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Just clued in to the point of automated lighting

IVB

Senior Member
For those of you who didn't follow the AVS thread, I got some great guidance from QQQ and audiblesolutions about the value of automated lighting, and whether HomeWorks or RadioRA would be better for me. I used to think that there were 2 main points to doing automated lighting:
A) Implement scenes
B ) Allow non-lighting events to trigger lighting (ie, I open my mud room door - the appropriate scene comes on if the security system is armed and it's dark outside).

In reality, I completely missed the boat on this one. Alan over at audiblesolutions pointed out that the real value in automated lighting is the ability to control a large amount of lights in a single room without a whole bank of dimmer/light switches. Rather, mount those things in a room closet, central closet, or other hidden location, and just put keypads in plain sight. That way things are cleaner looking and you can have better control. This really hit home for me as I have 4-5 locations where the light switch is VERY inconveniently located, and we're constantly irritated at having to go to a non-intuitive location to turn on/off the light. I'm going to look into putting the actual dimmer/lightswitch in the closet or even attic (so I can run a hardwire easily), and just putting a wireless keypad in the room.

I'm also ditching the idea of RadioRA and saving up my pennies for HomeWorks for 4 main reasons:
A) Once we remodel (in 2-3 years), i'll be at 45-50 loads minimum, esp given the above realization of cleaning up walls.
:D Ability to have hardwired & wireless controls in same system
C) Richer protocol allows a more robust set of control
D) Better options for shade control

This isn't going to be cheap, I hear MSRP on the dimmer HW switches is $270, but i'll see what I can do. I'm getting the feeling that this could be 2nd in WAF only to mzone audio, as we're all constantly irritated at our lights being left on and having to run around turning them off, plus the $400/month electic bill. Hence, it might not be so bad. Besides, she spent $300 today at Banana republic on clothes she'll only have for a year - these should last a few times longer than that :ph34r:
 

liftn

Member
Keep in mind that local building codes will require switches in certain areas. I live in NJ so I am not sure of your local codes. It would be good idea to contact an electrical contractor in your area to assist you on this.
 

mdonovan

Active Member
I thought I had read that Lutron will not provide information to DIY'ers on the protocol, or configuration of HomeWorks, and if you wanted it to be changed at all after the initial setup you would need to hire an installer to do the changes (for $$$ of course).

Did you find information on the protocols?

Matt
 

IVB

Senior Member
liftn said:
Keep in mind that local building codes will require switches in certain areas. I live in NJ so I am not sure of your local codes. It would be good idea to contact an electrical contractor in your area to assist you on this.
Eeek. Thanks for that heads up. I was going to get an electrician in here anyway to help with this, now i know the first question to ask him.
 

BraveSirRobbin

Moderator
I installed two Keypad Linc 8's in my main kitchen/family room area and it will do a variety of things like turn all kitchen/family room lights on/off, dim lighting for optimal television viewing, turn on all outside lighting, turn on all dining and living room lighting, run pump for hot water for ten minutes (for getting in the shower), plus a variety of other things.

This is the most used automation feature in my house. I just took a spot where a switch was used for controlling an outlet and replaced it with this (just made that outlet hot all the time).

Of course this is all older X-10 technology. All commands are sent to my Ocelot so it doesn't rely on a computer. Plus I can turn them all on/off/dim at the same time (there is a delay if a lot of lights are placed on the same command).

I guess the point I'm making is maybe look into a technology that allows you to have a mounted feature like this rather than remotes.
 

rbroders

Active Member
IVB,

I don't think you have missed the boat on the value of automated lighting. I flat out disagree the concept that "the real value in automated lighting is the ability to control a large amount of lights in a single room without a whole bank of dimmer/light switches", and here is why:

High end lighting installers will always tell you not to control loads individually - scenes are everything. Put this single gang "high-style" multi-button panel on your room and control everything from there. Maybe stupid rich people enjoy having the most expensive, confusing lighting system on the block :) .

My previous house has an architectural lighting system from Centralite (the Ambiance). I have two-button and four-button single gang switches. The buttons all look the same, but some control loads, and some control scenes. Mostly I configured them to control loads directly, but a few loads are only controlled from scenes, and I am always annoyed when I want to control that particular load (say an individual piece of artwork in a room) and I don't have a switch for it. I also find single-button controls very annoying. How do I make it brighter or dimmer (in this system scenes behave much differently than loads)? My wife hates it even though we went to great effort to label and standardize everything. Guests are afraid to touch anything.

Even in a really big house, it is unusual to have a room with more than four loads. It is possible to have a doorway/wall between two rooms which each has four loads in it, and now your are trying to control eight loads from a small space. I would try to seperate the switches and bit, but still have individual control of all loads. I still like scenes though, so I'd try to limit myself to three loads per room, and save one gang for the scene control buttons.

