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Old 10-18-2017, 12:17 AM   #1
CSR
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Model: Aria 3901
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THOR #6177
Thor Firefly Multiplex Control Pads – The Dark Truth...

Thor Motor Coach uses the Firefly multiplex wiring system in several of their motorhome brands. As a result, we thought we would share some of our feedback regarding our experience with the system.

Overall, the we think the technology is great and that it has lots of potential. For us, the system seems to be functioning properly and without any problems. That said, the design of the control pads and button layouts could use some improvement.

IN THE DARK

Thor’s main control pad for the Firefly system has a light blue illuminated soft-touch liquid crystal screen surrounded by white labeled buttons on a hard, black plastic frame (“Hard Buttons”). To navigate the system, you press on the Hard Button for the desired function (e.g. Home, AC Power, Main Lights, Rear Lights, etc.). Doing so lights up the soft-touch screen and displays the different functions related to the Hard Button you chose. The rest of the control pads throughout the coach are black plastic panels, each with their own unique set of white labeled buttons. Overall, this design works pretty well until the coach is dark. The black plastic buttons with white labels are NOT backlit, which make selecting the right button very difficult in low or no light. The attached pictures help to illustrate the problem:

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BUTTON LAYOUT & NO ON INDICATOR

In the small bathroom in our Aria 3901, the water pump button is located on the control panel closest to the bathroom door and right next to the light button. If you’re entering the bathroom, the water pump button is in the spot where most people seem to expect the light button to be. As a result, people often accidentally turn the water pump off or on while attempting to turn the light on or off. On top of that, the panel does not provide any indication that the function is ON or OFF. Try this in the dark and the problem is even more likely to occur. See the attached pictures.

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So what’s the BIG deal? No big deal, but here’s two real-world hassles to consider. You decide:
  1. You have a guest over. They go to the bathroom and accidentally turn off the water pump before they successfully turn on the light. Thinking nothing if it, they do their business and when they finish, they TRY to flush and/or wash their hands, BUT. . . you guessed it, no water.
  2. You’re taking a shower in the back bathroom. Your spouse heads to the small bathroom and accidentally turns off the water pump while trying to turn on the light. Now you have a face full sods and no way to wash them off.

SUGGESTED SOLUTIONS FOR THOR:
  • Back light ALL buttons.
  • Add something to provide visual conformation that a function is on.
  • Consider the button layouts of each control pad based on the way people will use the space. Position primary buttons in ideal locations and away from secondary buttons.
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Old 10-18-2017, 12:34 PM   #2
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Very good write-up on some interesting new technology in the RV world. I wonder if there is something in the "settings" button that would allow a back light? Have you pointed this out to Thor or Firefly? I am pretty sure that Firefly would be interested. "If your not happy, then they are not happy".
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Old 10-18-2017, 02:38 PM   #3
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THOR #6451
We have this system in our 2018 Miramar 35.3 and have the same problem with seeing the buttons in the dark. On our last travel trailer, the wife bought these small bump dots to put on the edge of cabinet doors that might bump into the wall. They are about the size of a pea cut in half and are clear. We put one on the light button on both sub panels in the bathrooms. At night, you can feel the little dot and know you are on the right button.

Also, the sub panels are wireless and have batteries in them. The front sub panel quit working and I called firefly and they said to replace the battery. That is probably why the sub panels aren't back-lit since it would probably run the batteries down quickly. I bought several of the small batteries to keep on board the motorhome.

Burch
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Old 10-18-2017, 05:11 PM   #4
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THOR #6177
Good Feedback - Thanks!

Hi Peterrrr and Metalgator,

Thanks for your kind comments and participation in this thread!

Other than this post, I have not provided this feedback directly to Firefly or Thor (yet). I've heard that Thor does monitor these forums though. I'm not sure about Firefly or other parts manufactures. Though I think they would be wise to do so. There's a lot of good stuff here.

The bump dots idea is a clever work around. I might have to try something similar.

Also, I suspect you are correct regarding the battery and back light challenge. Hmmm... Maybe the panels could be hardwired with rechargeable batteries. And/or maybe a dim motion light could be positioned above every control panel might work too. Just enough light to see the buttons. I've been looking for some battery powered night lights to do just that. So far, everything I've found is too big and bulky.

