What Protocol Lutron Caseta Uses (Why Not ZigBee/Z-Wave?)

Lutron Caséta is one of the biggest names in smart switches, plugs, and a few other smart devices. When it comes to smart switches and plugs, the Lutron brand name is considered to be one of the best high-end options for your smart home.

As with many smart home devices, Lutron relies on a hub to connect all of its devices with your home’s smart ecosystem. While many of the other smart technology options out there today rely on either Wi-Fi connectivity or 2.4 gigahertz communications, Lutron Caséta has opted to take a different path.

Lutron Caséta uses the Clear Connect RF communications protocol. This uses an entirely different frequency (434 MHz) from both Wi-Fi and 2.4 Gigahertz alternatives like ZigBee. The biggest reason for this change is to operate on a little-used frequency which gives users a better experience. Let’s take a closer look at why Lutron took the path less traveled.

What is Lutron Caseta?

Lutron Caseta Product Family
Lutron Caseta Product Family

Caséta is a line of smart home products by the brand Lutron. These are currently the gold standard of smart switches. So, what makes these some of the best smart light switches on the market?

It all comes down to range and versatility. Caséta smart switches include dimmers, smart light switches, and smart plugs. They give you the ability to use these smart switches with just about any dimmable bulb.

Lutron’s smart switches include all of the standard features that you’d come to expect from modern technology. You can create scenes to match your mood, set automated schedules for your lighting, and take control of your lights while you’re away from home. Caséta also has the ability to work with Alexa, Apple’s Home Kit, Google, and a wide range of other smart technologies.

Another thing that sets Caséta apart is the use of Clear Connect RF. Lutron has spent most of its time as a brand trying to find ways to work around Wi-Fi and other common protocols. Their Clear Connect RF hub boasts lightning fast speed as well as freeing up space on your Wi-Fi network.

Let’s take a closer look at the Lutron Caséta’s Wi-Fi-free protocol and what that means for smart home users.

What Protocol Lutron Caseta Uses

Lutron, including their Caséta products, use the Clear Connect RF protocol, which runs on the 434 MHz radio frequency band. They chose this band after investigating many different bands, and choosing one that is less-used and so should conflict less with other wireless technologies (like Wi-Fi).

However, before exploring that concept in more detail, we should backtrack and explain what is a protocol and why Lutron would want to make their own.

If you’ve been around smart home technology for a while, you’ve probably heard people talking about protocols. So, what are these things anyway?

A protocol is simply a set of rules that one electronic device uses to communicate with another. Here’s an example that might help clear up what a protocol is on more human terms.

Let’s say you and a friend want to have a conversation. You could agree to have a face-to-face chat at your favorite coffee shop, give each other a phone call, or let your inner hipster shine and set up your own working telegram. You could consider each of these as a communications protocol that you and your friend would agree on before your conversation.

Smart technologies, likewise, “agree” on their own communications protocols so that they can talk to each other. Smart tech uses a variety of different communications protocols. Common protocols include Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and Z-Wave.

Lutron Caséta uses its own type of protocol called Clear Connect RF. Let’s take a closer look at Clear connect RF and what sets it apart from other protocols.

What is Lutron Caseta’s Clear Connect RF?

When was the last time that you used the radio? Maybe it was the last time you took a ride in your car, or maybe it’s been decades since you’ve turned on a radio. However, it might shock you to know that you actually use radio technology every single day.

Wi-Fi and other smart technology communications protocols are all technically different types of radio communications. Wi-Fi is the most crowded of these signals. Everything from your new PlayStation to your smartphone takes up space on your Wi-Fi bandwidth. This makes it very crowded to begin with and that’s even before you start adding smart home devices.

ZigBee and Z-Wave are common alternatives to Wi-Fi. ZigBee operates on the 2.4 Ghz frequency (same as most Wi-Fi signals), whereas Z-Wave operates below the 1 Ghz range frequency.

Clear connect RF is separate from all three of these communications protocol options. This band uses FCC 15.231 regulations. There are a few different rules for operating on this frequency band including:

  • Devices must be very low power
  • Devices can not transmit continuously
  • Typically, transmissions are defined by user actions—like pressing a button

What are the other devices that operate on this particular set of FCC regulations? We’re looking at devices like wireless key fobs and garage door openers. This meant that these particular frequencies were wide open for Lutron to start operating their smart light switches.

