Comparison of LiteTouch® and Lutron® Lighting Control Systems
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The table below compares the LiteTouch 5000LC and Lutron HomeWorks® Interactive™ lighting control systems. This information is based upon manufacturer's specifications and our experience with these two systems. It is our intention to keep this up-to-date and accurate. If you feel that any of the information presented here is inaccurate or has changed, please email us the details.
We are still verifying details on some of the less frequently used features of these systems as well as preparing sections covering differences in the system programming features and tools. The latter is probably of more interest to installers and dealers than to a homeowner. Please check back with us for updated information. If there is some specific information you would like to see as part of this comparison, please send us an email.
We also would welcome your comments on the usefulness of this comparison as it relates to your project and how it helped you in your selection process. (Send feedback.)
And finally, if there are other manufacturers or types of controllers you would like to see compared, let us know. We'll consider all requests, but priority will be placed on those systems and manufacturers that have features and functionality appropriate for use with our custom Home Management Systems. The next comparison we're preparing is for HVAC control systems from Trane, Carrier, Siebe/Barber Colman, Johnson Controls, and Alerton. That's a fairly large bit of work that we expect to have finished in two to three months. Until it is done, there is a page in place right now from which you can request an email notification be sent to you when the HVAC comparison is complete. (Click here to open the HVAC notification page in a new window.)
When you finish with the LiteTouch/Lutron comparison, we invite you to learn more about the features and functionality of the custom Home Management Systems that Electronic Solutions Company designs, builds, and installs.


Feature LiteTouch 5000LC Lutron HomeWorks
Manufacturer's Links LiteTouch Lutron
More cost effective on larger installations. More cost effective on smaller installations.
System Capacity
Loads:  2048
Keypads:  256
Buttons:  2304
Loads:  4096
  (Any mix of HomeWorks, Vareo®, or GRAFIK Eye® loads)
Keypads:  1536
Buttons:  26112
(Adding Vareo switches or GRAFIK Eyes to the system reduces the above numbers for keypads and buttons.)
System Architecture
Single central controller. Multiple distributed controllers.
Aesthetics and Keypad Configuration
Customizable number of buttons and locations.
Maximum nine buttons in a single gang.
Fixed keypad options.
Maximum ten programmable buttons plus two for "all on/all off" in a single gang.
Backup Lighting Control
Pre-wired loads at full intensity.
Requires simple contact closure to function.
A preset scene per controller.
Requires controller to be functional. Vareo loads continue to operate as usual.
Vacation Mode
Predefined loads and time windows. Playback of the previous 1, 7, or 14 days of lighting with minor timing changes.
Integration with Home Management Systems
Both have simple ASCII-based (i.e. alphanumeric character) protocols.
Control of Motorized Equipment
Both support safe bi-directional motor control through a 3-wire interlocked relay mechanism.
Local Service and Support
Widely available. Of course, your mileage may vary! Check out your local service and support dealers. If you can't get comfortable with their abilities, continue looking.
Limited lifetime warranty.
Non-transferable if you sell your home.
Eight (8) years on a sliding scale.
1st and 2nd year:   100%  
3rd thru 5th:   50%  
6th thru 8th:   25%  


We have found from past experience that for typical installations Lutron is more cost effective for smaller installations and LiteTouch is more cost effective for larger installations. By typical installation, we mean a reasonable mix of dimmer and relay modules. Your experience may differ. The difference between small and large is not black and white, and there are many factors that contribute to cost.
With LiteTouch you purchase a single controller and then add load modules and keypads as needed until the total system capacity is reached. With Lutron, a single controller supports 96 keypads and 512 loads. As either of these limits is reached on a single controller, additional controllers must be purchased as needed to support your keypad and load requirements. (Adding Vareo switches or GRAFIK Eyes reduces the number of keypads a controller can support. The tradeoff in actual numbers is not easily described. If you need more information, feel free to contact us.)
The specific load modules required can also have a dramatic affect on price. The type of load modules (e.g. relay modules are significantly cheaper than low voltage electronic ballast dimmer modules), the number of outputs on them, and their load capacity all have significant effects on the total system price.
Keypad configurations can also contribute to system price differences. Specifying standard LiteTouch keypad configurations will keep its system cost close to Lutron's standard keypad offerings. If however, you do want to take advantage of LiteTouch's large or custom keypad options, these can contribute significantly to the system cost.
The only true way for you to determine which system is more cost effective for your project is to solicit bids for both systems. Bear in mind that the lighting system requirements must remain the same for the bids to be valid. We have seen many situations where the bidding dealers received different requirements because requirements were written and rewritten with a bias toward controller features rather than homeowner requirements. The best way to insure that you have valid bids is to hire an independent engineering firm to create a single set of lighting system specifications, solicit the bids, and then evaluate the pros and cons of the submitted bids.
