A LIttle Help With Lighting System

snmhanson

Member
Hi all!  This is only my third post here, but all of the responses from my previous threads two have been a great help to me and I can see that there is a lot of knowledge at this forum.  We are nearing the trim-out phase of a new house and I'm going to have to order dimmers and keypads soon.  In our previous home I had retro-fitted all of the switches with UPB dimmers and had only marginal success with them.  For this house I want something that is reliable, functional and high quality so I am thinking RadioRa2 is probably the ticket.  I don't think my electrician is completely up to speed on RadioRA2, but he is happy to install whatever switches I want and is fine with me procuring them.  However, I just muddled through the RadioRa2 training and I am still a bit out to lunch in terms of what exactly I need.
 
Almost all of our lights are going to be LED with most of them being Halo incandescent cans that are going to be fitted with an LED module.  I also have some LED fixtures from companies like Modern Forms, Progress Lighting, and Cerno.  I will eventually have some LED rope and strip lighting that will need to be controlled as well.  I think the only non-LED lights I will have are going to be some LV cable lights and possibly some LV landscape lights. I have several questions relating to the system, but I'll just start with a few of the most relevant questions and see what kind of can of worms it opens up.

First, aside from cost is there any reason to look at anything besides RadioRa2?  Reliability, durability and longevity are the top qualifiers, so whatever I go with should get high marks in those areas.

Second, assuming I go with RadioRA2, I'm super confused in terms of trying to determine what dimmers I will need.  I figured I'd just default to RRD6ND for all of the LED loads - or RRD10NA if necessary.  Is it possible I will have some loads that will be an issue even with those dimmers?  Initially I believed that as long as I have a neutral dimmer I should be fine with virtually any fixture, but it sounds like even then, if the bulb isn't compatible I might still have trouble.

On the flip side, Lutron bills the RRD6CL as a CFL/LED friendly dimmer, but it doesn't have a neutral.  Pretty much everything I've read recommends that a neutral always be used, but that creates a bit of a disconnect between what Lutron is showing versus best practice.  Confusing the matter even further, I also recall part of the Lurton training recommending a neutral be used whenever possible.  Is the RRD6CL only recommended for LED loads when you don't have a neutral available, but otherwise you should use one of their dimmers with a neutral?

For my LV loads I guess I would want to use the RRD6NA so that I can use either electronic or low voltage transformers?  And probably the same dimmer for the LED and rope and strip lighting which will require a transformer/power supply?

I think what I really need is a dumbed down primer on modern lighting technologies.  In any case, once I get the appropriate dimmers I should be good to go as the system programming seems pretty straight forward.  It's just a matter of getting the correct units for the fixtures I have.

I would greatly appreciate anyone who can shed some light on the above.  Also feel free to add any additional words of wisdom or recommendations.  Just keep in mind that beyond rewiring a switch and extending a circuit, my electrical knowledge is pretty basic.

Thanks!

Matt

EDIT: I have been looking at the LED fixtures I am buying and all of them seem to say dimmable with ELV dimmer.  Does that imply that I should be looking at RRD6NA for those?  If so I am then thinking that the HALO cans with LED adapters will utilize the same dimmer and maybe that is the only dimmer model I will need to purchase.  This is all very confusing...
 

wkearney99

Senior Member
I love some of the designs Cerno has.  Haven't gotten any yet, but considering some.

With LEDs it's best to check with Lutron's web database.  It'll tell you which dimmers have been actually tested with the bulbs.  If you don't see ones you want listed, call them and ask.

Yes, it is confusing.  LEDs are not the same as incandescent bulbs.  They're electronic circuits and some have some pretty shitty power supplies in them.  There's ways dimmers are supposed to work and then there's crappy bulbs.  Lots of the stuff you see on shelves at box stores is garbage, sad to say.
 
The advice I give anyone building out a space is get a lighting designer in to look at the project.  They know how light can fill a space and they hopefully are also savvy on lighting elements.  Not just an electrician, not just an architect.  If you're spending money to build a space, spend the money to have it lit properly.

