ELK and RCS Zone Controller


Active Member
I want to add a zone controller to my setup and already havean RCS tr16 connected to the serial prt expander. I love the funcctionality and want to add damper control etc. I have 2 choices. a. add relays to control stuff b. add a zone controller (which is what I am leaning towards).

Now the question is how my beloved ELK is going to control all of this. I contacted RCS and here are the responses from them:

I am currently using a RCS TR16 thermostat which is also connected to ELK
automation panel through a serial port expander using RS485 mode of

I want to add the ZCV 4 zone controller so that I can better control the
temp and still want to setup rules in elk to control the thermostats.

My questions are:
Is there any difference in the serial communication setup between the way
the zone controller communicates vs what protocol the TR-16 uses?

***there are MORE protocol commands for ZCVx controls; review the latest
RS232/RS485 Protocol manual from the RCS website***

If the zone controller can be controlled by an outside automation controller
then is there a way to manually control dampers. For eg. can the controller
open and close the dampers from the automation panel using the software for
the panel?

***zones control are from the WDU....as well as the network***

Does the communication protocol support the status of dampers? For e.g.
which dampers are open of closed. etc.

***again, review the Protocol document***

So I guess I have to read the protocol manual. Which is asking me to read a book in French. I will defer to Spanky and Company to provide us with a solution.

Here is the link to the coveted protocl document. It would be awesome to have one serial port expander control a zone controller and feed the info back.


Just back from EHX and on the way to ISC Show. It will be next week before we can look at the protocol.

You are breaking my heart. Gee next week and not sooner :p .

Have a good trip. No rush....remember...my hard earned money likes to make it to your pockets before it goes anywhere else so don't give up on us. :rolleyes:

I am just starting the new home construction process and will soon be facing somewhat similiar concerns. There will be two AC/Heat units. One will be zoned (just two zones - mutually exclusive) and one will not (single zone). I plan to use RCS Tstats, and maybe RCS zone controller.

I am thinking that since the one unit will only have 2 zones (either heat/cool the gagrage or the game room - never both together), it might be easier to just control the damper with the Elk only (no zone controller). The question then becomes, how can I tell the HVAC unit which Tstat is should use as the input?

I was thinking about having the RCS Tstat in the game room and only an Elk Tsensor in the garage. To heat/cool the garage, I would have to set the damper to the right postion via the Elk (easy), but then have to figure out how to pass the Garage temp. reading into the HVAC unit (or pass it into the RCS to fake it out). Ideas? I am I missing something easier?

Just to let everyone know the Dallas area Automation User's Group will be attempting this integration on a limited basis on Saturday the 22nd of April. We have a home in which we have installed the Elk and have that working. We are going back to connect in the 10 RCS thermostats with the 3 Zone controllers to the Elk. Our goal at this point is to allow the Elk to talk to the thermostats and get status and possibly allow the Elk to set temperature. At this point we will let the Zone controllers continue doing what they have been doing. We are doing this in the hopes that Elk will come out in the future with the structure to work with the zone controllers. I will keep you posted with the results.
You can connect the a number (don't remember the exact number) of RCS thermostats to one serial port exander... and it should work fine. The question remains if you connect the termostats to the RCS zone controller and connect the zone controller to the serial port expander in ELK.

Will that work?

From Elk and RCS (see e-mail string below) 4/13/06

Good afternoon Mr. Marty,

Thank you for your interest in the ELK-M1 Cross Platform Control System to meet your security as well as automation needs. ELK has received several requests asking if the ELK-M1G supports communication with the RCS Zone Control System. The answer is, not to its full extent. The RCS protocol implemented in the M1XSP only supports individual addressed thermostats. The Zone Control System has a single address and looks and acts like a single thermostat to the M1XSP.

When the M1XSP send commands with the address of the Zone Control System all the thermostats connected to the Zone Control System receive the command (i.e. the setpoints on all zoned thermostats change to 64°). This is because the M1XSP doesn’t include the “Z=x†with the command string to control a specific zone.

There are also other commands that are not included in the present M1 data structure for the thermostats that would be nice to have for the Zone Control System (i.e. damper/vent control). Your request has been added to the list of future enhancements. This request will need to be evaluated to see if is feasible and if implemented will be a firmware update to both the M1 and the M1XSP.

Best regards,

Brad Weeks
Technical Support
1-800-797-9355 Ext. 224

-----Original Message-----
From: SMarty
Sent: Thursday, April 13, 2006 1:47 PM
To: Brad Weeks
Subject: Fw: RCS Tstat & Zone Controller W/ Elk M1 Gold

Dear Sir/Ma'am,

Please see the forwarded e-mail below from RCS.

While it is clear from the literature that Elk can support RCS TR16/40 series thermostats, for the situation below, the least expensive (and newer) route would be to use the ZCV series zone controller and the TS series thermostats. Can Elk interface with the ZCV controller and its TS series thermostats?


----- Original Message -----

From: Bruce Wiens
To: 'SMarty'
Sent: Thursday, April 13, 2006 11:35 AM

Subject: RE: RCS Tstat & Zone Controller W/ Elk M1 Gold

Mr. Marty:

The answers will be the same as I gave you this past Tuesday morning when you called in.

***please see embedded responses below***

RCS, Inc

From: SMarty
Sent: Wednesday, April 12, 2006 7:52 PM
To: [email protected]
Subject: RCS Tstat & Zone Controller W/ Elk M1 Gold

Dear Sir/Ma'am,

After carefully reading over the Elk M1XSP installation document concerning RCS thermostats (and looking over RCS's catalog), I have some questions about how I should set up in my soon to be built new house to have optimum RCS/M1Gold functionality.