I think you are leaning towards HW because of problems with your current lighting design (poorly placed switches) which will be fixed during your remodel anyway. I am personally leaning towards EDT iLine for my remodel for the following reasons:
1) ELK Integration (and of course CQC via ELK)
2) Hardwired reliability
3) non-architectural - easy to replace with std switches, no single point of failure
4) looks/acts like a normal light switch - not too wierd to have some EDT some std
5) scene switches look different from load switches and can control other things
5) reasonably priced with DIYer support

I haven't actually played with the EDT stuff yet, but I may get their eval package soon, and check it out - if I do, you can borrow it to show the wife if you like (I'm in the bay area also).

--Bob
 

ano

Senior Member
Automated lighting is really a rather personel thing. I myself have really never used scenes, as I don't think its a real big deal to turn on or off lights by themselves. In fact, switches are much more approachable than keypads. However, I definitly could not live without lighting automation. I have motion sensors in every room, and that controls the lighting. I do have a few keypads, but if you have a correctly designed system, you almost never touch them. The one by my bed is the only one I use.

If your only using scenes, and its working for you, great, but there is so much more that a smart controller connected to a security system can provide, that your really missing out. The bad news, getting the controller to do exactly what you want, when you want it really takes years to determine, but once you do, its a thing of beauty.
 

IVB

Senior Member
true, i guess it is personal. For me, yes, i'm suffering from inefficient current switch layout. And yes, I wouldn't arrange it so that some buttons in a keypad control scenes while others control individual lights. (why do they call them loads? Why not just call them lights?).

To drive simplicity and hence usability (common theme around here, the driving factor behind my UI design), the one thing i'm contemplating is defining a "keypad standard". That is, getting a 3-button keypad for each room, where the top button is all-on/all-off (all lights in a room), next button is the ceiling light on/off, next button is the lamp dimmer on/off(for bedside lights). Have each keypad engraved, so that it's clear (although that certainly locks me in from making changes, yikes!).

Anyhow, yet another area where there's just sooo much to learn.
 

Herdfan

Active Member
I got into lighting control about a year ago when we moved into a new house. It did not have switched outlets like our old house and this drive my wife nuts. so I started iwth an INSTEON kit of the Controllinc and 2 lamp dimmers. She was happy at this point.

I am not big into scenes either, except for one. We have a media room in the basement. At the top of the stairs, there is a keypad which serves a couple of functions. One it has a PLAYROOM button on it so we can flash the lights when it its time for our daughter to come to dinner. There is also an ALL OFF button that will turn off every light in the basement. Handy so you don't have to go down if you left anything on.

The scene we use the most is simply labeled EVENING. A press of this button turns on the Toekick lights ont he stair and the lamps in the media room. We are now ready for an evening of TV or reading.

A few other "Scenes" we have are mainly because the moron electrician put 2-ways where there should have been 3/4-ways, so they are linked togther in virtual multi-ways.

But I love the automation capabilities. At 30 minutes before dusk the outside lights come on. At midnight, they go off. At 6:15 am, the bathroom light in my daughters room comes on at 50% and the lamps in the living room come on. It helps wake her and if she comes out, she is not walking into a dark room.

I also have a WELCOME button on the Keypad int he garage. It turns on some lamps and kitchen lights so my wife doesn't have to enter a dark house. I also have a PANIC button in the MBR that will turn on EVERY light inside and out. Huge WAF on that one.
 

rbroders

Active Member
IVB said:
I wouldn't arrange it so that some buttons in a keypad control scenes while others control individual lights.

That is, getting a 3-button keypad for each room, where the top button is all-on/all-off (all lights in a room), next button is the ceiling light on/off, next button is the lamp dimmer on/off(for bedside lights).
IVB, these two statements seem contradictory. First you say you won't mix keypad control of scenes and individual loads, and then you describe a keypad with one scene and two individual loads.

In my system this was annoying because the UI (BI - button interface ;-)) was very different between the two. In the newer systems, that might not be the case, so maybe it would be okay. BTW, I think single button systems do a very poor job of controlling dimmable loads (bad BI design).

Is it true you are going to use smartswitches, but hide them all in your attic? Hmmm, that seems wierd, but I guess it would work. I think maybe the control freak in me (aren't all home automation DIYers control freaks?), likes to be able to control individual loads, but I haven't been burned by a giant ugly bank of switches, so maybe I would think differently if I had.

