Lutron Spacer System with RF remote & IR emitters? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 05-07-2005, 02:16 PM - Thread Starter
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In my reading on this forum I understand that the Spacer SYSTEM dimmers are not individually addressable but if I use IR emitters and opaque tape (like electrical tape) to block the signals from "spilling over" to other dimmers couldn't each dimmer be controlled independently?

I haven't seen the back of one of the Spacer SYSTEM dimmers but I gather that they are transparent in the back and I'm assuming that there is an IR receiver on the back of the dimmer.

I have a Universal Remote MX-850 (remote) with an MRF-250 (RF base station), the MRF-250 includes a blaster output on the front of the unit and six IR emitters with 10' cords (Speaker Craft or Xantech emitters will also work with an adapter). If I need more than six individual emitters I can add additional MRF-250 units (up to 16 of them) which would give me control over 96 dimmers / components in multiple rooms.
I envision that this would be kind of like a more versatile Radio RA system (more versatile in that I can control all of my AV gear in addition to the lights)

Is there any reason that I couldn't program a lighting "page" on the remote where I could control each dimmer independently? The IR output on the remote itself can be disabled so that only the RF commands get sent to the base station (where they get converted to IR and sent to a single emitter). I could also use macros to recall any of 4 "scenes" per dimmer... a single button push could set all of the lights in my theater (or entire house) plus activate the screen, part the curtains, turn on my gear etc.

I know the graphic eye can do all kinds of things but it's not in my budget and my wife wants wall mounted dimmers that work like normal switches.

I know most of you are using the Graphic Eye, but has anyone done anything similar to what I'm thinking about or do you know of a reason it wouldn't work?

Any Universal Remote MX-600, MX-800, MX-850, MX-3000 owners out there?


Thanks in advance,

Nik

I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous!
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post #2 of 14 Old 05-08-2005, 07:11 AM
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If your remote can send commands the spacer units will pickup AND you can effectively manage the IR signals then it seems like a workable hack. But bear in mind that you're going to have to not only modify the spacer units themselves but also put IR emitters inside the wall boxes. That's going to require a lot of extra wire as well as the individual IR emitters.

Putting low voltage IR emitters inside the same boxes as AC voltage dimmers is likely to be a violation of the electrical code. To come 'closer' to code suppose you could use the boxes with dividers and put the IR emitter on one side with the dimmer on the other with a way for the IR signal to reach the dimmer's pickup. But here you're doubling the side of the junction boxes. But given the cost of the added emitter, the hassles of running them, the issues with code and the adventures of programming it all I'd wonder if it'd be any real savings?
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post #3 of 14 Old 05-08-2005, 09:13 AM - Thread Starter
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I hadn't considered the code violation... I'm glad I asked the question!

I already own the emitters (6 are included with the base station) and I'm only looking to control 3 zones of lighting (plus my A/V equipment). Since I haven't put up the sheet rock running the cables is no problem.

Now I'm thinking that if I use 3 separate single gang boxes with emitters or blasters just outside of the box in one of the knockouts I could do this and stay compliant with code. The only problem with using single gang boxes is that the switch plates won't look as "tidy" as a three-gang box/plate.

An advantage of single gang boxes is that it should be much easier to keep "stray" IR signals from controlling another switch/zone.

Does anyone know where the IR Receiver is physically located on the dimmer (Lutron SPS-600-) Top, Bottom...?

I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous!
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post #4 of 14 Old 05-08-2005, 10:15 AM
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I'm no expert on the wall boxes but there are some that are specifically designed to support both a low voltage and AC in the same box. They're usually plastic and come with a divider insert. I'd imagine there are also boxes that support more than just two devices. This way you might be able to get away with using a multi-gang box or some combination of them that kept the wall from looking strange.

Don't forget that mutliple dimmers together in one box may require derating them to deal with the heat they might put out depending on load. So using multiple boxes might actually be necessary depending on how many lights you're dimming and what total wattage is involved. I'd call Lutron and speak with their support department on this.

If you found a plastic box with inserts that let you isolate each dimmer then it might be a 'reasonable cheat' to cut a hole in each cavity for the IR emitter or just leave it danging in there. I'd worry about long-term maintenance of such a thing however. Should you need to replace an emitter you'd be faced with a fair bit of hassle. Not to mention the code issues. Code violations for something like this are probably not "a big deal" but you do introduce unexpected risks that might allow the high-voltage AC to short to the low-voltage wiring risking injury, fire or both.

Also consider there are blank decora-style inserts. So if you had something like two dimmers in a four gang box you could use a pair of blanks to cover the non-switch positions and keep the faceplate from looking too odd. Although, in that case it might be reasonable to use a three-gang box and put the pair of emitters in-between and rig-up some sort of way to effectively isolate them from each other. There are always several different ways to rejigger this stuff. Since you've got the walls open you can entertain all sorts of options.