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System Capacity:
System capacity has never been an issue with either of these systems. The largest residential system we have encountered has approximately 1000 loads, 160 keypads and 1300 buttons. The largest home we have provided design services for is 60,000 square feet and it didn't even come close to reaching the limits of either of these lighting systems. Should system capacity be exceeded, a properly designed home management system could tie two or more complete lighting control systems together as one. In fact, one ESC Home Management System installation combines a LiteTouch system with the European lighting system, Teletask, so both work together as one.
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System Architecture:
System architecture is one key factor in finding the right fit for your needs. This may be a more critical decision factor if your project is a retrofit, but it has implications in new construction as well. Not all system architectures will be possible in all applications and system architecture may affect cost given similar requirements.
LiteTouch runs all load wiring to control modules in one or more locations. Lutron is typically wired in the same manner, but also has an option for local load control using their Vareo smart switches which replace standard light switches. Both systems require low voltage communication wiring to be daisy-chained between their keypads/switches and load modules and run back to a central computer.
LiteTouch is a centrally controlled system. All lighting loads are wired to load modules (relays and dimmers) which are usually installed in mechanical spaces (basement, garage, etc.). There are no high voltage switches on the walls of your living space. These load modules are then wired via a communications bus back to the LiteTouch computer. The computer controls loads, turning them on, off, dimming them, etc., through the load modules. Low voltage keypads are mounted on the walls in the living spaces. The keypads are connected through a second communications bus to the computer. LiteTouch is very difficult to install in a retrofit situation if the majority of the electrical wiring is to remain unchanged.
LiteTouch's system addressing is flat, that is, you have a single computer with one communications bus in a single tier addressing scheme. Each keypad and each module has a unique address from 0 to 255. LiteTouch keypads require one keypad address per gang.
Lutron HomeWorks is typically wired in a manner similar to LiteTouch. However, it also offers a conventional wiring architecture and the two wiring schemes can be mixed. By conventional wiring architecture we are referring to high voltage wiring connecting loads to wall mounted switches as in any standard home. HomeWorks can then be retrofitted into a conventionally wired home by running low voltage wiring from the switch locations to the Lutron controllers and replacing the standard toggle switches with Vareo switches (smart switches). Additionally, low voltage keypads can be mounted in the living spaces and wired via a second communications bus to the controllers. Lutron HomeWorks with its Vareo switches is the better choice in a retrofit situation if the majority of the electrical wiring will remain unchanged.
Lutron's system addressing is hierarchical, i.e. it has multiple levels of addressing. Keypads and modules are connected to controllers and multiple controllers are connected together. Each keypad is assigned an address from 1 to 32, unique per controller link. Each controller has 3 communication links or busses on which it can communicate with either keypads or Vareo switches (but not both on a single link). Each controller is assigned a unique address from 1 to 16. Therefore, in order to communicate with a keypad you must specify a processor number, a link number, and a keypad number. Lutron keypads, no matter how many buttons they have, require only one keypad address. Load devices (modules and Vareo switches) have a multi-tier addressing scheme similar to the keypads, but with two additional address parameters.
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Aesthetics and Keypad Configuration:
Your personal taste will determine which manufacturer's keypad's appearance you prefer. You may favor one keypad style over the other. Both companies offer a wide variety of standard and premium finishes. Additionally, there are third parties that will custom finish the keypads to match your wall coverings. We have seen faux painting (this can be done to most faceplates), wallpaper and wood veneer overlays. The latter two options work best with a flat faceplate (no curved edges). Not all keypad styles will support all finish options.
When you are building a beautiful new home, the last thing you want to do is clutter up the walls with "wall acne". Every system provider wants to put a widget on the wall (security keypad, HVAC thermostat, lighting switches, distributed audio volume control, etc.). One of the key benefits of a lighting control system is to minimize wall clutter by replacing a number of light switches and dimmers in a large multigang box with a single lighting system keypad that fits neatly into a single gang box. With a properly designed home management system, you can also use lighting keypad buttons to perform non-lighting functions (e.g. audio, HVAC, etc.) eliminating some or all of those other widgets.
Both LiteTouch and Lutron have keypads which is all that is required to control lights with either system. Lutron offers keypads with 2, 5(7), 6, 9, 10(12) and 15(17) buttons. The 5-, 10-, and 15-button keypads have two additional buttons on them for master on and master off functions. LiteTouch keypads are available with any number of buttons the client desires. We have seen quite a variety of LiteTouch button combinations ranging from a single button, single gang keypad up to a 45 button, 7-gang keypad. You can get them bigger if so desired. (Very definitely not recommended however! Read further.)