The upside to Ra2 is it works, stays working and doesn't drive anyone crazy trying to figure out how to operate it.  But a good system still needs proper design.
 

ano

Senior Member
snmhanson said:
I have been looking at the LED fixtures I am buying and all of them seem to say dimmable with ELV dimmer.  Does that imply that I should be looking at RRD6NA for those?  If so I am then thinking that the HALO cans with LED adapters will utilize the same dimmer and maybe that is the only dimmer model I will need to purchase.  This is all very confusing...
ELV stands for Electronic Low Voltage dimmer. They are great for LED bulbs, but do cost more. A "regular" dimmer may still might work with some bulbs, but its really trial-and-error. Don't commit to lots of LED bulbs and/or dimmers until you verify it all works to your satisfaction with one.
 
Here is a good article to get you started...
https://www.erp-power.com/dimming-leds-on-elv/

One final thing, don't believe the term "LED dimmer" or "dimmable LED" because it is NOT a guarantee it will all work together. I purchased Leviton "LED UPB dimmers" for my house, but in my experiments, the plain Leviton UPB dimmer does a better job at low levels. The moral, VERIFY what you intend to do before committing to a big purchase.
 

snmhanson

Member
Thanks for the replies and the link to that website.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like if I want to be safe I could just go with the RRD6NA and that will probably be optimal for most all of my loads.  It is one of their more expensive products, but if I can minimize headaches it is probably worth the extra cost.  Maybe I;m still not totally getting it though so I will keep researching and reading up.
 
I have looked at and tried to use the Lutron compatibility site and I'm even confused by that.  I feel like I'm still missing something as I usually can't find the dimmer model and/or the fixture in their database.  All of the LED fixtures I am getting have bulbs included and they don't specify the manufacturer or model number of the bulb.  It seems that I have little if any choice in terms of which LED bulbs I am going to be using.  So, do I have to call the fixture manufacturers to ask them what type of bulb they use?  I don't think I'll be able to wait until the fixture arrive to check as I need to get all of the dimmers and switches ordered and have them all available for the electrician.  I don't really have time to try different models once the fixtures are installed and he will just want to install the dimmers and be done.  And I'd much rather have him do the installation rather than me replacing the switches he installs down the road.
 
Also, would it be beneficial for me to only put dimmers on loads that we really want dimmed and go with switches for all other loads?  Are RRA2 switches easier to match to an LED fixture?  I figured that since the price difference isn't that great I would just go mostly with dimmers, but if switches are easier and more reliable there are several loads where they might work.
 
Thanks again for the help.  I'll eventually get this figured out one way or another.
 
Matt
 

wkearney99

Senior Member
Just wanting them to be done is not an excuse for getting stuck with the wrong stuff. 
 
Call Lutron.  Ask.  They know dimmers, they can help clarify options.
 
Put dimmers where you want dimmable lighting.  Put switches only where you know you don't ever want dimming.  Note, dimmers can be configured to act like switches when pressed (and to ignore the raise/lower buttons or network commands).  I've only put 8ANS switches in places like utility closets, attic, and workshop overhead lighting.  

A system using Ra2 *really* benefits from being properly designed.  These are not just plain old dimmers.  If you're going to spend this much money, honestly, get a Lutron Ra2 integrator to help.  You mention getting the switches ahead of time, why is the electrician not getting these for you?  Please tell me you're not buying them blind from online somewhere.  
 

snmhanson

Member
If i source them myself I am getting them from an electrical distributor that I have a wholesale account with.  I've been ordering stuff from them for almost 20 years including HAI, Leviton, Russound, etc...   My electrician said he's fine with me sourcing the switches and he also said if he gets them he won't charge any mark-up so I'm not sure where the better deal will be.  I'm just not sure that he's totally up on RA2 so I want to be sure I'm getting the correct units rather than just something that works but not optimally.  I know he's an electrician and he should know what we need, but I've discovered that when building a house the only way to make sure things are right is to be involved yourself.  I'm not knocking him at all though as he's done a great job so far.  I'll take your advice an give Lutron a call to get their input.
 