The Benefits of the Caseta Protocol

Lutron Caseta smart lighting dimmer kit with dimmer remote and smart bridge
Lutron Caseta smart lighting dimmer kit with dimmer remote and smart bridge

You can think about radio communications like a city street. In this case, Wi-Fi would be the busiest street in the neighborhood. There’s so much traffic that goes over Wi-Fi that there are often traffic jams that prevent this particular street from working the way it should. Smart home technology that either uses Wi-Fi, or uses very similar bandwidths, adds to this traffic.

ZigGee is a common alternatives to Wi-Fi communications for smart devices. Using this communications protocols can help free up space on a crowded Wi-Fi network. However, it also uses the 2.4 GHz RF frequency. While they won’t be taking up space on your Wi-Fi, they might be causing interference to go over the same signals.

This is the single largest benefit to Lutron using the Clear Connect RF protocol. By getting out of the 2.4 gigahertz bandwidth all together, Lutron was able to secure a communications channel that is completely clear of interference.

Not only will Clear Connect RF never interfere with your Wi-Fi, it also likely will be completely unable to interfere with any other device in your home. So few devices use this band with that it makes it a great choice for smart home devices such as light switches.

Devices that use this particular frequency are also relatively uncommon and typically designed for infrequent use and short-range communications. Garage door openers are a great example of this. You’ll typically only use your garage door opener once or twice a day and often within several feet of the receiver. The same goes for your key fob or other similar devices.

This takes us to another clear advantage of Lutron Caséta’s communications protocol. Lutron worked to specifically test this technology for operational conditions that match what users will actually be using. Smart lighting switches are built to be used in commercial and residential environments that have operating conditions not unlike your garage door opener. They are designed for relatively short-range communications that are done infrequently and in short bursts. You’re typically only turning on or off your lights a handful of times a day and not in rapid succession.

The final advantage to consider is what type of device Lutron was working with. The Caséta smart switches and plugs are designed to operate a little differently than other smart home technologies. While a smart home camera requires the ability to stream high quality video 24 hours a day, a smart light switch has a much lower demand on both its energy usage and its data. This means that switching over to a lighter frequency cannot only open up space for the more in demand 2.4 gigahertz bandwidth, it can also create a faster response time.

Because the Lutron Caséta operates on its own communications protocol, it can operate much more quickly than devices that have to compete for space with your Wi-Fi network. The lack of interference and competition on this frequency also means that the communications sent between your devices are going to be more reliable.

Speaking of devices communicating with each other, how do you control the Lutron Caséta?

How Lutron Caseta Devices Are Controlled

There are a few different ways that you can take control of your Lutron Caséta system. No matter which one of these you end up picking, it all starts with Lutron hub.

The Lutron Caséta hub allows you to connect all of your Lutron devices together. The hub can also interconnect with other smart technology as well, but we’ll get to that in just a little bit. The hub also allows you to communicate with the Lutron app which you can use to control your devices.

This hub is primarily designed to connect with Lutron remote as well as the use of a voice assistant. The Pico Smart Remote can be used to control a wide range of Lutron devices connected to your smart hub. This technology also allows you to integrate Lutron’s gear with other brands:

A simple on off Lutron Pico light bulb remote
A simple on off Lutron Pico light bulb remote

There are countless different smart home technology manufacturers out there and this means that there are also just as many different ways of controlling these devices. Rather than forcing you to run multiple apps, Lutron Caséta allows you to control its devices using many of the other common smart tech options.

Here are just a few of the common smart home brands that you can use to with your Lutron Caséta technology:

  • Apple Home Kit
  • Google Assistant
  • Alexa
  • Sonos
  • EcoBee
  • Serena
  • SmartThings
  • Carrier
  • Honeywell Home
  • Logitech
  • Xfinity

The features and connectivity you’ll have with these brands varies from company to company. With the big three, those being Alexa, Apple Home Kit, and Google Assistant, you’ll be able to access the full depth of Lutron’s features.

There’s one aspect of Clear Connect RF that we haven’t gotten to talk about yet. How does this technology work with ZigBee, Z-Wave, and Wi-Fi devices?

