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Should I stay with Lutron Radio RA2 or should I try Leviton UPB?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I currently have the Lutron Radio RA2 main repeater and a bunch of window shades that are nicely controlled with the RA2 astronomical timer and visor control. With our kitchen remodel almost finished I am about to add some dimmer switches for the room ambient lighting and cabinet display lights.

I am considering expanding my RA2 system with the RA2 wall dimmer switches. While the iPad and iPhone app is very nice, there are a couple things I hate about RA2: 1. The programming software is only available to dealers or if you take a class for dealer certification, and 2. The Lutron Maestro style wall dimmers have a flimsy design with a thin up/down control and feels cheap.

My brother has an HAI security system and recommends it highly for ease of integration. I prefer the Leviton wall dimmer switches, they look and feel so much nicer than Lutron switches. I am tempted to try out the Leviton UPB enabled wall switches, but I am not sure what I would be losing as far as my existing investment in the Lutron equipment.

Is there a way to integrate HAI and Leviton UPB wall switches and the Radio RA2 system so I can leverage both as a team? For example if I get the HAI OmniPro II security controller and use that with the Leviton Snaplink iPhone app to control the lights, and then somehow integrate the HAI system with the Lutron RA2 controlled window shades.
Edited by DDBear - 1/6/14 at 3:51pm
post #2 of 13
They are certainly overlapping / competing technologies... But I suppose if you separate the systems so that all lighting is Leviton and shades are RadioRA, it wouldn't be THAT complicated. But you will be duplicating gear and doing extra programming - and probably lose some of the programming flexibility. You can probably integrate both at the same time with HAI, so I wouldn't let that stop you... See here:

http://www.homeauto.com/Products/HAIConnectivityPartners/Lutron.asp?Sort=Company&Type=ALL

The RadioRA2 certification classes are now available totally online. I took the "live" webinar last year, which they've now moved to a series of videos. Watch all of those, and learn the stuff, then take the online exam (open book), submit a receipt showing you purchased gear, and you'll get access. Much of the video content is about driving the software - it's well done and is worth the time to watch.

I just finished the process and have been installing dimmers and keypads. It is addictive...

I know what you mean about the dimmers, but once you get the programming done and have proper scenes set up, you won't be using the dimmer adjustments much anyway. You'll hit a keypad button (Lutron or HAI) instead - and have the whole scene set up. Many designers will place all the switches / dimmers out of sight (into closets) and have only the keypads exposed to make things look nice, for example.


Jeff
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
Good info jautor! That is an interesting thought, if I were to hide the flimsy Lutron wall dimmers in a cabinet, and then have the very nice Lutron button scene switches on the prominent wall location. When you purchase the RA2 products for the certification, is there a certain dealer to go through (since we're just consumers, not pros)? Is the software provided after this online training the powerful version of the software, and not the limited version?

In this rough-in stage, I already have lots of lighting wires going to a 4 gang box on the wall. I suppose I'd have to break apart that wall plaster again and swap out the metal box with a 1 or 2 gang box for button scene switches and then run conduit to one of the cabinets for the dimmer switches.. hmmm..
post #4 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by DDBear View Post

Good info jautor! That is an interesting thought, if I were to hide the flimsy Lutron wall dimmers in a cabinet, and then have the very nice Lutron button scene switches on the prominent wall location. When you purchase the RA2 products for the certification, is there a certain dealer to go through (since we're just consumers, not pros)? Is the software provided after this online training the powerful version of the software, and not the limited version?

I would make sure you purchase the "starter kit or equivalent" from an authorized dealer, but beyond that, I don't think you'll have any problem. Paul @ Hank's Electric is an excellent resource for that gear, and he's here on AVS...

I specifically registered as a "homeowner" - not a dealer. That option is in the drop-down list, so it's all "normal" for them.

