Automated Living by URC is the publication that brings you the latest ideas and trends in control solutions. Get to know URC, enjoy fun giveaways, and enjoy features and stories about people and homes that have leveraged automation to make every day better.
By Cat A. Toomey
Director of Marketing, URC
Editor, Automated Living by URC
Spring has sprung and it’s a very bright time at URC. As the outside begins to thaw and we welcome shedding that winter coat, our attention turns to sunny ideas with great enthusiasm. In this spectacular spring issue, we really light things up!
Both of our new lighting lines have just arrived, Vivido™ and URC LED Lighting. With this dynamic duo, you can now select just what you want – from one room, energy-saving URC bulbs to entire home solutions where all your lights can be controlled from anywhere. Looking for Lutron®? We’ve got that too. Read on to see a dazzling range of lighting choices at your fingertips – no matter if your home is brand new or been standing tall for a hundred years.
If you’ve been thinking of giving your home sweet home some smarts, this is a great time to do it, particularly with outdoor lighting and entertaining coming back into play for the coming months. New technologies let you pull out your smartphone on the patio and pop on yard lights as the sun sets. Or, press an app icon to start the spa and light up the perfect pathway for guests.
And, speaking of outdoors, we’ll expose a one-touch wonder home in Pennsylvania that automatically changes the lights to match music being played – even outside. This party paradise of fun AND easy just might make you dream up your own control designs. And don’t miss out on the best way to make a splash at your next pool party with the ultimate outdoor, waterproof remote – the MXW-920.
Always hilarious while right on point, our guest writer this month is the infamous John Sciacca, who updates us on the many benefits of automated lighting in true Sciacca style and then some. Plus, he uncovers his secret list of the top 7 Reasons NOT to install automated lighting in your home.
You’ll meet a few new products and one of our URC training specialists who will shed some light on Do-it-Yourself lighting control. And, hear from our interface Designer Dale about beauty, personalization and why the home pro you select really matters to your long-term satisfaction.
As you plow through the pages, we trust you’ll find illuminating ideas that will put a new kind of spring in your step and big ideas in mind for your home this year. As always, if you know of a residence ready for a URC reveal, we welcome your story!
When Lars Granoe, URC’s vice president of sales, told us that our new remote control could float, I told him he was all wet. I figured he’d spent a few too many hours in a hot Norwegian sauna. Was I ever wrong!
The MXW-920 wand-style, handheld remote control is part of URC’s Complete Control system. It’s based on a model that is one of URC’s fan-favorite, all-time best sellers, the MX-900. It communicates wirelessly with your home entertainment system, lighting dimmers, music sources and other items via an RF base station.
That’s all the technical stuff you need to know. The real story is about where it operates, not how it operates.
Because it’s waterproof, it’s perfect for outdoors. Control your audio sources, change volume and so forth from outside on the patio—or poolside. Dim the patio lights—it’s so cool. Use it by the Jacuzzi and don’t worry if it gets splashed—or gets dunked. And yes, Lars was right. It does float.
I keep an MXW-920 in the kitchen because I am a messy cook. Since it’s waterproof, I can use this clever remote control with wet hands while washing dishes, chopping vegetables or handling anything else that could K.O. a less-talented electronic device. And since my kitchen has glass sliding doors that open onto the deck, this piece is used as often outside as in.
If you have a steam room, sauna or other fancy hybrid bath area, you can enjoy full control of music and lights with this remote. It performs where traditional, timid remotes fail. It’s also good for younger family members. (I say that with the experience of having lost a conventional remote control to a child with a glass of milk and a handful of soggy Oreos. Not a pretty story.)
The URC MXW-920 is not a DIY remote control. It must be installed and configured by a professional integrator, someone who is trained and experienced and can make it deliver the full potential it’s capable of providing. It does not have a cute LCD screen (hey! It’s waterproof—you want gorgeous too?) but it does everything its cousin, the über-popular MX-900, can do, and it does them in places where the standard 900 wouldn’t dare to go.
If you already have a URC Complete Control system in your home and want to add a waterproof MXW-920 or if you’d like to get an independent professional’s opinion about having a system installed from scratch, use our Dealer Locator. Just type in your ZIP code. If you’d rather have an integrator contact you, follow this link and then click the box in the upper-right corner where is says, “Have some questions?” and we’ll take it from there.
