Security + HA + Zigbee?


New Member
I'm in the process of planning a new system for my house. I have an old DSC Power 832 that I was going to use an X-10 controller with. I have a PC that can gather those X-10 commands and do various home automation tasks.

I'm now thinking more along the lines of Insteon/Zigbee now along with a security brain/controller that will handle the entire security task along with a PC for higher functionality...emailing me when zones are triggered etc. Basically something that interfaces with something other than X-10. I don't believe X-10 will work for me for a variety of reasons.

How long until Zigbee products start appearing? Apparently Elk is putting support in, but how long till that?

Maybe I should just go Insteon and be done with it? Zigbee appeals to be because it's an open standard.

Thoughts on all of this? I want to choose the right direction from the start rather than change mid-stream (ie. expensive).

Thanks for any advice :)
toonse said:
How long until Zigbee products start appearing? Apparently Elk is putting support in, but how long till that?
Welcome to CocoonTech! I hadn't heard that Elk was working on Zigbee, but I cannot deny it. Elk already has Z-wave support.
Zigbee is in a wait and see research mode. (Wait and see if anyone wants to buy it!!)
All right, so what should I do then now? Go with a cheapo alarm system until something like Insteon or Zigbee get big...or just do what I can with what's available now?
Zwave is further down the development curve than Zigbee today. There is a major effort behind both technologies. A Zwave interface is available now for the M1 as well as most other lighting systems.

Control 4 uses a Zigbee protocol and has an interface for the M1.

I feel Zigbee will come to market within the next year.
Z-wave looks ridiculously expensive compared to Insteon ($99 per switch compared to $20-$30).

Would I be compromising much by going with Insteon now?
You might be interested in this little spreadsheet comparison I did of Z-wave, Insteon, and UPB. The cost difference between Z-wave and Insteon may be less than you think. I priced out a 24-switch retrofit for my own house (thatI haven't done yet) and found that Z-wave and Insteon are very similar total system cost if the Insteon switches are Switchlinc V2's. If one uses Icon's then the Insteon system costs are about 2/3 that of Z-wave.

These are the costs to ADD lighting control to my pre-existing Elk M1G security system.

I hope this helps, rather than cloud the issue.



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I think it would be more helpful to further break down your parts and prices. I have not been able to get near those numbers (probably just missing a bunch of parts), or just show the automated components since manual switches should not figured into a technology comparison as they can vary quite a bit. Also, for UPB, a phase coupler is not necessarily required. I think most 'average' single panel houses would work fine without one.
Are there any alarm systems OTHER than the Elk that support "notifying a computer about what's happening with zones etc" via a method other than X-10?

I'd need amplifiers and probably a bridge for whatever solution I choose. I have a large house that has two main panels in it.
toonse said:
Are there any alarm systems OTHER than the Elk that support "notifying a computer about what's happening with zones etc" via a method other than X-10?

I'd need amplifiers and probably a bridge for whatever solution I choose.  I have a large house that has two main panels in it.
Not exactly sure what you mean here. What do you want to do with your system? Your original post was pretty generic which is probably prohibiting replies from suggesting what you want.

It sounds to me that you want to have a pretty versatile system so you can decide on the different powerline (or wireless) protocols such as Insteon, Zigbe, Z-Wave, etc... but want the system that you choose to be compatible with a programmable logic controller which in turn can be interfaced with a computer. The logic controller will handle critical functionality such as security and possibly timed events such as turning lighting on and off at various times of the day. The PC will be used to send Emails on an alarm, maybe remote access via web pages, etc...

There are a number of ways to achieve the above scenario. The trick is to pick the components which have the versatility you desire as well as a method of communications which are compatible.

The reason the Elk is attractive and used by so many is, due to its popularity, a lot of HA software companies are writing interfaces for it. Also, a lot of automation hardware manufacturers are doing the same.

Examples of this are CQC and HomeSeer which provide easy plugins to the Elk. X-10, and Insteon are also compatible as far as hardware.

There may be other examples as well, but they may not have the versatility you desire. For instance the GE Caddx NX8e security system can easily communicate with HomeSeer, but there is no mechanism for Insteon. You can supplement with an Ocelot programmable logic controller (which will also include X-10 control), but now the "marriage" between the Ocelot and Caddx (for independent operation without a PC) becomes difficult. You would also have to rely on the PC for Insteon, but Applied Digital (makers of the Ocelot) is looking into a possible Insteon interface for the future.

HAI as another example, has a system which will include a logic controller and security system, and it is also compatible with UPB and X-10. It also has some interface with HA software such as HomeSeer.

Hopefully this information will help you further specify the total package you desire so others can post examples as well.

Good luck,

it would be more helpful to further break down your parts and prices.
I'd be glad to share the prices I used in my analysis. The attached spreadsheet has all the collected data. (3/9/06 6:36 PM: The file attachment is an Excel spreadsheet, zipped) Some background on the research: I browsed through a number of web-sites and looked for reasonable prices

Infrastructure: I have an installed Elk M1G for security, so the material I list here is for what it takes to get a particular lighting automation technology installed on my system. I didn't worry about the smaller items like cables, connectors.

Z-wave: Elk makes a Z-wave RF transciever that goes on the standard keypad communication bus. This interface is a secondary controller, so I would also need a primary controller of which there are many on the market. I chose a lower cost one.

UPB: Elk requires a serial port expander (in essence an additional serial port) to connect the powerline interface module to. I also added a phase coupler.

