UPB - new construction

Alanb

New Member
I am building a new home and am looking to use UPB as the lighting automation protocol. I have held the electrician off of the job while I figure out if there is a more efficient way to wire the house. My primary goals are threefold: 1) reduce the number of switches on the wall (I have one room that has seven switches needed and I do not want to see a huge group of multi-gang switches on the wall); 2) create scenes; and 3) be able to dim multiple lighting loads using a single-gang multiple-button switch.

Since I can specify how the wiring is done I am thinking that what I need to do is convert my current wiring plan, which has numerous 3-way and 4-way switches all over the place, to a plan that has a single-pole switch for each lighting load and that has at least one of those switches (i.e. single-pole line load) at every location where I want a switch control to be. Is this correct thinking?

Let me give a silly simple example to illustrate my thinking. Let's say I have a hallway with two different lighting loads on it. Call one load canned lights and call the other wall sconces. The current electrical plan shows two 3-way switches at each end of the hallway, so that each lighting load can be operated independently and can be operated from either end of the hall. Now, in my UPB converted plan, I am thinking that I can replace this with a pair of single-gang two-button switches, where one end of the hallway has the line load connected to the canned lights and the switch at the other end of the hallway has the line load connected to the wall sconces. I then program the non-line load button/switch/rocker/whatever of each switch to link to the switch at the opposite end of the hallway. Result is two three-way switches in two single-gang controls. Yes/No? Also, am I correct in thinking it will work this way without any intelligent controllers?

Sorry for the verbosity and confusing writing, but that is the only way I can think of to describe my thinking! Any help/correction is appreciated. Thanks!
 

WayneW

Senior Member
Alanb said:
Result is two three-way switches in two single-gang controls. Yes/No? Also, am I correct in thinking it will work this way without any intelligent controllers?
Yup
 

Alanb

New Member
Thank you, WayneW!

And thanks for reducing the average words per post for this thread! :blink:
 

Event5

Active Member
Alan,

This thread may produce a lively debate. Your hall way plan will work and your overall idea will result in a nice look. The concern I would have is where you would put all the load switches. Where ever they go make sure you use extra deep boxes as I would imagine you would have many switches in the same box and will need to watch for derating of the switches. PCS does make a wall mounted panel to hold multiple switches. Their number is 1-818-701-9831. I just talked to Jene to confirm this.

You could have all the loads go to another location and all you would need at the room entry location is a good hot and neutral and ground.

With UPB you do have a fairly good selection of touch pads, Simply Automated, Powerline Control Systems, Home Automation Inc. with a variety of styles, function, and features.

If you are going to do this I would suggest that you add a control wire (cat5e) from your wire closet or central switch location to each touch pad. Who know what the future holds for technology and as you will be wiring the home in an unconventional (central control) manner the control wire will give you options in the future.

One of the nice things about UPB and Upstart is that once you add switches/devices to the network you never have to go back to the switch to make any changes. With that said, you will have some issues tweaking dim levels in each room, with out the switch to make changes. This will however lend its self to moving around the house with a laptop and a CIM to make adjustments. I imagine that once your scenes are set the way you like, you will not be changing them much.

I have posted Here a sample Upstart file, you can explore, of a home with no central control and each room setup with it's own scene control. Rooms have from 3 to 8 loads. The only difference is that it was a retro and the switches are in each room. The home works fine with no central controller or computer attached.

Good luck
Dave
 

Steve

Senior Member
What Dave said... One other concern may be what happens if you design the house for UPB, and multifaceplate (SAI) switches in particular, and then something changes and they don't work out. Nobody else I am aware of has a dual plate like SAI. With Insteon you could use a keypad, but thats different. I understand the need for the clean look. Another option would be to use inline modules, then you can still centralize loads in certain boxes.

But if you are doing this from scratch, and you have the budget, I would strongly consider hardwire from the start.
 

Alanb

New Member
Thanks for the thoughtful replies. Let me say that I do not plan on running my house without a controller ... I was just making sure I understood that the signal could pass from switch to switch in a peer-to-peer manner without a controller.

