Home Entertainment


Lutron HomeServe Lighting Control System

September 1, 2003 By Mike McGann

If an odd sound awakens me, I can now turn on every light in the house from my bed, at the touch of a button. From two floors above, I can shut off the basement lights, which a particular resident teenager frequently leaves on. And best of all, I can remotely shut off the lights in the master bathroom while my wife is in there. Although she finds a few of my new powers less than amusing, I am overjoyed to have, at long last, the control over my home that I have always craved.

My new capabilities come courtesy of HomeServe, a wireless adjunct to the company’s popular HomeWorks lighting control system. Think of it as a personal assistant that can turn on three—or 30—lights all at once, at your request. That adjusts your dimmers to create the right mood for any event. That races ahead of you to illuminate the path from the garage to your bedroom when you arrive home after a late night at a jazz club. That runs out to extinguish your outdoor lights every night at 2 a.m.

Small remoteA car remote lets you illuminate select parts of your home from your driver’s seat, so you need never fumble with your front-door keys in the dark. (Click image to enlarge)

Until recently, I could not have enjoyed these luxuries in my home, because they would have demanded an extensive renovation of my household electrical system. With HomeServe, though, all this convenience comes after one consultation with an electrician and a few hours of installation. No new wiring is required. Your electrician simply replaces the light switches and power receptacles around your home with units designed to listen for HomeServe’s radio signals and answer its commands. A central processor serves as the “brain” of the system; it is about the size of a car radio, but twice as wide. Your electrician or custom installer attaches his or her laptop to the processor to program the system specifically for your needs.

DimmerBehind this innocuous-looking dimmer lies a radio transmitter/receiver that allows any control in the HomeWorks system—or a Crestron/AMX-style touchscreen remote—to trigger any light in your home. (Click image to enlarge)

Each processor has a range of about 30 feet in any direction. Your installer can add more if necessary, to extend the system’s capability to match the requirements of even large estates. And because there is no wiring or wall surgery involved, HomeServe can even pass muster with the most dictatorial, renovation-phobic New York City co-op boards.

HomeServe is not the first wireless lighting control system for the home, but it may be the first to match the performance of its wired counterparts. That is because it is based on HomeWorks, a lighting control system used in many of the installations featured here in Home Entertainment & Design. HomeServe can be added to any existing HomeWorks system, if you wish to extend control to an unwired portion of your home. It will also control motorized window blinds.

One of HomeServe’s most interesting features is its ability to interface with a Crestron or AMX touchscreen remote. This permits integration of lighting control with other home automation systems on a single controller, so you can command lighting, heating and air conditioning, and audiovisual systems from a touchscreen panel anywhere in your home.

Big RemoteA tabletop dimmer offers several buttons that can control any light—or combination of lights—in the house. (Click image to enlarge)

As home entertainment aficionados may have deduced by now, HomeServe also has the power to handle the sophisticated lighting demands of home theater. For example, your installer can set an “all lights on” scene that lets everyone get seated, a “floor lights only” scene that provides just enough illumination for you to locate your drink, and a “floor lights plus downlights” scene that gives you sufficient light for reading your TV Guide. Of course, all of these functions can be triggered by the touchscreen controllers mentioned above.

HomeServe is smart enough to flip the lights on and off for you automatically, based either on the time of day or on astronomical time (i.e., sunset and sunrise). My favorite part of the system, though, is the little wireless remote controls. I have three, one for my theater, one for the first floor and one for the master bedroom. The remotes can be programmed with up to 15 functions, controlling anything the system does.

As nice as the hardware is, how well it works for you will depend largely on the quality of the planning conversation you have with your installer. My installation was done by Glen Hill and his crew from Current Concepts, from just outside of Allentown, Pa. Before the electricians came, Glen and I went over all of the light switches and lights in my home, and came up with a basic hardware design, matching the right types of switches and wall controllers to the house. After the hardware was installed, Glen and his team of programmers returned and got the system up and running in a couple of hours.
Once the programming was done, the results were immediate. At the side door of my house, which serves as the primary entry, I can light a path from the door to my bedroom with one touch. From the same panel, I can shut down all but a minimum number of lights, or put the system in vacation mode, which is among the coolest features of the system. HomeServe can record every time you turn a light on and off in your home over a 14-day period, and then replay that sequence when you put the house in “vacation” mode. While you are away, the lights will turn on and off at the same irregular intervals as if you were home.

HomeServe also offers some purely practical benefits, such as automatically raising and lowering blinds to reduce heating and cooling costs, and turning off lights at times when they are not needed. But convenience is HomeServe’s raison d’être. For me, the most challenging thing about having HomeServe installed is getting used to how easy it is to control the lights in my house. Trust me, it can be a little unnerving when your lights seem to know just when to turn on and off all by themselves.

Wireless lighting control system. Allows control of all household lighting from any location or by remote. Also allows automation of household lighting depending on time of day or amount of sunlight.

Central processor: 1.4 x 12 x 7 inches (hwd).

PRICE: $13,500 as tested, not including installation and programming.
CONTACT: 610-282-3800


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