The version you get from the BlastOn Level 1 training is the "Essentials" version, which IIRC is limited to 100 devices and therefore I think one main repeater. If you think you'll be doing something larger than that, probably time for a real installer anyway. biggrin.gif There are additional levels of training, which will likely be the in-person multi-day sessions intended for pro's... FYI - for my 4500 sqft home, I'll probably end up with around 50 devices if I do absolutely everything within reason...
Quote:
In this rough-in stage, I already have lots of lighting wires going to a 4 gang box on the wall. I suppose I'd have to break apart that wall plaster again and swap out the metal box with a 1 or 2 gang box for button scene switches and then run conduit to one of the cabinets for the dimmer switches.. hmmm..

When I was building my house, I kinda figured that RadioRA or something similar would be my solution (nothing "fancier" than that), so I paid almost no attention to the placement of switches and 3-way circuits during construction - because I knew I could automate the stuff later. That was a mistake. 4 years later before I got around (aka budget) to doing the lighting automation, and there's a bunch of three-way circuits, poorly placed switches, etc,. that I could have avoided had I planned more than "I can do it later"...

I don't know if I would have gone as far as relocating switches into nearby closets to remove the "wall acne" as the pro's call it, but then again, if I had planned to install the system at time of move-in, it would have been nice!

For me, I'll be turning several 3-way circuits back into single-switch/dimmer circuits, and then using the vacant gang to place a keypad. Much cheaper than applying the hybrid keypads, with the same end results...


Jeff
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
Does the L1 essentials software allow the remote control feature across the Internet (the new $60/year service)? I'm going through the L1 web courses now, and one of the slides says that remote access is only available on the L2 software. But they might be talking about a different kind of remote access and remote programming across the VPN.

I know what you mean about the wall box locations. I'm getting pretty good at breaking open the plaster walls and drilling conduit holes in beams. eek.gif
post #6 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by DDBear View Post

Does the L1 essentials software allow the remote control feature across the Internet (the new $60/year service)? I'm going through the L1 web courses now, and one of the slides says that remote access is only available on the L2 software. But they might be talking about a different kind of remote access and remote programming across the VPN.

I may have my "levels" wrong, but I would be very surprised if Essentials didn't allow that. The subscription is handled through the app - I'll take a look tonight to see where the "account" setup stuff resides. I haven't done the app yet, as it claimed it needed a much more recent version of Essentials than I had (before getting approved Lutron software access).
Quote:
I know what you mean about the wall box locations. I'm getting pretty good at breaking open the plaster walls and drilling conduit holes in beams. eek.gif

Yep! And once you've made one mess - making more isn't a big deal anymore! biggrin.gif
post #7 of 13
So I bought the Lutron HomeControl+ app (iOS), and the in-app purchase for a $60/yr subscription is there. I went as far as hitting the "renew" button after creating an account, which gave me the prompt from the iTunes store for confirming the purchase - which I didn't do. Since the app has already located my main controller, I assume it's relaying the necessary data to enable the remote access if purchased in-app.

I see no mention of the remote access functionality (in terms of setting it up or anything else) with the Essentials software. Since the dealer doesn't seem to be involved in the payment side - I'm going to assume that since the homeowner buys the access in-app, there's no other software involvement.

And by the way, the app works very well. Much easier to adjust scenes from a tablet as you walk around the room - and then use those settings to adjust the scenes. Well worth the $20 for the "design" assistance alone.

Jeff
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the confirmation. I also called Lutron today and they said that remote access work in the Essential (L1) software and not only the Inclusive (L2) software. They will need to update their L1 training slide.

I really like the low latency and reliability of the RA2 system so far. Now if I can get past my issue with the flimsy feeling plastic of the Maestro wall dimmers, I'll put RA2 everywhere in the house. The look and feel of the Leviton brand dimmer switch is so much nicer. Even the LeGrand dimmers have a nicer feel. I won't be able to hide them and replace with scene buttons everywhere. Maybe someone can help me recover from this fear of the flimsy plastic design.

I'm looking forward to learning about the ways to activate scenes with contact or network inputs (Visor control? RS-232? Ethernet?) .. then there should be some nice possibilities for filling in the missing conditional logic with other home automation systems working in conjunction with RA2. Maybe that's in one of the next training modules..
post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by DDBear View Post

Thanks for the confirmation. I also called Lutron today and they said that remote access work in the Essential (L1) software and not only the Inclusive (L2) software. They will need to update their L1 training slide.