Lutron's Vareo switches are a logical choice for rooms with only a single load, e.g. a utility closet or small powder room, but installing Vareo switches at the same location as a Lutron keypad makes little sense. LiteTouch has no equivalent to the Lutron Vareo switch, but you can get a single button keypad.
Whichever system you choose, you should follow our "Simple Sophistication" philosophy — the fewer the buttons the better. For optimal system simplicity, you need to have exactly the right number of buttons on each keypad, no more — no less. More often than not we see installations where too many buttons are installed (regardless of the system installed). Many people feel that more buttons add greater control flexibility. What it really adds is confusion.
The key to successful lighting system control is to use "functional lighting." Most rooms have no more than five or six specific functions that they would be used for and many have less. You want each button on the keypad to light a room (or rooms) for a particular function, e.g. watch a movie, clean up, or entertain. If each button manipulates a single lighting circuit in the room, each time you walk in the room you have to push and hold multiple buttons to set each light's level. Instead, if you use functional lighting, you walk into a room and press a single button for the function for which you are going to use the room. Much simpler, much more sophisticated.
What makes functional lighting difficult to achieve during system design is knowing exactly how many different functions for which a room will be used. The resulting uncertainty is usually solved by "throwing in a few extra buttons" on each station. Using LiteTouch "H" series keypads resolves this dilemma. Initially install the keypads fully populated with all nine buttons, but without faceplates. Program the typical three or four buttons that most rooms will use and leave the rest of the buttons unprogrammed. The client lives with the system for a few weeks and the lighting gets fine-tuned by adding or removing button programming as necessary. Once the homeowner is satisfied, engraved buttons and the appropriate faceplates are ordered. Unused buttons are removed and left empty; the voids covered by the faceplate. Should the situation change, instead of ordering a new keypad, unnecessary buttons are removed or new engraved buttons are added along with a new faceplate. This is much more economical than ordering an entire new keypad.
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Backup Lighting Control:
A back up control method (also know as redundancy or fail-safe operation), may be required should the controllers fail or communications between controllers, keypads, and load modules is disrupted. In the grand scheme of things we do not feel that a back up plan should be placed at the top of the priority list. Both systems are extremely reliable, so this should not be a major decision factor in choosing between the two. In the past 10 years we have only seen one system fail (the house took a direct lightning strike). This is not to say you should ignore the possibility of failure, only to keep it in perspective. With that said, here are the different methodologies used for back up contingencies in the two systems.
Back up in a LiteTouch system is accomplished by connecting selected loads to one or more manual override stations. These are specialized keypads with 6 switches. Turning on one of the switches will turn on the connected loads assigned to the switch. The manual override station bypasses the controller and all communications activating the loads directly. All selected loads turn on at full intensity. This works for all LiteTouch systems, new and old.
LiteTouch's 5000LC system has a modular controller. Switches and loads will operate without the CPU card since it is only required to make programming changes. All boards can be "hot-swapped" for replacement. Some of our clients keep a spare set of boards on-hand in case of a catastrophic failure. One client has a completely programmed spare computer available. We have never seen any of these spare parts used.
Lutron's back up method connects a manual override switch to one or more controllers. The switch activates a backup "scene" for all loads on a given processor. While this requires the controllers to be alive and functional, what are the odds of more than one controller failing at once? In a normal failure scenario where a single controller fails you would lose system control of only those loads assigned to that controller.
Using a conventional wiring scheme and Lutron Vareo switches, the Vareo switch controls the attached load directly and does not require communications with a functional controller. A typical failure (one that does not disrupt communications for other devices) of a Vareo switch causes a loss of control only for the load to which it is attached.
System reliability greatly depends on making sure load modules are appropriate for the attached loads. Drawing too much current through a load module, connecting a magnetic ballast load to an electronic dimmer, or any other inappropriate installation can destroy modules or cause very strange happenings (randomly blinking lights are a favorite). Any time lighting fixtures are swapped for a different type of lighting or lamp wattage is increased, the effects on the load modules must be kept in mind.
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Vacation Mode:
Vacation mode is a feature that gives your home the "lived-in" look. Whether you are away for the evening or on vacation, this feature turns your lights on and off to give the appearance that you are home. Both LiteTouch and Lutron systems have a vacation mode and they operate very differently from each other. LiteTouch requires loads to be predefined as well as the time ranges within which these loads will be randomized when the system is in vacation mode. Lutron simply repeats the previous week's lighting with slightly randomized variations. While LiteTouch manipulates any load during vacation mode, Lutron ignores motorized loads for safety reasons. Of course, that eliminates all drapes and shades from the vacation mode which may make your absence all the more obvious.
