Lutron Maestro Smart Dimmer with Remote Control
Room lighting controls just got a little bit cooler. Dimmer controls for lighting have been around for many years. Typically they had a rotary knob and they were completely manual. Later models resembled conventional switches but they operated only by touch. Now the Lutron Maestro changes all that.
The Maestro series offers several models for different needs as well as a range of designer colors. The Maestro adds to the lighting control experience by adding touches such as the "fade to off", allowing you to turn off the lights and have them fade to dark over several seconds. Another feature allows you to set a preferred lighting level. When you tap the switch, the lights come on to the preset level, tap the switch again to increase the lighting to full brightness.
You can purchase a dimmer to replace an single existing switch or dimmer or to control a circuit from multiple locations. A main dimmer and up to nine accessory dimmers can be added to a circuit to allow control from a total of ten different locations. We tested a model that allows a light to be controlled from two locations (commonly referred to as a 3-way circuit), plus a remote control that enables the user to control the lights without getting up. A very nice feature for a bedroom, living room or home theater. The main dimmer contains the infra-red sensor for the remote and so should be placed in a position that has the best line-of-sight to where the remote will be located. Line-of-sight is not strictly required, but yields the best results. Typically, as batteries get weaker, the need for a direct line-of-sight increases.
The dimmer installs into a standard electrical box and can replace a conventional light switch. Our model was designed for a 3-way circuit and so the main dimmer control was installed at the front of the room and the accessory dimmer was located next to the other doorway to the room. Installation was easy and the included instructions were clear. The Maestro comes with its own screwless cover plate, however it can be removed and standard Decora cover plates can be used.
We configured the universal remote from our home entertainment system to also control the room lighting. In this way, the TV, DVD player, sound system and room lights were all controlled from a single remote. With the fade to black feature and the ability to control it from our universal remote, we found the whole experience to be very impressive.
One flaw in the Maestro is a problem with the intensity of the lighting. When turned up to full power, the room lighting was only about 95% of what it had been when it was controlled by a switch. We contacted technical support and were told "that is normal for a dimmer". Whether this is true for all dimmers is something Acme DIY will test in the future and report here.
The Maestro offers several models for various applications including controls for 3-way switches, remote control, dimmers for low-voltage lighting, wireless controls for use from another part of your home or from your car, controls with timers, controls for ceiling fans and more. Prices for a single dimmer list around $60 but can be found for around $30. [Nov 2007]