Home Automation - Lighting Control Only

john_wcOctober 22, 2005

We are planning to build a new house and want to incorporate lighting control. The other features of home automation, i.e., hvac, security, communications, etc., do not interest us -- or our wallet. We don't want to use powerline technology (X10). We want to program approximately 4-6 lighting scenes with manual override. Any recommendations for systems? Approximate cost?

Thanks in advance.

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One word....Lutron

Doing something limited? Lutron "Radio Ra" is probably the way you want to go.

Lutron "Homeworks" would be the top top level of control, but it's just a tad to the pricey side.....

    Bookmark   October 23, 2005 at 3:17PM
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Thanks KTKelly,

Is Homeworks a hardwired system?

How pricey is Homeworks?

    Bookmark   October 23, 2005 at 3:28PM
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Yup, Homeworks is tyhe hardwired system, and Radio Ra is the wireless system.

Homeworks can only be designed and wired by a Lutron Homeworks certified dealer. And it is expensive.

Radio Ra is a better way to go if you're dealing with a fairly limited system. Might be wireless, but it's extremely stable...

    Bookmark   October 24, 2005 at 7:04PM
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Start Small! People spend thousands on automation products, only to find they don't work or the installer wasn't doing their homework.

Because you are building a new house, the first step is to prewire the entire house. This will allow you to retrofit automation systems in the future as your needs and desires change.

Companies such as Vantage, LightTouch, Lutron, and Lightolier are high end systems. They can offer decor faceplates, customized lighting solutions, and, hopefully, experienced installers for a price. In addition to $200 light switches, you will need a central controller. This can easily cost more than a $1000.

EDT and ONQ ALC are systems geared for the middle income as well as high end residential markets. ONQ offers a complete home automation solution in addition to the lighting control. EDT offers a stand alone i-LiNE lightng control system. ONQ also has a central control module that can control more than just the lighting system. EDT has no central control module. Switches for these systems are about half the price of a high end system. This does not include the cost of controllers or installation.

Low end "hobbyist" products, such as X10, have reliability issues. However, there are second generation systems, such as UPB, that are 99% reliable.

A fully automated house is very expensive, but understand that platforms such as HAI, HomeLogic, Elk Products, Applied Digital, HomeSeer, Meedio, and Premise, are designed to control more than a just one lighting system. So if one solution turns out to be unreliable, you still have the option of retrofitting with a more reliable system.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2005 at 11:16AM
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We just wired our home with the Insteon products from Smarthome, and I have to say I'm very impressed and the cost wasn't bad either. You may want to check it out.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2005 at 11:21AM
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Thanks for some great answers.

I am so behind with home automation technology that I having trouble understanding some concepts.

Since this will be new construction, hard wiring would be relatively easy. I have a contractor who can do this as well as the cat5 prewire. While the Radio technology Lutron product that KTKelly mentioned is very attractive, doesn't it make sense to hard wire new construction? If we do hard wire, can two car radio ra transmittors still be used with a hard wired system?

Can I hard wire, use a central controller (what is a central controller?) and a nice lighted keypad such as HAI? Lutron keypads don't look as high tech as the HAI. Am I missing something here? Finally, what devices actually control each individual light?

Thank you again everyone and hope there is still hope for my home automation understanding.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2005 at 6:29AM
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Lutron's newer SeeTouch keypads are lighted and engraved and are available for both Radio RA and HomeWorks. Radio RA is only available as wireless. HomeWorks can be either wired or wireless. Anyone can install Radio RA but Lutron maintains a prefered system provider list. A Prefered System Provider has had special training and using one extends your warrantee to three years. Only Lutron certified dealers can install HomeWorks.

The Lutron car visor receiver communicates with Radio RA or HomeWorks wirelessly. It also works with HomeLink which is standard in most higher end cars.

Radio RA has a Chronos time clock and main system repeater option which looks like a central control but Radio RA actually stores programming in every switch and dimmer. There is no central controller. Every device hears every command and responds as it has been taught. One programs Radio RA by making a list of which device is to respond to which button press and then teaching by pushing the buttons while in program mode.

HomeWorks has a central processor which provides virtually unlimited possibilities for programming. Some advantages include conditional logic, intelligent pathways, adjustable fades and delays, and larger systems for larger homes.

For new contruction and for someone looking at Radio RA, I recommend you talk to a HomeWorks Illuminations dealer about a Series 4 system before deciding.

Here is a link that might be useful: Series 4

    Bookmark   November 25, 2005 at 7:03PM
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A central controller is the "brain" that some systems use to process commands. Rather than allow devices to communicate with eachother, all communication is processed through one location.

