Lutron Caseta Outdoor Smart Plug Review: Flexibility in the garden

Admin1 - Apr 23, 2021, 4:07pm CDT
Lutron Caseta Outdoor Smart Plug Review: Flexibility in the garden
Editors' Rating: 8/10
Pros
  • IP65 weatherproof design is built to last
  • Easy to setup
  • High load levels
  • Very flexible with a Lutron bridge
Cons
  • Needs extra hardware to use all the features
  • Bulky design could make mounting tricky
  • No dimming support
  • Not cheap

I’m not saying the Lutron Caseta Wireless Outdoor Smart Plug saved me from being viciously attacked by wild birds, but that’s certainly a possibility. Latest addition to the Caseta smart home range, the outdoor plug does exactly what you’d expect: give you weatherproof control over exterior devices, without having to worry about the weather.

In my case, that meant avoiding an Alfred Hitchcock-style attack in the garden. We didn’t buy the heated bird bath out there, the previous resident did, but clearly the feathered visitors had got used to the spa-like facilities even in the dead of winter. Nothing else explains the baleful stare of a furious-looking dove as it eyed me resentfully through the window, its little clawed feet standing on the frozen-solid water.

The bird bath doesn’t cost a lot to run, frankly, but in warmer weather the heating does seem to dry it out more rapidly, and I’m lazy when it comes to refilling it again. Lutron’s Outdoor Smart Plug promised a workaround, giving me remote control over when the heating element switched on. Just how convenient that is, though, depends on what other Lutron Caseta hardware you have.

It’s not a small device. Indoor smart plugs are now little larger than a plug themselves, but the challenges of being weather-resistant mean the $79.95 Caseta outdoor plug is a lot larger. Its IP65-rated polycarbonate body is 6.9-inches long including the mounting lugs and 1.5-inches thick. It weighs a not-inconsiderable 0.9 pounds, too.

On one end there’s a roughly 5-inch cord with a three-prong outlet, and on the other there’s a 7-inch cord with a three-prong plug. Lutron opted for reassuringly thick cables, though that does limit how much you can bend them, which could make mounting a challenge. I ended up leaving the whole thing dangling from my outdoor GFCI-equipped outlet – it wasn’t too heavy to pull the plug loose – though you could add screws for wall-mounting if you preferred, and Lutron has an optional wall-mounting bracket and a pedestal as alternatives.

The upside to the chunkiness is its weather-resistance. Lutron says it’s certified to keep out dirt, dust, moisture, rain, sprinkler and hose spray, and snow. It faced all of the above outside my Midwest home, without issue. As for load, it’ll handle up to 120V 15A lighting, up to 1/2 horsepower motors and pumps, and up to 1,200VA (8A) lighting transformer or magnetic ballast.

The front gets a single button for power: press it once, the connected device turns on, and a green LED lights up to show current status. Of course, the whole point is that you don’t have to go outside. There, depending on what existing Caseta hardware you have, the experience varies.

Simplest is a Lutron Pico remote. They’re palm-sized remote controls, priced at about $15-20 depending on how many buttons they have, and they can connect directly to the Outdoor Smart Plug. With that, you can switch the plug on and off from about 30 feet over Lutron’s proprietary wireless link, depending on what walls are in-between.

With a Lutron Caseta Bridge, however, things get much more flexible. You can add one of those for around $80, though Lutron offers starter kits with both the bridge, a remote, and other accessories for around $100. It plugs into your router, and then you can pair multiple Caseta devices to it: linking the outdoor plug took literally seconds. It also works with the company’s smartphone apps for iOS and Android, and integrates with smart speaker systems like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit.

With the bridge and app, you can set up schedules and scenes. You could, for instance, hook your holiday lights to the Outdoor Smart Plug, and have them turn on automatically in the evening and off again in the morning. That can be varied by day of the week, set to happen at specific times, or activate intelligently based on sunrise, sunset, and a preconfigured offset from either of those times. The bridge will automatically adjust according to daylight saving time, too.

What I took advantage of, though, was its IFTTT integration. Having first set up an “Outdoor Plug On” and an “Outdoor Plug Off” scene, I could use If This Then That with a localized weather forecast service to automatically turn the plug on when the temperature dropped below freezing, and then off again when it rose higher.

The result was a birdbath that automatically switched on the heating when the weather got colder, and then switched off again when it warmed up. No more ice, and no more furious doves. If you wanted – and the combined load didn’t exceed what the Outdoor Smart Plug is rated for – you could daisy-chain a few devices from it. Lutron suggests it’s capable of running thousands of feet of LED string lights, or hundreds of feet of incandescent versions. It’s worth noting that it’s on/off only, mind: there’s no dimming support.

Lutron Caseta Wireless Outdoor Smart Plug PD-15OUT-BL Verdict

On the one hand, what value can you place on not being furiously pecked whenever you step outside the house? I suspect Tippi Hedren would agree with me there. All the same, there’s a not-inconsiderable investment to be made for the maximum feature set of Lutron’s Outdoor Smart Plug, if you’re not already in the Caseta ecosystem.

The smart outlet and a Pico remote are about $100; that number rises if you want to use the Caseta Bridge, and honestly you probably do since otherwise you’re missing out on all the scheduling, scenes, and smart home integrations. Lutron’s isn’t the only smart plug on the market, either, and though outdoor ones are a little more rare, it’s on the expensive end of the scale.

In my experience, though, it’s been rock-solid. That’s despite weather I haven’t wanted to be outside in. Being able to set up IFTTT and leave the whole thing to manage itself is convenient, and unlike with WiFi or Bluetooth based smart home devices, I’ve not had any wireless grumbles or hiccups. Lutron’s load capacities are on the high end, too, which is important if you have more in mind than just a string of holiday lights. In short, you pay for the stability and the flexibility, but I don’t think you need to have ornithophobia to think that’s a decent deal.

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