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.

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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
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Julie Jacobson:

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson

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