HAI vs. Elk


I'm sure you guys get this question all the time, but I've searched for hours and have learned a lot, but still have questions about these two.

I have finished figuring out the structured wiring system for our new house that will break ground in April. Our builder has a great guy that we can work with that does all the wiring and will add whatever we ask. He is also an HAI dealer and does some home automation, primarily Home Theaters, but he seems willing to work with other systems, too. So I could see that he could be a good partner for helping get me up to speed on whichever system I go with. There is the benefit of him having experience with the HAI. We need to go an hour away to Denver to get an Elk dealer which is somewhat inconvienent. Also, that would probably have to be installed post-construction due to not being one of our builders subs. I think I could buy the Elk products online and work with our wiring guy.

Are there restrictions on who can access/program the Elk? HAI?

I see this becoming a hobby where I will initially work with the wiring guy to get the basic security(door contacts, motion detectors, thinking no window contacts, no cameras), HVAC, smokes, simple home theater, and sprinkler controls, plus a small amount of lighting control installed. Then I would like to take over and gradually install the bells and whistles such as whole house audio, all lights, ceiling fans, full control over the next 5 years or so.

Is one of these systems more user-friendly? Does if matter if you are using something like CQC or Homeseer for control?

I really like the new Elk touchscreen look over the HAI's. My understanding is that the Elk TS is an independent CE device and that the HAI TS needs to interface with a media center PC. Is this correct? I also saw something in a discussion that said you still needed a keypad even if you have the Elk touchscreen. Why? Is this also true for the HAI? I can see using some smaller touchpads in locations where I don't want or need a big visible touchscreen, but is it necessary to have both the main touchpad (KP2) and a touchscreen?

Any negatives about either system anyone wants to warn me about?

:) Thanks
ginnytr said:
Are there restrictions on who can access/program the Elk? HAI?
Elk is fully open and free. Meaning that anyone who has the passwords can do whatever they want to your system as elk supplies the required software to all. Elk also has no problems selling to DIYers.

HAI is primarily sold via installing dealers. Those dealers use special software to configure your system. I am not sure how difficult it is for a DIYer to get that software, but it is not free. I have also heard that HAI support is not the easiest to obtain for DIYers.

Having a local HAI dealer vs a DIY Elk install leaves the question in your hands depending upon your comfort level. If the HAI dealer wasn't local, then I wouldn't even consider it. I picked the Elk with no regrets.
Cocoontech has the greatest DIY technical support anyone could ask for.

Concerning your keypad question, on the M1 you should have at least one keypad. There are some levels of programming and disgnostics that you will want to do from the keypad. ELKRP, which is FREE, will enable you to do most all programming also.

There are three new keypads coming out. The new KP2 which may be recessed or surface mounted with blue backlighting, the new Arming Station which will fit into a decora plate, and the new 7 inch diagonal touchscreen that is Windows CE based. There are other new things in the works, but too early to tell you.

Through ELK technical support or Cocoontech, any installer will have no problem in getting the M1 operational, then you can add functionality at your leisure.
I have to agree with Spanky. I recently bought an ELK and I can tell you that if it wasn't for the users on this forum and spanky (from Elk) I would have been lost. I also love the fact that you can do and program it any way you want and add what you want or not. I did have a security system and everytime I wanted something done...either I was told that they will charge me $80 to show up or that feature was not supported by that installer...even though the hardware was capable of supporting it.

Elk is one of the best HA/Security products that I have bought and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone. MY main reason to move to elk was not becuae of security but to move away from a 100% PC based system (I still use HS with elk and other stuff) and I can tell you that ELK has worked very well for me.

I am totally new to this stuff and required a LOT of hand holding and got all the support on this forum and also from elk.

Don't forget that Cinemar has an ELK plugin for MainLobby. We will be working with ELK on support for their new touchscreen.
Having replaced an Omni Lt with an ELK-M1G I can tell you that I lean towards the M1G. Both products are rock solid from a reliability standpoint. From a features per $ standpoint ELK wins. The features that led me to the M1G were; Full use of the X10 house and unit code range (not quite to UPB yet), more versatile programming language (multiple ANDs in one rule), the optional ethernet interface and a good programming tool to use it (free too).

I've had a couple of technical questions since I installed the M1G. Both were answered promptly by ELK tech support. My impression of HAI is that they are good at supporting dealers and large developers but would rather not talk to DIY selfers.

Ironically I learned about cocoontech after I installed my M1G. The M1G knowledge shared here has become a tremendous asset. Thanks to all who participate here.
I'm in the same situation and am leaning towards ELK for the reasons mentioned plus a few more but have one significant concern about ELK:

The M1 supports Insteon. Insteon switch hardware (especially the ICON series) is a lot less money than any of the HAI (i.e. UPB) options. I'm excluding X10 because it's simply not reliable enough, IMHO, for whole house lighting control. If you have lots of dimmers/switches to buy, the difference between $60 each vs $20 each adds up. That said, from reports here, it sounds like the M1 -> Insteon interface is still a bit buggy (needing artificial delays, etc)?

