Lutron Spacer System
The Lutron Spacer System is a multi-scene programmable remote control system that provides a relatively inexpensive option for people who want the convenience and "wow" factor of a zoned lighting system without spending thousands of dollars. The Spacer System can be purchased for at a fraction of the cost of more expensive home theater lighting options.
Lutron Spacer System dimmers & 3-way dimmer switches
In order to assemble your Lutron Spacer System, you'll need to purchase special dimmers made to work with the system. These cost about $10 more than Lutron's Maestro dimmers but are well worth it! Lutron 3-way dimmer switches will give you the flexibility to turn certain lights on/off, plus allow you to dim them- even if you're not near your master controller. These run about $30-$40 each and must be purchased in pairs.
Lutron Master Controller
The heart of the Lutron Spacer system is the Master Controller . This infrared switch provides an easily programmable way to set up to four lighting 'scenes', plus an "all on" option. Installed in a 4-gang box (four switches) the master controller will operate up to three other switches. By adding an infrared repeater, you can control any number of additional switches in a separate location in your basement. I have seven separate switches on my system (including two 3-way dimmers). My home office is in a completely separate room and thus not part of the spacer system.
Programming the Master Controller
Programming the Lutron Master Controller is a piece of cake. The system works in much the same way as setting presets on your car stereo. Simply set each dimmer switch to the desired level of lighting, and then hold the preset button down for a few seconds until it flashes. That's it! Your scene is set! Next, re-set all the switches to a new level and hold down the 2nd preset button until it flashes, and so on.
Even with four scenes, chances are they'll be times you wish you had more. Another cool thing about the spacer system is when you set a scene, the lights dim (or brighten) slowly. When we switch from 'full on' to theater mode for example, the anticipation builds as the scene is slowly set.
Here's a look at how we setup our Spacer System, and how the various scenes look from different parts of our basement:
(Click to enlarge images)
All on: The top button on the Lutron Master Controller is the 'all on' button which does just what is says. We rarely use this scene when the projector is on:
Scene 1: Theater mode This is the scene we use for 'family movie night'. The two rows of recessed cans are complete off, and the 3rd set at about 20% (there are little indicator lights on the switches). The wall sconces are set at 10% just to provide some ambiance. The lights over the pub table are completely off, and the under counter lights are set at about 30%. We've found this is just bright enough to mix a drink or make a snack without having the light spoil the mood.
Scene 2: TV mode This is what we use for general TV watching. We don't need the main seating area quite as dark. Also, we want other areas of the basement to be somewhat lit. We use this for when we have people over to watch a sporting event, or when we play Rock Band. Here's how it looks:
Scene 3: Bright TV/reading mode I created this scene in the interest of 'family harmony' (aka- to keep the Mrs. happy) and it works well for the limited times that we need it. While watching TV, sometimes my wife likes to clip coupons, or once in a while the kids will want to read. (Evidently the show is not that great!) Anyway, this scene makes it bright enough to do those activities while keeping it dark enough on the screen to make viewing enjoyable. Here's a look at scene 3:
Scene 4: Music mode We have a separate area of our basement that we call our 'music studio'. Not really a studio, just the only place we could fit our guitars, amps, & keyboard. Scene four lights that area only with the rest of the lights off. No sense burning 20 or so lights if we're only in one part of the basement! Here's scene 4:
Controlling it all with a universal remote
Another great thing about the Lutron Spacer System is that you can control it all with your universal remote! Not sure if which remotes will control the system, but Logitech Harmony home theater remotes handle it without a problem. You use the Harmony Web site to download the spacer system codes and assign the buttons however you want. I use numerical 1-4 for the scenes, and volume up/down to brighten or dim the entire basement. I also have the remote's events set to control the lights too. Pressing "Watch Blu-ray" or "Watch TV" sets the lighting scene for the big event!