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Thread: New construction with plans to upgrade to Ketra lighting after move-in

  1. #1

    New construction with plans to upgrade to Ketra lighting after move-in

    Home owner currently in the framing stages of a new construction residence. Long story short - learned about Ketra lighting/Homeworks after most of my electrical was planned out and purchased, but I still want to integrate it down the road.

    While the walls remain open at this stage in construction, I'm curious to know what I can do to simplify the process of upgrading to Ketra lighting (targeting S30 recessed downlights and Ketra bulbs for fixtures). The residence is two stories and ~4000+ sqft. (~50-60 recessed lights). Also interested in automated blinds and am planning to running power to each window. Open to all comments and feedback! Thanks!

  2. #2
    Regarding Ketra - S30's require any 5" or 6" recessed can with standard baffle trim. If you want to go with the Ketra trim, you will need to use the compatible 5" cans listed on their spec's. I believe one is a Halo can. The Ketra trim is designed perfectly for the lamp but is not necessary. You will need a wireless repeater located within 30-50' of the lamp locations. This likely means you will need a few repeaters and they recommend installing them in the ceiling. The all connect to your homes network via PoE. My suggestion is waiting until Lutron releases their processor/repeater built into one unit. Not sure when that will be released. In addition to that, you will need a Lutron Homeworks/Ketra certified installer in order to order and program the lamps.

    The only downside to installing the lamps later will be you will still have switches on the wall. In a Ketra environment, all of the lights are wired on all of the time and the software and keypads are what control them. But on the flip side, I've seen enough technology to know that you may wire all of the lights "hot" and randomly but if this technology evolves or goes away, you will be left with having to redo all of your wiring that feeds the lights. When we wire the lighting in a room, we will wire it the traditional method but possibly hide the switch locations behind doors or even run the wiring to a mechanical room. Lutron claims you can save a lot of money if you don't have to homerun lighting loads to a basement but I don't trust the future....

    Regarding shades - you can run Lutron green wire which is 18-2/22-2 shielded which you can buy at various places. We usually use 16-4 speaker wire. Then aside from the wire is all of the rest of the details. Where the wires come out, location of shades (inside jam or outside), valance type, type of shade, etc. A lot more to shades to put on here.

    My suggestion is to find a certified Ketra installer. They will most likely also do shades. Pay a consulting fee if there is one to make sure things are done correctly.

  3. #3
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    I am sure this will not go well with the Lutron folks or the Ketra dealers, but I feel that it should be mentioned because a lot of times homeowners who buy a proprietary/closed system don't know what they're getting into and end up paying the price 5-10 years down the line. The two most important things when you buy into a closed system is how good and reputable the manufacturer is and how easily you will find a dealer to service the system down the line. We are after all talking about a house that will be standing there for decades hopefully whether you or someone else lives there.

    As dealer based systems go, Lutron's is the best. QSX is cutting edge and has the newest tech all around. I mean sure, they could have made it backwards compatible with the older parts but that's another debate. I used to sell & service Vantage systems and saw how big of a s-show that turned out to be once Legrand bought them and kicked out low-selling dealers and now I'm finding their modules are failing after 6 years and I am completely done with that company and feel bad for anybody who has those systems in their house.

    When it comes to Lutron Dealers however, not all are able to help you with everything. Lighting and Shades are different things. In my area, I don't know of a single Lutron dealer that also installs shades. Those are usually done by a shade company that offers Lutron Shades and then it is added to the system by the lighting guy. Myself, I am an electrician and focus only on lighting. If it's new construction, I do the design, mark all the circuits in the blueprint, go over it with the homeowner, architect, builder, and if we are not the one wiring the house (which increasingly we are not due to being more expensive than the builder's off the street electrician), explain to the electrician what the lighting zone numbers are and where to pull the homeruns and what I'll need for the incoming power. I always do the panel wiring myself but I know that's rare. Usually it's an AV company that gives the plans to the electrician and they do the panel work because Low Voltage people aren't allowed to do high voltage work in most areas, but they overlook it and do the programming and the LV installation or hire their own electrician. Personally that sounds like a nightmare to me because each extra person creates a new point of blame and failure, but I digress.

    Among Lutron Homeworks installers there is also some extra division. You have to be a very big dealer to buy directly from Lutron. Otherwise you have to go through a lighting supplier who is a Lutron dealer and that's a good thing because it means smaller shops like us can also compete with the big boys and provide personalized service to our customers and service them. This is a win/win for installers and consumers. Now with Ketra, things are even more divided because you have some dealers/installers who can install and service Ketra and some who can't. From what I've been told, and please correct me someone who knows, you can't sell Ketra unless you have a showroom that has Ketra and there are some big restrictions for that. The Lutron dealer we buy our stuff from has a nice light lab but even they couldn't get a Ketra lab which means we can't do Ketra either. To make things worse, before COVID, we were supposed to have a nice roadshow at Ketra's headquarters to show how everything worked and get trained for it, but that all got cancelled so if customer calls me today and has a Ketra issue, I have to excuse myself and they have to find another dealer who has it. That is something to consider as a homeowner.