LiteTouch is programmed with loads assigned to time periods during the day which are randomly turned on and off (during the specified periods) to simulate "normal" activity. This can be a time consuming task in larger installations. Lutron has a much easier approach to vacation mode. They memorize your usage for either one, seven or fourteen days. When vacation mode is activated, the recorded activity is played back over and over, randomizing the on and off times slightly. There is no programming required and the pattern is natural since the homeowner creates it during the course of their normal activities.
However, the drawback to Lutron's vacation mode is it does not include non-lighting loads. A very unfortunate situation. The vacation mode is supposed to give your home the "lived-in" look while you are gone. If you open and close your window treatments several times a day when you are home, they should also operate when you are gone. This is not only to complete the lived-in appearance, but also for other varying needs requiring the window treatments to go up and down during the course of the day. Plants and pets require sunlight; furniture must be shielded from it. We have clients who are otherwise very happy with their Lutron system except its handling of motorized loads in vacation mode. Lutron's position is that motorized devices should not be operated without the homeowner being present for safety reasons. The scenario quoted to us was a blind could knock over a lamp and start a fire and they don't want the liability. Of course, there are many blinds, drapes, and curtains that have no lamps anywhere near them. The homeowner and installer should be given the option.
Whereas a home management system (HMS) cannot solve problems within any manufacturer's system, lighting or otherwise, an HMS can augment lighting system features. As an example, Electronic Solutions Company can use its HMS to record all button presses for some previous period of time and filter out only those that truly should not be used during a homeowner's absence. The filtered list of button presses can be played back with randomization during vacation mode just like Lutron does but with motorized devices as part of the mode. This can also be implemented with a LiteTouch system as well.
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Integration with Home Management Systems:
Both systems have relatively simple protocols consisting of nothing but alphanumeric characters. Neither system uses any checksum or CRC (cyclic-redundancy-check) to verify the validity of a message. This is probably due to market pressures to allow easier integration with low-end home automation systems which only have the ability to send or receive predefined byte strings or very simple command strings. Checksums and CRCs require calculations that must be performed for each message — a function not available on low-end systems. The older LiteTouch systems (the Compact and Standard), which are still in production, support both a simple ASCII-based protocol without CRCs and also a binary protocol complete with CRCs.
Why Checksums and CRCs are Important:
The purpose of a checksum or CRC is to validate that a message between two systems has not been altered or corrupted by noise. Suppose a message from a home control system to the lighting control system requests a button press of button 5 on keypad 30. If a single bit in the 1's and 0's representing the keypad number gets misinterpreted because of noise, the lighting control system could end up activating button 5 on keypad 22. Most likely not what you wanted!
When a communications protocol puts a CRC or checksum on the end of the message, they can detect that the bit was misinterpreted and send back a response that the message was corrupted to the originating system. The originating system can then resend the original message a second time.
Of the two, CRCs are the preferred option. They use complex polynomials to generate and check the CRC. It provides the greatest level of error detection even in the presence of multiple bit errors. Checksums are a much more simplistic form of error detection that relies on simple addition (checkSUM) of the messages bytes -- better than no error checking but not nearly as good as CRCs.
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Motorized Equipment:
Both systems support 3-wire, two-way motors. These are most often used in window treatments, skylights, windows, etc. These types of motors are bi-directional and have two windings. Energizing both windings at the same time is detrimental to the health of the motor. Both lighting systems have special modules designed specifically for this application. They contain relay pairs that are interlocked to prevent them from both being on at the same time. One relay is turned on to operate the motor in one direction, switching off the first and turning on the second operates the motor in the other direction, and if both relays are off the motor is stopped.
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Local Service:
These systems are as good as the designers, dealers, and installers who service you. Both companies distribute widely and have established dealer bases. Your choice of service provider is as important as your choice of system. Check with the manufacturers, request and check references, and check with your builder or other trade personnel for recommendations. Evaluate their ability to understand your needs. As with everything in life, there are good installers and bad installers, and they will make or break your system.
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LiteTouch warranty details
Lutron warranty details
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Lutron®, Homeworks®, GRAFIK Eye®, and Vareo® are registered trademarks and Interactive™ is a trademark of Lutron Electronics Co., Inc.
LiteTouch® is a registered trademark of LiteTouch, Inc.
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This page was last updated on 17 February 2006.

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