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UPB first impressions

DeLicious

Active Member
So, first of all, I want to thank Martin at Automated Outlet for getting me my starter kit so quickly. I expected it to arrive next Monday, and it showed up on Friday, which gives me the whole weekend to install! It was a nice surprise.

With that, I spent part of the day today installing my first modules with the help of my brother-in-law. I installed a plug-in lamp module for my wife's bedside lamp, and a universal transceiver with 8-button faceplate to replace the main lightswitch in my bedroom. And my first impressions??

Underwhelmed.

However, before I get to the problems and related questions (which I hope someone can answer), I'll mention the highlights of this whole process.

The good:
1. The software package UPStart detected very little signal noise and was relatively straightforward to use.
2. I have yet to require a phase coupler, even though one came with my KPE-08 starter kit (from Automated Outlet... another plug for Martin, not that that is necessary on this board).
3. The installation process was very easy. For a guy that had never even opened a switch or outlet until a couple of days ago to find out what kind of wiring I had in my home, the installation was pretty simple. The only problem was that I got confused initially with the two black (live) wires. I couldn't figure out which one came from the power source, and which one went to the light itself, and looking at the old switch didn't help me any because I don't know which goes where on the old switch either. My first attempt at installation, I got the two mixed up and must have installed them backwards, because nothing worked. But once I switched them around, everything lit up like a charm.

The bad/The questions:
1. My very first complaint was going to be that the responsiveness of the switch was not ideal. There have been several occasions when I tried to turn on the overhead light, and the switch required two presses to turn the light on. However, after further experimentation, it actually turns out that after I have activated the "All Off" scene (through button 8 on my 8-button switch), it takes two presses to turn on any of the lights, whether it's the overhead (button 1) or my wife's lamp (button 2). This happens without fail. Any ideas why?

2. Local control on the plug-in lamp module didn't work. When I had local control enabled through UPStart, the light wouldn't turn out at all, even when UPStart send the Off signal. The second I disabled local control of the light, the module started functioning as expected. However, the wife was incredulous that she could no longer turn off her bedside lamp from her bedside... instead, it must be turned off from the wall (currently no tabletop controller)

3. The delay is noticeable. It's exacerbated by the fact that we use compact fluorescent lights to save energy, and those take their own fraction of a second to turn on as well, so the delay is just a little bit longer. However, it's not likely to cause me much grief, and I'll probably just get used to it.

4. This is really my own fault, but no tabletop controller came with my starter kit. I bought the KPE-08 for $125 (normally $175), and it has:
1 computer interface module
1 wired-in phase coupler (not necessary yet)
1 plug-in lamp module
1 standard transceiver switch
2 universal transceiver switches
3 faceplates

For the same money, I could have bought the KPE-06, which has:
1 universal transceiver
1 computer interface module
1 plug-in appliance module
1 plug-in lamp module
1 tabletop controller
3 faceplates

All in all, I still think I got the better end of the deal, but just no way to control my stuff without having to get out of bed. This is partially mitigated by the existence of ZTP2, the tabletop pedestal enclosure into which I can install a universal or standard transceiver and use it as a tabletop controller, for only $9.95. And since my KPE-08 came with 3 switches (2 universal, 1 standard), I guess I can spend the extra $9.95 for one of these. Comparatively, simply-automated.com also makes available a pedestal with a built-in universal transceiver and an 8-button faceplate for $119 (Automated Outlet). Also note that a universal transceiver with 8-button faceplate sells separately for $99.95 (AO), so it seems you're paying an extra $10 for someone to put the transceiver in the pedestal for you if you pay the full $119.

5. One of UPB's big selling points is true 2-way status notification. What this does NOT mean (to my great disappointment) is that you can know the status of a light across the house. My new universal transceiver switch (with 8-button faceplate, I can't stress how great that is) gives an indication that the overhead light is turned on by switching the color of the LED. Howver, when I activate my wife's lamp module, no positive indication is given anywhere. Obviously, I can see the lamp come on since I'm in the same room, but what if I was trying to turn on the lights in the living room? How would I really know if they came on? I suppose I was expecting two-way status notification of every link on the switch, not just the primary load.

6. Although the switch came pre-programmed to control the local load, I didn't see any way in UPStart to change this. That is, my button #1 controls the overhead light in the bedroom (I made it a toggle). Suppose I wanted button 7 to do this instead? I didn't see a straightforward way to make this work, but I guess I could have overlooked something.

7. There is no way for me to control the overhead light separately from the overhead fan (they are one appliance). That is, if I want to turn off my overhead light but leave the fan running (it's hot in Texas, even at night), I still have to pull a cord on the fan. Would be nice to control these separately (especially once I get a tabletop controller for my nightstand).