Can Lutron Caseta integrate with ZigBee, Z-Wave, and Wi-Fi devices?

An Echo Dot 3rd gen in calling mode (i.e. with a green ring around it)
An Echo Dot 3rd gen.

Just because Lutron Caséta has its own communications protocol doesn’t mean it can’t play nicely with the other big three types of smart technology connectivity.

Lutron has been purpose-built to work alongside these other communications protocols. Whether you are using technology that uses ZigBee or Z-Wave, or you’re loading all of your smart home tech on your Wi-Fi network, you’ll be able to use your Lutron Caséta devices alongside and integrated with these communications protocols.

This works both ways. You can use the Lutron app to readily integrate with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. You can also use these technologies the other way around and control your Lutron Caséta devices with popular smart home apps like those we just mentioned.

All in all, Lutron’s Clear Connect RF represents a refreshing break from the over-reliance on the 2.4 gigahertz bandwidth. Using Clear Connect RF will free up some signal for your other devices and give you an uninterrupted experience when it comes to controlling your smart lights and switches. Lutron Caséta was able to balance all of these benefits without sacrificing the ability to quickly and seamlessly integrate with those other communication protocols.

About Tristan Perry

Tristan Perry is a software developer who is passionate about tech gadgets, DIY and housing. He has therefore loved seeing smart homes hit the mainstream. Tristan also has an academic background (in Math & Computer Science), and so he enjoys digging into the technical ways that smart home devices work.

Tristan owns close to a dozen Amazon Echo devices, way too many Philips Hue bulbs and lightstrips, a boat-load of Ring Cameras and Doorbells... and a bunch of other smart home devices too (from Reolink, Google Nest, GLEDOPTO and others).

If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions about this article, please leave a comment below. Please note that all comments go into a moderation queue (to prevent blog spam). Your comment will be manually reviewed and approved by Tristan in less than a week. Thanks!

17 thoughts on “What Protocol Lutron Caseta Uses (Why Not ZigBee/Z-Wave?)”

  1. The Z-wave Alliance says that Z-wave operates in the sub-1GHz range, not at 2.4GHz as your article says. Which is correct?

  2. Most of the article was spent telling us what Lutron doesn’t use.

    What frequency band does Lutron use? Is it such a secret that causes people to avoid it?

  3. You pointed out the benefits of the proprietary Lutron Clear-Connect protocol, but I did see the downsides mentioned. To me, the biggest downside is that Clear Connect isn’t a mesh network (as far as I can tell), and therefore the range is very limited (30 feet according to the Lutron website!). I’m not interested in buying a bunch of wireless repeaters to overcome this limitation. Not only do mesh network devices act as their own ‘repeaters’, they also can detect mesh network connection issues and re-route.

    • Hey JM, thanks for the helpful comment – yes, you’re quite right to flag up that it isn’t a mesh network. And as you point out, having to buy lots of separate repeaters is also a bit of a flaw when a house might already have loads of Caseta products wired in everywhere!

      • This is a key thing and in fact why I came to this site. I want to know how Lutron gets its communications through a large house. I presently have a house with Insteon devices all over the place. It is a dual band system broadcasting RF and power line modulation to almost all devices (some are not dual). It is very reliable and simple to configure. Unfortunately it seems Insteon is no longer being made in quantities or kinds of devices as it was. So Lutron is a contender for my new larger house. If not a mesh and only RF, how does the signal get reliably through a 6000 sqft house? Are you saying Lutron requires repeaters?

    • I don’t think that you can, sorry! Levison are Wi-Fi based, not Clear Connect like Lutron’s hub. A third party hub like SmartThings or HomeAssistant will allow for supporting both (Leviton and Lutron), but that is naturally more work.

      • Thank you for the reply. I looked at the Lutron GRX-TVI and it unfortunately will not work for my application. It has to be mounted upright and there is not enough space. Also, it’s a rather expensive unit to use for a few LED panels. It’s really a shame that there aren’t any better options.

        • That’s a pity, yes it’s definitely an expensive unit too (which is unfortunately the case for many of Lutron’s more niche products). It does seem like a bit of a gap in the market, I agree.


Leave a Comment