ELK has more support for third party hardware. A good example would be RS422 thermostats from a few manufactures.

The ELK M1 Gold package is nearly a third the cost of the HAI OmniPro II package.

On the downside, the existing ELK keypad is not very attractive and looks like a 10+ year old design. I haven't used one, but I can't imagine it's much fun to do many automation tasks with a 2 line 16 character text display? I'd say that's the weakest link in the M1 right now. I'm glad to hear ELK is working on some other keypad/touchscreen options as that's an area where they're way behind HAI and just about everyone else.
Somewhere on here someone posted pictures of the new ELK Keypads (or at least one or two of them). They are not as "retro" looking as the KP although I have gotten used to it (I actually know people that love the look). Not realizing that they were coming out with new keypads this year I bought 3 last year for my house where I would have waited on one or two of them.

Talking to friends in the installation business the ELK is much more feature packed and DIY friendly then most other brands.

I have used several other brands over the years and I think the ELK is soooooo much easier to work with. The RP software is free and it is very user friendly.

I admit that I have never used the HAI but it was out of my price range (the ELK is not cheap either but you get a lot more bang for your buck). I was dissappointed with the previous system I had in my home and even my wife agrees the investment in the ELK is worth it (just last night she asked me to change some automation functions and I did it in miutes in RP rules).

ELK also "listens" to customers and address's requests as best that they can. Does anyone know if HAI does that?
Curious, as I'm also looking at integrating a PC, that could do the voice and what not, how do you all think about the ELK-M1EZ8?

I'm looking at going in cheap initially and would then be expanding the capabilities later. Would the EK-M1EZ8 controller be a good starting block?

I know it has less capabilities in terms of voice and telephone control, but it can be expanded with many of the same boards and whatnot.

I've seen the control board itself for about $180.00 which makes it similar in range to the Ocelot (which doesn't necessarily seem as powerful).

What do you think? Even if I'm not interested in the voice/telephone features, would I be shooting myself in the foot in the long run?

Hightest -

Personally I would stick with the M1G. That $180 board doesn't even include a keypad or serial interface.


You mentioned you are considering Insteon. If that's true, keep in mind that the HAI panel doesn't support Insteon and there are no plans for it at this time.

If you want to talk to someone that used to install these systems for a living, please call our office and ask for Jim.

As far as the ability to get them in your area, well, $6.90 is the total shipping price and you won't have to pay sales tax. That's cheaper than you buying it locally!
nwavguy said:
That said, from reports here, it sounds like the M1 -> Insteon interface is still a bit buggy (needing artificial delays, etc)?
Given the speed at which Elk have been adding features and improving existing ones via free to download firmware upgrades I trust that they will improve the Insteon interface. Specially given the importance that Insteon is taking in the market. Notice that:

- They even build a special firmware to support Insteon
- Insteon is the only lightning protocol for which they have added pooling support
- They are even considering partnering with other software maker (PowerHome?) to develop a tool that would allow an easier setup of Insteon for the M1.
The M1 supports over 10 different lighting systems with more coming. By far, Insteon has been the most difficult of all the lighting systems to impliment. We are working towards new Insteon management software to make Insteon easier to install and maintain.

Yes, when any improved M1 software is available, you will be able to download it and upgrade your M1 for FREE.
Just another vote for the M1G, most of the benefits have been covered already.

On the downside, the existing ELK keypad is not very attractive and looks like a 10+ year old design. I haven't used one, but I can't imagine it's much fun to do many automation tasks with a 2 line 16 character text display?
Keep in mind the keypads are used primarily for basic usage (arming/disarming) of the system. You have function keys for some extra control. If you are a heavy user of automation tasks you probably want a graphic rich touchscreen environment like Mainlobby, CQC, etc that can be customized to your use. You can also use ElkRM for a nice, but not as customizable graphic environment. Also keep in mind if you are talking about configuration/programming of the system, while some of that can be done on the keypad itself it is preferred to use the ElkRP software which is very easy to use.
Thanks to Spanky and others for the added info. The new ELK keypad looks A LOT better than the current one (although the changes appear to be only cosmetic?). And future plans for ELK touch screens and better Insteon support are also good to hear.

Unless you need something today that only HAI has (i.e. video touchscreens), ELK seems like a better choice for the many reasons mentioned in this thread.

As a side note, it will be interesting to see how far Insteon goes in the market? It seems to be off to a slow start but is finally picking up some momentum? I talked to most of the lighting folks at CES (i.e. Lutron, Control4, etc.) in January and most dismissed Insteon as low-end hobbyist DIY stuff like X10. But if you believe what the Smarthome folks are saying, it's going to really take off even with professional installers. I know it's not very installer friendly in some ways but the price is right. It's great that ELK supports it. I think they have the only non-PC based solution that's actually shipping so far?