Lighting Interface Options

Stainless

Member
I'm in the process of installing my first Elk M1 controller.  I would like to integrate lighting control with the system - specifically being able to choose "scenes" for a group of lights.  Looking through the Elk web site is starting to make my head spin.  There is Z-wave, Lutron, Radio RA, etc.  What I'm looking for is the following:
 
1.) Something that does not require a huge investment.  I don't have a problem spending a little bit of money now and adding as I go.  But don't want to spend thousands of dollars just to get a basic setup working.
 
2.) Something that can be installed with consumer available devices and software.  I don’t want to have to call in someone who is “factory certified” to install a couple of light switches or use a system that can only be programmed by a dealer.
 
3.) I don't have a problem adding an "integrating interface" to the Elk - just need to know exactly which components to acquire.
 
4.) I want something reliable.  My previous setup I was running an HAI system with X-10 modules.  The HAI was solid, but the X-10 was not, so I ended up removing all X-10 components a couple years later.
 
5.) I have no desire to use any “smart devices” - Alexa, Echo, Nest, whatever - call me old fashioned, but I just want to use the Elk Keypad control the lighting.  If the partner system has it’s own keypad, that’s fine, but still need to be able to control through the Elk.
 
 

pete_c

Guru
Welcome to the Cocoontech forum Stainless.
 
Here still using X10, UPB, Zigbee and ZWave with my OmniPro 2 panel.  Software addendum software running here is Homeseer and Home Assistant.
 
All of my in wall switches are UPB today and I have been happy with UPB for a long time now.
 

xlurkr

Active Member
Stainless:
 
With Elk another choice is to use the ISY to control Insteon.  Communication between the two is over a network link, which gives you a lot of versatility in placement and wiring (or wireless).
 
Downsides are single-source (and a dicey one at that) for devices, and the need to do at least a little bit of "programming" on the ISY as well as the Elk.  But it's definitely DIY-friendly.
 
-Tom
 

42etus

Active Member
I agree with xlirkr above. The ISY integrates very well with the Elk to control Insteon devices. An Elk/ISY system would satisfy all five of your requirements.
 

Stainless

Member
Thank you for the information!  This helps me to narrow things down - so I'm thinking of either UPB or Insteon devices.  I like the UPB because it sounds like it's very similar to X-10 in functionality (which is what I'm used to) but eliminates the issues X-10 seems to have.  But then they seem to have an increased cost as opposed to other options.  The Insteon looks promising and I like the flexibility of it.  Although, it sounds like the Insteon has to work with ISY which seems to me to be an extra step in the process.  I'm still a good month away before I'm ready to start purchasing devices so I have some time to do more research, but this gives me a good starting point.  I need to get the Elk panel up and running 100% before I work on the lighting side of things.
 

sic0048

Senior Member
Is this new construction?  Are you sure how the switches are wired? 
 
In older homes, the switch leg is very often just the "hot" leg of the circuit that the switch closes when turned on.  It's only recently that homes are being wired with the neutral (also called "common") wire also located in the switch box.  Many of the lighting options require a neutral wire in order to work correctly.  Therefore many of the lighting options aren't a good fit in older homes without having to rewire the switch legs. It's just something you need to be aware of and double check how your switches are wired.
 
This picture show the way older jobs were wired with the neutral wire (the white wire at the light) not traveling to the switch.  Even though there is a white and black wire at the switch, in reality they are both the hot wire (black wire at the switch) that drops to the switch and then back to the light.
 
74e10558f0701a863ad0f7569cb3edbdaadf0ae3.png

 
Here is a picture with the hot and common wires both at the switch (and both going to the light).  This is the type of wiring needed by a lot of automated lighting options.
fbb64c2388684cd2b22de1329785f41f18f5a438.png

 
Hopefully you can understand the difference.  Hopefully you have the second option in your house!
 

Stainless

Member
New construction - so all the switches have neutrals. In fact, I even had the electrician install a couple of 3-way switches in the basement for a handful of lights upstairs so I could install contactors on those circuits.  This way I could directly control them from the Elk panel via output relays.  I'm still going to do that, but now I want to add more lights to the system.
 