An intelligent light switch, on the other hand, can remotely control loads without affecting the ability of other switches to function properly. The result is increased efficiency and easier programming. No controller is required.

In every system, whether its centralized, distributed, or part of the larger "umbrella" of a home automation system you at least need a load controlling device.

In summary, a distributed system needs load controlling devices and a power supply. If the system is wireless, you need repeaters. If it is power line, you need filters. If it is hardwired, you need the house pre-wired with low voltage cabling. The factors that need to be weighed are cost, reliablity, how much maintenance is required, time of installation, ease of programming, and the ability to integrate with other electronic devices besides lighting control. Generally, a simple design is going to provide better reliablity, lower cost, and programming ease.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 11:13AM
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Concerning HAI, you can hardwire a lighting control system and use HAI touchscreen keypads at the same time as long as both systems (the lighting control system and the HAI system) use the same language. HAI should have a list of companies they can integrate with on their website.

The keypads are not load control devices. You still need load control devices (either HAI's or one of their partners) to control the lights. The purpose of the keypad is to place home automation control (lighting, HVAC, security, etc.) at the touch of a fingertip. You can also move those ugly banks of load control switches to the closet, installing the keypad in their former location. This gives your house a more Star Trek feel.

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 4:24PM
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AndreWood, thank you. Your posts really aid my understanding.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 8:59PM
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Your original post said lighting control only with manual overide. If you go to the "series 4" link and click on "system overview" you can see the parts of a lighting control system. Clicking on each part will bring up an explanation of it. For complete manual overide you need to keep dimmers and switches (load devices) where you can get to them.

Touch screens are best used for central control of multiple systems.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 11:36AM
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clim4fun, when you say touch screns are best used for multiple systems, do you mean hvac, security, lighting,etc. Could a touchscreen be programmed for different lighting themes such as away, evening, entertaining, etc?

    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 4:14PM
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"when you say touch screns are best used for multiple systems, do you mean hvac, security, lighting,etc. "


Could a touchscreen be programmed for different lighting themes such as away, evening, entertaining, etc?

If you go to the HAI website and find the OmniTouch demo it shows what is probably a default main menu. All touch screens are not the same. Crestron and AMX are the most customizable and those are all I've seen on jobs. They can do anything you can dream up and pay for. Maybe some else knows exaclty how the HAI touch screen can be customized.

Have you decided on what lighting control devices to use? HAI uses UPB or serial connection to 3rd party equipment.

I've worked with X-10, UPB, ONQ, Lightolier Multiset with and without Brilliance, Vantage, Radio RA and HomeWorks. HomeWorks is by far the nicest system. IMHO

    Bookmark   December 2, 2005 at 7:31PM
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dim4fun, I did go to lutron.com and clicked on the series 4 link. Thank you, it was very informative. Assuming costs are ok, I do have prior experience with Lutron's Grafick eye and would readily go with Lutron again. My concern is cost. We will be building approx. 3,400 sf. Any estimate of costs for series 4?

    Bookmark   December 2, 2005 at 9:53PM
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Consult with a dealer in your area. The design you both arrive at, markup and labor rate will greatly affect the price. A dealer should be able to give a ballpark estimate after spending a few minutes talking with you before going to all the work of putting your home into the software. Lutron lists their dealers on the website. Square footage is not a good ruler for something with so many choices. There are different levels of lighting control. A basic system covers the areas where you receive and entertain guests. From there you might choose to add:

master suite
landscape lighting
window shades
audio/video connection (just wire and programming)
projection screen
car visor control interface
the kids' and guest rooms

    Bookmark   December 3, 2005 at 1:06AM
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HomeWorkes and HAI integration?
I am building a new home we are currently installing the Lutron system (we are stringing six small homeworks devices together - ea is about the size of a three gang box - as apposed to the hole electrical panel option (more cost effective)- sorry I don't know the proper name, but it is a hardwire Lutron) I want to put in an HAI Omni Pro system for Security, probably add HIA Hi Fi system too, looks very cost effective. I am currently racking my brain for how much and what kind of weir to run to where (got to have a frunt door camera/ intercom, and a kitchen Touch screen w/video ( I digressÂ)
Question: will the HAI talk to the HomeWorks or dose it just talk to the Lutron RA system switches?
PS the home will have: Lutron HW, HAI security, CCTV and whole house HiFi (both HAI probably), and an intercom system (maybe a Viking Paging system with phone based intercom) suggestions any body? Oh and I was thinking about putting in Microphones for the HAI 2 way communications option can they do intercom too?

    Bookmark   November 19, 2006 at 3:04PM
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