Seeing the control pad is one issue, but not being able to tell if a function is off or on is another design challenge I hope Thor and/or Firefly can resolve.

Thanks again for the ideas and feedback!

Best regards,

CSR
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Old 10-18-2017, 05:49 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CSR View Post
Seeing the control pad is one issue, but not being able to tell if a function is off or on is another design challenge I hope Thor and/or Firefly can resolve.
The bump dots don't fix the problem with knowing if a function is on or off but sure has helped with accidentally turning on the water pump and vent fan in the middle of the night.

Also, be careful when changing the batteries in the sub panels. The sub panels easily pop off the walls. I was changing the battery for the entry sub panel and I accidentally pressed the awning button. I didn't realize I had done it until I heard a noise outside. Luckily I was able to turn off the awning before it hit the wall (the motorhome was inside the garage)! You can carry the sub panel around for quite a distance and it will still communicate with the master panel.

Burch
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Old 10-18-2017, 05:53 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CSR View Post
Maybe the panels could be hardwired with rechargeable batteries. CSR
I think one of the benefits of the system is it's less wiring. You can mount a sub panel pretty much anywhere you want and you don't have to run wire. Maybe in the future they could use some type of "glow in the dark" type material that would at least distinguish the light switch in the dark. That way you could at least turn on the light to see the other buttons.

Burch
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Old 10-18-2017, 08:39 PM   #7
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This system sounds interesting however I'm slightly confused by it. I assume that it does have wires going into it why would they not run any power? Also on their website they state that these button should be back lit
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Old 10-18-2017, 11:07 PM   #8
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THOR #6177
Firefly - Wireless Control Pads/Remotes

Quote:
Originally Posted by lazinskm View Post
I assume that it does have wires going into it why would they not run any power? Also on their website they state that these button should be back lit
Hi lazinskm,

In our Aria, the Firefly control panels are remotes powered by batteries (no wires). They send a wireless signal to the main hub to tell it what to do (e.g. Turn on the kitchen light). They work like a T.V. remote.

You are correct, Firefly does offer a variety of control pad solutions that can be tailored to the RV manufactures preferences. In this case, it looks like Thor opted to go without the back lit buttons.
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Old 10-18-2017, 11:21 PM   #9
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What is the wireless signal? Rf or Bluetooth? App option?
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Old 10-18-2017, 11:39 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lazinskm View Post
What is the wireless signal? Rf or Bluetooth? App option?
We do not have the App option, so it's either RF or Bluetooth. I suspect RF, but cannot find any info that indicates either.

Here's a link to an instructional video posted by Thor:
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Old 10-19-2017, 12:22 PM   #11
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One nice thing is if you don't like the location of one of the sub panels, you can move it where ever you want.
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Old 10-19-2017, 03:26 PM   #12
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Future Upgrades

Quote:
Originally Posted by Metalgator View Post
One nice thing is if you don't like the location of one of the sub panels, you can move it where ever you want.
Agreed!

Overall, we like the technology and it seems to work well. The possibilities going forward for this type of system are vast. One thing I'm hoping to for is the ability to upgrade the system as more options and improvements are made over time. Example - With wireless control pads, Thor/Firefly could create new and improved versions and allow users to upgrade/replace the old ones with little effort. All the user would have to do is turn the new control pads on, enter a identity code of some sort to link it to the main hub in their coach.
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Old 10-19-2017, 08:42 PM   #13
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We have a '18 Aria 3401, same issues with night / dark usage. We purchased key hole night lights off amazon that are motion sensitive, solved the problem. We agee that we should not have to add anything like this to a new RV just to use it.

That said the system is working great otherwise. We did have a couple of challenges at first and both Thor and Firefly integrations were excellent at resolving our problems.

They are developing an " App" for smart phones that will work all functions via blue tooth. It will be a simple plug and play upgrade, about 8 weeks from launch and $500 or so. We are on the list...
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Old 10-19-2017, 10:10 PM   #14
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THOR #6177
Keyhole Light Workaround

Hi rvanling,

Congrats on your new Aria! Thanks for joining the discussion. I like the keyhole light workaround. I've been looking around for something like that. The App sounds interesting too. Please keep us posted on how well you like the App.
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Old 10-20-2017, 03:18 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rvanling View Post
We have a '18 Aria 3401, same issues with night / dark usage. We purchased key hole night lights off amazon that are motion sensitive, solved the problem. We agee that we should not have to add anything like this to a new RV just to use it.