Matt
 

neillt

Active Member
I would highly recommend you take the time to do the free online Lutron RadioRA2 BLAST Training.  It's also how you can get the Lutron software for your own programming needs.  It will take a few hours over a course of a week to do it at the right pace and actually absorb the info instead of next, next, next.  The first few modules are fluff like "why Lutron is awesome" and "we invented the dimmer", but then it gets technical.
 
One of the modules in the course is how to properly choose the dimmer for the application, specifically on LEDs.
 
For LEDs, almost certainly go with the 6NA as you can choose either forward or reverse phase dimming.  Some LEDs only work well with one or the other.  The non adaptive dimmers (that's what the A in 6NA means) can only do forward phase dimming.
 
If you are going to do LED strips, take a look at the eNode and related drivers from Converging Systems.  They connect to the RA2 repeater via Ethernet, and can control LED strips and other 12 or 24 volt LED systems.  Since these are custom built LED drivers, 1% dimming is easy and painless.
 
For landscape lights, if you are going RA2, the natural choice would be FX Luminaire Luxor.  It's pricey, but directly integrates with the RA2 repeater system via ethernet just like the Converging Systems stuff.  You let the Luxor system handle the dimming of the lights, which are all LED, and the RA2 system just tells it what to do.  It's an amazing integration that just works with high WAF.
 
If you have any other questions, just shout.  I have done all the Lutron training for Homeworks QS and RadioRA2 at Lutron's facility, and have a lot of good tips to solve problems they don't always mention in the course online.
 
Overall, you are on the right track.  I too used to have a house with all UPB, but when I moved and performed a complete remodel and rewire of the house, I went with RA2 and am extremely pleased.
 

ano

Senior Member
If you have money to burn, RadioA is the way to go. Personally I won't spend $150-$300 for a dimmer. UPB has been very reliable, and with 40+ switches, over 10+ years, I think I had maybe 1 Simply Automated switch go bad. Use Leviton switches now, and never had one go bad.   I tried a few bulbs and the FEIT ones worked great for me. From Home Depot. They dim nicely to almost zero.  This without attending classes or speaking to any lighting hotlines.  But your welcome to spend 4X to 8X more if you believe your lighting will be any "better."  It won't be.
 

snmhanson

Member
Thanks for the replies.  I hadn't been on the site in a few days so didn't see them. 
 
I have done the RadioRa2 training and have now downloaded the software and played around with it a bit.  The software is pretty straight forward - it's figuring out what dimmers I need that's driving me crazy.  I ended up calling all of the manufacturer's to see if they have recommendations and most of them just said "just use an ELV dimmer".  None of them had a specific RA2 model to recommend.  Sounds like the 6NA is the go-to dimmer for most of these loads, but still trying to dig into that more.  I also called Lutron and talked to a very nice and helpful guy there.  He advised me to get the model numbers for each fixture and/or bulb I am going to have and e-mail them to Lutron customer support to get their recommendation.  He also told me to give him a call back if I have any questions or concerns with the response I get.  I am working on getting all of the model numbers so that I can do that.
 
ANO, I hear what you're saying.  However, my experience with UPB was very different than yours.  I had multiple devices fail and getting reliable communication was a challenging.  I never was able to get the system working reliably before we sold our house, but at least they worked well as standalone dimmers.  Some of the dimmers seemed to work fine while others would drop in and out of the network (and yes, I did have a phase coupler).  I can get RA2 dimmers for a fair bit less than what you are indicating, though still significantly more than UPB.  I recently was in a house with a full RA2 setup and was very impressed.  Overall it will cost me a 2-3 thousand more to do the entire house in RA2 versus UPB but in the grand scheme of the overall build it's not much.
 
Thanks again for all of the input and assistance!
 
Matt
 

neillt

Active Member
Hey Matt,
 
I also had issues with UPB, and have a good friend who found out his 15,000 dollar Carrier Infinity spews noise out on the powerline and has rendered his entire UPB installation inert.  It's so bad he has to turn off the A/C to turn on lights since many loads are controlled via scene switches, which won't work when the A/C is on.
 