Stainless

Member
Forgive my ignorance, but what will the ISY actually do for me?  I was reading up on it, and it says it will "control lights" but what is it doing that the Elk isn't already doing for me?  Or is it basically an interface between the Elk and Insteon devices?  It looks like the ISY will do a lot more, but all I'm interested in for now is lighting control.
 

xlurkr

Active Member
It is an interface between the ELK and Insteon devices, and more.  It will discover the Insteon devices in your house, interrogate them for their identity and characteristics, and allow you to configure them easily, any way you want.  In addition to allowing the ELK to control your lights, both through ELK interfaces and automation rules, it also facilitates creating the kind of device-to-device links that makes things more bulletproof and powerful, like "double-click off" on your bedroom lightswitch turns off every light in the house, simultaneously and instantly, without requiring the use of any ELK rules.  I've heard many other users say that they prefer programming the ISY to programming the ELK, but I don't have much experience with the ELK, so don't take my word for it.
 
Recently, the ISY has added control for lots of other devices.  Z-Wave was first, then came a way to make other devices with internet interfaces to act like native Insteon devices.  I don't know if either one can show up as an ELK lighting unit, but I would guess that Z-Wave can.
 
If you buy the ELK module, the control is two-way, so the ISY is aware of the state of arming, zones, motions, etc., and can react to changes.  You could have the ISY turn on your TV, audio, etc. when you enter and disarm, and turn it all off when you arm and depart.
 
-Tom
 

Stainless

Member
xlurkr said:
It is an interface between the ELK and Insteon devices, and more.  It will discover the Insteon devices in your house, interrogate them for their identity and characteristics, and allow you to configure them easily, any way you want.  In addition to allowing the ELK to control your lights, both through ELK interfaces and automation rules, it also facilitates creating the kind of device-to-device links that makes things more bulletproof and powerful, like "double-click off" on your bedroom lightswitch turns off every light in the house, simultaneously and instantly, without requiring the use of any ELK rules.  I've heard many other users say that they prefer programming the ISY to programming the ELK, but I don't have much experience with the ELK, so don't take my word for it.
 
Recently, the ISY has added control for lots of other devices.  Z-Wave was first, then came a way to make other devices with internet interfaces to act like native Insteon devices.  I don't know if either one can show up as an ELK lighting unit, but I would guess that Z-Wave can.
 
If you buy the ELK module, the control is two-way, so the ISY is aware of the state of arming, zones, motions, etc., and can react to changes.  You could have the ISY turn on your TV, audio, etc. when you enter and disarm, and turn it all off when you arm and depart.
 
-Tom
 
Thanks!  When I'm ready to go full into adding lighting to the system, I'll take this into consideration.
 

sjht

Active Member
Currently have an OmniPro 2 with zwave lighting. The main zwave interface between the OP2 and the lighting is a Leviton VRC0P-1LW.  All various Zwave devices are from their Vizia+ series with programming done through their usb installler tool.  If I go with Elk and ISY994, can I use all of my current zwave devices, but NOT use the VRV0P-1LW or their installer tool?   Both of those have been a bit problematic over the years.  Thanks. SJ
 

xlurkr

Active Member
I just noticed that no one replied to this post.  Maybe someone else has first-hand knowledge, but here's my 2 cents.  The Elk will get a list of the ISY's lighting units (it calls them nodes) and create an Elk unit for each one.  Then you can control them and respond to their status on the Elk like any other supported protocol.
 
I tested that a while ago with only Insteon lighting, and it worked as advertised.  I don't know if Z-wave units on the ISY are transported over correctly.  If no one else can testify, I might be able to set up a test in the next few days.
 
Likewise, I'm pretty sure the the ISY could enroll any of your Vizia+ devices after they were excluded from the current network.  But I have no way to test that for you, because I have no Vizia+.  If you search the ISY forum you might find someone who knows for sure.
 
-Tom
 
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