That said the system is working great otherwise. We did have a couple of challenges at first and both Thor and Firefly integrations were excellent at resolving our problems.

They are developing an " App" for smart phones that will work all functions via blue tooth. It will be a simple plug and play upgrade, about 8 weeks from launch and $500 or so. We are on the list...
Can you share more about the app, list, etc? 2018 Palazzo 36.3 wanting to see what kind of Firefly upgrades I can get into. Thanks!
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Old 10-23-2017, 03:43 AM   #16
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The upgrade is called the "Mira" app. It is supposed to work all functions of the Firefly unit, I will especially like to control all things including the generator from my phone while in bed...If you call Firefly Integrations , talk to customer service and ask them about it, they should fill you in.

When I get mine I will do a review and update here.

Thanks
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Old 02-07-2018, 04:48 AM   #17
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Vira app

How did you get it to load? My Aria does not have numbers to sync only dashes, dealer was no help, the Thor tech told me I needed to talk to the service dept. but they are much in the dark as I am. I would like for no other reason than to be able to turn cargo lights on as they time out way sooner than needed!!!
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Old 02-07-2018, 12:05 PM   #18
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this type of system is a perfect example of how 'great things' are designed by engineers and designers who don't actually ever 'use' them in the real world.... good effects, but bad planning.

most folks don't sit around designing new systems in the dark, but only in the 'light of day'... hence the problem with the placement of the buttons, no backlight for them, and no indicator of on/off.

several folks mentioned the 'placement' of a secondary button too close to a 'primary' one... water pump or bed lift being a good example...
easy, have the primary 'light' button backlit, so that it is not confused with others, so that when you DO want to use a 'secondary' button, you would turn on the light first anyway.
...and for the water pump button, for those who don't want to leave the water pump on all the time, but only when needed... have the action of turning on the light to automatically backlight the Water Pump button and it's current status - on/off(maybe Red and Green colors).

I've delivered these units from the factories to dealers, for several different makes, and they have all been very confusing, ESPECIALLY when you first enter the coach, and at night. I don't want to 'wonder' if I've pressed the correct button or not, or accidentally ran out the awning or turned on the water pump when there's no water in the tank!

I wonder, also, if Firefly and other manufacturers actually test customer real-world usage of these systems before they deploy them to the manufacturers.... I kinda doubt it.
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Old 02-07-2018, 09:38 PM   #19
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THOR #6177
Firefly Panel Design

Hi TurnerFam,

Agreed, 'User Experience Design' and 'Build' are definitely two distinct specialties. To me, they are both critical.
A while back, I followed up with Firefly Integrations regarding this issue to see if they had other options or were working on something new.

SIDE NOTE – The people at Firefly were very friendly and responsive.

Firefly was open to building a custom solution, but noted that it would be costly. Firefly does offer older panels that have color-coded backlit indicators, BUT they require wires. The primary benefit of the 'Hard Button Panels' is that they are a wireless. The wireless factor helps to reduce weight (no wires), cut production time, makes it easy to install/move panels almost anywhere, and could cost less for maintenance throughout time. At least that’s the theory.

Overall, I like the tech and appreciate the benefits, but I think it could be SO MUCH better with a few creative and thoughtful tweaks.
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Old 02-15-2018, 12:45 AM   #20
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Mira upgrade

We received the Mira upgrade to our FireFly panel for our 2018 Aria.

After a couple of calls the FireFly for instructions, the upgrade went flawlessly and was simple to do. We have not used it while out camping yet from all my tests at home in the driveway it appears to be great. All the functions (short awning and slides) are now on an app on our phones.

It required a software upgrade that was included and also easy to install. We "placed" the receiver or blue tooth adapter behind the door for the G6 panel in the rear of the RV.

From what I can tell, it is just that, a Blue Tooth adapter that talks to your mobile device. Phone, I pad, any device that you have apps on. The app is simple to use and will help a lot with non backlit switch panels. We also like the idea of operating all lights, generator, HVAC etc without getting out of bed. Anything on your main control is now on our mobile device. I will attempt to add a few photos for reference.
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