Check it out. We’d love to make a splash at your next pool party!
By John Sciacca
The world’s foremost audio, video, automation AND craft beer reviewer
The modern-day toggle light switch – you know, the one that flips up-and-down that you grew up with in your parent’s home before you got all hip and modern and installed a decora-style dimmer in your own place – was invented by William J. Newton in 1916. I’m sure that back in the day, the folks contemplating replacing their “modern” John Henry Holmes switches – “offering the finest in guaranteed not to kill you lighting control since 1884*” – in their homes felt this new toggle switch was akin to sorcery and probably expected to be zapped by 110-volts every time their flipped the lights on and off. (* Probably not actually their slogan)
Today, technology’s steady march has not turned a blind eye to lighting control, and we have lots of cool options to control virtually any lighting load – incandescent, fluorescent, halogen, CFL, LED, electronic low voltage, sharks with frickin’ laser beams – you can think of. Even still, most people are controlling their lights in much the same way as in Holmes day; getting up off the fainting couch and turning them on and off one at a time.
Now, sure, if you like living in the past, this is a great way to do it. Equally great is churning your own butter and washing your 1000 thread count sheets by beating them against stones down at the local crick. And there are probably some great reasons for not automating your lights and bringing your home into the 21st century. In fact, here is a list of the top 7 Reasons NOT to install automated lighting in your home:
1. You are hoping to get your home listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
2. You live in a Tiny House that literally has only one light switch.
3. Your father owned/ran the local electric company and on his deathbed made you promise to use as much electricity as possible.
4. You are fabulously wealthy and employ a personal lighting butler whose sole job is to go through your mansion setting lighting levels.
5. You are *super* committed to getting your 10,000 daily FitBit steps in and relish each trip off the couch to turn lights on and off.
6. You are convinced that Terminator was really a documentary and that giving technology even the smallest foothold will help to realize Skynet.
7. You live in a cave in Tora Bora and don’t want to make things any easier for the Navy SEALs.
If none of those sound like you, then congratulations! You’re totally a candidate for automated lighting!
Automating the lighting in your home is a lifestyle improvement that once made is tough to ever go back from. Similar to using a universal remote control to operate your entertainment system, automated lighting simplifies control, allowing you to control one light, groups of lights or every light in your home with a single button press, or while you sleep, blissfully unaware of the powerful technology working to improve your life. Heck, you can even control them by using your fancy smartphone or tablet, an idea that would have gotten you burned in Salem for sure!
Here are three key benefits you can enjoy by automating your lighting.
Scenes Set the Perfect Mood
Whether it’s “Dinner Party,” “Goodnight,” or “Let’s Get it On,” lighting helps set the mood around your house. (So does music. But that’s a topic for another day.) And instead of having to walk through each room of your home individually turning lights on and off and dimming or raising them to get the right ambience, an automated lighting system lets you recall the perfect lighting scene every time with the push of a single button. Create the scene once and then never do it again! No more will you have to live with the shame of having your classic ‘80s Nagel being light to only 46% instead of the full 61% that really captures all of the artists’ colors and visual elements. Never again will the bedroom light’s full, harsh intensity reveal the years of neglect you’ve shown your body, instead lighting you in a cherubic and majestic warm 15% glow.
Perfect Lighting Any Time of Day
Want to make sure that your outside lights are on for security at night? But also hate coming home at 5 PM in the summer and finding that they’ve been on all day long? Those puny 100-watt bulbs trying to outshine the 1.6 billion candelas per square meter of the sun! Like to leave a dimmed kitchen nightlight on, but only after 11:30 and then off at sunrise? With an automated lighting system you can have lights turn on and off at specific times each day, or automatically change in response to the rising and setting of the sun through the use of an on-board astronomic timeclock. (Understanding Stephen Hawking’s works totally not required!) You can also set different events for weekday and weekends, ensuring that not one stray scintilla of light affects your Sunday morning sleep-in.