Like Herdfan, I have one scene I use alot: NIGHT. This sets the background lights on enough that you can tramp around the house at night. The bottom button on lots of my keypads turns it on (or off), but the automation system also uses this mode a lot. When the alarm is off it turns on at dusk (we turn it off manually when we go to sleep). The wife loves this because it is a big house, and when darkness sneaks up it can be intimidating. It also comes on when disarming the alarm after dusk.

I'd love to do motion detector switching, but my long dark hallway is only served by X10, and in my experience, by the time the security system detects motion and the light gets turned on, you have already stumbled through. The next house it going to use pressure pads or something for automation purposes.

--Bob

P.S. Nobody seemed to notice my "inaccurate load status" scene reporting issue on the AVS forum. Am I the only control freak that cares about that?
 

IVB

Senior Member
IVB, these two statements seem contradictory. First you say you won't mix keypad control of scenes and individual loads, and then you describe a keypad with one scene and two individual loads.

Perhaps my understanding of the definition of scene vs load is incorrect. I didn't really consider "all-on" and "all-off" a scene as it's a manual, boolean event. Although now that I think about it, I guess there's not a lot of value in dedicating a button to that if the next 2 buttons control the 2 main items.

I am a very very foolish man most of the time.

BTW, I didn't notice that AVS thread of yours, but work has been a little crazy as of late so I usually quick-scan the threads and use whatever bizarre rules my brain comes up with to open up a given item.
 

ano

Senior Member
When I created my first automated house many years ago, I too created standard keyboard layouts like you, but I never really ended up using them. Since those X-10 days, technology has moved forward, and I now use UPB. I think its a great technology because its so flexible. Simply Automated makes switches where you can change the faceplate so the same switch can have 1 switch, or two or three or four, or you can one switch and four buttons or even 8 buttons. And you program it all from a free program running on a PC. One other nice feature is that you can have a single click and double click perform a different function. Press the top rocker, and the light turns on, double click and all lights in the room turn on. Click the bottom, and that light goes off, double click and they all go off. This is just an example, as you can do just about anything, and you don't even need a central controller. Scenes work too, but if it were me, you only really need a keyboard in one or two locations in your house, and maybe not at all.

If you add a smart controller, this eliminates the keypads even more. I use a HAI security controller and can walk over to any security keypad to control any light, or scene. But I seldom even use that. I drive my car into garage at night, and use a keyfob to deactivate the security system. The security system tells Homeseer I'm home, and it turns on my inside lights. As I move from room to room, Homeseer determines what activity I'm doing and it changes the scenes. I go to bed, press one keypad button and my lights go out, security system is activated, etc. So for the evening, I've pressed one keyfob button and one keypad button and nothing more, yet all 35+ lights were controlled. Rarely do I ever even touch a switch.

The moral is, make it simple but flexible, and live in it before you commit to anything, because what you now think home automation is will be much different than what you find out home automation really is.
 

rbroders

Active Member
Controlling "all" of the loads in a room is definitely a scene. Any time one button is controlling more than one load it is a scene. You can also have a scene with only one load if you use the lighting system's scene mechanism instead of its direct load control mechanism.

You sound like the all on button would be a simple on/off whereas the load buttons would be dimmers. This is where you start to run into the problems that really annoy my wife: buttons that look exactly the same behave differently: press and hold this one and the lights come on and then start to dim, press and hold this other one, and they just come on. Frankly the way the buttons behave is very important, but nobody talks about it much. You don't really learn all of the gory details until you get the system up and running.

I'm sure you are aware of the dreaded X10 preset dim problem. Some X10 switches remember their last dim state. The first press restores that state. People dim the switch way down because they hold the button down too long when they try to turn the switch off. Then they try to turn it on later, and get pissed when the lights don't turn on. Of course they are on, just really dim. Just an example of how advanced features can really screw up inexperienced users (like the maid).

Regarding the "inaccurate load status" scene reporting issue, I didn't create a new thread, just an entry in the AVSForum thread you started. My big concern is good integration between the Automation system and the Lighting system. I'd like to know the state of the lights at all times. Most systems report load status when users press the load buttons, but have problems reporting loads status when scenes are used to control lots of loads at once. Check out: this. The doc only hints at the limitations, unfortunately. When I asked specifically about EDT iLine, they said load status after scenes are invoked is unknown. I asked if any harwired lighting system provided that functionality and they said simply that the M1 has limitations with each of the hardwired systems they support. The work-around is to implement scenes in the M1 (when receive B1 ON, send L1 ON, L2 Dim 50%). As long as you aren't controlling too many loads per scene, it should be fine.

--Bob

P.S. I believe EDT iLine has the preset dim problem as well, but the switches all have LED level indicators, so you can see what is going on at least.
 
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