OK, thanks for letting me share my story. Depsite the initial underwhelm-ment (is that a word?), I'm still going to go forward and install the rest of my starter kit (with the possible exception of the phase coupler if it is not needed, and also probably one of the universal transceivers to save it for the tabletop pedestal). I imagine once I get more things up an running, it will just get cooler and cooler.
 

frankdr

Member
The only problem was that I got confused initially with the two black (live) wires.
My electrician coiled up the load side wire. I don't know if this is standard, but it sure helped me figure out which is which.
1. My very first complaint was going to be that the responsiveness of the switch was not ideal.
Yep. Common complaint. You can find a few threads here about it.
2. Local control on the plug-in lamp module didn't work.
Mine either. Common issue also. There are some notes in the instructions about it.
5. One of UPB's big selling points is true 2-way status notification.
UPB just by itself isn't too exciting. When you link it to an automation system, it really becomes useful. In that application, it's two-way notification.
6. Although the switch came pre-programmed to control the local load, I didn't see any way in UPStart to change this.
UPStart takes a while to get the hang of. Once you work with it for a while, it becomes easier to get it to do what you want.
7. There is no way for me to control the overhead light separately from the overhead fan
If your electrician didn't wire them to separate switches, I don't think there's much you can do.

Best of luck with your testing. I don't think there's a perfect system yet, but UPB seems to be a decent option. I'm going to stick with it.

Later,
Frank
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
For identifying hot wires in an electrical box get one of those "no contact" AC testors. (Sometimes called Hot Sticks) These are cheap battery testors used just for identifying hot wires.

They are insulated so you don't actually make electrical contact with the AC wiring but when they touch, or are close to, a hot wire they light up and beep. Also good for confirming that the power is really off before you strat working in the box.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
HoustonFirefox said:
Cut your losses and go with Z-Wave instead B)
Or Insteon. Insteon keypads will give you visual feedback of the controlled switches on the other side of the house. Z-Wave keypads will... oh wait, there aren't any Z-Wave keypads.
 

Steve

Senior Member
HoustonFirefox said:
Cut your losses and go with Z-Wave instead ;)
Yeah, just be careful where you put your frying pan cause it may kill your lights - true story.
 

Steve

Senior Member
1. My very first complaint was going to be that the responsiveness of the switch was not ideal. There have been several occasions when I tried to turn on the overhead light, and the switch required two presses to turn the light on. However, after further experimentation, it actually turns out that after I have activated the "All Off" scene (through button 8 on my 8-button switch), it takes two presses to turn on any of the lights, whether it's the overhead (button 1) or my wife's lamp (button 2). This happens without fail. Any ideas why?
There is a slight delay when controlling a local load, but is does *not* require 2 keypresses. In fact, 2 keypresses should trigger 'Snap On' (no ramp up). Also, if you are using CFL's MAKE SURE the dimming is disabled in Upstart. If you do not disable dimming and control a non dimmable cfl or other light you will have problems like very long delays and erratic behavior.

5. One of UPB's big selling points is true 2-way status notification. What this does NOT mean (to my great disappointment) is that you can know the status of a light across the house. My new universal transceiver switch (with 8-button faceplate, I can't stress how great that is) gives an indication that the overhead light is turned on by switching the color of the LED. Howver, when I activate my wife's lamp module, no positive indication is given anywhere. Obviously, I can see the lamp come on since I'm in the same room, but what if I was trying to turn on the lights in the living room? How would I really know if they came on? I suppose I was expecting two-way status notification of every link on the switch, not just the primary load.
For two way status, you need something to indicate it. Mike mentioned the Insteon keypadlinc, the HAI or PCS 6 or 8 button controller are the equivalant. If you had one of those, you can see status of light in other rooms. The LED on each switch is for local load status only (or diagnostics). Or, as Frank said, you can hook into another system and see two way status info.
 

mdiehl

Active Member
Sure there are keypads for Z-Wave, just very portable and wireless... :) For Insteon, not so much... ;)
 

elcano

Active Member
HoustonFirefox said:
Cut your losses and go with Z-Wave instead ;)
Delicious,

Valids points there. As you are learning now, no system is perfect (even hardwire). All depends on what compromises you are willing to make. I have been reading you blog and is evident that you are doing you homework on studying the pros/cons on every system, but for other's benefit with regard to the comment above its important to point out that:

- As of today, the z-wave device will acknowledge only the remote control keypad that sends the command. With a minor exception, the main house controller will not know what is happening in the house. In my opinion this can't be called home auotomation, much less a smart home. This is just plain dump remote control as you do with your TV. The only exception that I know is Homeseer, that implements some hacks to bypass this deficiency in existing z-wave devices.
- Yes, Z-wave has some devices in the pipeline that will solve this problem (they say), but they will not be cheaper than UPB. Actually, they might be more expensive - once they arrive. But you have to wait, again.
- You might face RF signal problems if your electrical boxes are metallic. This should not be a problem if you are willing to replace ALL you switches at the same time so that they can help each other repating the signal.