Help Save the Planet
Even when set to “full blast,” every dimmer saves between 4-9% in electricity usage compared to a standard light switch. Factor in the additional energy saved by dimming lights even a few percent – your eye likely can’t even the difference between 90% and 100% light levels, but your power meter sure can! – and then multiply that savings over the 20, 50, 100 dimmers throughout a home and you’re talking about some real savings. Go ahead, buy that 6-pack of ultra-premium, oh-so-delicious Stone Brewing Co craft beer! You’ve earned it! Further, dimming will lengthen the life of incandescent and halogen bulbs, meaning you’ll replace them less often and cut down on adding waste to the landfill. Your children’s children may not thank you, but, well, they’ll probably resent you a little less.
The other terrific thing about automated lighting systems like URC’s Z-Wave®-based Vivido? It is totally, 100% retrofittable into virtually any home. (If your home is *really* old and wired with aluminum wiring instead of modern, copper Romex, then you might be out of luck. Also, spoiler: aluminum wiring is 55 times more likely to catch your home on fire. So, ummm, yeah.) This means there is almost no excuse to not update and automate.
John Sciacca is a family man, writer, custom integrator and a mean golfer who enjoys a microbrew and anything served with bacon. If you’d like to take an inside look at the A/V industry from John’s, well—let’s say “unique”—point of view, check out his blog John Sciacca Writes.
By Dale Crawford
URC Product Design Manager
Is Beauty Only Skin Deep? Why the Home Pro You Select Matters.
A recent study had a woman stand on a busy New York street, asking strangers for directions and assistance. The directions she asked for required some effort to explain. Worse, following the instructions required a few dollars for public transportation, which the woman pretended she did not have. Physically, she was a girl-next-door type, dressed in modest clothes and sensible makeup. Despite a convincing performance, few people were willing to hear more a word or two of her concerns. Nearly everyone walked by, telling her they had other things to attend to. No one listened long enough to discover she needed money to get where she was trying to go.
The researchers then made one simple change: they sent her back out wearing a bright red dress. As you’ve likely deduced, dozens of people then came to the woman’s aide. A few offered help merely because she looked confused. Nearly everyone who stopped to hear her questions listened entirely. Several offered to walk with her to her destination. Some handed her money for transportation. And, both men and women offered help in equal numbers. Some will quote the cliché that image is everything, but studies like this at least confirm that appearances drastically affect how people approach the unknown.
Will your home theater function any better if cables are zip-tied and labelled by your professional installer? No, but you’ll probably feel a lot better about your home project when it’s tidy and organized. It’s important you select someone who cares about details and usability including the programming and graphics selected to personalize your remotes, touchscreens and apps. We recommend you ask your Dealer how they plan to treat the fit and finish of your home project. It is always wise to have a good sense for this right up front!
Dedication to clean, attractive user interface is much easier with Total Control® than competing automation systems, due to URC’s products and programming software. However, even the most modern programming tools leave room for good instincts about user interface. You may not always trek to the mechanical room to admire how well organized the equipment rack is, but you and your family will immediately know if you feel comfortable or confused by the interface devices. With a top-notch installer, you should have push button perfection – one press gets you right to the entertainment you want and dims the lights at your command.
URC makes it easy to outfit your home system in that bright red dress. Beauty may be skin deep, but because our system offers push-button personalization, it will make you happier for the long haul if you ask about fit and finish up front. Take a little time to express your interests and ask your installer about their ideas and attention to detail. Request photos of installations they’ve completed or even walk a demo home or client home. Ask to see a few interfaces they have supplied to other customers for similar features you desire. Remember, you’ll be living with this system for a long time. Approach your project as you would your builder, designer or someone designing your custom sprinkler system. Details are important, and who you select really does matter!
If you don’t already have a URC professionally trained installer, visit our Dealer Locator to get started.
JL Entertainment Designs, Exton, PA
This issue’s featured home puts the spotlight on an exceptionally harmonious lighting and audio union. With 6,000 square feet of living space, this newly constructed Pennsylvania residence was outfitted with high-tech touches that allow the family of five to enjoy cool upgrades that truly simplify their lives. Each family member controls their music via several options including URC touchscreens, handheld remotes or right from their smartphones. And, with the seamless integration of the home’s lights into their control system, it’s a cinch for them to check which lights are on (plus light intensity) and which ones are off. This one-touch wonder even allows them to press a button that automatically changes the lighting to match the music being played.
