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post #1 of 13 Old 10-25-2016, 08:07 AM - Thread Starter
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Basic Home Automation Lighting Keypad Question

I see lots of high end homes where you walk in a room and they don't have light switches all over the room, just a single keypad with multiple buttons for either scenes or for each individual section in that room. How do they accomplish this. Do they install all light control modules in a central location like basement, then use the kepad as a responder that turns on and off those modules? In terms of wiring a home this way is it seen as a negative on resale value if others do not like this method of controlling lighting? Would it be hard to go from one system to another (is it all or nothing as all wiring must be done centrally or not). Thanks for your help.
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post #2 of 13 Old 10-25-2016, 09:03 AM
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There are a few ways to do this. One can do centralized lighting as you've described, where all of the wiring goes back to a centralized panel and there are just low voltage control keypads that the user interacts with. There are fewer companies doing this - this probably puts you in a higher cost bracket.

Another method is to use combination keypads/dimmers that give scene control through the buttons and control a lighting load. This is what I've done in our house. For example, in the dinning room where we have 3 lighting loads, we also needed 3 keypads around the room. (If you have more loads you can simply put those into a closet or another room; if you need more keypads, you can typically get keypads only.) Each lighting load is connected to one of the combination keypad/dimmers. Because the keypads are wirelessly connected to everything else, the keypads can control scenes throughout the house.

While it is possible to replace parts with others from different vendors, the reality is that it's not always that simple since you'd have to reprogram the new parts to work together, which can get fairly complex. I think it's probably best to pick a system from an established company and hope that they'll be around for as long as you need them.
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post #3 of 13 Old 10-25-2016, 09:23 AM - Thread Starter
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Ya I like the solution of just keeping the dimmers and switches just using smart versions of them. Won't look as neat and clean as the centralized location but gives me peace of mind that even if a company is no longer there in the future my home lighting will still function without the smart versions if need be....
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post #4 of 13 Old 10-25-2016, 09:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Negativecreep0 View Post
Ya I like the solution of just keeping the dimmers and switches just using smart versions of them. Won't look as neat and clean as the centralized location but gives me peace of mind that even if a company is no longer there in the future my home lighting will still function without the smart versions if need be....
Lutron's RadioRA2 is meant for this - can be retrofit and uses keypads that can replace existing switches when needed. Take the online training and you can DIY the whole thing, too.

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post #5 of 13 Old 10-25-2016, 09:46 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by jautor View Post
Lutron's RadioRA2 is meant for this - can be retrofit and uses keypads that can replace existing switches when needed. Take the online training and you can DIY the whole thing, too.
I'm already familiar with Insteon as I have it in my current home. Is it pretty much the same idea? What would make Lutron better over insteon if I also plan on using other insteon modules throughout my home for automation?
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post #6 of 13 Old 10-25-2016, 10:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Negativecreep0 View Post
I'm already familiar with Insteon as I have it in my current home. Is it pretty much the same idea? What would make Lutron better over insteon if I also plan on using other insteon modules throughout my home for automation?
Same basic idea. Sorry - were you asking for a retrofit solution or are you planning new construction?

For new construction you can relocate switches to nearby closets or other less-conspicuous locations, keeping a single-gang location available for the keypad. That at least keeps the main lighting controls "normal", but you're still making a commitment to having a lighting control system - but does provide a larger range of options since the wiring pattern is "standard" (if a bit inconvenient if there's no system).

I think anything you can do with Insteon you can do with RadioRA2 (and more), but there may be differences in what 3rd party control products integrate with it. In general RA2 will be more expensive, but has better looking keypads (with custom engraving, color choices, number of button options, raise/lower shade control, etc.).

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post #7 of 13 Old 10-25-2016, 01:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Negativecreep0 View Post
I'm already familiar with Insteon as I have it in my current home. Is it pretty much the same idea? What would make Lutron better over insteon if I also plan on using other insteon modules throughout my home for automation?


Lutron are bringing out a new range of switches - mite be worth keeping an eye out on their website.
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post #8 of 13 Old 10-25-2016, 01:38 PM
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As stated, there are a few companies that offer centralized lighting technology. They are all comparable, in terms of price. If you can afford the premium, they are very attractive.

For larger homes, where there can be 6 or more separate lighting loads in a room, that's a lot of dimmers and/or switches ganged in 1 location. The centralized lighting systems, with single keypads replacing banks of switches, are very useful in this regard.

Vantage, Lutron, and Crestron are the most well-known centralized lighting systems, in the US. There are others, though, so don't be surprised if your integrator offers something else.

