Lutron AuroRa Wireless Lighting Control System

Despite technological advances in every area, most homes are still limited to just two pieces of automation: garage-door opener and remote control. And while it's unfathomable to think of manually cranking a car's windows or locking its doors, people remain content to walk around their homes turning lights on and off - just like Thomas Edison did.

Lutron's AuroRa is a complete system that should help introduce the concept of lighting control to the masses. With five in-wall dimmers, a master control, a wireless controller, and a central antenna, it installs in about an hour, with no programming at all. But will this do-it-yourself lighting system work, or will it leave you in the dark?

Setup First, a warning: Unlike hooking up your A/V components, installing light switches means working with live electrical wires, and caution must be taken. Always be sure you've cut power to the circuit you're working on at the breaker panel.

The AuroRa system is available in three options. Reviewed here is the Entry package ($600), which does basic lighting control. The Security package ($700) offers some additional contact closure inputs, allowing it to turn on and flash your lights when triggered by your security system. The Switcher/Dimmer package ($650, pictured above) replaces two of the dimmers with switches for use with fluorescent lights. (The AuroRa dimmers, like most others, don't like fluorescent bulbs and will tend to make them strobe.) Each of the three options comes with a well-written manual that leads you through installing the dimmers in virtually any application, including single-pole (single switch), three-way (two switches controlling the same light, as in halls), and four-way (three switches, as with multi-entrance porches). You would use only one Aurora dimmer for each of those situations.

The first step is determining which rooms you want to control and then replacing the existing "dumb" switches with the AuroRa dimmers - labeled from 1 to 5, corresponding to the buttons on the tabletop master control. It doesn't really matter where you install each dimmer; however, Lutron suggests installing dimmer 1 in the most-used location, dimmer 5 in the least. (With the Security package, dimmer 1 should always be installed on an exterior light, which will flash when the security system is tripped.) While the dimmers fit traditional switch-style wall plates, Lutron includes inserts to make them compatible with Decora plates as well.

Labels are provided for the buttons on the master control. Once it and the antenna are powered up (each must be plugged into a standard wall outlet), the installation is complete. The antenna needs to be located within 30 feet of all dimmers and the master control, but it could easily be placed out of sight in a closet or cabinet. "Programming" is required only if two systems are bridged together or if you decide to add more wireless controllers (the system supports up to 10). Even those tasks are remarkably simple, requiring two button presses and about 10 seconds.

Performance AuroRa dimmers are so simple to use that they require virtually no instruction. Each has a single button and a slider. The slider is used to manually set the dimming level to any position between off and full bright. When the lights are off, pressing the button brings them to the level set by the slider, while double tapping the button brings the room lighting immediately to 100%. Holding the button for 2 seconds fades the room lights off gradually over 10 seconds.