I like the protocol a lot, but these three reasons kept me away from it. Besides, I prefer my keypads attached to the wall, where I cannot loose them. :)

Finally, please buy an AC tester or just a cheap multimeter. It can save your life. Dont trust the breakers or your memory. ALWAYS check for voltage in a line before touching it.
 

DeLicious

Active Member
Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and suggestions. Let me try to address as many as possible :)

First, I did buy a no contact AC tester which I used. The confusion didn't lie in knowing which wires were hot... the confusion lied in which wire came from the power supply and which wire went to the light itself. Both wires are black. I did an install of a standard transceiver today and had the same problem. Had the black wire connected to a black wire and the brown wire connected to a black wire, when in fact the black wires should have been switched (see where the confusion lies!!)

elcano, you're reading my blog?? how flattering :-D

upstatemike, I did consider Insteon initially, and in fact, it was my primary choice initially. I only decided on UPB after strong recommendations by both Martin and Jim at Automated Outlet (since I'm a lucky one and I can go talk to them in person whenever I want). I may get an Insteon starter kit and try it in another room in my house and see how that works out for me... gotta think about that one.

Steve, I will look into the HAI and PCS controllers. I assume they work with the UPB standard :) However, having already installed two transceivers from simply-automated, I don't think I would be terribly happy about having to re-install them again, although that may be a process I'll have to get used to until I come to a final decision.

Thanks again, everyone. I think what's really important is that I'm enjoying myself... I dare say that I might also be willing to make some sort of career out of this in the future once I learn enough (anyone hiring in Dallas?)
 

DeLicious

Active Member
oops, I forgot to mention the problem after the All Off command. I still have to press it twice. It is not twice in quick succession as would be appropriate for the snap on. It is press it once, oh it didn't work, press it again... always twice following an All Off event. I need to check the programming in UPStart to make sure there's not something I'm missing. And I do have the modules' dimming capabilities turned off for CFL's... in fact, I tested the modules using incandescents, then turned off dimming and put back in my CFL's
 

bfisher

Active Member
5. One of UPB's big selling points is true 2-way status notification. What this does NOT mean (to my great disappointment) is that you can know the status of a light across the house. My new universal transceiver switch (with 8-button faceplate, I can't stress how great that is) gives an indication that the overhead light is turned on by switching the color of the LED. Howver, when I activate my wife's lamp module, no positive indication is given anywhere. Obviously, I can see the lamp come on since I'm in the same room, but what if I was trying to turn on the lights in the living room? How would I really know if they came on? I suppose I was expecting two-way status notification of every link on the switch, not just the primary load.

How do you want to be notified? Not trying to be a smartass, just wondering...

if you want a light to come on on your keypad when a light is turned on - attach it to a link and assign to the keypad - and it will light up when the link is active. Otherwise... not sure how you want to be notified. I have a touchscreen attached to my home network that talks to my Homevision Pro - and it shows the status of all my lights. Otherwise, I'm not sure how I would want to be notified a light turned on across my house.

7. There is no way for me to control the overhead light separately from the overhead fan (they are one appliance). That is, if I want to turn off my overhead light but leave the fan running (it's hot in Texas, even at night), I still have to pull a cord on the fan. Would be nice to control these separately (especially once I get a tabletop controller for my nightstand).

This isn't a UPB issue... it's a wiring issue with how you electrician wired your house. He needed to run 2 sets of wires to your switch - one for the light and one for the fan. Doublecheck your box - it would surprise me (unless it's an older home) if that wasn't done.

As for the other comments about ZWave and Insteon - I don't see anything here that they would do any better for you... UPB is a good choice and one I've never regretted. Going on 18 months and not once have I had a missed signal... ever. Complete 2 way control. My only negatives - cost and the 1/3 second delay (which we don't notice anymore... just someone new in our house does)
 

DeLicious

Active Member
bfisher said:
How do you want to be notified? Not trying to be a smartass, just wondering...

if you want a light to come on on your keypad when a light is turned on - attach it to a link and assign to the keypad - and it will light up when the link is active. Otherwise... not sure how you want to be notified. I have a touchscreen attached to my home network that talks to my Homevision Pro - and it shows the status of all my lights. Otherwise, I'm not sure how I would want to be notified a light turned on across my house.
Thanks for your input, bfisher.

Yes, I was expecting something similar to what you describe, where the button lights up when a link is active. Apparently, this only happens on PCS and HAI keypads, not on Simply Automated keypads like I have. This was pointed out by Steve a few posts ago.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
DeLicious said:
First, I did buy a no contact AC tester which I used. The confusion didn't lie in knowing which wires were hot... the confusion lied in which wire came from the power supply and which wire went to the light itself. Both wires are black.
Disconnect the black wires from the switch and put a wire-nut on each temporarily for safety. Turn the power back on and use the tester. The one from the supply will beep and the one feeding the light will not.
 
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