Good!
Quote:
I really like the low latency and reliability of the RA2 system so far. Now if I can get past my issue with the flimsy feeling plastic of the Maestro wall dimmers, I'll put RA2 everywhere in the house. The look and feel of the Leviton brand dimmer switch is so much nicer. Even the LeGrand dimmers have a nicer feel. I won't be able to hide them and replace with scene buttons everywhere. Maybe someone can help me recover from this fear of the flimsy plastic design.

It's not flimsy in a cheap-and-will-fall-apart way, but yes, I agree that they don't have that "solid" feel and tend to wiggle a bit more than one would expect. I'm getting used to it and it doesn't bother me (did at first a bit).
Quote:
I'm looking forward to learning about the ways to activate scenes with contact or network inputs (Visor control? RS-232? Ethernet?) .. then there should be some nice possibilities for filling in the missing conditional logic with other home automation systems working in conjunction with RA2. Maybe that's in one of the next training modules..

Yep, they'll got into depth on most of that. The actual usage from RS232 / Ethernet isn't covered, but that interface is documented so it's just a matter of using the API.

The only part of the system I found confusing (granted, I'm not doing anything complex yet) was their terminology within the software. To give you a head start:

Room = "Which room is this device (dimmer) in"
Device Location = "Where in the room is this gang of dimmers / switches" aka "which wall is the switch on"
Zone Name = "The thing this device (dimmer) controls" aka "Fixture" aka "Load" aka "Light" biggrin.gif
Zone Location = "What room is this light in"

The word "zone" confused me as to me "load" or "fixture" would have made more sense. To me, "zone" is a room or area - but that may be my AV bias... I get that the "zone location" needs to be described separately - since switches often control lights in other rooms or areas (especially true for exterior lights).

Jeff
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
Tonight I temporarily installed a Maestro dimmer from Lowes to get a feel for it installed (before getting all the actual RA2 ones). You're right it's the extra wiggle and sideways tilt of the plastic that is different, that's what was buggin me. I think I'll get used to it.

Great tips for the "Zone" terminology! I remember I had the same confusion when I first programmed the shades.

Now I'm trying to decide between the 6NA vs. the new CL dimmer for a bunch of LED downlights. Lutron told me that the new CL dimmer for RA2 will start shipping next week. It is 2 wire (no neutral needed) and forward phase only, whereas the 6NA is adaptive phase. The Lutron expert said it may perform better with LED vs. the 6NA since it's got special circuitry to deal with the special aspects of LED dimming. I wonder if it will handle the inrush current, repetitive current spikes better, to handle more LED lights. Maybe I'll test both, now I'm really curious how they compare.
Edited by DDBear - 1/9/14 at 12:02am
post #11 of 13
I have a Lutron Maestro IR dimmer in the MBR, and RA2 in a couple other locations. I think the build quality of the switches is different. RA2 feels more solid.
post #12 of 13
Placebo effect?
post #13 of 13
Since I've managed now to buy a boat-load of RadioRA2 gear via eBay and AVS classifieds (so I'm effectively "done" buying the stuff), I'll pass along my 'trick' for getting deals in case it can help others...

Folks don't seem to realize that the color of all the components is easily changeable, and that the "color change kits" are about $3 each (plus shipping). I needed most of my gear in "Light Almond" or "Brown", but have bought most of the gear piecemeal in other colors. I just lumped the color change kits I needed onto an order from a dealer for the 'rest' of the pieces, so it really was $3/unit.

I've noticed that while the white gear shows up most often - as that's the most popular, and somewhat the default - gear on eBay and elsewhere in other colors usually sells for less. My theory is that folks gloss over that stuff because "it's the wrong color".

For keypads this can be very helpful, too. As long as the Engraving Certificate is included, you can swap colors AND the button layouts when you order the custom engraving... And for used keypad with engraving already done, a replacement kit is also available - but pricing on those is non-trivial ($50-70-ish).

Hope that's useful, and yes, I've got a lot of dimmers to swap out in the next few weekends...


Jeff
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