State of the UPB market?

ralphbsz

New Member
What is the current state of the UPB market? Is continued supply of additional components likely, or is it endangered?

I'm not trying to start a flame war, nor dump on any UPB companies, nor ask whether UPB or a different communication mechanism is better. My question is actually quite simple. In our house, we have ~20 UPB devices, a mix of a little PCS, some HAI, and mostly SimplyAutomated. They are mostly used to control exterior lights and various fans and outlets (attic fans, holiday lights). One PIM connects to homebrew software for control and monitoring. Works great, the hardware is mostly reliable (we've had a few devices fail, perhaps 2 out of the 20 in the last dozen years). We now need to extend it a little bit, for a handful new loads out in the yard.

I'm finding the following: HAI no longer exists; it seems to have been bought by Leviton, then shut down. There used to be a company called HAL, but I think they renamed themselves to HAI, and I haven't seen any of their stuff for sale in a while. SimplyAutomated still has a web page up, but their products seem to not be available new any longer, and their phone seems to be disconnected. PCS products are still showing as available, but their web page (which was never much) has vanished, leaving only an e-commerce web page. Web Mountain I think never built devices (dimmers/switches, user interfaces, relays). For now, I'm probably in decent shape: Just found a few used items on eBay, and PCS devices are still available.

The long-term question is: Is my assessment above of the suppliers reasonable accurate? Do folks expect that additional modules will remain available? Or do folks expect PCS to leave the market soon? For my existing home installation, I think I can survive for many years, if necessary finding used parts. But if I were to significantly extend the installation, would UPB be still a good choice?
 

samgreco

Active Member
I was in a similar situation. I have about 18 UPB devices currently with 6 to 8 unused modules left. No dimmers or switches. When I started to expand, I decided to go with ZWave and Zigbee devices. And that was a year ago.

I really don't believe that UPB will survive for a lot longer. I could be wrong. But I decided it was time to go another way. Almost went with Insteon :) but glad I didn't. I'll use the UPB I have until it dies or software no longer supports it. But that will probably be a while.
 

electron

Administrator
Staff member
I've been wondering this myself. I've migrated almost everything from UPB to Z-Wave, but boy, do I miss the stability. PCSlighting.com does redirect to their webstore now, but still seems to have a significant number of technical documents/support resources. Based on the marketing emails I'm seeing, there is still some development going on, although UPstart development seems to be halted. Maybe @mlester can chime in if he's still around.

Last time I checked Simply Automated's website, their site was down, so maybe they're in process of bring it back.

Would I still go with UPB if I was starting over? Probably not. Despite its performance challenges, I'm enjoying the flexibility of the Z-Wave eco system, but I don't mind the tradeoff (most of the time).

I still have some UPB hardware installed (and probably tons of it in the 'toy box'), as these fans/lights are controlled directly by my ELK M1, and I didn't want to rely on a 3rd party platform to manage those automatons.

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pete_c

Guru
Here still running with UPB for most of the light switches in house #1. I have no issues and have had no failures. I have enough spares to last for a while here. Utilize in wall switches are all SA. Spares are SA, HAI and PCS UPB switches.



I do not see a future for UPB.
 

electron

Administrator
Staff member
Almost all of my SA switches have had some sort of paddle (or micro switch) failure, which is what started my migration to Z-Wave.
 

Techvet

Member
Yes, the UPB marked has shrunk in the past few years. As I recall, there were two big players - PCS and SAI, with HAI and Web Mountain in the mix as well.

I think most of their HAI UPB stuff was actually made by PCS, but with tweaked firmware?? You are correct about the demise of HAI. HAI was purchased by Leviton in 2012, rebranded shortly afterwards, and lived on until Leviton pulled the plug in 2019. I believe that PCS still tries to fill the needs of legacy HAI users with regards to UPB gear.

I'm pretty sure that Web Mountain stuff was mostly rebranded SAI equipment. Their website is still up but acknowledges that supply chain problems have them out of most hardware.

SAI was a powerhouse for many years, and they had some real innovative products. Their pricing was outstanding and places like Automated Outlet bested that with periodic specials. I was hooked big time! Then the original owner died unexpectedly, and things started slowly coming apart. The HQ moved from CA to AZ, and some of the best tech support folks drifted away. The pandemic seems to have been the final blow, and a lot of their equipment suddenly became unavailable. In September of last year, just about everything they make was "discontinued" to many vendors. The SAI website is up but hasn't been updated in forever. The last time I called, the phone was disconnected.

At one time, SAI also had a more consumer facing line called Home Automated Living (HAL), that were sold in higher end electronics stores (including Frey's stores.) I stumbled upon and snagged some of the remaining HAL gear as Frey's was closing it out (which happened about 4-5 years before Frey's themselves went belly-up.) It was 100% identical to regular SAI stuff aside from the label on the back of the switch and the firmware that ID'd it with the HAL item number in UpStart.

This leaves PCS as the lone survivor in the UPB space. Their website recently got refreshed, but they promptly answer e-mails and phones, and the vendor I use can easily get every product they make. You can order direct for PCS as well, albeit at higher prices. I believe everything they sell is made in the USA too. PCS has a weekly e-mail and in one of them they went to great lengths to point out that they have plenty of components to fulfill their needs for some time. I read that to mean that they aren't planning to go away anytime soon.

I'm a UPB fanboy, so we reluctantly started swapping out our SAI equipment for PCS replacements last September and completed the transition this past week. I'll miss some of the SAI innovation. However, with no SAI spares it meant mixing brands and we wanted to expand our UPB footprint in the house anyway. Side by side there are differences (such as LED indicator size) and we wanted things uniform, so we just bit the bullet and phased it in over a period of several months.
 
I was a fan of UPB devices from it's beginning. Still am a fan.

There are/were 3 manufacturers: PCS, SAI and HAI. PCS was the originator and still have the best product.

Web Mountain was just rebranded SAI.

SAI came up with some unique ideas. I liked the replaceable face plates that could be configured in multiple ways. However, over time the switches on these faceplates became problematic. I have been removing the SAI devices and replacing them with PCS and HAI. In the past 15-20 years, I have thrown out more SAI devices than any of the others.

I never did like the convoluted and complex proprietary lighting devices assignment that HAI came up with. So I just configured all my HAI UPB switches like regular UPB devices.

I still have a couple dozen of UPB switches/dimmers in my supply box. And I will continue to use UPB as long as this supply lasts, as long as I can still use my OP2, as long as SnapLink still works, and as long as I am still in this house.

Regards.
 
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