Control & Automation

Why Crestron’s New Fee for Lutron and Vantage Integration Makes Sense

Here's how hard Crestron works to fix building- and home-automation problems with third-party subsystems.

Why Crestron’s New Fee for Lutron and Vantage Integration Makes Sense
Here is one very good example of how far Crestron goes for the end user of a commercial or home-automation system.

Julie Jacobson · March 3, 2017

Crestron is now charging dealers $500 to integrate with Lutron and Vantage lighting-control systems. Integrators are calling it a "Lutron tax." This week at the CEDIA Business Xchange, Crestron dealers are going ballistic over the surprise announcement.

Once you explain the logic behind this nominal fee, though, they calm down.

"OK, now I get it," said one dealer after we had this little chat. "It doesn't really matter anyway. I mostly do Crestron lighting."

Crestron is a little unusual in the level of end-user support it provides for both commercial- and home-automation projects. For example, the company has about 200 employees in its “Advanced Technology Services Group,” comprised of high-level integration pros who do nothing but go out into the field to fix problems that installers themselves can't fix.

They don't charge for this.

As I wrote in the original piece, it's a whole lot easier for Crestron to fix an integrated system when it's made up of Crestron parts. 

Crestron residential VP John Clancy notes that a “significant number” of service calls “have to do with things beyond our control. Many times, we have competing products where there wouldn’t have been an issue.”

What's the problem if Crestron nudges dealers into Crestron lighting? Keeping it in the family ultimately provides a better customer experience ... especially after the installation if the dealer for some reason isn't around.

Doomsdayers are now wondering (as one of them writes):

What stops them from now charging for other HDMI videos systems or networking products or audio switches or anything else Crestron makes because they want to "nudge" the dealer into using their own brand. If your support is over loaded then charge for it when it's a 3rd party product. This is starting a dangerous precedent which other manufacturers could easily start to follow.

First off, lighting is sort of a special case. Secondly, why would this precedent be so dangerous? Some vendors already have similar fees in place. Others have tried them and failed. The market will decide if it's a bad idea.

If you have no choice but to work with a Lutron or Vantage system, or you just want to use either of these fine systems for whatever reason, then pay the $500. All fixed.

From the comment above, there is an important thing to note: Crestron can't just "charge for it when it's a 3rd party product."

In many cases, end customers have spent a bucket-load of money for a Crestron system and they expect the whole thing to work -- now and for a very long time. Whether the dealer is still in the picture or not, Crestron needs to make sure the company's good name isn't sullied. They must fix the problem.

How much do you charge an end user for flying out a highly paid technician to fix an issue that very often has nothing to do with Crestron itself?

I'm with Crestron on this one. If you're not convinced, read below for a report from one of the ATSG techs dispatched to fix a "Crestron" problem.

All this being said, Crestron did a really bad job of rolling this out.

Dear Client, We Fixed It. Love Crestron

Mr. [Client]:

          I hope you are enjoying your trip. I am not sure when you will get this note.  Below please find our trip report.

          Our ATSG engineer Kevin Dry visited your home this week on Wednesday March 1st. Below are our findings.

1)       We re-wired and reconfigured all of the CHV-THSTATs to act as standard 2 stage heat/single stage cool units.  The system was originally designed as a non-standard heat pump system where there is a separate trigger for both heat and cool.  Typical heat pump systems require a single point of trigger for the compressor, and a reversing valve.  This system does not have that and therefore we configured it as such.  All areas have been tested and operate correctly now calling for heat, 2nd stage heat with a 2 degree differential, and cool. There are some caveats with this setup:

a. A heat pump requires an outdoor temperature sensor since the system becomes less and less efficient at temperatures below 20 F.  Typically aux heat is then applied so that the system can maintain correct temperature.  In this case the system does not know the outdoor temperature, nor would it benefit since the system is set up as a typical 2 stage system.

b. Stage 2 heat turns on  with a 2F degree differential.  If the system cannot keep up, the second stage will turn on.  As a result there is a time when the system could see a 2-3 degree F differential.  This is normal.

2) We updated all thermostats to FW version: CHV-TSTAT_CHV-THSTAT_v2.070.0576, which is our current release.

