Home Automation - Mainly lighting

roconn

Standard Member
I am about to start a fairly major home renovation, which will involve a complete rewiring of the house...

I definitely want to include elements of home automation, but I'm not prepared to blow the bank on gimmicky crap.

The house will have a large open plan central living area downstairs, approx 1500sq ft of the ground floor. this will encompass a large sitting area, kitchen, dining and 'snug'. They are zoned to an extent and the lighting setup will reflect these zones. There are a few other rooms downstairs and then 5 beds/baths upstairs.

Whilst I know this is an AV forum... I am actually going for a rather simple AV setup. I am a big Apple fan (I know) and I have a large Apple movie collection, I barely use Sky/Virgin anymore so I expect I will rely on Netflix, NowTV, Amazon Prime and my existing movies. I have also been a Sonos user for almost a decade, so am familiar with the options and equipment available. I expect my AV solution will be AppleTVs for each TV (probably 3 in the house) and either speakers linked to hub or a few Sonos speaker systems around the house and garden.

The rest of the house is where I am struggling... I have been given a quote from Lutron for circa £25k to do the lighting throughout the house, which is obscene and didn't even't include blinds.

I have been looking at a few other options; Loxone, Control4 and Fibaro...

I think i understand how they work - but in the first instance i wanted any straight-up 'reviews' or thoughts on whether you would rate or rant about any of the options.

The second question is thoughts based on the following:

The key requirements for my build:
- nice wallplates/switches
- scene setting in the open plan area
- motorised blinds in the open plan area - linked to scene setting
- compatibility with low wattage lights for kitchen and RGB lighting
- compatibility with plug sockets ideal for scene setting
- motorised blinds in the master bedroom
- changing scenes at push of button... rather than opening apps
- integration with Siri and voice activation would be ideal (for changing scenes, dimming lights and opening/closing blinds)

- doesn't have to be compatible with security, but if you can see video streams and interact with gate/intercom a bonus
- doesn't have to be compatible with heating... but to control zoned heating might be a bonus - i am equally happy to rely on Nest (for heating and fire alarms) - i already installed a new boiler with Nest, though currently not zoned
- nice to have scene setting for the garden and master

Given I have a blank canvas... I'd appreciate any unbiased, knowledgeable tips or advice. I know Lutron can do most of the above, but whilst i am not restricted on cost, i am not prepared to 'waste' money. Also, i am concerned about effectiveness of the wireless options... I don't want a system which takes 30sec to do what I ask it to do, so any reassurances on Fibaro would be appreciated.
 

Iain42

Well-known Member
Hello,

We've just about completed a remodelling of our living room, and extension of our kitchen / dining area. Our electrician recommended Rako and Lutron for lighting, and we went with Rako. They're a British company manufacturing here, and are very helpful over the phone to their installers.

We have a number of different zones in the kitchen / dining area, general kitchen lighting, under cupboard and plinth lighting, dining area lights, breakfast bar light, outside lights, and they are all set up with the Rako wireless system, and a bridge so they can be controlled from our phones.

I don't touch Apple, but SWMBO has an iPhone, and it all works from that. The wireless option allows a lot of flexibility if you change your mind, or want to add things in the future.
 

roconn

Standard Member
Thanks.

I did come across Rako... when i was originally looking (6 months ago) i didn't think their options were as good as others, but they have improved their website and it is a lot easier to see the finish of control panels etc...

Seems to be similar concept to Lutron for Wired, with a wireless option as well.

Out of interest, how 'leggy' are the switches... if you press a button, are they as instant as a normal button?

What happens if your router goes down? doe all the wireless controls no longer work?
 

Iain42

Well-known Member
They don't seem to be laggy at all.

I was pretty sure this was the answer, but powered down my router to check. The switches work with the router off.
 

chazman88

Active Member
Rako Wallplates send RF "commands" out directly to the dimmers so don't need any sort of network/router/wifi etc.

The only thing that would stop working if the router was off would be control of the lights from a phone/tablet via the Rako Bridge (which sits on your home network and sends out the RF commands just like a wallplate)
 

chazman88

Active Member
Just as another point, I design and program home automation systems for a living. I personaly have Rako installed in my house and honestly think it's the best for the money.

