My UPB install - Phase I


Senior Member
Well, after testing x10, UPB and Insteon, I made my decision and committed to UPB. I spent most of the day rewiring some outlets and installing/moving 8 switches and setting them up in UPStart and ElkRP. The switches I used are the US2-40 from Simply Automated. They are all currently configured with just the single rocker faceplate. I am planning a full review of the various UPB switches I tried but for now I thought I'd share my experience doing this real mini-install. I called it Phase I because I will be adding more switches, etc. as funds become available.

Overall I would rate the experience an A- / B+

Switches / Wiring

All 7 of the new switches worked fine with no DOAs. For the most part the switch replacements went smoothly. The switches were of high quality, come with nice easy to remove plastic 'labels' which I did not write on but they keep the switches scratch free unlike others I've seen. Another nice touch is the switch has a plastic 'cap' over the light pipe which protects it during shipping and install. I think this will help eliminate some of the 'defects' people report which many times turn out to be air gap issues. The only very minor issue I had is due to the flexibility. Some of the faceplates had to be fooled around with so they clicked correctly. This is not the spring tension issue that has been fixed, but the legs that fit into the switch body sometimes stuck which required some tweaking of the faceplate. I only had this issue on a few of the switches and was very minor. I rather deal with that and have the flexibility of changing the faceplates.

The only other problem had to do with a 3-way circuit. The problem is in my house wiring. There are 2 switches controlling 6 recessed lights. One switch box on an interior wall had a neutral in the box and I probably could have installed a switch there without issue. The problem was the switch on the outside wall (where I wanted the slave) was no neutral in the box. The electricians used the white wire as a hot without taping it black or anything. I climbed in the attic to see how the cans were wired and the Lord only knows. Some cans had 1 wire run to it, some 2 and some 3. I could not follow their scheme. Anyway, without the neutral I could not use the slave so I skipped this 3-way circuit.

All in all it went very well, just frustrated from the builders wiring


Well, unlike the advice I give about RTFM, I only skimmed the manual early on during testing, so I went pretty much on experience from testing.

Initially I thought it would be easy to do a 'multiple device' setup, so I put all devices into setup mode (click a rocker 5 times). One switch which I recycled from a test location I first did a default reset (click rocker 10 times) then put it in setup mode. Ok, so when a ran a multiple device scan it got through 4 devices then blew up. I'm not sure but it is possible the wife turned on the cook top during this time and the cook top spews out a ton of noise (another issue) so I can't be sure. Anyway, I had 4 devices now and they all have the same device ID. I decided a multiple install was probably not the best method, after all it is not a huge multilevel or multibuilding install that the multiple add mode is probably designed for. I also noticed strangely that after a full reset, the existing switches still retained their name and id.

So... I removed the four devices just added and then just added them 1 at a time. This went much better with zero issues. All switches came up and I was able to name and number them then program. I saved the program for each switch (only about 10 sec) rather than doing a delayed global save. This way I went right into the test tab for each switch and tested it before moving on. About half the switches controlled fluorescent loads, so they had to be configured for non-dimming. It was very easy and quick to go through all the switches and configure them.

The only thing I noticed is the US240s don't have options (Options tab) for top and bottom rocker configs like the US11s did. Maybe they need to just have links, my weak spot - need to RTFM on that before commenting.

All in all, once I did the 1 at a time install, everything was fine.

Misc / Summary

The programming of the M1 was a breeze and went without issue. I did learn one thing which was probably the source of some pre-cutover changes. In the M1, the switch needs to be defined as a dimmer, even if it is controlling a fluorescent load. I had some configed as on/off switch, but on/off is the setting for links. So set them as dimmer in the M1 and as long as they are set as non-dimmable in UPStart, all should be good. Preliminary M1 testing / rules looked good with no negative results.

Ok, I mentioned the cook top. It is an electric cook top with electronic controls. When it is on any setting except full on, it spews out a ton ('high' in UPStart) of noise. If the cook top was on, programming of a switch failed due to noise. But I also noticed that in all my tests, albeit brief, actual on/off signals went through despite the noise. With the cook top off, there were no programming issues. The bright side is that Simply Automated is working with me to build a monster filter for the thing - can't beat that for support!

So in summary it was a really uneventful install except for my house wiring. For anyone looking to use UPB I would highly recommend it based on my install experience. I'll report how well it works later.

Edit: Wanted to add a few 'usabilty comments' about oft mentioned issues. First is the infamous buzz. The buzz is simply a capacitor discharging when sending signals on the line. It happens on all devices including switches, plug in devices and PIM's. My and my wifes personal opinion is that this is a non issue. Unless you have bionic hearing or your ear is very close to the switch, you do not even hear it. If you constantly fret over it and think about it subconsciously, you will hear it. In practical terms it is not an issue IMHO.

On speed, yes, there is a slight delay when you press a switch. This is due to the switch looking for multiple taps - double or 5 or 10 for setup. The delay is very slight. If you need instant gratification, you may be somewhat disappointed. If, like me, you believe good things are worth waiting for, the quality and reliabilty of UPB make up for this slight delay. SAI has received a lot of feedback and suggestions on how to eliminate this and there is a decent chance there will be a modified switch next year that improves this. That being said, PLC signals from the M1, UPStart or anything else is just about instant. By the time I push a button and look up, the light is on.