3) All Temperature sensors have been replaced with factory updated units.  These are more accurate.  In our tests using several outboard stand-alone temperature sensors, we saw a 1 degree deviation in temperature, with a 3% deviation in humidity.  Both of these deviation are within tolerance of our thermostat, and does not take into consideration the deviation that may be present with the stand-alone sensors.

a.    Another reason for deviation here is that the sensors are not located directly next to the wall sensors. That being said the relationship between the numbers are within expected operating parameters.

4) One complaint that was reported,  was that the humidity was reading 36%, but the system was calling for 30%.  Kevin explained that the system does not incorporate a de-humidifier, and therefore we are unable to removed humidity from the system.   

a.  Something to consider here is that the system has no outdoor humidity sensor.  As temperatures drop, humidity set point should also decrease.  There is no mechanism for this, and therefore condensation may occur.  Again, this is beyond the capability of this design with no outdoor sensor. We do offer an outdoor sensor. If this can be installed on the exterior of your home it would improve the overall operation.

5)  It is possible that the set point and current temperature are not exact.  This can happen for a few different reasons:

a.  As outlined above, there could be a delay in the heat pump and stage 2 heating.

b. The heat pump forced air fan is running all the time, and therefore may circulate heated, or chilled air past the system reaching its set point.

c.  In all but 1 room, the system is averaging temperature between 2 sensors.  Deviation between rooms is entirely possible since the duct work may be of different length, or the stage 2 baseboard heat may be of a varying BTU per room.

We thank you for bringing your concern to our attention and believe we have addressed the reported issues with the current system design. Please let me know if your concerns have been addressed.

  About the Author

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 protected]

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  Article Topics

Control & Automation · Automation · Lighting · News · Blogs · Crestron · Lutron · Vantage · All Topics
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Posted by Niko on March 7, 2017

Fair enough smile

Posted by Julie Jacobson on March 7, 2017

btw ... I never said this was a GOOD idea. I don’t believe it’s a good idea.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on March 7, 2017

Niko, MitchK is a friend. He would be the first to admit he is a silly man!

Posted by Niko on March 7, 2017

And Julie, you called someone “silly man” when you are the silly one if you don’t get that having an inferior lighting product is the same as not having one at all.  Is Crestron paying you for this spin?

Posted by Niko on March 7, 2017

Bottom Line: Crestron has an inferior lighting product and Lutron and Vantage are the kings. This is just a strong-arm.

Posted by Niko on March 7, 2017

Crestron lighting is a joke compared to Lutron and Vantage.  Vantage especially has far superior dimming modules which handle various types of lighting loads and have a snap-in installation. Vantage also has many of the same functions that Crestron does which for many customers is more than enough so if they have to jump through hoops to connect to Crestron, they’ll just say screw it and go full Vantage Infusion.

Lutron’s wireless systems are the best in the world and their apps just work out of the box without doing a single thing to it and now have very easy Amazon and cloud integration too (Vantage needs to take note of this) .  Crestron is a dinosaur.  This is going to backfire.

Posted by Eyal Kattan on March 3, 2017

This is beyond ridicilous. It’s like Intel would charge you extra for installing their CPUs on a third party motherboard because they already make motherboards too. Or Samsung would charge you a fee for connecting Sony BD to their TV because they make blu-ray players.

I feel really bad for integrators who need to put up with this BS and for their clients who will end up paying for it.

Posted by kipoca on March 3, 2017

jfrank, applause.gif

Posted by JFrank on March 3, 2017

Note to Crestron:  If you want more dealers to sell your lighting.  1. Make it better then everyone else’s, or 2. Make it easier to Program then everyone else’s. or 3. Make it less expensive then everyone else’s (incentivize them to buy it). If you already believe 1 and 2 are true, then prove(educate) it to them. We are using other Manufactures lighting for some reason, find out why?????  Strong arming your dealers is not the way to win more Lighting sales……  or as they would like us to believe, “A better customer experience”

Posted by kipoca on March 3, 2017

I just read the letter Crestron sent out.

They’re forcing AV integrators to take on the whole lighting control job or pay the Lutron tax. Most of our installations have lighting installed by the electrician. We have good relationships with these electricians and insisting we sell Crestron lighting isn’t a great way to maintain those relationships.

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Posted by MitchK on March 3, 2017

How much to integrate with door locks? Security systems? That also requires support, yes?