If I was doing a complete rip out and refurb I would probably look at Lutron but realise the cost is prohibitive.

The great thing with Rako is the ability to add another Wallplate at any time as they are battery powered and wireless (batteries easily last 3 years with moderate-high useage) and also the ability to add in additional circuits anywhere you have a permanent 240v feed.

Rako have just released there "Cloud Gateway" which interfaces with Amazon Alexa for voice control and they have Promised that Apple HomeKit support is on its way.
 

roconn

Standard Member
Thanks both for your feedback.

Siri support in the future would be great.

Out of interest, how would i 'wire' the wireless solution?! trying not to be stupid, so let me explain...

EXAMPLE

In my sitting room i will have a main loop of downlights, i will have a recessed LED strip, potentially wall lights and some side/floor lamps - each on a separate circuit.

In a traditional solution, i would have a 3/4-gang dimmer on the wall to control each circuit (the 4th would be to double prong powerpoints for the lamps).

With the Rako, i can understand i would have a 2-3 scenario's for all the lights (evening/movie/bright), rather than controls for each circuit.

Q: What happens to the traditional dimmer, where does it go?
Q: Do i need anything installed on the lights, or just at the dimmer plate?
Q: If i wanted to control another room using the same plate (e.g. kitchen on/off), do i need to terminate any additional wires at the plate? (assuming not since it is wireless)
Q: Can the Rako control the loop for the floor lamp like a dimmer would?
 

chazman88

Active Member
So there a couple of options when wiring.

If I was completely re-wiring and could get new cables to every location I would do the following:-

Locate all of the Rako dimmers in one central location per floor, normally the back of a cupboard or under the stairs etc. Then run a feed from your consumer unit to this location. This power feed will daisy chain to the INOUT of each Rako dimmer. You will have one Rako dimmer per independently controlled circuit (the only exception might be your floor lamps, I'll explain more later!). Take one feed from the OUTPUT of each Rako dimmer to the ovation for each circuit, if it's a single fitting then stop there, if there are multiple fittings on each circuit then just keep daisy chaining onto the next fitting. Don't forget that you may require a transformer for each light/circuit depending on the type of fitting, this would be located in the ceiling or as near to the fitting as possible.

With the floor lamps, there are a few possibilities.
1)Put the dimmer at the central location and then run a feed from here to a 5amp socket on the wall, you could daisy chain this to multiple 5amp sockets if you wanted them on 1 circuit or use multiple dimmers & feeds if you different 5amp sockets on different circuits.
2)The Rako dimmers are quite small (no bigger than a downlight transformer) and are suitable for wiring between a 13amp plug and a floor/desk lamp. So if you didn't want to run to 5amp sockets then you can just use the dimmers inline from a standard 13amp plug and have them "on the floor" or hidden behind/under furniture etc)

Rako do a large selection of different layout Wallplates. Single Room (4 scene+off & Raise/Dim) single Room + Blinds, just blinds, 2 Rooms with no raise/dim, simple on & off etc etc. You would have to work out exactly what Wall Plate you wanted to control what rooms and then order accordingly.

Rako do also do a "Wired" system which uses exactly the same principle for the dimmers, but you run a Cat5 to each keypad. This does give you substantially more options when it comes to programming what button on a keypad does what.
 

roconn

Standard Member
Thanks Chazman... you've lost me slightly though...

"Locate all of the Rako dimmers in one central location per floor, normally the back of a cupboard or under the stairs etc. Then run a feed from your consumer unit to this location. This power feed will daisy chain to the INOUT of each Rako dimmer."

- when you say all the Rako dimmers, do you mean the standard dimmers to be controlled by the Rako wireless dimmers?
- What consumer unit - the Rako wireless?

Sorry - im not going to be attempting to wire this myself, i just want to understand how it is done.
 

chazman88

Active Member
So in a Rako system there are no "Standard Dimmers". The Rako dimmers take a wired 240v feed from your consumer unit/fuse box and then sends a wired dimming 240v output to one or more light fittings. This is one circuit of lights.

The wireless keypads send a RF signal out to these dimmers telling them what to do. At no point does the 240v go to or from the keypad.
 

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