to grapple with, touching light switches is also a potential health risk!
Lutron announced the Caséta Smart Motion Sensor at CES 2020, with claims of detection “three times better than the competition.” We were intrigued by the possibilities. Choosing a motion sensor that is fast and reliable is important. It’s disappointing when a motion sensor performs slowly and leaves you in the dark for several seconds.
We’re not enamored with the size, appearance, or the ≈$50 USD retail price, but the overall performance is quite impressive. Let’s break it down, starting with the physical design.
The Caséta sensor design looks dated and utilitarian. It shares a form factor used by Lutron Vive systems, intended for the commercial market. While this would be perfectly acceptable in an office building, in our homes, it looks big and out of place.
Battery type significantly determines the design of the device and its overall size. Above from left to right– Lutron Caséta (CR123), Ring (CR123), Philips Hue (2X AAA), Samsung SmartThings (CR2), Sylvania Smart+ (CR2), Xiaomi Aqara (CR2450)
The sensor hardware utilizes passive infrared (PIR) sensors to measure infrared light radiating from objects in its field of view. This is nothing special—the majority of motion sensors operate this way. Lutron sensors combine PIR detection with their XCT technology that makes sensitivity adjustments largely unnecessary. Recognizing the presence of noise in the infrared light measurement, it has a very high sensitivity to fine motion. This is the same technology Lutron uses in its Maestro motion sensor switches to detect micro-movements.
Lutron’s exceptional Clear Connect RF technology provides reliable connections. It has a low attenuation from building materials and no interference from cellular or cordless telephones, microwave ovens, and WiFi. It’s the same technology in Lutron’s Pico Remotes.
The sensor comes with an optional, replacement back panel so you could also mount it in a corner. The ubiquitous CR123 battery (included) will power an average runtime of 10 years. We’d argue a shorter battery life might just be preferable if it meant a smaller design. Drywall anchors, screws, and a 3M Command Strip are all included in the box.
Configuring the Caséta Wireless Motion Sensor is fast and simple as we have come to expect from Lutron. Just add it to the Caséta Smart Bridge in the Lutron app and assign your sensor to a room. Alternatively, you can pair the sensor directly with Caséta switches or lamp dimmers. Press OFF on your Caséta device for six seconds, and then hold the sensor’s button with a lightbulb icon for six seconds to join them without a bridge.
On the top of the sensor are two physical buttons:
- One labelled Test for, as one would expect, entering or exiting test mode.
- The second has a light bulb icon. Its purpose is to join the Clear Connect network and test communications.
When in test mode, the lens glows indicating movement. The second button on top toggles a Lutron Caséta Dimmer, Switch, Plug-in Module or Fan Controller. This checks if the sensor has a good radio signal when it’s in its final location.
Three additional buttons on the back let you change timeout periods, sensitivity adjustments, and set sensor defaults. The default settings of our test device turns lights on and then off automatically with a 15-minute timeout, with a low sensitivity to motion. Both of these defaults should work well in most environments, but if you need to adjust them, the left button will change between 5, 15, or 30 minute timeout periods, and the middle button sets low, medium or high sensitivity levels.
Lutron has two versions of this sensor. We tested the version with occupancy sensing (PD-OSENS). The other available product offers only vacancy sensing. The occupancy sensor offers a choice of turning lights and/or a fan on either automatically when entering a space or manually switched on by the occupant. This makes the occupancy sensing model ideal for use in bedrooms or when pets are in the space.
To test the sensor reaction time and sensitivity, we added it to a Lutron Caséta Smart Bridge Pro. The sensor appears in the Lutron Caséta app, but you can’t change sensor settings—you have to change them physically at the sensor. It’s odd that a consumer-grade product in 2020 requires button presses to configure instead of wireless commands. It can make configuration challenging, particularly if the best location for the sensor happens to be hard to reach.
Normally, we’d test how a product works through other ecosystems, like Alexa, SmartThings, or HomeKit. Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply here. Lutron has told us they do not expose their sensors and Pico controllers to third-party systems to ensure the quality of their customer experience. That’s a fair statement, but it just leaves us with more questions. The defunct Staple Connect Hub was able to add Pico remotes to their system, and with the purchase of a Caséta Smart Bridge Pro, systems such as Hubitat Elevation™, Home Assistant, openHAB, and SmartThings can do the same. It just feels like a discrepancy of choice, rather than a commitment to customer experience.
Regardless of the dated design and large size, the motion sensor performance has been exceptionally sensitive and fast over the two months we’ve been testing it. While we haven’t recorded actual measurements, it feels instant. We’ve never tested a connected motion sensor as fast. If you’re only using Caséta, it’s probably your best option, despite the hefty price.
That said, it’s very frustrating to not be able to use it with HomeKit. We continue to urge Lutron to reconsider this, and if that does happen, it could make the Caséta Smart Motion Sensor our top pick for a HomeKit-compatible motion sensor.
What do you think about this new sensor from Lutron? Will you be adding it to your list of Caséta devices? Let us hear from you in the comments.
Thanks to Lutron for providing us with the Caséta Smart Motion Sensor for review.