Simply Automated does seem to have some of the best UPB switches in the market. They certainly seem to care a lot about continuing to improve their products too.

I'm curious. What made you choose UPB over Insteon and X10?

That's funny Chris! You asked why over all the protocols except Zwave :)

Great question. It was not an easy choice but I had too many sores from sitting on the fence. I'll list the protocols and why I chose not to go with them, some of which may be dupes from previous posts.

Simply too unreliable, at least in my house. I had a few Switchlincs I was testing, and while the switches were ok, signals were missed all the time. I tried couplers/repeaters, etc. with no great gains in reliability. I spent a whole weekend troubleshooting by flipping breakers, pulling plugs, even taking out hardwired switches like fan controls and dimmers. Tested extensively with x10 meter. I never could get a decent signal throughout the house. One room I still had low level noise with absolutely nothing plugged in, all wall switches pulled and this being the only breaker on. After that experience, I pulled the plug on x10 and moved on.

I really tried hard to like Insteon. The switches were nice and priced right. The biggest problem with Insteon was lack of software and vendor support. I know many vendors/developers are working hard on it, and it may really take off one day, but it is a bit off and I did not want to wait for it. I did try it with an 'alpha' version of Elk support but it was way too early to be usable. Also the lack and unknown timeframe of something like INStart to configure switches was a major factor. And if I wanted a SALad IDE, I would go to Sweet Tomatoes.

UPB was attractive from the beginning. I tried switches from all the manufacturers. It simply just worked. The only problem I ever had was with noise from my cook top as explained above. It seemed very robust and reliable which was a key for me. It also had a very powerful and fairly mature software setup program in UPStart. The major detractor to UPB was price, but I guess thats where the old adage you get what you pay for comes in. Since I only need around 25 devices (yeah sure) I figured I could get there reasonably in phases.

I know you didn't ask, but I am not a fan of wireless for several reasons which I won't get into. I am impressed with the work you have done with it and it seems like it may be a good choice for those don't share the same feelings as I do regarding wireless. Since I 'won' an SDK and lamp module (thanks Brian!) I plan on at least testing it for my own edification. I will comment on my findings when I receive the SDK, but I can tell you the lamp module is really fugly.

So as Paul Harvey would say, now you know the rest of the story.
You said your stove put out enough noise to screw stuf up. Does this only happen when you are setting up the devices or do you notice problems during regular use while the stove is on. Is it an electrical stove? (I assume it is). How about the microwave and your dryer. Those are power hogs and I would expect the same noise from them. What happens if you run all three at the same time?

I would like to hear you experience with noise and UPB devices. If you ever have problems that you think are noise related please document them.
FWIW - I have an electric stove and oven. I have not tested with these devices on (or dryer or microwave), but in the course of daily usage - they have never been a problem for me at all.

I will try to test with these devices to see if it affects my noise levels in UPstart and will post my findings later.
No, its only the cook top. Most likely because of the electronic controls or the electronics they use to control the setting. Its a fancy schmancy one. Most of the time when it is only any setting besides 10 (full on), it spews anywhere from Moderate to Severe (in UPB terms) noise. This noise usually affect UPStart. Network discoveries show things all over the place going crazy (a very early experience I had before I knew related to noise), fail programming, etc. The good news is it does not seem to affect normal functioning, meaning on/off signals, etc get through, albeit once in a while with a slight delay most likely due to a few retries. Even with Severe noise I could not get a device to 'miss', at least so far. Me thinks UPB gonna be a big winner.
FWIW - I tested my cooktop and microwave tonight... didn't see any change in the noise levels in UPstart.

read Steve's first post carefully. He has an electric cooktop with ELECTRONIC controls.

This could result in a lot of line noise, as the electronics are possibly "switching" on and off rapidly, trying to maintain a precise temprature maybe within + or - one degree.

Imagine something similar to an electric motor, such as an electric mixer, with the brushes going bad, spewing lots of "electric garbage" on the line.
Yes, I believe you're right John. We splurged on this particular appliance, THIS is the model. It's really nice but I sure could live without the noise. Since the manufacturer could not supply a filter, SAI actually went out and got the guts so they could test it and build a filter. Need I say more about their support?
JohnBullard said:
read Steve's first post carefully.
I realize this... which is why I posted FWIW (For what it's worth)... some people may read Steve's post and become concerned - so I simply pointed out that not ALL electric stoves and microwaves cause a noise issue. Took me all of 30 seconds to test and add my comments. I didn't realize it was causing a problem adding some additional insights to the situation. :eek:

No problem :p

I just wanted to point out that Steve's cooktop is not "ordinary".

Usually an electric stove or cooktop can be a friend to PLC installations and microwave ovens usually use a very well regulated powersupply and filtering and also are usually not a cause of powerline noise.

Steve - NICE cooktop! I hope SAI is successfull with the filter for it. Sure would hate to be around when you say, "Honey, the cooktop has to go, it messes up my UPB switches!" :eek:
Hehe, I don't think I would survive that. It would be more like, Honey, couldn't your order in more, I hate to see you slaving in the kitchen over the cook top. :eek:

At least the good news is that even if the filter did not happen, at appears that the UPB signals get through anyway and things still work.