Their URC dealer showed the family just how easy it would be to access and control their lights from anywhere inside and outside their home—a benefit sure to be a hit now that spring is here. These parents of three can rest easy when returning home from family trips to area attractions like world-renowned Hersheypark. One quick touch of an icon on their smartphone or tablet turns on the lights they choose to welcome them home. The result of this added convenience? More bang for their home automation buck.
“What this family needed more than anything was reliability. They needed a system that would work each and every time they pressed a button. The URC Total Control system was the obvious solution.”
– Joe Lusi, President
JL Entertainment Designs
Authorized URC Dealer
Your Future is Bright!
LED Lights the Way to Big Savings.
No sunglasses required, but our new LED Lighting line is available and so bright and easy to incorporate, you’ll be glad you took a look. With the URC LED lighting gateway and bulbs, you can set mood lighting and adjust lights from remotes, keypads and smart devices using the URC Mobile app.
These new products provide superior, energy-saving, 20-year LED bulbs that are ideal for kitchens, living rooms and lamps. They effortlessly screw right in to your ceiling or lamps and programmed by your installer without the expense and scheduling of a separate electrician. The gateway then “talks” to a URC automation system so you can dim and adjust “scenes” (such as “party” or “morning” scenes) and add atmosphere to every room anytime. Bulbs can also be “grouped” so that up to 11 lamps or bulbs can be dimmed up and down and turned on and off as if they’re a single bulb. This is great for areas such as an entry hallway or a bar area in your family room. So light things up AND save money – that’s a bright idea for every home.
Dive In Now to Enjoy a Sweet Summertime!
Aqualink and URC Unite.
Sweet! Add some summertime features to your outdoor living space. Today’s pool and spa systems have progressed the way of many home products by adding easier control and cooler elements that save time, effort and allow you to adjust things from virtually anywhere. You no longer need to race around prior to party time to set the pool lights, start spa jets and test the temp. Nowadays you can stay in the kitchen finishing appetizers and simply pick up your phone, adjust pool temperature, turn on a waterfall and dim outdoor lights to create the evening’s entertainment atmosphere – as the doorbell rings with guests.
By leveraging URC’s partnership with Zodiac, you can use our compatible remotes and touchscreen controls to access Zodiac Aqualink’s pool and spa features. With one push to paradise, anyone in the family can preset the backyard using a URC control device. Music starts and the spa fires up – just like a James Bond movie. The possibilities can match your own vision of what outdoor living should be. We just provide the means to do it – so you can dive right in!
Lights, Shades, Action!
Compatibility with Lutron Caseta™ Wireless Lighting and Shades.
When it comes to lighting, who doesn’t know Lutron? Well if you do, you’ve got something in common with at least 80% of our customers. And that’s a good thing! By pairing Lutron Caseta with our Total Control automation products, you can control your lights and also your shades from anywhere. We recently announced that our software update includes this compatibility. Caséta Wireless dimmers and switches install in minutes, work with numerous bulb types – including dimmable LEDs and CFLs, and bring the convenience of an entirely connected home to your fingertips when coupled with URC. “We’ve worked hard over the past years to continually enhance our Partner and Affiliates roster by delivering numerous new customer and URC dealer-requested solutions and Lutron Caseta was a very important one to all involved,” said Cat, URC’s director of marketing.
This full-featured functionality is available now for customers from URC compatible remotes and also URC Mobile™ which works with both iOS and Android-based devices. So pull out all the bells and whistles with lights, shades and plenty of convenient automation action. Regardless of URC Lighting, Lutron, or any number of other compatible lighting systems – URC means choice!
New URC Wireless Lighting Now Available.
Light up your life in an entirely new, convenient way by using your mobile phone or remote to set all house lights to “wake up” in the morning. And how about this? Gone are the days of trudging downstairs two floors to turn off lights one-by-one at bedtime. With URC’s new Vivido™ lighting, you gain a seamless marriage of elegant RF lighting and intelligent, wireless whole-house control. Create lighting “scenes” for one touch to relax and read. Even adjust lights while you’re away on vacation. One touch on a simple-to-use interface puts you in control of a bright, energy-saving home. Now that’s smart!
