ALC Opinions?

Captain Caveman

Active Member
Any opinions of On-Q ALC lighting would be appreciated as I am looking at this technology as an affordable hardwired lighting solution for a builder.

I know the pros and cons of wired vs. plc so no need on any opinions of that matter, but if a better alternative to ALC exists at about the same price please inform me.
 

Spanky

Senior Member
On new construction hardwired lighting control has its advantages.

OnQ - ALC and EDT allows for running CAT5 to each switch/dimmer with a small controller at the HA control system.


Centralite, Vantage, .... uses a central switch/dimmer controller box with low voltage wiring running to the lighting control switches. 120VAC is run from the controller box to the lights.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
Having only low voltage wire to the switches sounds super proprietary and risky. What if you want to switch systems in the future? What if CentraLite goes out of business? You can't just revert back to standard switches.
 

Captain Caveman

Active Member
Bueller...Bueller....Bueller....

I guess by the slim responses that most of the forum members are using PLC switches. If there were any ALC nightmares I'm sure someone would have posted it.

How about a pre-wire guide as I can't seem to find much expert advice on it.
 

elcano

Active Member
upstatemike said:
Having only low voltage wire to the switches sounds super proprietary and risky. What if you want to switch systems in the future? What if CentraLite goes out of business? You can't just revert back to standard switches.
As I understand it you run regular 120Vac to the switches AND low voltage to control it - just like a simple relay, but with dimming capability and controlled from a central controller.

If you were going to replace it for PLC you just change the switches and disregard the low voltage. Isn't it how it works?
 

rocco

Active Member
Captain Caveman said:
I guess by the slim responses that most of the forum members are using PLC switches.
Hey, Captain, not so fast. I'm just waking up here . . .

I've been maintaining a Touch-Plate low-voltage system for a neighbor, and we're considering updating it to CentraLite LiteJet system. It would be a simple replacement, with the only wiring needed being inside the central cabinet. We can even use the old Touch-Plate switches that have been there for 50 years.

In my opinion, there are advantages to running all of the 120 volt lighting back to a central cabinet (or multiple cabinets), and one advantage is that multiple vendors support this topography. It is a little more romex intensive, but more flexible, since you can reassign any combination of switches to any combination of lights from the cabinet.

If you use a system that requires the control wiring run to a particular switch that controls a particular light, that switch will forever be controlling that light. It is harder to make changes down the line.

In a house I am currently renovating, I am running all outlets and lighting back to a central cabinet, and a CAT6 to each wall-switch box (multiple boxes get multiple CAT6, though I hope that it will prove unnecessary). I have not selected a system yet, so I will be interested in what you find out.
 

rcharris

Member
All: here is another $.02:

Having only low voltage wire to the switches sounds super proprietary and risky. What if you want to switch systems in the future?

In a hard-wired solution where one does the following:
Home-run AC from all loads to a central cabinet
Home-run low-voltage wiring from all switches to a central cabinet
is not really so risky.
Even in a worst case scenario where all manufacturers go out of business, one could just put standard mechanical relays on all the 120AC load lines in the cabinet and control them all with mechanical low-voltage switches in the switch-boxes. No proprietary hardware would be required. Then you could put in a commercial PLC (logic controller, like Allen-Bradley, Omron, etc.) in the wiring cabinet to provide the automation smarts. IMHO the chance that all manufacturers go out of business is slim. If I could do it over I would hard-wire my house on initial construction, and home-run everything. (Absolutely no power-line or RF communication issues!)

-Rod
 

Captain Caveman

Active Member
I am doing this for a builder and not the future homeowner. The builder worries more about the bottom line and probably would not care if it was X-10 lighting as long as I told him it would work (most of the time). But I would not be doing my job as a consultant recommending that to him, and would spend more time troubleshooting than I care to do. So I need a hardwired solution on a budget.

Homerunning all the Romex does not seem to be an alternative especially when I have to rely on an electrician do his job and hope that he won't whine about it because he has never done it that way before.

Now if the builder said to me that he wanted to get rid of the wall clutter then yes I would jump all over it!

Besides the expense of homerunning all romex how does the Centralite pricing compare to On-Q ALC?
 

AutomatedOutlet

Senior Member
I'm not sure of your timeline for the install but there will be some very interesting hardwire solutions out in the next 6 to 8 months...
 

Captain Caveman

Active Member
AutomatedOutlet said:
I'm not sure of your timeline for the install but there will be some very interesting hardwire solutions out in the next 6 to 8 months...
Martin new switches? Don't leave us hanging, do tell! Or do I really want to know?

The problem with waiting for new products is just that, waiting. Once they do come out then your waiting for full support of it. Insteon for example, good switch but the full potential is not there for us to take advantage of yet, unless a third party vendor writes special software for it, then your closed in to using that vendor for automation.

I don't like waiting, it's like paralyis of analysis, people get stuck knowing that something new is on the horizon.

Spanky pointed out the EDT line of switches, seems like a good product but I don't think many people are using them. Also in my opinion not very attractive looking from what I saw on thier website.
 

AutomatedOutlet

Senior Member
Martin new switches? Don't leave us hanging, do tell! Or do I really want to know?

Sorry about that. I'm not sure how much is for public disclosure at this point so unfortunately I can't talk too much without checking with them but I can tell you this. It is a hardwired system, that will be made by one of the giants in the industry, and it will have a VERY unique type/style keypad that is a technology that at least I haven't seen used before for this type of application.

I wish I could elaborate a little. I'll see what I can do.
 
My company recently installed ALC lighting in a 6,000 sq. ft. house. Here's some tips we learned from that experience.

First, call On-Q and make sure you FULLY understand the wiring schematic and the switch capacity of each branch. They make some very nice branch hubs that ease the wiring in large homes, but each branch hub has it's limitations. Know those limitations before you pull any wire.

Second, tell the electrician to use the LARGEST and DEEPEST electrical boxes he can fit into the wall. You will need the room for making your connections.

Third, pulling a control wire (Cat5) into the electrical switch box might get the building inspector a little jazzed. Talk this over with the general and/or electrician before the inspection. Even though having a control wire inside the electrical switch box is okay, some inspectors don't know this and don't want to be told something they don't already know. Inspectors that are mad at the world (ever met one?) can make this entire situation unpleasant. If in doubt, just leave the control wire coiled near the switch and then stick it in the box after the inspection.

Fourth, expect some heat to be generated from the ALC switches. They run HOT. Make sure your customer is aware that heat is normal because they will be wondering whether their house is going to burn down when they touch the first switch that has been on for more than 5 minutes.

Lastly, avoid daisy-chaining. Even though On-Q will tell you that you can (and they're right), we found that this severely limits the ability to change things in the future (like adding an unplanned scene switch). Just home run everything and you're so much better off.

George Vander Dussen
Armor Clad Security
Modesto, California
 

ano

Senior Member
> Even though having a control wire inside the electrical switch box is okay,
> some inspectors don't know this and don't want to be told something
> they don't already know.

I'm not so sure I agree with that. The National Electrical Code does not say its O.K., and in this case the inspectors are correct. ALC switches really push this requirement to the edge, and can be legal if you make an effort to keep the low-voltage and the high voltage as separated as possible. As mentioned, talk with the inspector first, and don't be surprised if the inspector and On-Q need to talk to get everything worked out.
 
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