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Thread: Upgrading from RadioRA Classic to RadioRa 2

  1. #1
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    Upgrading from RadioRA Classic to RadioRa 2

    Just got off the phone with Lutron, and it appears that the RadioRA 2 upgrade program is still available. The only catch is that I have to go through a dealer to get it. I'll be calling around for estimates, so we'll see how that goes.

    If the price is too high, I'm trying to figure out how to do a rolling upgrade throughout my house to even out the costs, and gradually phase out my existing halogen bulbs. I can certainly do this by starting with rooms that have Lutron dimmers that are not wireless. That will get me three zones at a minimum.

    For the next phase, I'd like to start upgrading individual zones over time. The only catch is that I'd need to run one RadioRA classic repeater and one RadioRA 2 repeater, switching dimmers from classic to 2 as I go.

    Is that a working strategy? In particular, can I have a RadioRA classic repeater and a RadioRA 2 repeater working side-by-side?

    Finally, if I'm going to be doing a whole-system change, are there any other wireless dimmer systems I should consider before continuing with Lutron?

  2. #2
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    I think exchanging hardware in one go might give you a better discount. But I've never tried pricing out different upgrade strategies, perhaps someone with more experience can tell otherwise?

  3. #3
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    You're on a Lutron forum, so you're probably not going to get much advice about alternatives.

    I had Ra1 and installed Ra2 when we demo/rebuilt the house. Dimming performance and operation (feel of the switches, etc) has the same great quality. Upside is it A WHOLE LOT EASIER to program the system with scenes, sensors, rollbacks, timers... everything. If you're under 100 devices it's even something a homeowner can do with some Windows software.

    Yes, you can run both at the same time, they just won't be integrated with each other. Buttons, scenes, events, on one won't be able to interact with the other. As for 'should you' that would depend on how much disruption you're prepared to inflict on everyone else in the home.

    I would not be so quick to ditch halogens. At least not without CAREFULLY researching which LED are know to work reliably with Lutron dimmers. Lutron has a very extensive database of test results online for this. The BIGGEST sticking point for LEDs (beside the fact that many of them are very terribly designed/manufactured) is many will require being dimmed by a device that has a neutral. Not all older wall switch locations have had neutrals in them. So you'd be up against some re-wiring costs too.

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the tip about the neutral. Mine was installed in 2006 during an entire remodel of our downstairs, so hopefully I'm good. But, yes, I'll definitely need to check anyway. The LED lamps I'm looking at are very high quality (Soraa, 95 CRI, excellent dimming), so I'm hoping it will work. I have three arriving in the next couple of days that I'll test with new Maestro CL (non-wireless) dimmers for some rooms. Another strategy might be to just upgrade all non-integrated dimmers for now and see how it goes. My main beef with the halogens (Sylvania PAR30 LN) is that the quality has really taken a dive lately. I'm seeing newer bulbs failing in three months in the kitchen (highest use zone).

    I'm going to do a full survey of my system (again, thanks for the tip about the neutral) and see what an installer would estimate (with the upgrade discount).

    (As a software developer, I'm dismayed to see my house undergoing the same upgrade pain as I routinely see in software libraries. :)

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by hollasch View Post
    The LED lamps I'm looking at are very high quality (Soraa, 95 CRI, excellent dimming), so I'm hoping it will work.
    'High quality' doesn't mean anything, as there are no established standards for LED power handling 'quality'. Tested and measured is what matters.

    Look them up here: http://www.lutron.com/en-US/Service-...merMatrix.aspx

    I saw some Soraa units listed:
    http://www.lutron.com/en-US/Resource...%20REV%20C.pdf
    http://www.lutron.com/en-US/Resource...OCT%20REVA.pdf
    http://www.lutron.com/en-US/Resource...EBb%20RevC.pdf

    Note the GU10 base ones are tested with the 6NA but "may produce buzzing". The E26 (screw-ins) are tested with the 10NA and did not.

    Also note the min/max values. All dimmers (from any vendor) are going to limit the total max output of a light. This becomes a factor when you're replacing incandescents. It's worth looking up the old bulbs too, to see what their max values were. This may tell you that you may not get enough total light output from LEDs in the same fixtures. This was among the reasons I have chosen to avoid LEDs to the time being. As in, if you had all the bulbs lit to full on the dimmer, make sure whatever LEDs you're replacing them with have the same total lumen output with a similar max dim level. The low-end tells you how low you can dim them. If you used incandescents at a very low 'candle wick' kind of level of illumination then LEDs might not be able to produce the same effect. Master closets, paths of light, or bathrooms with late night dimming needs won't be able to do that with most LEDs.

    Yes, LED lighting is a huge headache. And, no, it's not talked about in the media or any customer-facing materials AT ALL. Customers think they can just pickup some LEDs at the box store and be off and running. They're wrong and it's not their dimmer's fault.

    Quote Quote
    I have three arriving in the next couple of days that I'll test with new Maestro CL (non-wireless) dimmers for some rooms. Another strategy might be to just upgrade all non-integrated dimmers for now and see how it goes. My main beef with the halogens (Sylvania PAR30 LN) is that the quality has really taken a dive lately. I'm seeing newer bulbs failing in three months in the kitchen (highest use zone).
    Think that's bad? Imagine what it's going to be like 5-10 years from now when all these 'lifetime' LED devices start failing. The dirty little secret about them is their light output fades over time, often with color change. This means popping in one replacement is likely to look VERY out of place compared to the existing units.