    It's already not the easiest thing to find a dealer to service your lighting system without Ketra. I'm in a major city and Lutron is the biggest name so you'd think there would be plenty but I routinely take over older jobs and customers are thankful to see me solve their issues because their original installer went out of business and nobody else wanted to touch someone else's work. If you throw Ketra in the mix, it makes it that much harder to find someone to even come out to change a light fixture 6 years from now when one of them goes out. Again this stuff is 100% proprietary. If it was a standard lighting trim from a name brand, you can just go to any reseller and order one and it's done. With Ketra, it has to be through a Lutron/Ketra dealer and you have to find someone to put it in and reprogram your system. Perhaps now that COVID is under control (yeah yeah, I know) Lutron can start having the road shows and train all the non-Ketra dealers to at least be able to service Ketra installations, even if they can't sell them as new systems. Until then, think really carefully about what would happen if your current dealer is no longer there in 6 years. Can you find a Ketra dealer in your area now or will you have to fly one down from California?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by SparkyCoog View Post
    Now with Ketra, things are even more divided because you have some dealers/installers who can install and service Ketra and some who can't. From what I've been told, and please correct me someone who knows, you can't sell Ketra unless you have a showroom that has Ketra and there are some big restrictions for that. The Lutron dealer we buy our stuff from has a nice light lab but even they couldn't get a Ketra lab which means we can't do Ketra either.
    This is correct Sparky. We had to follow explicit criteria to be come a Ketra dealer with a certified showroom- including what hardware had to be used, what keypads get installed, the programming of each button, and even the engraving! Also we had to design the asthetics of the room to their guidelines! And all this was on the older gen Ketra and whaddya know right after we got certified they came out with the newer Ketra... As an integrator and a lighting/shades dealer it was alot of hoops to jump thru and honestly I think I've programmed 2 Ketra jobs. The expense of it doesnt seem to sit well with most clients.

  5. #5
    I think it's different in different markets. In MN, we "became" a dealer after we had a 35k Ketra job that we had to order the equipment from another dealer. After our visit to Austin in April, we ordered all of the required equipment for our showroom and still haven't received it all yet. So our showroom hasn't been approved yet but we are a dealer and didn't have much problem programming that 1st job. We aren't a huge dealer and they were very hesitant to give us the Ketra stamp of approval. Which I do find a little funny because of the 5 or 6 local approved dealers, most don't have a great showroom for Ketra (I believe).

    Ketra is amazing and if I had the money to do it, I'd install it everywhere in my home!!! Hands down the best LED color temperature and dimming I've seen. But Lutron has such a problem positioning this product. On a jobsite, there is a order of things. Electricians always get the sale of the recessed lighting. No matter who is specifying recessed lights, the electrician would need to install it and therefore support the warranty on the labor and the product. Hell, as an electrical contractor, if we aren't supplying the fixtures, we will charge a lot more to install them because we've been burned every time in the past. But Ketra must be programmed by someone who is certified and knows lighting control which happens to usually be the AV guy. So who does Lutron target the product to?

  6. #6
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    See that's what worries me about these dealer based system. You may have a large initial job that gets your foot in the door and since it's a new system, they're happy to sell it to you. All it takes however (as we found out with Vantage) is for a new sales manager or VP to take over and decide to shake things up and deem your company as a "low performing" company and kick you out and leave you completely in the cold with your existing customers. Since Ketra is new and they're trying to get more people on board it may not happen, but all it takes is for 2-3 bigger AV companies who are always doing new construction and are good at convincing their builders to get Ketra and then in the eyes of Lutron, you might not be worthy anymore, even if you do service them.

    We kind of went through this with the Homeworks P5 system. At first, there were were few dealers in our large city. So much so that the local reps recruited us because they noticed we had been installing and programming a bunch of Radio Ra Classic systems and our lighting supplier introduced us and told us we needed to get Homeworks Certified. Thanks to the road shows Lutron would have we were pretty much certified before we even went to the headquarters. Lutron just needed programmers then so they would wine and dine us and some even went to Florida (I didn't ) so it was nuts. Then 2 years later a new guy took over and cut off a bunch contractors for not selling enough. We were lucky because we didn't sell much either but were on great terms with the local reps and our supplier who was on even better terms with the rep but that also could have been the end of us and Lutron. Of course back then we also did Vantage (also low volume sales but a lot of service).

    But anyway, I'm just wary of spending a lot of money and energy up front for a proprietary system that can just be taken away from you later. I have no doubt that technically they're great lights...although oddly enough I STILL have not seen them in real life and most of our customers live in multi-million houses.

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