Scene controllers

alabamanicoleSeptember 10, 2009

I am building a new house and I have one 3-room open area which will have multiple dimmable lighting options in each. What I would like to have are 2 programmable scene controllers (one at each main entry) which control all of the various light groups. I'm not looking for anything terribly fancy and hard wiring is 100% acceptable.

Someday I'd like to have some basic home automation, so if the scene controllers could also integrate with one of the various wireless automation systems or could be hardwired to my data closet, that would be a huge plus.

I can find the scene controllers for sale, but not any information on what you need to control the various items. Most of the "receivers" I see are for plugging in lamps and such to existing outlets. With all the multitude of parts available, it's difficult to put together a system without knowing the names of what you are looking for!

Can anyone give me the names of basic parts that I would need, or point me to a tutorial that covers this kind of situation? The ones I have found online haven't really applied to my situation.


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The two systems I know of are Lutron Radio Ra and Lightolier Multi-set.
You can get all the info off their websites.
Radio Ra is done by radio frequency and can be easily intregated with your automation systems.It is relatively expensive but is very dependable and is easily expanded as there is no special wiring required.
The Multi Set is hard wired with an extra carrier wire, so expansion is limited and it's interface capability is limited.
But it is substantially cheaper

    Bookmark   September 10, 2009 at 10:52PM
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Thanks for the feedback. Unfortunately, these companies have the same issue -- lack of information. So I know I need a controller... and what else?

I am sure they are trying to support their installer chain, but I'd rather understand the basics and ballpark cost before involving any salespeople.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2009 at 7:30AM
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I suggest you explore the link and wire to accomodate Radio RA 2.

At each main entry point you'd install keypads. The Grafik Eyes or dimmers can hide in a closet or pantry but they can be out in view, too depending on your needs.

This is new but is due to start shipping in October. If you need finish materials faster you can still use Radio RA 1.

Here is a link that might be useful: Radio RA 2

    Bookmark   September 11, 2009 at 6:49PM
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I'm using the original RadioRA system and it's great and very reliable. But if you can wait, check out the new RadioRA2. From the little research I've done, it's significantly cheaper and it's Lutron's RF system of the future. One of the advantages of the RadioRA system is that no special wiring is required, so it'll work in a retrofit application. Also, in order to eliminate large banks of light switches in full view, you mount the individual light switches in a hidden location and mount keypads at your entry points. The keypad talks to your hidden switches via RF. I have switches in a coat closet, pantry and theater equipment room. Besides the keypads and switches, you'll need at least one repeater. I don't know about the new system, but my repeaters have a 30 foot range, so I have three in my house. I didn't do the initial installation, but I have added and replaced switches and it's pretty easy to install and program.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2009 at 8:29PM
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Is there any way to avoid the huge bank of switches? That's the whole reason I am looking at scene controllers.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2009 at 9:23PM
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"Is there any way to avoid the huge bank of switches? That's the whole reason I am looking at scene controllers."

All lighting control systems must still have a dimmer or switch somewhere in the house. These are the devices that the light fixtures are directly connected to. There are more compact versions of dimmers and switches but they are still in the smaller box. An example is the Grafik Eye. Some models can control up to six lighting zones in an enclosure that fits into a 4 gang deep box instead of a 6 gang. If you don't want to see the dimmers you can hide them but you can't get rid of them.

In large homes and commercial installations the switches and dimmers may be grouped into large panels which can include the branch circuit breakers.

Here is a link that might be useful: Remote panel example

    Bookmark   September 12, 2009 at 10:26AM
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Maybe I am barking up the wrong tree, then, with the wrong terminology. Maybe it's not a "scene controller" I need, but smarter switches and dimmers.

It would be much easier if we had any lighting stores around here open evenings and weekend and I could just go look at the options!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2009 at 3:32PM
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To me it sounds like you don't understand what you are asking for. No matter which "system" you choose they are pretty much the same basic parts when looking at them as pieces required to make things happen. Some are more robust in operation, offer more cosmetic choices and have a better assortment of parts to accomplish more such as handling larger loads, electronic low voltage loads, lack of a neutral, and integrating. You can't eliminate dimmers or switches. You can only move them or group them differently. "Smart dimmers" listen for commands, some can also send commands. UPB has dimmer units that can control their own local load as well as send commands to other dimmers by way of adding buttons to their faces and programming them. The new RadioRA 2 is implying that they will have hybrid keypad/dimmers. This will make it easier to add the system to existing homes because you can replace a switch or dimmer with a smart dimmer and also get some keypad function.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2009 at 2:27PM
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You're correct, I don't know what I am asking for, but I have been unable to find good resources with which to educate myself, so I'm flailing about here! :)

Thank you for your assistance. So far I've learned more on this thread than the 50-odd web pages and brochures I've read.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2009 at 6:06PM
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Here's my take on the Lightolier Multiset system.
These are approximate prices, as I deal only in Canadian $.
You would install a Multiset dimmer for each light, or series of lights, you want to control.
The selection of each dimmer would depend on the type of load( incandescent, magnetic low voltage ) and the total load.
These dimmers are around $125.00.
They are installed exactly as you would any dimmer, but in a spot that is less conspicious,such as a closet or pantry,
All these dimmers are connected together with a single "carrier" wire which goes to a key pad and a series of key pads.Some large kicthen may need 2 such key pads.
These key pads ,worth about $225 each will give you 4 scenes, all on, and all on at 50%
That's all you need for this system

    Bookmark   September 17, 2009 at 8:29PM
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