    Quote Quote
    I'm going to do a full survey of my system (again, thanks for the tip about the neutral) and see what an installer would estimate (with the upgrade discount).

    (As a software developer, I'm dismayed to see my house undergoing the same upgrade pain as I routinely see in software libraries. :)
    In fairness a lot changed technology-wise when it came to dimmers. That and the changes brought about with RF (consolidating a lot as 'clear connect') were also 'bleeding edge'. But, yeah, kinda problematic. With Ra2, however, the underlying framework is pretty bulletproof as far as emerging tech goes. The devices talking to a networked repeater (that also has RS232) consolidated a lot. The Connect Bridge seems to be a stop-gap on the way to what's likely to be next generation main repeater at some point in the future.

    The upside is in the past 4 years of using Ra2 Lutron has been consistent in upgrading the software to introduce new features and support new devices. All of which continues to work on the existing Ra2 devices without and hardware changes.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the detailed response. Yes, I think that there are a lot of variables to consider when it comes to LED lighting. At this point a lot of folks are beginning to understand about lumens, and some are starting to think about color temperature. Most still seem ignorant about CRI, lumen output over bulb lifetime, and the dimming-color relationships with incandescent versus LED. I think there are still a lot of features to come (adjustable color, moonlight vs. candlelight dim settings, better lifetime output), but now the "long" lifetime is working against them. It's the classic "when do you jump in" question that I'm all too familiar with in the tech industry.

    I took another look at the Lutron testing results. I'll take it for what it's worth: for the Maestro C⋅L dimmer, it lists only four bulbs. Which strongly suggests that there are other bulbs that won't work, some that will work as well, and some that will work better. Anything not on the list is just untested for now.

    That said, the reported data is quite interesting. Buzzing potential is a great thing to know about. I'm also quite interested in the reported dimming range, and really like the fact that they also post the perceived low end (humans are logarithmic creatures). Two bulbs show a perceived low end of ~50%, one at ~33%, and one at ~25%. That last one is what I would call barely acceptable. It does mean I lose my "firefly / guests sleeping on the couch downstairs" setting that I love.

    I've gone back to doing a wide survey of halogen bulbs out there, and may postpone my upgrade for several more years. Getting frustrated with the fact that the "39W equivalent" puts out 550 lumens while the original 50W put out 660. Yeah, it uses 22% less power with 17% less light. "Equivalent" doesn't mean what I thought it did.

    Anyway, thanks for your response and for pushing back on my simplistic "high quality" statement.

  7. #7
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    Lutron only lists items that have tested in a successful way. They apparently have tested quite a few more but don't list them. Something about marketing not wanting to bad mouth potential partners or something. But you CAN call them and ask, and they will tell you if they've tested others and if they failed. Seems like an odd extra step but I understand where Lutron's coming from on this. They're in a tough spot and bulb makers are doing a crappy job of making lights. But it's the dimmer that catches the blame because the public thinks "these are just simple bulbs"... but they're not.

    Be mindful about what you think is "acceptable" when it comes to the low dimming level numbers. It's the same kind of trap as "high quality". Thus the reason I offered the specific example of 'candle wick level' kind of lighting. You can't get that unless you're using genuinely high-end LED drivers and elements like Lutron's Finire recessed cans, Ivalo fixtures or Hi-Lume drivers. These are VERY expensive and not retro-fit plug-ins. But they'll give you genuine down-to-1% dimming.

    Also note that dimming incandescents not only reduces the light output but also changes the color temperature. This being a side-effect of how a heated element/gas changes when the voltage is decreased. You largely cannot get this with LED lighting. When those dim they simply reduce their output, their color temp doesn't change.

    We've been conditioned to accept what incandescent lighting provides and that's not necessarily what's best.

    Candelabra bulbs are a great 'bad example'. It's a pain in the *** finding decent LED bulbs for those that provide anywhere near the same kind of lighting effects as incandescents. Likewise the revival of Edison filament style incandescents. There's some fake kind of LED replacements but they just 'look wrong'.

    I know exactly the kind of effect you're talking about. "Guests sleeping on the couch" is a fine example. I use some for night time bathroom or path lighting to avoid waking up anyone in adjacent rooms. I've yet to find LEDs that get me this.

    As for 'originals', it gets worse. Lots of bulb makers keep using the same packaging look or even part number while changing the underlying electronics in the bulbs. This means was was called part# 123 two years ago might be entirely different than what the "same" part# delivers today.

    Thus my perspective is, the Hell with it, I'm sticking with incandescents where my lighting needs are for more than just generic ceiling fixtures. Pantries, closets, basement shops, utility room, etc. Those get LEDs, preferably ones already tested, but trimmed up/down as necessary. But for anywhere I want decor-enhancing lighting it's still strictly incandescent.

  8. #8
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    Following up with the results of trying a set of Soraa lamps on a new Lutron Maestro C⋅L dimmer as well as my RadioRA classic system: https://forums.lutron.com/showthread...ll=1#post12889.

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