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Controllers Most Used By the Pros


Senior Member
Thanks Spanky, That is good news! I think the ability to speak key system variables like setpoints and counters is really going to enhance the versatility of the M1.

I was also wondering if the MV-480 voice module can be hooked to an M1 RS-485 port for situations where where you need it talk in two places at once? Example: My M1 is in the middle of giving me an hourly status report when I suddenly need to play a greeting for someone at the door or mailbox. If the greeting gets queued after the status report, the visitor will be long gone by the time it plays. It seems like I could dedicate an MV-480 to play "canned" messages like the door and mailbox greetings while the M1 voice output is reserved for status type announcements where I need it to speak variable values. Would this work?


Active Member

If you ever do decide to pursue the idea, look me up, I've been toying with the idea a bit here and there and would love to help out being that I'm nearby. When we built our house and I used NCS homes to do some of my cabling that I didn't have time to run and they told me they stayed away from the automation because of the cost of the support.

For all of us we get used to the quirks of the devices and things breaking down every now and then, but installing it in someone's home, they expect it to work the same each and every time, and if it doesn't they'll call and expect support, or worse for you to go out and fix it immediately for no cost (oh, sorry, I forgot to tell you we installed three new UPSes and after that the lights stopped working). If not for that fact I would have probably opened a side business long ago.

I just had a fuse blow in my stargate power supply (1st issue in 5 years) and it was lights out for it. I had to take a hammer to the power supply to open it. Since I didn't have any fuses, I used a car fuse in it's place and have another on order. I'm not sure the market can yet bear the lack of service that can be guaranteed and still maintain a profit. Although I'd be interested in hearing from installers and their experiences.


Senior Member
I agree that the cost of support is critical for this type of business to work. The thing that makes it potentially feasible is the fact that some viable alternatives to X-10 are finally becoming available.

Back when I still believed X-10 could reliably automate my house I decided to make my basement lights totally dependant on Stargate. I put up over 30 single-tube shop lights, each with their own appliance module and put in 6 switches wired to digital inputs on Stargate. My idea was that I could quickly reconfigure what light worked off which switch just by changing the address on the module and thus have a simple yet flexible system.

Unfortunately even with active repeaters (I tried several brands singly and in combinations) the reliability just was not there. There was always one module that missed an on or off signal and if I changed out the module a different one would start to act up. All very intermittent and hard to troubleshoot. I learned that X-10 can't scale reliably and I wouldn't want to risk a large scale X-10 install for a customer that expects a service call every time a module acts up.

The Stargate on the other hand has been rock solid since 1996. Perfect track record but I'm not sure where the hardware is in it's overall lifecycle. (Hence this thread to explore possible alternatives) For customer support to be manageable I think systems would have to be UPB or Z-Wave or Insteon based and controlled by ???


Active Member
I currently install SwitchLinc based scene lighting but so far have shied away from any controller based solution due to the potential support issues. My house is my X10 testbed (God bless my understanding family) and I must say that it's been a chore maintaining reliability. I have a large installation with around 40 switchlinc 2380s, active bridging, a boosterlinc, 5 lamp modules and 10 or so hawkeye motion sensors. I use the W800RF32 X10 reciever and now also have a UPB PIM (the USB PCS version), 3 SAI US11 switches a UMI32 IO module (replaces powerflash and universal modules) and a SAI lamp module. The whole X10 side of the system seems to have good and bad days probably due to the large number of 2380's which attenuate the signal. However, their 2way transmission capabilities are critical IMO since they allow my controller to keep in sync with manual switch activations.

UPB is a whole new world here since status reporting is built into the protocol very efficiently. Heck, my controller gets notified of individual component changes during switch activated scene (known in the UPB world as a "link") lighting now. Consequently, reliability is way up and I'm now on the verge of a controller based offering. I still have more testing to do but the results are very encouraging so far.

I am also leaning toward building my own custom controller that will boot off Compact Flash (I've yacked about this already in the hardware forum). I currently use Home Control Assistant and I'm very impressed with its ability to handle a hybrid installation. My system which runs on Win2K3 server has been ultra reliable. I can't remember ever booting that machine since the OS upgrade.