The problem with smart bulbs like the Philips Hue series has always been—and will always be—dumb switches. The instant you turn the switch controlling a smart bulb to the off position, there is no way you’ll ever be able to control that bulb with an app, a digital assistant, or anything else until you flip the switch back on.

The Lutron Aurora fixes that issue in an ingenious way—but with some significant caveats. First, it’s compatible only with Philips Hue smart bulbs. So, if you’re lighting your rooms with LIFX, TP-Link, C by GE, or any other brand of smart bulb, the Aurora will do nothing for you. Second, if the switch on the wall that’s controlling your Philips Hue bulbs is anything other than an old-school toggle switch, the Aurora will do nothing for you (unless you’re willing to replace the switch and perhaps tolerate an ugly installation—see below).

The Aurora consists of two components that should take you less than five minutes to install. The first bit is a mounting base that you place over your toggle switch (with the switch in the on position) and then tighten down with a small Phillips screwdriver. Once this mechanical clamp is in place, it becomes physically impossible to turn the switch off. The second element is a rotary knob that snaps on to the base. The rotary knob contains a CR2032 battery (which Lutron says should last two to three years) and a Zigbee radio that talks to your Philips Hue bulbs via the Hue Bridge (or directly to Hue bulbs if you don’t have a Bridge). Once you’ve paired the Aurora with your Hue bulbs, pressing the rotary knob will turn the paired Hue lights on and off, and rotating it will dim or brighten the bulbs.

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lutron aurora backside Michael Brown / IDG

The Aurora consists of two pieces: The gray plastic device prevents the toggle switch from being turned off. The white rotating knob snaps onto the gray piece. Push it to turn the bulb on and off, or rotate to dim it.

You’ll configure the Aurora using the Friends of Hue switches menu in the Philips Hue app, where you can assign the switch to a room (provided you created rooms and assigned lights to them elsewhere in the app). You can also choose any Hue lighting scene and assign that to the Aurora, so that the Hue bulbs default to that scene when you press the switch. If you change the lighting scene by another means—using an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant voice command, for instance—the bulbs will retain that scene value after you turn the bulbs off and turn them on again using the Aurora.

If you want to change anything other than brightness (change colors or color temperatures, for example), you’ll need to either use the Hue app or issue a voice command to a compatible smart speaker.

Lutron says a single Aurora can control up to 50 Philips Hue smart bulbs connected to a Philips Hue Bridge, or up to Hue 12 bulbs directly if you don’t have a Bridge. It’s not even necessary for those bulbs to be on the same electrical circuit as the switch you’re installing it on, provided power is available to all those bulbs (i.e., any switches controlling them must be in the on position). For bulbs on multi-way circuits (e.g., a three-way circuit where switches at opposite sides of the room both control power to the bulbs), you can either install an Aurora at each location, or use some other means to ensure power to the socket(s) hosting the bulbs is not interrupted.

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typical toggle switch Michael Brown / IDG

You’ll need this type of toggle switch (single- or multi-pole) to install a Lutron Aurora smart bulb dimmer.

The Aurora is not compatible with other Lutron lighting controls, including the Lutron Caséta product line, but that hardly matters. When you’re not using the physical controls on the Aurora itself, you’ll most likely control the Hue bulbs with voice commands or the Philips Hue app anyway.

The Aurora is super-easy to install, and it even has a color LED that will help you troubleshoot if you run into any issues. Since all the switches in my home are of the rocker variety, Lutron helpfully sent a toggle switch along with the Aurora, so I could replace the one controlling the Philips Hue bulbs I wanted to test it with (these were in three ceiling cans in my home theater).



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