Lutron RadioRA 2 Lighting System Review

Posted: 2nd February 2013 by admin in Home Technology

Of my less-than-perfect home automation system (thanks to Crestron), Lutron proved to be one of the best choices. In fact, if I were to do it all over again, I would put as many items on the Lutron system as possible.

The RadioRA2 system is a wireless lighting system. It consists of a central control unit (plus repeaters if the house is large), and as many wireless dimmers as needed (I started with about 50 dimmers and ended up with about 70). Because the dimmers are all wireless, you can switch any existing switch to a dimmer at any time.

Once on the system, each lighting fixture can be controlled one of several ways:

1. Tapping on the dimmer itself
2. From any iPad or iPhone running the Lutron App ($29 covers all devices for the entire household)
3. Lutron wall-mounted programmable keypads
4. Timed events – turn lights on/off at certain times of the day, or sunrise/sunset, etc.

A number of functions can be set on the iPad, for example:
1. Set the dimmer from 0% to 100% in 1% increment
2. Turn on or off a series of lights with the press of one button
3. Set the speed of dimming in seconds
4. Set the amount of time delay before dimming starts
5. Set up automatic scenes at certain times of the day, linked to astro-clock such as sunrise and sunset

After using the system for about 30 days, here are some pros and cons I discovered.

Pros –

Very easy to use and reliable, clearly a well designed and field tested product

Pre-set dimmer level using two small keys on the side, then one click on the big button to the preset level, and two clicks to turn light to maximum level

Green LED indicator on smart dimmers make finding the switch in the dark easy

Scenes – a group of lights can be set up to work together as a scene. For example, I have a “Arrive” scene that turns on the mudroom, hallway, and kitchen lights on, so I’m never entering a dark house. A “Good Night” scene turns off ALL the lights around the house, and dims hallway can lights at 10% to work as a night light. Each light can be set at a different dimming level. It’s awesome.

iPad apps works well and is reliable. Interface is clean and logical. Easy to use.

Cons –

Programming of the lighting system is kept at the installer level. The application is actually very simple and intuitive, all drag and drop, but it’s not made available to the consumer.

iPhone app interface is too simple. It definitely gets the job done, but looks like an engineer designed it. Each screen controls only one light fixture, when clearly there is room for more.

The system has no user interface to set the system clock. During the installation, my system clock was off by a few hours, so all my timed lights were turning on and off at the wrong time. It took the installer three trips to correct this.

The dimmer has trouble controlling some LED lights. My family room light fixtures use (16) A19 bulbs and (24) chandelier bulbs. I want the brightest lights possible, so planned on using ~60w each, which turned out to be too much draw for regular dimmers (Lutron does have a booster that can control it). I decided to install all Sylvania Ultra LED series (20w A21s and 6w chandeliers, these are dimmable LEDs designed to work with any regular dimmers). The Lutron digital dimmers caused the bulbs to flicker, although regular dimmers (also made by Lutron) work just fine. The installer also tried dimmers designed for LED with no luck. As of this writing, the installer is waiting for arrival for some different type of dimmer to try again, and the family room lights are on a hard switch.

What would I change if I were to do it all over again?
1. I would still choose Lutron to control all my lighting
2. I would add Lutron thermostats instead of Crestron. Lutron has a cool “seeTemp” control, unfortunately I didn’t find out about this until afterwards
3. Since I’m a tech nerd and I love to control my gadgets, I would put all lights on Lutron’s system (yes, I even have my closet light on the system). I started with ~50 dimmers and had to go through upgrades (from 600w to 1000w) during construction, which wasted some money. Ended up with about 70 dimmers and now I’m happy.