Last weekend I installed the Lutron Spacer System for lighting control in my home theater. What was a bit daunting at first ended up being a simple process. The end result is a revelation in lighting control that is ideal for home theaters currently under development. I have used X10 before with mixed success. The Spacer system works flawlessly and offers an elegant alternative to a big bank of switches in your theater. A picture is worth a thousand words so here goes a brief tutorial for anyone considering this great lighting product. If you’ve changed a light switch before you can do this. NOTE: Make damn sure you turn off the power at the breaker panel before you begin installation! Basic Anatomy I have five independent zones of lighting in my theater. Not wanting a clunky cluster of switches in the room I opted to place the dimmers in my equipment room, nice and out of sight. To control these remote dimmers I purchased the Remote Wall-Mounted Master for the main room. If the dimmers are the Spacer nervous system then the Master is the brain. This single gang switch includes master on and off, master dim, and four individual scene controls. It operates the dimmers remotely using IR emitters that are connected via a pair of standard copper electrical cable. Here is what you receive with the RWMC: http://members.shaw.ca/metropolis/th...theater145.jpg You will notice that there are two emitters included. Each can control up to five (5) Spacer dimmers. So if you choose you can control two separate rooms with a single RWMC. I am only running the theater so used both emitters for a little extra insurance (more on that later). Here is a closeup of just the Master: http://members.shaw.ca/metropolis/th...theater146.jpg And here is one of the emitters: http://members.shaw.ca/metropolis/th...theater147.jpg Because you need traveler wires for each IR emitter this is probably a product best used where construction is being planned or is just underway. Installing this system in an existing space would be a challenge unless you are very adept at snaking cable through walls and fire breaks. If you opt for this solution best to consult with a professional if you haven’t done it before. I knew I would be using this system prior to building the theater (and my house for that matter) so it was easy to have my electrician run a couple of extra cables in advance. Here is what should be poking out of your wall in preparation for the RWMC: http://members.shaw.ca/metropolis/th...theater148.jpg The hot, neutral, and ground wires are shown at the bottom with two pairs of travelers above. If you are going to only run one emitter then only one traveler would be required. I would recommend purchasing a cheap electrical meter or detector to confirm which is the power and which are the travelers. If you accidentally connect to the wrong wire you can blow your Master. I picked up a detector at Home Depot that looks like a pen. Just hold the tip on or close to the wire and it will light up and beep if power is detected. $15 well spent. Also works well to confirm that you have turned off power prior to beginning any electrical work. Wires are now prepped for installation (a proper stripping tool makes short work of this): http://members.shaw.ca/metropolis/th...theater149.jpg You will notice the IR travelers have been re-grouped at the top. If you refer to the above picture showing the RWMC there are a pair of red/white wires running from the top. For a white/black cable pair you attach one each to the red/white wires. For two emitters you require two traveler pairs and so there will be a total of two (2) blacks to one red/white and two (2) whites to the other. Actual power connection is as simple as it gets. White-to-white, black-to-black, and green-to-ground. Here is the RWMC with all wiring completed: http://members.shaw.ca/metropolis/th...theater150.jpg Here is a closeup of the connections: http://members.shaw.ca/metropolis/th...theater151.jpg And here is the finished installation. Nice, clean, and elegant. http://members.shaw.ca/metropolis/th...theater152.jpg Because you are using several wires and wire nuts, as well as allowing for the depth of the RWMC itself, make sure you plan in advance to use a deep gang box. It’s still a pretty tight fit here at 3 ½”. Without the deep gang you are in for a challenge. That’s it for the Master installation. Now for those pesky dimmers. A Tale of Five Cities Prior to purchasing your Spacer dimmers make sure you have the appropriate model for you chosen lighting. The link to the Lutron site above has a download with all of the Spacer components listed. You will need to choose lighting type and wattage. If you’ve installed dimmers before this procedure is identical. There are two black wires running out of the dimmers and one ground. Attach one black wire to either the hot or neutral, and then the remaining blacks together. Connect the ground to the junction box or ground wire as available. That’s it. Once you’ve connected the dimmers to power you can attach the emitter(s) to the traveler wires. Here is a completed dimmer with the emitter ready to attach: http://members.shaw.ca/metropolis/th...theater153.jpg The emitter simply clips on to the top of the dimmer and is held securely in place with the mounting screw when the dimmer is seated. Here are a couple of pictures of the emitter in place: http://members.shaw.ca/metropolis/th...theater154.jpg http://members.shaw.ca/metropolis/th...theater155.jpg As I indicated earlier one emitter is specified to control a maximum of five Spacer dimmers. All must be located in the same junction box with nothing separating them. The emitters fire down and to the sides, so you would typically place on emitter on the third (middle) dimmer in a five-gang set. I have no doubt this would work perfectly as the emitter was working even when outside the box as shown above. However, just to be safe I opted to run two traveler pairs and connect both emitters. You can see here with the dimmers all in place the emitter clips at the top of Zone 2 and Zone 4. http://members.shaw.ca/metropolis/th...theater156.jpg They will fire on either side and below to ensure all IR commands are received every time. Showtime! Once everything was in place I entered my darkened theater and hit the master on button. Voila. A gentle fade brought everything up to max power. Likewise master off dimmed everything to zero at the same rate (despite there being different types of lights). Playing with the master dim buttons worked flawlessly, again with the different zones reacting at the same rate. Operation from the remote is instantaneous – we’re dealing with the speed of light here so commands are carried out as soon as you tap the buttons on the Master. Something else I noticed immediately was that the Spacer dimmers are of exceptional quality. Using standard Lutron dimmers elsewhere in the house with similar lighting I’ve grown accustomed to a gentle buzz from the lamps. Dimmers are, in essence, simply turning the power on and off in rapid succession. When the ratio of on to off is greater the lights get brighter, and when the ratio is less the lights get darker. The result is that you hear the filaments rattling back and forth as they are having their power rapidly cycled. Better dimmers include little transformers to prevent this. It appears that the Spacer dimmers fall into the latter category. Suh-weet. Now for the fun stuff – lighting scenes. Programming cannot be easier. Adjust your different zones to taste. Once you have crafted the perfect mood simply press and hold any of the four scene buttons on the Master control. After a few seconds the green indicator will flash showing the setting has been saved. Rinse and repeat for the remaining three scenes. Then shorten the life of your lamps as you gleefully bounce back and forth between the different room settings, watching different zones fade in and out. Absolutely, incredibly cool. When comparing Spacer to Lutron’s flagship lighting control product – GRAFIK Eye – you lose the ability to micro manage your scenes with specifically programmed fade in/out times. In certain applications I imagine this would be very valuable. Here I don’t sense a need for it. The fade speed with the Spacer dimmers is neither too slow nor too fast for my tastes, and the different zones respond at the same rate. So there you have it – an easily installed and flawlessly operational lighting control system for your home theater. It gives you the flexibility to instantly recall different moods at a moment’s notice (either directly or via a remote control, check out Remote Central for the Pronto codes). And it has an important aesthetic effect in your theater. Instead of this… http://members.shaw.ca/metropolis/th...theater157.jpg …you see this… http://members.shaw.ca/metropolis/th...theater152.jpg Nice. I hope this helps anyone planning an installation or who is still considering a lighting control product for their theater.