PulseWorx's answer was to install an isolation transformer ($$$) to isolate the noise from the Carrier compressor.
 
He and I both decided to move on to RA2 and haven't looked back.  There are in fact some nice things that can be accomplished with UPB and the keypads, like decoupling the dimmer's front facing switch from the dimmer underneath, or LED control on keypads, that I wish RA2 had.  But it's a 95% solution, and HomeSeer can fix the last few percent.  Plus, it just works.
 
Neill
 

ano

Senior Member
snmhanson said:
ANO, I hear what you're saying.  However, my experience with UPB was very different than yours.  I had multiple devices fail and getting reliable communication was a challenging.  I never was able to get the system working reliably before we sold our house, but at least they worked well as standalone dimmers.  Some of the dimmers seemed to work fine while others would drop in and out of the network (and yes, I did have a phase coupler).  I can get RA2 dimmers for a fair bit less than what you are indicating, though still significantly more than UPB.  I recently was in a house with a full RA2 setup and was very impressed.  Overall it will cost me a 2-3 thousand more to do the entire house in RA2 versus UPB but in the grand scheme of the overall build it's not much.
Just wondering, did your installer use an active UPB repeater?  They go for about $250 and allows one phase to communicate with the other. The problem that neillt spoke of can be addressed with a 220V to 220V 40A transformer that cost maybe $300 and can be sourced by PCS.  Personally if I paid $15,000 for equipment which generated so much electrical noise to cause problems, I'd have Carrier pay for the cost. Same as if they installed an outdoor compressor that was so loud the neighbors complained, they would pay to fix that as well. Noise, electrical or otherwise, is not acceptable.
 

neillt

Active Member
Hey Ano, PCS wanted nothing to do with helping me with the isolation transformer.  The essentially said "call an electrician" or "see if there is something on e-bay".  I am paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it.
 
This was a 50 amp circuit, and the highest filters they offer are 20.
 

snmhanson

Member
I'm going to revive this thread one more time.  It is getting very close to D-day in terms of the electrician installing dimmers and I still haven't made much progress figuring out which RA2 dimmers I need.  I called Lutron and was told to send an e-mail to customer support listing all of my fixtures/bulbs.  I did that a few days ago, but haven't heard anything back from them yet.  Hopefully I'll hear from them shortly, but in the meantime I need to come up with a contingency plan.
 
So, my question I'm hoping someone here can answer for me is whether there is a specific RA2 dimmer that would be likely to work for all/most residential lighting loads - even if it is a premium model?  The RRD6NA seems to check all of the boxes in terms of load types we will have (LED, ELV, etc...), and it uses the neutral which should help keep everything stable.  Even though I'd possibly be paying more for certain loads than I have to with this dimmer, would I be safe to just default to it for all of my units?  Just want to have an option so that if push comes to shove the electrician can do his job.
 
Thanks for any input!
 
Matt
 

tmbrown97

Senior Member
If you're getting down to the wire, you can always have the electrician install $3 cheap switches and go slow with the automation.  I'm just starting a RRA2 install myself - and I'm starting with a bunch of the RRD-6ND switches - and based on how they perform in a handful of areas, I'll keep going and expand.  If I have problems on some loads, I'll move that switch and buy a different one to try.  That's my plan at least.
 
It's too bad UPB wasn't reliable for you - my last house was 4,000sq ft and had ~80 UPB switches from SA - once I worked out some basics, it was rock solid the 7 years I lived there.  The main reason I'm doing RRa2 here is, when I sold the house, I couldn't just tell them to call a local contractor... there weren't any who'd help with UPB, so I ended up doing a lot of support.  With RRa2, I can list it as a selling point that can easily by supported by professionals - plus with the Bridge, I get Siri/Alexa integration, which we've moved to pretty heavily... plus the new house is in a much higher price bracket so it'll attract different types of buyer with different expectations.   I really did love the flexibility of UPB though, and even more so, the fact that there were only 2 switches to choose from and they'd work on any load.
 
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