Insteon: Again, Elk requires a serial port expander, to which I added a power-line interface and a pair of rf-lincs. From some peoples comments I may need quite a few more rf-lincs to have reliable communication.

For the individual switches I pulled prices from a number of quite good web-sites: Automated Oulet and Smarthome being the most helpful. I spent a lot of time to make sure that I found switches that would work with my wide variety of installed lights, compact fluorescents, magnetic low voltage, electronic low voltage, incandescent, halogen... I was able to ultimately find everything I needed in all technologies.
Insteon: All Smarthome, I priced two scenarios: All Icon and All Switchlinc V2.
UPB: A mix of HAI and Simply Automated parts.
Z-Wave: A mix of HomePro and Sylvania switches.

I didn't put any multiple button keypads into any of the systems, as this was an exercise in cost comparison as opposed to an exact cost estimate.

My list also includes some standard manual switches, as this is a retrofit. There are switches that will need to be changed from cheapo-style to decora-style because they are in multi-gang boxes with the new automated switches. You can subtract these costs out if you wish, but they are really a small part of the total.

Total System Cost Summary:
For a 24 switch retrofit
UPB: $2346
Z-Wave: $1679
Insteon Switchlinc V2: $1751
Insteon Icon: $1051

Some observations:
-Insteon seemed to be the most flexible, as there is no difference between a master and slave, and (supposedly) the dimmers are compatible with all my lighting types (fluorescents get relays).
-Z-wave and UPB were more difficult to configure as a system, because particular switches were intended for particular types of lighting, and there are masters and slaves.

I hope this is more helpful. Let me know if I can share any more of my research.

Now I just need to land a job so I can fund the retrofit!


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I would go with z-wave but I am a little biased because I have nothing but z-wave (24+ devices). UPB would be my next choice because it is recommended by so many of the pro installers as being reliable. I plan to atleast test UPB out so that I can offer it to an option to my future cusotmers.

Insteon: well again I have not used insteon but probably won't try it for a very long time because it is not recommended as much. I am sure I will give it a try one day but not any time soon.

So I know none of that really helps you but this might. I would not skimp out on an alarm system. The elk company has been making alarm systems for a long time and is really involved in our community. Spanky(a forum use who replied to your post) has listened to many of the cocoooners request and has implemented many of them. If you buy an elk you can be pretty darn sure that you will have good tech support from the company as well as good support from other cocooners. Plus the elk is so much more than an alarm system don't think of it as buy an expensive alarm system think of it as buy a inexpensive Home Automation controller.

The good thing is that Elk support UPB, Insteon, and Z-wave which have all been mentioned here and are the three top choices right now. The other good news is that with a little bit of work you could probably get away with mixing technologies. Nothing is stoping you from buy multiple types of devices.

With that said if you want to purchase an elk contact me and I will give you a good price on a starter kit just for being a new guy. Sometimes it takes a little incentive to make the jump and I would be happy to push you into the water :)

Please tell us more about your Z-Wave experiences. I like the relibility (reputation) of UPB and the availability of components. I like the cost and features (promise) of Insteon. I like the freedom from powerline issues with Z-Wave (but what of RF communication issues?) does your system include and Elk M1G? How is the relibility? How much trouble have you had with installing and configuring the system? Please, tell us more. You are the first person I've heard from who actually has Z-Wave....

Sure, there are plenty of people using z-wave. My experiences have been pretty good so far. I have not yet used it with the Elk but I plan to in the near future. I was using CQC to control z-wave but CQC has been having issues with learning the remotes so I have actually been using a beta software which I am not sure I am allowed to discuss and that software has been doing a great job.

I have written my own programs in .net to control z-wave. If this is of interest to you then you should check out ControlThink offers an SDK (Software Developers Kit) for roughly $49 and that kit includes a USB stick and the DLL for writing your own applications to control z-wave.

My experiences with the z-wave hardware have been pretty good. All the devices play nicely together and setup is pretty easy. The only issues I have had with z-wave were improperly programed light switches manufactured by ACT and light switches that stoped working that were also manufactured by ACT. ACT has not been the easiset company to get support with so if you buy z-wave I would avoid them if possible. Their stuff works but the quality is not that great.

I am running Intermatic switches as well as act switches and they work nicely together. From a hardware point of view they are flawless except with the above mentioned faulty switches. My Intermatic switches have been running like champs and most of my act switches work pretty well also. I have noticed with the act switches that some of them don't like to respond all the time. Its almost like they are using poor transmitters. You don't see this problem in the intermatic switches and probably never will because they are using the actual z-wave chip. act switches from the past (the ones i have) were using a emulation circuit and not the actual z-wave chips.

Z-wave is coming out with a ton of stuff from a ton of companies but they have not hit the market yet. I imagine we may see a few products available at the next EHX expo.

So as you can see z-wave has not been perfect but there have been a lot of new developments recently. With the new z-wave alliance organization all of the manufactures have started talking to each other to make sure their devices are compatable and speak the same language. If I were a beginner interested in z-wave I would not invest too much money into it just yet. I would wait until intermatic has a full line of devices as well as a few of the other manufactures whos names i forget. ACT is still selling their crappy devices but they have discontinued a few of the crappy devices.

To sum it up the z-wave technology is great and I really like it but the earlier manufactures did a poor job taping into its power which has given it a bad name. The next generation of devices should be awesome. I would just jump in and buy whatever your gut says to buy right now but don't buy enough for your entire house. Buy enough to play with them and make your own opinion so that you have money to change your mind if you happen to not like that technology.