Greetings, wise ones! I am here in anticipation of soon becoming a Hubitat owner, and with many questions about lighting controls for a new build house. We are GC-ing and building it with our own hands, which means that we have time, though it also fills that time. I have done a lot of research, but there is still much for me to understand. Lighting controls right now are my most pressing concern as far as this forum is concerned. I expect I will be back to you all again soon regarding audio, but I do not anticipate a full home automation.
What I have:
A close to 4500 sq ft new build on four levels, including the basement (it's tall/narrow rather than sprawling), and a modern design. In my lighting plan, I am anticipating close to 80 dimmers and switches, including 3-ways, and [potential] remotes.
A family of four, with the potential for elderly family member(s) to be with us for extended visits, or to stay. I am planning to live in this house until I am dead!
A large number of integrated LED recessed lights (Lightolier Lytecaster) compatible with Triac and ELV dimming, and a fair number of integrated LED decorative fixtures for which dimming is often unspecified. Others will take screw-base bulbs, at least some of which will be some sort of LED. All but a handful are 120V.
All switch boxes (the blue plastic kind) have a neutral wire. (Except that we do have one shallower-looking metal box in a prominent place.)
Loving the idea of wireless remotes (are there others beside Pico?), but we can probably still get a wire to most of the places I've thought of using them that have not yet been wired.
Separate systems for intercom (with doorbell), security, audio, light controls, etc. There will be three WAP nodes in the house.
No interest in connecting the house to the internet. I do not anticipate getting a "smart speaker", unless it could operate without internet. We do have iPhones (not the kids) and an iPad, but would like to avoid requiring them as controllers.
What I need:
A lighting control system that allows for dimming of most lights, and some scene control (all off, particularly).
Kids and guests need to be able to operate the switches (both understandable and accessible).
If the internet goes down, or after a power outage, switches need to still work. I also don't want to cause problems by swamping the wireless setup.
This house is built to last, and I'd like to think the lighting system could too. I don't want to take big risks with regard to longevity/support or eventually having to rip things out and do them over.
Definitely no glowing/backlit switches. I want it to be dark at night. We'll have nightlights where we need them.
According to the person who is happy to sell me a Lutron system (Caseta or RA2 Select), using their Triac dimmers should not shorten the life of my LED drivers, compared with using the ELV dimmers. That said, she recommends the ELV dimmers, according to her Lutron training. I also understand from her that I can mix the integrated LED recessed lights with other fixtures that take a bulb (non-integrated) on the same circuit with a dimmer, as long as I select a compatible bulb, though it is not recommended. I'm still wondering if there might be any effects from this mixing on dimming performance.
From an aesthetic, functional and longevity perspective, I am sure a RA2 Select system would serve us well. However, it would easily clear $10,000, and possibly $12,000, to purchase that hardware for the whole house (I've just done a rough estimate, presuming mainly Triac dimmers). Wow.
I am willing to mix and match, as long as it is kept fairly simple/doesn't get confusing, and doesn't look funky from an aesthetics view. I am optimistic that I will be able to put together a system on my own, if I have some good guidance. However, to justify the effort, it would need to stay well under the cost of the RA2 Select system.
I would urge you to seriously consider Lutron for the lighting controls. I love what I can do with Hubitat but I sure like the fact that my lighting (Caseta Pro) always works. If you are planning to stay in the house a long time, you will get your money's worth. If you are not planning to stay - if your buyer isn't interested in home automation, you can unplug the Hubitat and the Lutron system can remain as a perfectly usable vanilla lighting solution. If you have a local electrician who will support the Lutron, that's a bonus. Try to hire a local electrician to work on a system you integrated . . . you may do a great job but most electricians won't want to touch it.
Lutron plays very nicely with Hubitat. If you read the threads here you will find a number of the Hubitat senior technical staff based their total solution on a Lutron system along with Hubitat.
Thanks, @TechMedX. With regard to planning the mesh, do in-wall outlets do any better or differently than a plug-in device? If I find I need to augment, and I am looking at swapping out a regular outlet for a smart one, can I just get a plug-in and expect the same performance increase?
I'm in no position to answer that question with any professional insights. Before passing that buck, I can say the SAP (and I would go as far as too say the GAP (Guest Approval Factor)) is much, MUCH, higher with in-wall not sockets.
For the 'professional' opine on which is better, I'll happily tag the man I personally respect most on the subject @bcopeland. I look forward to his always insightful analysis
If I had to do it over, I would go with Lutron for the Pico remotes, and use Zigbee dimmers and switches to create the mesh for motion and contact sensors. I have been very happy with my Zigbee dimmers.
I had not considered in-wall smart outlets before this discussion, but I surely should. Presumably I should pick zigbee or zwave and stick with that for outlets and non-lutron switches, if I'm going with a core Lutron control system. There are probably some good discussions around here on this topic, but at a high level, is there anything else I should have in mind now, as the electrician is wrapping up the last bits of rough electrical?
Having considered the above advice, and the many, many interesting discussions elsewhere on this forum, I am leaning toward a core RA2 Select system, with many Pico remotes, plus some number of either zigbee or z-wave+ (or both) switches and smart outlets, with an eye to building a strong enough mesh that I don't have connectivity problems in my large house. I will plan to integrate these (hopefully make things appear seamless) using the HE and Picos.
My motives/goals are primarily to 1) have a system that works, well, for a long time (hence the Lutron), 2) control costs (hence the mixing), and 3) build a mesh to support other devices I may want to use in addition to light controls.
A few of the details, I would love some [more] feedback on, if anyone can comment:
Where my electrician has wired for 3-ways, in many/most cases I am expecting to cap the wires and use a Pico. I figure I can swap these out at some point for a wired switch if that seems like the thing to do. (Presuming Lutron in these cases. Not sure mixing would work here.)
I understand that if I wait a bit longer (hold out as long as I can), I may have additional choices in the dimmer realm, such as an Inovelli zigbee option.
Given that I have a neutral wire available everywhere, I am wondering if some zigbee/z-wave+ options are open to me that are better than might be recommended to someone who doesn't have this. (Are there certain options I should disregard?)
I'm wondering if having both a zigbee and a z-wave+ mesh is ideal, or if things might be easier for me if I am able to choose one.
On a side note, I have noticed that SO FEW of the posters here are women. For the record, I am the wife in this case, and I've hopefully recruited my 12-yo daughter to learn with me, and together figure out all this fun HA stuff. I am looking forward to it. I have a few tech-geek-types in my life that I can get help from on certain things, but I am counting on you all, and the internet in general, for a lot of support. Thank you in advance.
I mix both Zigbee and Z-Wave and my decision logic, if you can call it that, is if it's a device where even a little latency is noticeable then I lean towards Zigbee. If it's not "time critical" I will go with either. I find many decisions end up being driven by the size, shape, and mounting approach of the device so having the flexibility to use either protocol opens up more options.