Lutron RadioRa 2: A New Era of Wireless Home Control
New wireless lighting control system also operates motorized shades; cheaper, better than the original RadioRa; plus ... RF thermostat, finally!
RadioRa 2 changes everything for Lutron, a pioneer in wireless lighting control.
Ten years after RadioRa debuted—followed by several incompatible variations of the product—Lutron has standardized on a single RF technology for that class of wireless lighting controls: RadioRa 2
“When we looked at coming out with the next-generation RadioRa, we wanted to do a lot of things that the architecture of RadioRa wouldn’t allow us to do,” says Lutron product manager Jeremy Kleinberg.
RadioRa 2 is a life saver for countless CE pros who install Lutron products. It solves several shortcomings of the original Ra in terms of price and performance. In a nutshell:
- More loads: control up to 200 wireless devices (dimmers, keypads, shades, etc.)
- Better performance: faster two-way RF
- Fewer components: One main repeater does it all: RS-232, IP, RF (100 devices per main repeater, up to two repeaters for 200 devices)
- PC programming
- Multibutton keypads that control the loads of the switches they replace
- Native RF communications with Sivoia QS motorized shades and new occupancy/photocell sensors (can a thermostat be far behind?)
- Significantly lower cost (see below)
The Price of RadioRa 2
Let’s get right down to it. What does RadioRa 2 cost?
RadioRa 2 starts with the main repeater, which houses the radio, RS-232 and IP ports for integration, and an on-board astronomic clock. All this for the low low price of $499.
To get all of that stuff with RadioRa, it would cost $1,400: $400 for the repeater, $600 for the RS-232 interface and $400 for the IP gateway. And you wouldn’t get a time clock with that.
A standard RadioRa 2 dimmer costs $149; specialty dimmers are $199. That compares to $190 and $270, respectively, for the original Ra.
This pricing makes RadioRa much more feasible for smaller jobs. Whereas $1,400 was a tough starting point for a smaller job, $499 is palatable.
A RadioRa 2 system with six basic wireless dimmers would start at $1,400. A similarly endowed RadioRa would start at $2,540.
More of the RadioRa 2 Family
The key enabler of RadioRa 2 is a new communications protocol (not mesh networking) and a new radio “that allows us to scale much more easily than RadioRa,” says Kleinberg. “When we redesigned the system, not only did we innovate in terms of features but also in the design and cost.”
The range of the RadioRa 2 repeater is similar to that of its predecessor: about 30 feet (good for a 2,500-square-foot home). Users can add four auxiliary repeaters to the system.
Main repeater with hybrid keypad—replace a light switch and control that load
Hybrid dimmers. In addition, Lutron is debuting its first hybrid seeTouch keypad/dimmer with Ra 2. “It’s good news for retrofit,” Kleinberg says. “Just swap out any switch. It controls that load and works with the system.”
The keypads are available in a variety of configurations, such as three top/three bottom buttons and five top buttons with raise/lower buttons.
RF sensors. Two new sensors are available for RadioRa 2: the Powr Savr wireless occupancy/vacancy sensors and photocell sensors.
Grafik Eye integration. Also, Radio Ra 2 is interoperable with the newish Grafik Eye QS Wireless. Currently, that product communicates wirelessly with Sivoia QS shades and Powr Savr occupancy sensors, but not with the next-gen Ra 2 lighting controls.
Kleinberg explains, “Some customers use Grafik Eye QS Wireless as a single-room system in a theater, dining room, or other area where there are many zones of light that can be wired back to one box. It offers lots of control in one sleek package with many, many color options. If those customers later choose to expand with RadioRa 2 , their Grafik Eye can be controlled as a seamless part of the system. “
Motorized shades. This one’s a biggie: RadioRa 2 is compatible natively with Sivoia QS Wireless motorized shades. Thus, a single keypad can operate both lighting and shading scenes. In fact, a single scene can trigger actions from both the lights and the shades – no gateway device required.
Lighting and shade control – the ultimate package for controlling the indoor environment. Or is it? Lutron is rolling out an RF thermostat but it isn’t clear if the product is compatible with RadioRa 2 or just the new HomeWorks.
End of an eRa
Lutron has moved to a new wireless RF technology for RadioRa 2 and compatible RF devices. It utilizes Lutron Clear Connect RF technology – sort of a culmination of 10+ years of wireless development.
So the new wireless products will not be backward-compatible with RadioRa and its various spinoffs.
To be clear, just because a Lutron product employs Clear Connect does not necessarily mean it is compatible with other Clear Connect devices.
As Kleinberg puts it, “Clear Connect is a brand umbrella that covers RF technology.”
HomeWorks QS Wireless
Wait, there’s more. The old HomeWorks Wireless is now HomeWorks QS Wireless, so it too can operate Sivoia QS shades and respond to the Powr Savr sensors.
Also, Lutron is debuting a new RF thermostat and universal remote for HomeWorks. What took so long on the thermostat?
The company is adding new smarts to HomeWorks under the aegis of the Quantum light management system:
Hyperion Solar Adaptive Shading – Provides complete control of window coverings based on the position of the sun. State-of-the-art technology is used to calculate the appropriate position of window treatments based on the geographical location and orientation of the home.
Green Glance – Allows homeowners to track how much energy they are saving using HomeWorks QS Wireless via a display screen.
And Lutron is showing a spectacular new keypad design, modeled after its Vierti dimmers (below).
One last thing: During CEDIA, Lutron is showing bridges that allow its products to communicate with ZigBee and Z-Wave wireless devices.
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Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at email@example.com
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