Posted by Julie Jacobson on March 3, 2017

They don’t make those products, MitchK, so they can’t offer solutions that are easier to support. In the case of lighting, clearly it’s much easier for Crestron to support Crestron lighting. (You silly man)

Posted by jrainey411 on March 3, 2017

Some of the comments that I see indicated that the “tax” will be very unevenly enforced only on IP integrations and not on RS-232 connections as those are harder to police….looks pretty stop gap at this point .

Posted by kipoca on March 3, 2017

How are HDMI switches, HVAC controllers, and other products Crestron competes with different than lighting?

We’re now seeing a lot more Mitsubishi HVAC systems without the traditional t-stats. Will Crestron make a license for third-party HVAC control? What about Atlona switches? AudioControl or Biamp music systems?

Posted by avnowtw on March 3, 2017

Its all in the name of customer experience? Nominal $500 fee?  what a spin!
If I pay that $500 I can also walk away from the responsibility as the installing dealer and Crestron will take over?
Anyone really believe this is not just about pushing out a better product?
what happened between the time of that large growth number published here about Crestron and now this?
I thought as “integrators” our industry was about us selecting best of breed products for the customer?
how many projects have ever gone to a point so bad that the manufacture has had to get involved on the customers behalf?
it sounds like Crestron needs to focus on improving its dealer base not coming up with ways of “illuminating” competition. pun intended.

Posted by kipoca on March 3, 2017

avnowtw is right. If a dealer is having problems integrating, make them attend classes or drop the dealer.

This is a “stick” solution to sell Crestron lighting. Why not use a “carrot” solution and offer a $500 discount when lighting is sold on the same job? Crestron ran an offer when they started selling speakers that if you used Crestron speakers on a project you got all of the Crestron on the project’s PO 10% off. Why not expand the program that way? Sell a Crestron amp, speakers, lighting and shades on one project PO and get a discount worth your while.

Another issue is you build long term relationships and learn to do things and build operating systems, so you’ve got to change all of that to switch brands. You expect everyone to give up all of that investment to save a few hundred?

Posted by mbaty on March 3, 2017

This reminds me of the $5.00 “Administration fee” AT&T and Comcast charge me. Hopefully they use that extra income to hire some good GUI designers to bring the interface into the 21st century.

Posted by avnowtw on March 3, 2017

Good point kipoca. Offering incentives for not using competitive product and charging as needed service fees makes more business sense. That would seem less like a knee-jerk reaction to a situation that required there involvement as opposed to something that’s less likely to be needed by 90% plus of the market. That is of course if that was the goal and not an alternative or extrinsic reason like it appears to be .

Posted by Adroit1 on March 3, 2017

As I noted in your Lutron Tax article, the fee is just that, a tax for using a competitor’s products. As I also noted, Lutron works without an outside controller. As a matter of fact, all my Lutron installs are finished and ready BEFORE a 3rd party controller is added. Lutron has its own apps to control all their systems, so I use their iPad app and set up the systems before adding them to a controller. So the tech support claim with Lutron is pure bull excrement. I have even had a customer who was leary about automated lighting, but was willing to try a Caseta system in his home. It worked perfectly, so he wanted to upgrade to a Radio Ra2 system, but didn’t want to waste what he had spent on his Caseta. This is where the 3rd party controller became necessary, as Lutron has no way to operate the 2 systems in conjunction with each other. But, with both systems controlled by thier own hubs, it is easy to isolate any problems to either system by operating each independently on the iPad. No, Crestron is just trying to force its dealers to no longer use Lutron, rather than give them incentives to use Crestron lighting. While $500 may not be a lot in the overall price of an installation, it would pay for 2 Lutron dimmers and a switch.It is the Crestron greed that bothers many, and the really bad excuse for treating their dealers so poorly.

Posted by JFrank on March 3, 2017

The math doesn’t add up….. The $500 is not enough money for anyone using another lighting system to switch, they are already using it because they either think its better, or easy to program, or the client wants it.  So great more money for Crestron, but that doesn’t stop the service calls, or lead to more people choosing Crestron lighting (which really is the goal , i’m betting).  What they aren’t really thinking about is how this Attitude affects there current dealers.  Lets say they get 10 dealers to pay the $500, that’s and extra 5k for the service side, but what happens when just one dealer with a 50k system decides they don’t like Crestrons attitude and uses Control4 or Savant….... That’s a 15-20K loss for the sales side. Doesn’t add up…... this plan (Tax) isn’t going to make them any more money, it’s not going to make it any better on there service department, and its not going to lead to any more lighting sales.  Incentives make way more cents.

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