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post #9 of 13 Old 10-25-2016, 10:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Negativecreep0 View Post
Won't look as neat and clean as the centralized location
Using hybrid keypad/dimmers can give you the same look as you get with centralized lighting. In our case, we have three ways to enter the room, so needed three keypads. If we did centralized lighting, we'd still need three keypads in there. I don't think you need to give up looks by going this route.

(There are good technical reasons for doing centralized lighting - namely most hybrid keypad/dimmers have a minimum wattage of 15-25 watts, while I've seen centralized lighting that has a minimum wattage of 0 watts, which minimizes the chances of dimming issues, as far as I can tell. You also don't have to worry about derating when ganging multiple dimmers together, although I find this to be less of an issue with LED lights.)

When picking locations for keypads, I'd recommend at least one keypad for each room transition. For areas where there's a lot of 'connectivity' between the rooms, I'd recommend putting a keypad to control each room, so two keypads.

Using my example, which was a little bit simplified - this is exactly what I have in our dining room:
3 lighting loads
3 places where I've put one or more keypads, for a total of 5 keypads in the dining room
Between the dining and living rooms, I have 2 keypads - one controls the living room lights and the other controls the dining room lights.
Between the dining room and kitchen, I also have 2 keypads - same idea as above
Between the dining room and a hallway, I just put one keypad - really just need to turn the hallway light on and off and not do much with scenes.

By putting 1 keypad for each room, it makes it easier for people to understand which buttons they use to control which lights.
Same theory applies with regards to building entrance/exit locations - one keypad for outside lights / leaving the house / coming back home, and 2nd keypad that controls the lights in the room. I did that in all places, save one - can't believe I missed that. Will need to fix it one of these days.

Hope that helps

Last edited by JP14; 10-25-2016 at 11:43 PM.
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post #10 of 13 Old 10-26-2016, 09:31 AM
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Even if you weren't building new, a big difference between something like Insteon and RA2 is reliability. Or repeatable reliability. You can always find folks who have created a stable system with any of the consumer level lighting systems. But, you can generally find just as many for whom it's been a real problem, or who had to do a lot of work to get there, and sometimes it's not hard to unsettle it if anything changes.

With pro level solutions, it's not like that. You know it's going to work and be reliable and stay that way. It's the difference between 'just good enough' and 'more than good enough', where the latter costs more but is better able to deal with issues because it's not working at the edge of its capabilities all the time. Over-built is the primary difference between consumer system (Z-Wave, Insteon, UPB) and pro level systems. The folks to who consumer products are marketed are extremely price sensitive on the whole, and that inevitably leads to compromise.

Not that those consumer systems won't work, but they may not work as well as you'd want in any particular scenario, and you won't know till you've spent the money already, and done all the work which may suck even more if it doesn't go as planned.


Another big difference is that pro level solutions are *designed* to be integrated into automation systems, as a fundamental design criteria. Consumer systems are usually less so. Insteon (via the ISY controller at least) is better than Z-Wave or UPB on this front certainly, but not like pro level systems, where robustness of the automation system interface is a very serious thing. That does make a difference if automation is going to be part of the mix at some point.

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post #11 of 13 Old 11-04-2016, 11:53 AM
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I just bought and installed a Lutron Caseta Smart Bridge along with 4 plug in dimmers and 1 in wall dimmer as a start. Its been less than 24 hours but very pleased with it so far and the wife is as well.
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post #12 of 13 Old 11-05-2016, 08:12 AM
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I just bought and installed a Lutron Caseta Smart Bridge along with 4 plug in dimmers and 1 in wall dimmer as a start. Its been less than 24 hours but very pleased with it so far and the wife is as well.
I have a couple Caseta loads in my tiny little rental right now, really like them for what they are worth.

Anything over 15-20 loads I would be stepping up to Ra2 for anything up to 100-150 loads.

Anything over that would be stepping to the Lutron Homeworks or Crestron centralized systems.

I do a lot of control system programming, Ra2/Homeworks are the ones I run into the most often.
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post #13 of 13 Old 11-05-2016, 08:42 AM
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Lutron is by far the most reliable wireless system I've ever used. It just works 100% of the time. I've yet to experience a single lost/not received command. And I have over 80 switches, shades, dimmers, and picos.

Also, they quote the range on the conservative side. I've gotten well over a hundred feet with it going through multiple walls.

If you don't want to pay for RA2, you can mix in Maestro Wireless switches instead of the Caseta models (which I don't like). You lose online control of those switches, but that doesn't matter for me because I use multiple 4-button picos to have global control throughout the house (one on nightstand, wall-mounted by entryway, etc).

The picos are really great with one button-press control, no toggling, no selecting, no menus, just one press and you're done. Lutron doesn't allow engraving on some of the models like the 2-group pico. It's easy to get around though, just order what you need on a model they allow, then switch out the board or buttons.
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