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Thread: Some general questions

  1. #1
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    Some general questions

    I've taken the basic training and installed the essentials software. I began installing devices and programming. I have a few questions I could use assistance with:

    1. I cant quite figure out the occupancy/vacancy settings. I can only seem to take dimmers to a certain level. There are no other controls available for setting what happens on vacancy, timeouts, etc. There is just a single action available. How do you program these so you can have one action on occupancy and then another for vacancy?

    2. Is there any way to program variable or IF/THEN logic statements? I think I can mostly come up with some creative work-arounds, but it sure would be great to see this available, even if only in inclusive software.

    3. I want to turn on and off an exterior landscape transformer. It's not currently on a switch, so it looks like I would need a soft switch module, which is only available for inclusive software? This seems like a major limitation for such a basic need. Any other ideas to switch my landscape lights?

    4. Visor Control Receiver - Is the antenna for homelink, RadioRa2, or both? Any experience with how well it works with in-car homelink transmistters? It seems like I could use some of the I/O ports to switch a landscape transformer relay if I have to. Is there any way to tally the status of my garage door on a keypad (using a sensor wired to an input)? It would be great to have a garage door button that either lit, or blinked based on the actual status of the garage door sensor.

    Finally, it sounds like some of my questions may direct me to Homeworks QS. If so, and I wanted to go wireless, is the device pricing about the same as RadioRA2? How much more complicated is it?

  2. #2
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    1. Each sensor has and Occupied and Unoccupied selection in the lower-left corner of the screen when editing it. Note, you can have devices in the Occupied setting configured as "Unaffected". This allows using the Unoccupied scene to control devices that might have been manually activated. As in, the Occupied sene turns on just a powder room vanity light. But a person in the room might have also manually turned on a ceiling light. The Occupied scene has the ceiling light included but set as 'Unaffected'. The Unoccupied scene has them both set for being turned off. This is also handy if you have a fan on a switch. Turn it on with the lights, but turn it off with a several-minute delay afterward. For bathrooms with a shower using a 15-30 minute delay is a good way to clear the humidity. Right-click on the scene table header and select the 'Show Delay' column.

    2. There are no conditionals in Ra2. If you need them use a 3rd party control system. I've had decent luck using Homeseer 3 and the Ra2 plug-in for it. Domotica and others have Ra2 plug-ins as well.

    3. You either put in a switch, using an in-line appliance module or the soft-switch. How does your current landscape lighting connect now? If it's plugged into a socket then an easy solution would be a 15APS inline module.

    Why some devices are Inclusive-only is anyone's guess. Lutron has been picky about this for a while. The in-person training, however, is worthwhile and does touch on a number of complicated scenarios that might be difficult to understand otherwise. Q&A with an instructor is VERY helpful for this, as is hearing the questions from other attendees. It is a worthwhile training expense.

    4. The antenna is for the visor transmitter. This lets the VCRX pick up signals from the visor control at greater distances. If you're 'close enough' there's also the option to use a Pico with the optional visor clip bracket. I find a Pico works to about 60' from the main repeater. Just enough to work from within the driveway. I did not add a VCRX as the Pico has just enough coverage, ymmv.

    HWQS is considerably more expensive and exclusively configured by authorized integrators. It's not a DIY system AT ALL, and Lutron is not flexible about this. Not 'Crestron arrogant' but not too far behind.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the very helpful answers. A couple more follow on questions--

    A. I have re-watched the training for the occupancy sensor, and I do see where there should be a selection on the lower left of the screen, but in my version that selection doesn't exist. Is there any chance this is only available in inclusive software? I'm at a loss on this one.

    B. The landscape lights are powered by a simple transformer that is connected to an exterior receptacle. A 15 APS module looks like it is rated for indoor use only, so I think I either need to use the relay module (inclusive only) or I guess I could wire in a switch to that outdoor receptacle, but that would require cutting open drywall etc. Anyone had luck using the 15APS outdoors?

    C. Is the keypad hardware quality essentially the same in Homeworks? I realize that the Lutron hardware has a reputation as the gold standard in reliability, but I don't care for the cheap feeling plastic of the wall switches and the tiny buttons on the keypads. For this reason alone I'm also looking at Crestron.

    D. Finally, I have some questions about keypad backlighting. I have found images online that show the entire keypad backlit by green LED's. How does it work if you have a black keypad with white text? Is just the text backlit? I think this would look better. My local dealer doesn't have any for me to look at.

  4. #4
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    I seem to recall a toggle on whether a sensor separated the occ/unocc values. I'm thinking that would control what it shows in the software. Check that?