Additionally, Vivido bears the latest in elegant style for wall dimmers and switches and all are available in three colors. Design-friendly, these fit in perfectly with both older and new homes. You can also adjust any lights at home while you’re away for Spring Break making the house look secure and occupied. With URC you’re in control of a bright, energy-saving smart house. Viva Vivido today! To find out how to light things up visit Vivido here.
We’re There Even When You’re Away.
DSC Security and URC for Perfect Peace of Mind.
Security and automation? Yes! If ever there was a match made for peace of mind – this is it. Why wouldn’t you want to arm your security system or check on its status from wherever you are, be it at work or on vacation? In today’s world, there’s really no reason not to have this extra protection in place. In case you haven’t seen it, we recently announced that Total Control can be put into homes with the popular, leading DSC Security products thanks to our new software compatibility. You can see if the DSC system is Armed or Disarmed, view Zone Status, Arm it if you forgot to – or – Disarm it for the kids while you’re in a meeting by using your smartphone. Set the system to Bypass and more. A little eye on your home delivers very big benefits.
Using a URC Total Control handheld or in-wall controller or mobile app, you’ll protect the home better than ever before. And, by adding URC or any compatible surveillance cameras, you can also view live video from across the room or across the globe. Today’s automation systems are about keeping in touch with your home and loved ones, and URC delivers like no other. To learn more, ask your Dealer about DSC Security and ways your family can be more safe and secure. Remember, URC is always there, even when you’re away!
Andrew, you are in engineer by training and a URC training specialist by profession, right? How do you find time to test and evaluate URC products?
Finding time to test and evaluate our products is easy for me. I live with almost every URC Total Control product we offer and use them frequently on a day-today basis. In my home, I’m ALWAYS testing the equipment. For example, I’ve been living with the new URC Vivido lighting for some time now, everything from dimmers, switches, lamp modules to receptacles and battery powered accessory switches. Because lighting is part of our everyday lives at home, I am consistently using the products.—and soon, I’ll be adding a new five-button keypad. [editor’s note: the new keypad is “in the works” but is not yet available for delivery.]
Staying with the Vivido Lighting, which features do you find most beneficial?
Vivido Lighting is one of my favorite aspects of my home automation and control system I have to ability to turn on and off my lights right from the comfort of my bed. I even have a motion sensor that automates lighting in my walk-in closet. I never have to turn the light off, and never have to worry about forgetting to turn the light off, because that’s automated too.
In your opinion, what is the most significant benefit a whole-house lighting system can provide to the average consumer?
Whole-house lighting paired with an automation system such as Total Control can be extremely beneficial to the average customer. For instance, we can create one button automated events such as a welcome home button. When I park my car, I hit the “Welcome Home’ button from my mobile device, and before I reach the top of my stairs, my outside and some inside lights are on, my front door is unlocked, and my favorite Pandora station is playing. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
You’re on the road quite a bit, traveling on business for URC. How has the custom integration community responded to Vivido?
The community has responded to our new Vivido lighting very well! Especially because we offer features for Z-Wave lighting devices that you cannot find in any other device on the market. A few of the features are: Child Lockout, Panic Mode and a potent double-tap scene control feature that can trigger any macro programmed to it. That’s powerful! I plan to set up my Nest smoke detector so that if there is an emergency, all of my Vivido lights activate in Panic Mode at the exit points of my home so that anyone can immediately find them.
Last question. What do you say to someone who “gets it” where lighting control is concerned, but believes that they can install it themselves as a DIY solution. What are they missing?
There are lots of DIY devices coming out in the market these days. You can purchase automated lighting, thermostats and door locks. But the common issue for do-it-yourselfers is that all of these subsystems generally are not connected to each other. Even more so, if they aren’t playing well with each other, they are most definitely NOT tied into the home entertainment systems to create custom lighting scenes for movies or goodnight buttons to turn all devices and lights off. The sad truth is that most DIYers never know what they’re missing!
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Check out our website for the latest control solutions and additional ideas: www.universalremote.com.
Thank you to the many contributors for their amazing work efforts, research and writing including:
Product Design Manager
Director of Marketing
Director of Corporate Communications
Graphic and Web Designer
Runs With Scissors Graphics