I have a house full of 70+ dying Insteon devices and I'm really not wanting to throw more good money after bad. I've already replaced a few dozen Insteon devices and I'm tired of their quality issues. I'm also tired of having multi-ganged Insteon dimmers/switches that don't match in LED color and brightness as I swap out dead devices. Smarthome seems to care more about making them cheap rather than making them right or even being consistent.
Insteon also, after 6+ years, has not really delivered on their promise of dual-mode powerline/RF products--they still have only a couple that use RF. I also don't like Smarthome having a monopoly as the sole source for Insteon. Everyone is at their mercy for pricing, support, etc. And, for me at least, their support has been terrible with lots of shipment errors, returns that don't get processed, long hold times, etc.
I have to laugh as most Insteon fans defend it largely because of the lower cost. But if an Insteon dimmer lasts on average 2 years, at $45 each, I'll have spent $135 after 6 years per switch. So why not install ONE high quality device in the first place? Hindsight... Yeah I know about Insteon's extended warranty. But I have better things to do than replace Insteon hardware, wait 15 minutes on hold, and fight with Smarthome's customer service people.
Ok, enough ranting about my Insteon woes... So, what to replace 70+ Insteon devices with? The obvious choices are:
UPB is basically a higher quality version of Insteon offered by multiple manufactures. The good news is my Elk and existing software both support it. The bad news is I'm not crazy about the cheaper UPB switches and the nicer ones cost as much (streetprice) as RadioRA 2. I also wonder about UPB's future with Z-Wave gaining much wider acceptance? It also gets more expensive if you want to control electronic ballasts or dimmable CFLs (which the standard RA 2 dimmers handle). UPB has a loyal following and seemingly far fewer complaints than Insteon. I just wish it had some bigger names behind it and nicer hardware to choose from.
Z-Wave is supported by a relatively large group of manufactures, including huge players like Leviton and Cooper, but seems to have technical issues in 3 major areas: Changing standards, interoperability between brands, and network configuration/troubleshooting. Manufactures appear to be struggling trying to support even their own older hardware/firmware let alone that of other manufactures. And you can't, for example, just move a plug in controller without risking screwing up the entire mesh network. Z-wave is technically more complex so it's supported by fewer DIY home automation software vendors than say Insteon or UPB. And, often times, support is limited--like Elk only working well with Leviton, etc. And, again, if you look at high quality Z-wave devices, like say Cooper Aspire RF, the price is essentially the same as RadioRA 2. In fact, if you consider the price of dimmers that are electronic low voltage/dimmable CFL compatible, and the cost of remote multi-way switches, RadioRA 2 (streetprice) can even be cheaper than Z-wave.
RadioRA 2 appears to be a more robust solution than either Z-Wave or UPB (and certainly vs Insteon). It uses lower frequencies that better penetrate walls in a less populated RF spectrum. It's also a direct network, rather than a slower more complex mesh network like Z-wave. So all the issues of devices relying on other devices go away--as do the potential long latency problems. A device can malfunction and you just lose that device--no complex diagnostics, re-configuration, etc. are required. Lutron has clearly done their homework, the reputation of the old RadioRA is strong, and they have more experience with RF lighting control (since 2001) than any of the other players. It's about the same cost as high quality UPB or Z-Wave, so why isn't there more DIY excitement over RA 2?
RA 2 is greatly simplified, and lower cost, compared to the old RadioRA system. The main repeater has an RS232 and Ethernet interface built in and can also be used to configure the system. So all RA 2 systems have the capability to connect to a PC with no added hardware. The RA 2 protocol is a simple open standard and can be found here:
Lutron RadioRA 2 Protocol
What's not clear to me is if one can do a "walk around" self configuration of a RA 2 system (intended for use with Lutron's own controllers/keypads) and then control the main repeater via RS232 from a PC? The guide above says: "The installer will make any necessary changes to the control interface using the Lutron DeviceIP or RadioRA 2 PC software tool." If the PC software tool is required to configure a system for PC control us DIY guys are dead in the water without that tool or some other work around.
Does anyone know the answer to the above? Can a self-configured RadioRA2 system be directly controlled via RS-232 (or Ethernet) without needing Lutron's PC software tool?
And, the other question is, does anyone know of any DIY friendly RadioRA 2 PC HA software that's either out now or planned? If it's really as easy as the ASCII protocol defined in the above document, I don't see what's stopping the DIY software guys? Premise Home Control driver anyone?
Do others see a DIY market for RA 2 or is my analysis somehow flawed?
Edited by nwavguy, 06 April 2010 - 01:54 PM.