A head to head comparison of Lutron, KNX and Z-WaveRF
Here at Custom Controls we believe lighting control systems should be one of the first things installed in to a new home or substantial renovation. They add convenience and security whilst showing your home off at it’s best and save energy. There are a few factors which should exist for every system installed:
- Easy to use with zero training
- Easy for clients to set up their own scenes
If a lighting control system doesn’t perform the above well then our opinion it is not a good system. We will now look at the three major options for lighting systems in the UK and explain the positives and negatives of each.
Lutron make centralised lighting control systems – so individual lights (or banks of lights) are wired back to a central location which contains dimmers. Lighting keypads in the rooms send commands back to a processor at the central location which tells each dimmer how to react to a button press – eg dimmer 1, channel 1 go to 50%.
- Hard wired systems make things very reliable
- Any number of dimmers can be installed providing huge flexibility
- Different types of dimmer allow any type of lamp to switched or dimmed
- The dimmers are energy efficient, saving energy when a light is dimmed
- Control can be via an iPad
- System can emulate an occupied house for security
- Cost (Lutron is one of the more expensive systems out there due its flexibility)
- Lamps need to be wired back to a central location which can be a big job
KNX lighting control systems can operate in a number of ways but the most common is for lights to be wired back to a central location with keypads daisy chained around a property on it’s own network. When a lighting keypad needs to communicate with the central location it travels around the network until it reaches the central location before communicating with the dimmers.
- Wiring of keypads can be easier as they are wired in a circuit
- Any number of dimmers can be installed for flexibility
- Different types of lamp can be controlled by dimmed or switched
- Dimmers are energy efficient, saving energy when a lamp is dimmed
- Systems may be slightly cheaper than a Lutron system as they not as flexible
- Any break of interference on the keypad circuit can affect all keypads
- Dimmers tend to be a lower rating than Lutron versions
- Large systems with lots of keypads can be slow to react
- Lack of iPad control or holiday modes
Z-waveRF systems tend to be good for retrofit systems – dimmers are wired locally to the lights and then keypads talk wirelessly to the dimmer packs.
- Flexibility – dimmers can be installed at any lamp
- Ease of installation due to traditional wiring
- Tech savy clients can make changes to the system themselves
- Wireless communications will never be as reliable as wired connections
- Dimmers have a much lower load so can handle fewer lights
- The system is less flexible so lamp choice may be restricted
- Lack of automation and iPad control
We feel that there are really two choices when it comes to a residential system – Lutron or Z-waveRF. KNX may be suitable for commercial installations but in a residential scenario the circuit of keypads is too much of a liability when compared to the home run nature of Lutron keypads. If installing in to a new build or large renovation then we would always recommend Lutron, if clients have an existing, finished, space then Z-waveRF is an option but the negatives must be fully explained and understood.
We have other articles explaining the benefits of a lighting control system in general and also articles discussing the new Crestron wireless lighting systems which should be read in conjunction with this article – the Crestron wireless lighting system in particular offers a lot of the benefits of the Z-waveRF solution whilst addressing most of the negatives.