The house will have two HVAC units. Unit #1 (the main unit) will NOT be zoned and will use a TRS40 thermostat (no questions here). Just simply connect it to the M1Gold via the Elk M1XSP module as described in the Elk literature. Unit #2 (feeds either the game room or the garage) will be zoned. In carefully looking over the RCS catalog, it appears there are two types of zone boards, either the ZCV series or the ZC series.

For the ZC series the RCS catalog says, " The ZC series zone control units do not have built-in network communication ports. They are for use with standard thermostats where network communication is not needed or with the TX/TR series communication thermostats for network connected systems......."

For the ZCV series, the RCS catalog says, "....The ZCV series do not use "standard thermostats" for each zone but instead uses an RCS Wall Display Unit"....such as the TS40 or TS16.

Here is the question; what zone controller/thermostat combination can the Elk M1Gold best communicate and function with?

***again, check with ELK to make sure their software will support the ZCVx class [ command sets ] Zone Controls as we recommend this [ newer ] class of zone control***

On the surface it would seem like the best answer would be to use the "non-communicating" ZC series zone controller with two TR series communicating thermostats.

***also very do-able….but why??? when that solution costs over +$275.00 more and has a more limited command set***

However, in CAREFULLY looking over the M1XSP installation document there is a picture of a TS series wall display unit being wired to the M1XSP.

****????sorry, don’t understand this comment…TS what? TS16 or TS40? neither wires directly to the M1 unless it goes thru a thermostat control unit first***

What would be the best way to go and why?

***ZCVx class zone controls***

***RCS, Inc***

Please help, it will be time to order this equipment soon.

Best Regards,
Also wanted to add that both RCS & Elk seemed willing to work with each other and both seemed customer oriented (even though I might be a little THICK at times). :lol:
PLEASE NOTE: (reply from Elk) ...we can only hope....
At this time the ELK-M1G doesn’t supports communication with the RCS Zone Control System. This request has been added to ELK’s List for future consideration but will need to be evaluated to determine if feasible. ELK Products can’t guarantee if or when this enhancement will be created for the M1 Gold or the M1EZ8.

Thank you,

Technical Support
Elk Products, Inc.

Best regards,

Brad Weeks
Technical Support
NEW INFO fro Elk...GOOD NEWS!!!!

It appears that the M1 can interact with the Tstats connected with RCS ZVC series zone controllers. See the pasted e-mail below:
Good morning Steve,

It appears ELK had older documentation concerning the RCS Zone Control Units. RSC has made changes to the addressing scheme for their Zone Control Units which allows for individual addressing of thermostats. These new changes allows the M1 to receive and transmit information to individual thermostats; however at this time the M1 still will not be able to control dampers or vents. I’ve included a brief description of the new changes from the RSC Manual for your review. Please let those on the Cocoontech forum know the great news!
Cut from the new ZCV2 & ZCV4 Instruction Manual:

Network Addressing. The RS485 address is set from the Wall Display Unit. Network address 0 is reserved for the Host control unit and address 255 is reserved for global commands.

Each zone in the ZCV control unit is treated like a separate thermostat and has its own RS485 address. When you set the address for the control unit, you are setting the base address for Zone 1. Each zone is sequentially addressed from this number. Note that zone addresses are assigned to all zones on the zone controller, even if they are not used.

For example: a 4 zone control unit set to address 1, each zone address is as follows:

Zone 1 = network address 1
Zone 2 = network address 2
Zone 3 = network address 3
Zone 4 = network address 4

If the next device in the network is a ZCV2, it would need an address of 5 and the zones would be addressed as follows:

Zone1 = network address 5
Zone 2= network address 6

WDU’s can set any address from 1 to 254.

Thank you,
Brad Weeks
Technical Support
ELK Products, Inc.
OK guys here is the hookup we used on the 10 thermostats. If you have any questions just give me a call.
Connection of multiple RCS 485 thermostats to an ELK M1G:
1. Each thermostat is connected to a control unit with all 4 leads and each thermostat must be assigned a unique number.
2. The thermostat control units are connected on the 485 bus to a 485 hub with all 4 leads.
3. The zone controllers are connected to the control unit on the HVAC side of the control unit with all leads.
4. Each controller input to the hub is wired to the serial expander 485 bus on the Elk serial expander with only 3 leads (ground, and the 2 data leads only).
5. Each thermostat is named in the automation section of programming in the Elk, but this does not effect the operation of the thermostats.
6. The Elk should automatically detect each thermostat and display them in RM or on the Elk keypad when the thermostats are displayed.
7. There may be multiple leads on each terminal of the serial expander if multiple 485 hubs are used. This is not a problem if the end of each 485 bus is terminated properly.

As always --- HAVE FUN!?!?
houstonj said:
OK guys here is the hookup we used on the 10 thermostats. If you have any questions just give me a call.
Connection of multiple RCS 485 thermostats to an ELK M1G:
Is this setup using the TRxx RS-485 Thermostats with the RCx Zone Controller? If so, this setup is the same as what we already have.

We would like to use the RCS ZCVx Zone Controllers with the Wall Display units. In this configuration, the Elk will be connected to just the zone controller. The Zone controller will be connected to the Wall Display units. The Elk will control the temperature through the zone controller and perhaps control some features of the zone controller. Although the ZCVx version of the zone controller is more expensive, it does not require the RS-485 version of the thermostats. The Wall Display Units are about $100 cheaper (per thermostat) so the entire setup is cheaper when you use more than one thermostat. Additionally, you could potentially have more control of your HVAC (like vent damper control)
How are you going to get the elk to talk to the zone control black magik?

I thought the big issue was that the m1 does not talk to the zone controller direcrtly?