Alternatively you could put something like a volume control in the blank places and share it with the IR emitters.
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post #5 of 14 Old 05-08-2005, 10:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by wkearney99

Putting low voltage IR emitters inside the same boxes as AC voltage dimmers is likely to be a violation of the electrical code.
Hi,

I don't pretend to be knowledgeable in all the various local electric codes, but it's interesting to note that Lutron has a 5-Scene Remote Mounted Master Control with IR Blaster (SPS-5WCR). This type of Master Control has traveler wires that are wired back to the gang box housing the dimmers. At the end of the traveler wire is an IR Blaster with a clip that attaches directly to the top of the center dimmer in the gang box. Refer to wiring Diagram #12, on page 11 of the following specification:

Spacer System Specifications.

If your speculation is correct, it sounds like the use of this device would be an automatic code violation. However, I had one processionally installed and it passed electrical inspection without any problems. Furthermore, isn't it true that the principal upon which the Spacer System dimmers operate, is to have low voltage IR emitters built in as an integral part of the 120 volt dimmer?

Larry



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post #6 of 14 Old 05-08-2005, 04:09 PM
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Well, I don't pretend to be a code expert either but a device that's already passed UL being sold by a reputable manufacturer has undoubtedly taken things into account. The traveler wire they're suggesting is 14ga, that's quite a bit heavier than used by most IR-emitter networks. As for them being low voltage I don't know. It'd be interesting to see more detail on those blaster emitters. The current catalog doesn't show how they're supposed to be installed in the box.

Lutron does have an appnote for it:
http://www.lutron.com/applicationnotes/048005a.pdf

My comments regarding code were directed more toward DIY hacks
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post #7 of 14 Old 05-08-2005, 04:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by wkearney99
Well, I don't pretend to be a code expert either but a device that's already passed UL being sold by a reputable manufacturer has undoubtedly taken things into account. The traveler wire they're suggesting is 14ga, that's quite a bit heavier than used by most IR-emitter networks. As for them being low voltage I don't know. It'd be interesting to see more detail on those blaster emitters. The current catalog doesn't show how they're supposed to be installed in the box.

Lutron does have an appnote for it:
http://www.lutron.com/applicationnotes/048005a.pdf

My comments regarding code were directed more toward DIY hacks
Hi,

Thanks for the application notes.

Here's a link to the Installation Notes.

Larry



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post #8 of 14 Old 05-08-2005, 08:14 PM
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Aha, so that's how it goes, clips right onto the top tab of a dimmer. Nice.
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post #9 of 14 Old 05-09-2005, 07:52 AM
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I have the same setup, macmedic. I have the MX800 and the spacer system. The only difference is that I don't intend to control them independently. I thought you could do that with the remote (but I am not sure because only 2 zones are now working).

I don't know if it is code violation or not, but I put a blaster inside of the 4 gang box. When I did the original wiring, I put a CAT5 cable inside of the box. Instead of using their blaster, I used a cheap one I had for another project and connected it to the CAT5. The other end of the CAT5 is my MRF200 receiver. Right now everything is under construction. However, I finally got some lights up, so I should be able to finish that part this week. Once I get it hooked up I will let you know if it works!
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post #10 of 14 Old 05-09-2005, 10:32 AM - Thread Starter
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>"Once I get it hooked up I will let you know if it works!"

Larry, wkearney99, thanks for the links, they gave me more confidence in my plan.

Thanks REDBULL, I look forward to hearing the results!

Once I get to that stage in my build I will also share my results.

Nik

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post #11 of 14 Old 05-09-2005, 03:51 PM
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Likewise, I just picked up some Lutron Radio RA stuff so I'll probably have some feedback on it.
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post #12 of 14 Old 06-21-2005, 07:07 AM
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I wanted to give an update and post and let you guys know that my setup works like a charm.

As I previously posted I have the MX-800 remote with the MRF receiver. I have four Lutron Spacer System dimmers. I wanted to have the capability to dim the lights with the remote without pointing the remote at the dimmers (dimmers are near the back).

I ran a CAT5 wire into the 4 gang box and connected a IR LED blaster to it, then spliced it into a connector for the MRF-200 (it is in a remote equip. closet). When I connected everything, it only worked for two of the dimmers, because I didn't have the blaster positioned well. I added another blaster and changed their positions and it works like a charm! Now I can dim the HT's lights from almost anywhere in the house.

Let me know if you have any questions about this, I may be able to help you out. For now, I am going to be playing with the dimmers. It looks like they can do tons of things in combination with my remote, so that will keep me entertained for a while!
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post #13 of 14 Old 06-22-2005, 12:11 AM
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I posted some tips on getting IR into Spacers on REDBULL's other thread.
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...91#post5787791

I hope this helps.

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Lutron HomeWorks, Lutron RadioRa2 (Level 2)
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post #14 of 14 Old 06-22-2005, 07:02 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm finally ready to buy the SPS-600 to complete my pre-wire and I was wondering if anyone had any experience with bestbuyelectric.com?

They seem to have the best price I can find but sometimes the lowest bidder isn't always the best choice.

I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous!
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