Smart lighting is one of the first areas where consumers dive into smart home technology. Whether for security, convenience, or even just entertainment purposes, smart lighting can be useful all around the home. But controlling smart lighting has always been tricky. Do you use smart bulbs or smart switches? If you have smart bulbs, what if someone turns off the switch? Literally millions of homeowners face this problem, and countless articles have been written about the issue.
Several clever products try to solve the problem—from Lutron’s inexpensive Aurora control to Orro’s pricey Orro One, which can remotely control smart bulbs as well as many devices around your home. Others abandon the “light switch” format altogether, opting for unique or sometimes clunky industrial design in the form of buttons, dials, or controllers. From our perspective, most of these fall short.
Leviton’s New Scene Controller
Enter Leviton’s new Scene Controller Switch. This is the latest addition to Leviton’s 2nd-generation Decora Smart Wi-Fi lineup, and it checks nearly all the right boxes. Similar in form factor to the Leviton 4-Button Controller, this new device is a sleek, 4-button keypad. It’s also a full, 15 amp light switch, with the fourth button dedicated to an integrated relay. This lets you replace an existing switch, still control the circuit that switch operates, and have three additional buttons to control other smart stuff in the room or around your home.
That’s similar to the Insteon Keypad Switch some consumers still use and the Nokia Smart Lighting Keypad that never made it to market. With Insteon, though, you’re pretty limited in what the other buttons can control without using some complex, third-party software. A few similar Z-Wave and Zigbee devices have popped up recently, but they, too, rely on third-party support and custom device drivers [and if you don’t know what that means, then those definitely aren’t for you].
So what makes Leviton’s new controller so great? Compatibility and customization.
As part of the Decora Smart Wi-Fi family of devices, the Scene Controller Switch works with the My Leviton app. There you can configure different device features and, with a My Leviton cloud account, set up the controller’s buttons to…control other Decora Smart products, trigger scenes (which they call “activities”), and more.
Leviton offers an Alexa skill and a Google Assistant action, so both of those voice assistants can control your Scene Controller Switch. You can also link the switch with a Schlage Encode deadbolt, and unlocking your door could turn on the lights. It even works with IFTTT (more on that in a bit).
Like Leviton’s other 2nd-generation Decora Smart products, though, this device also works with HomeKit. And this is where this device really shines. In HomeKit, you can set the three scene control buttons to activate any HomeKit devices or scenes. This is where the magic happens.
Leviton’s HomeKit support on this device is a big, big deal. It lets you use this simple keypad to control any other product that works with HomeKit. Lights, outlets, garage doors, sprinklers, security systems—anything that works with HomeKit.
Few companies are offering this kind of flexibility—some are even resisting it. We’ve repeatedly advocated for Lutron to consider exposing its Pico remotes to HomeKit. It won’t. Representatives from Lutron claim concerns about performance and customer experience. But Homebridge proves it can work, and it’s fast! That might, however, eat into Lutron’s sales of custom, high-end keypads it sells through dealers and installers.
We similarly pushed Smartlabs to expose its Insteon Keypad buttons in HomeKit if and when Insteon ever revisited HomeKit support. Despite talking about it for future products (perhaps the Nokia Smart Lighting Keypad?), they never did. Maybe the new crew might consider it?
You may be thinking, “aren’t there several button controls that work with HomeKit”? Yes, but none that looks and works like the rest of the switches on your wall. Most are single-button, cleverly-designed gadgets that many consumers wouldn’t necessarily want on their wall, and some look ridiculous next to a traditional wall switch.
With Leviton’s Scene Controller Switch, you can replace the wall switch next to the door that controls the porch light with a professional-looking keypad that still operates the front light and lets you turn off all the lights at bed time. And change the color of your Hue bulbs. And open your MyQ garage door. That’s all controlled locally, over Wi-Fi, in your home. The opportunities are endless. Unless you don’t use HomeKit. And that’s where IFTTT comes in.
Like with HomeKit, IFTTT can use the buttons as triggers for actions. This, of course, is through the cloud, but it opens an even more vast array of possibilities.
Did We Mention Colors?
One of the things we loved about Insteon’s Keypads back in the day was that they used to come in multiple colors. So whether your light switches were white, light almond, ivory, brown, gray, or black, they had a keypad to match. Leviton similarly recognizes that not all homes have white switches. So whether your switches are white, light almond, ivory, brown, … (you get the idea), they have a controller to match. Just swap out the white buttons with one of the separately-sold color change kits.
But that’s not all. Again, like for Insteon Keypads, U.S. customers can get custom-engraved buttons for Leviton’s new scene controller. No cryptic dot symbols, no guessing, and no more leaving the babysitter in the dark. Professionally-engraved, custom buttons for your scenes and your lifestyle, ordered directly from within the My Leviton app.
The new controller is available now at Leviton.com for $65, and we’re told it should appear on Amazon’s and Home Depot’s sites soon. Custom-engraved buttons in any of the available colors should cost about $20 a set, and blank color change kits can be had for a little over $6.
Checks All the Boxes
We’ve yet to test this device, but from what we’ve learned so far, it checks all the boxes:
- Looks like and fits with traditional switches
- Includes an onboard switch to control the connected circuit
- Can be used in single-pole and multi-way configurations
- Works with other Decora Smart Wi-Fi products and accessories
- Works with Alexa and Google Assistant
- Controls other vendors’ smart home products through HomeKit and IFTTT
- Works locally with HomeKit, with or without a My Leviton cloud account
- Available in multiple, standard switch colors
- Custom engraved buttons available
- Relatively low cost
Not to sound too hyperbolic, but this feels like a game-changer—a device that consumers have been wanting and waiting for. About the only thing we wish we could change is for the top button to control the connected circuit—not the bottom one. Maybe we can install it upside down?
If you’d like to learn more about this and many other Decora Smart products from Leviton, check out Episode #150 of Home: On. Leviton’s Greg Rhoades discusses these products, detailing many of their thoughtfully-designed, useful features.