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Lighting System Rescues Home from Control Complexities

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A Lutron lighting system enables the homeowners to easily controlled what used to by highly unmanageable lights.

The owners of this award-winning home were fortunate to find a firm that could deliver on these qualities … and that could suggest a system to finally bring order recently to an unruly lighting system that had been a thorn in their sides for years. It’s no secret that setting up a simple-to-manage smart lighting control system requires an ample amount of engineering knowledge, expertise, and creativity from the company that installs it.For these reasons the home systems integrators at EVS, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, earned them Lutron’s Excellence Award for “Best Integrated Home”for this renovation project.

The Challenge

“The system had been set up so poorly [by a firm other than EVS] that the homeowners had actually considered ripping it out and going back to old-school toggle switches,” says Jeff Wolstenholme, EVS Installation Services Management, of the mess he and his crew encountered when hired to fix “a multitude of problems that existed” in the 3,500-square-foot home.

The Solution

One of the biggest problems: No lighting scenes had been programmed into the Lutron RadioRA® 2 system, which meant that the owners were controlling each lighting circuit individually—a process that required several buttons just to set up the lights in a single room. The creation of scenes would reduce the tedious, time-consuming, and confusing button pressing to a single tap on a keypad. “Before it would take 12 buttons on multiple keypads to control the lighting in the bar and lounge area; now it takes just one button press from one keypad,” says Wolstenholme.

As is EVS’s standard protocol when configuring lighting scenes, the team spent two evenings with the owners at their residence to customize the illumination in each room. This would involve adjusting the lighting levels of a wide variety of light sources, including a mixture of recessed LED fixtures, incandescent sconces, pendants, chandeliers, valance lighting, and strip lighting underneath cabinetry until the owners settled on the precise settings of each individual lights. EVS then reprogrammed the RadioRA 2 system with these new streamlined scenes and re-engraved the existing keypads to reflect this much simpler mode of control.

Second Order of Business: Clean Up the Keypads

Every keypad, which incidentally EVS updated with a more modern, streamlined, screwless Lutron faceplate, presents the same five buttons: Bright, Medium, Soft, Ambiance, and Off.

“Thanks to a great L3 course that was taught by Lutron, we adopted and practice the theory of maintaining consistency and simplicity across all keypads, and adhere to the philosophy that just because a keypad has six buttons doesn’t mean you should make your customers use all six buttons.”

For example, the owners of this house are able to control the illumination in a large space like the rec room in the basement precisely to their liking by touching just two buttons: Ambiance and Off. “It’s consistent, predictable, and makes sense,” Wolstenholme says.

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Home Lighting Automation: Remote Control Lighting, Motorized Shades, Lutron Caseta & More

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Plus, the Lutron screwless faceplates blend seamlessly into the custom millwork throughout the home including the kitchen, living room, and library. In rooms with painted walls, the faceplate provides an interesting contrast. “The client adores the new faceplates, and we couldn’t have asked for a better match,” Wolstenholme adds.

Third Order of Business: Integrate Third-Party Subsystems

The consistency of control that was applied to the keypads was carried through to four RTI T2X remotes, one RTI KX7 touchscreen, and the RTiPanel mobile app on the owners’ iPad minis. EVS created a custom GUI for all of the various devices. For example, the T2X remotes present room specific lighting scenes that match the scenes presented on the Lutron keypads. The KX7 and RTiPanel offer more real estate, explains Wolstenholme, so EVS created a more engaging user experience, including a control menu which allows the home owners to select any room organized by floor level and use virtual sliders to adjust the brightness levels of individual lights within a scene for any room.

“Although the feature isn’t utilized every day, the owners like having the ability to experiment and tweak the settings,” Wolstenholme says.

Also controllable via the remotes, the KX7, and thee app are a Russound whole-house audio system Key Digital Video Matrix system, the living room gas fireplace, Irrigation Caddy sprinkler system, DSC security system, and five Speco Technologies Intensifier surveillance cameras. These components were integrated with the RadioRA 2 system under the aegis of the RTI home automation processor to work together and afford the homeowners a wealth of conveniences beyond one-touch lighting scenes. For example, when a security alarm trips, the owners receive an email alert on their smartphones, the interior lights go to full brightness, and exterior lights flash. They are also able to use their tablets to turn the lights on and off remotely using the custom GUI and to monitor a log of lighting events. Explains Wolstenholme, the owners often refer to the lighting log to see when service people and cleaning staff enter their home and which areas of the home they occupied while they were there.

Fourth Order of Business: Automate for Convenience

The dramatic redo of the RadioRA 2 system has made the homeowners true believers of the value of technology once again, and EVS went the extra mile to not only improve the system, but add extra features that would simplify their life even more. For example, the brightness levels of the lights adjust automatically based on the time of year. In the summer months when there’s more natural sunlight available than in the winter, fewer lights activate in the morning than they do during the winter morning setup. The exterior lights automatically come on based on the sunset. When the front door opens after sunset, the system raises the front exterior lights to full brilliance. After three minutes, the lights return to their previous light level. The same event occurs for the rear patio lights when the lower patio doors are opened and closed.

Another automation extra: Motion sensors in the powder room, garage, and mudroom automatically turn on the lights when someone enters the space and switch them off when the room is vacant.

One More Perk: Automation via a Geofence

It wasn’t long ago that Lutron added geofencing capabilities to its line of lighting control systems. But because this project was tackled before Lutron’s implementation of the technology, EVS engineered its own location-based automation system (a combination of RTI and DSC products and Lutron’s Main Repeater) triggers lighting events based on the proximity of both his and her smartphones to the house.

“We may have created our own geofencing solution for this particular project, but we will definitely be taking advantage of Lutron’s technology going forward,” Wolstenholme says.
Here’s how the owners are benefitting from our geofencing currently:

  • The system is able to determine which homeowner is returning (husband or wife) and automatically activate certain exterior and interior lights, but only if it’s after sunset. After three minutes (ample time to enter the house), the RadioRA 2 system lowers the lights to 40 percent.
  • If the husband is returning, the garage door on the left opens; if it’s the wife, the right garage door opens. In either case, lights leading from the garage to the mud room illuminate.
  • Once a garage door opens, the alarm system disarms, precluding the need for the homeowners to rush to the panel to turn it off manually.
  • After the security system is disarmed, the RadioRA 2 system engages the Medium lighting system if the wife is returning home. If the husband is returning, the RadioRA2 system illuminates a pathway from the kitchen to the master bedroom. If both are returning home at the same time, the RadioRA 2 system activates both settings.

A New Lease on Living with Automated Lights

Although the homeowners may have been ready to throw in the towel when it came to home technology, by breathing new life into their RadioRA 2 system, EVS was able to turn skeptics into true believers of the simplicity that lighting control can deliver to their day-to-day routines. They’ve been able to appreciate fully how the lights can enhance both the look and functionality of their home—with nothing more involved than a simple tap of a button on a beautifully engraved button on a sleek, modern Lutron keypad.