    The circuit driving the landscape lights likely comes from somewhere inside. Probably the least problematic to just put a switch inline there. I don't think I'd bother trying to cobble up using a 15APS in an outdoor box scenario. It'd likely be less trouble to put a wall dimmer in a weatherproof box instead.

    If you dislike being limited by the vendor then you definitely won't find Crestron appealing. EVERYTHING has to be done by the integrator, at your expense (which will be considerable).

    Lutron's keypad plastic is probably a lot less 'cheap feeling' than most others. YMMV. But I suppose actual dimmer performance and reliability is probably more important.

    A word of caution on engraving. Get to know your scenes and use-patterns first and then engrave.

    Yes, black keypads will show-through the backlighting into the engraved portions.

  5. #5
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    Thanks again for the info.

    My local Lutron dealer has requested the RadioRA2 demo kit from the rep, so hopfully I'll get a good look at color and backlight options soon. I am a Crestron dealer (Broadcast and AV integrator) so I'm familiar with their painful restrictions. We only dive into commercial lighting control systems now and then, so I'm somewhat familiar and I suppose spoiled by the flexibility. I do think RadioRA2 will suit about 90% of my personal needs though. I'm open to the level 2 class if/when it comes through Seattle.

    I'll take another look at the software on my laptop tonight to see if I can get the check boxes to show up. I downloaded the software from the link provided at the end of training. I don't see any other place to download. I think it's v 10.6.

  6. #6
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    I did figure out the missing occupancy sensor settings in case anyone else stumbles across this thread.. This had to do with the windows display scaling. Go to windows display settings and set the "Change the size of text, apps, and other items" slider to either 125% or 100%. This is often set higher than 100% on 4k displays or laptop high resolution displays.

  7. Thanks BrookeHarper, wkearney99 thanked for this post
  8. #7
    When it came to designing my system, I tried to not over-automate and over-complicate things when much simpler and cheaper solutions exist. I think the transformer for outdoor lights is one such place where simpler = cheaper = similar result. Many, if not most, outdoor transformers for landscape lighting have some sort of simple built-in automation - whether it's a clock-based timer or a light-based timer or a combination of the two. Similarly, there are tons of driveway flood lights that have a motion sensor. I'm not sure the value of re-doing wiring and then programming to essentially re-create the wheel.
    Similarly, I use simple timer switches for things like shower exhausts (press when I'm about to shower, stays on for 30 minutes), and closets that I only open briefly (like a utility or linen), and I really just want an auto-shut off in case we forget to do it manually. I don't see the value of these being part of scenes, and $30 for a coordinate lutron one is a lot cheaper than a radio ra2 switch.

  9. #8
    Thanks for the helpful info EricU!

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by freeoscar View Post
    When it came to designing my system, I tried to not over-automate and over-complicate things when much simpler and cheaper solutions exist. I think the transformer for outdoor lights is one such place where simpler = cheaper = similar result. Many, if not most, outdoor transformers for landscape lighting have some sort of simple built-in automation - whether it's a clock-based timer or a light-based timer or a combination of the two. Similarly, there are tons of driveway flood lights that have a motion sensor. I'm not sure the value of re-doing wiring and then programming to essentially re-create the wheel.
    Similarly, I use simple timer switches for things like shower exhausts (press when I'm about to shower, stays on for 30 minutes), and closets that I only open briefly (like a utility or linen), and I really just want an auto-shut off in case we forget to do it manually. I don't see the value of these being part of scenes, and $30 for a coordinate lutron one is a lot cheaper than a radio ra2 switch.
    What works for some, doesn't for others. This is going to be true of any type of product.

    Rollbacks are also a nice feature if you've got closets or other 'brief use' lighting. Set a rollback timer on the 'room' and use that scene to turn things back off again. No added sensor necessary. Also know that a occ/vac sensor scene is not limited to controlling only lighting in that room. I've got one for the workshop that tidies up after some adjacent spaces too. One nice touch is using a delay and a long fade on some of those to avoid dropping anyone into sudden darkness.

    I'm still undecided on exhaust fan timers. On one hand I do like having the ability to set a time manually on the timer (Maestro non-RA2 units). On the other, it's tedious if someone (like guests or cleaning personnel) leave a fan set 'full on'. Meaning I have to go back sometime later and turn the danged things off again.

    Personally, I prefer being able to tie outdoor accent lighting to sunrise/sunset (or offsets from them). Nice touch to have them automatically track with seasonal changes. That and not have to go back and remember how to reprogram the clocks on those 'simple' timers. If you have something that works, stick with it.

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