As for hardwired solutions, here is my take (and let the debates begin...): Hardwired solutions are more costly and not easily expanded after the drywall is up. Also, every hardwired solution appears to be proprietary, which leads to concerns over whether the company/technology will exist 10 years from now. UPB is an adopted standard with multiple vendors supporting it. That leads to competition, which lowers costs and typically drives innovation and choice. I am trying to save on the lighting control costs because I would prefer to spend my limited funds on my whole house audio, intercom, security system, home theater, etc. Again, I emphasize that the primary purpose is not lighting automation so much as a clean wall. It just so happens that the technology to provide clean walls includes scene automation as a given.

Powerline solutions can be run as "bankruptcy-proof", in the sense that at the very least, I can replace an intelligent switch with a regular "dumb" dimmer and operate my lighting load just the way I have for my entire life prior to getting HA religion. :rolleyes: That, just in case UPB crashes and burns. If that happens, however, I am confident that there will be a wireless solution that can takeover if necessary.

I think the solution I am likely to end up with is a full bank of load controls in the unfinished portion of the basement, right next to the circuit panel, and relays and keypads only in the living areas. It will be more expensive than my original "single-pole where needed" solution that I started with, but Steve's point about wiring for UPB in general and SAI-type switches in particular has convinced me that this is the better method. That said, while I know cat5 is cheap, I do not concur that I need to run cat5 to every switch to future-proof it, a la the hardwired solutions because it is my belief that the future is wireless controls and my line loan bank will support any such wireless topology (most likely). (If Control4 stays in business over the next several years, I expect my next home may use their products...)

If I do go with a full bank of line loads in the basement, does that mean that I could run a single hot line (hot, neutral, and ground) serially across the house where each switch will be since it will only be used for communication? That might reduce wiring costs, labor, etc.

I hope I didn't ramble too much. I wrote this post over the span of two hours, so continuity of thought is not assured. Bottom line, I have to get the electrician going next week so a decision will be made one way or another.

Your comments are most appreciated. -Alan
 

Alanb

New Member
Yes, I looked at Centralite. Alabama company based in Mobile. They hope to make their first profit this year. Again, as a hardwired solution, they are proprietary are they not? Will they be around in 10 years? Who knows. That is one reason I am planning on going with the UPB standard. Multiple vendors supporting the exact same technology protocol.
 

Event5

Active Member
If I do go with a full bank of line loads in the basement, does that mean that I could run a single hot line (hot, neutral, and ground) serially across the house where each switch will be since it will only be used for communication? That might reduce wiring costs, labor, etc.

Yes
 

kwilcox

Active Member
Event5 said:
If I do go with a full bank of line loads in the basement, does that mean that I could run a single hot line (hot, neutral, and ground) serially across the house where each switch will be since it will only be used for communication? That might reduce wiring costs, labor, etc.

Yes
However, this could be problematic if you do decide to "dumb down" your configuration and run load wiring to switch junction boxes at some time in the future since you'll essentially have just one circuit for all switches. I'd always follow best practices when it comes to wiring any house whether it features UPB or not.
 

Event5

Active Member
kwilcox is right. It would be prudent to run a separate circuit to each switch box and multiple circuits to switch boxes that might in the future need to feed the loads in that room.
Dave
 

Steve

Senior Member
Alan,

This can certainly open alot of debate but imho I would not recommend hardwire strictly for the aesthetics of the walls. I primarily recommend it because it works - period. All PLC protocols have issues, whether its noise, CFL, bulbs, etc, etc. Hardwire just works - it is 100% reliable and will always just work. Neither PLC or wireless can make that claim. I also think that if done right and you do hardwire system, and the company goes bust, 2 things can happen. Either replace it with another current manufacturer, or at that point you could put it back to a 'standard' system where you just have homerun loads instead of chained loads. There are no guarantees with anything and even though there are 3 manufacturers of UPB products, UPB can disappear as easily as Centralite for example.

So I would base my decision first on the technology I want, and then implementing it in a way that I am as futureproof as possible. If I was in your shoes I would not hesitate to design a hardwire system from a major manufacturer assuming of course possible budget constraints. My next house will more than likely have a hardwire system regardless of how well UPB has been working for me.
 

elcano

Active Member
Alan,

I'm an UPB user because I live in a concrete house. If retrofitting a wood house is difficult, think about what I have to face. If I were building a new house I would not think twice about a hardwired system. UPB is very reliable, but it is not without its problems to some people. You'll not want to make a whole house investment to suddenly notice that you have a problem with UPB in your house.

I agree with most of the comments above regarding following best wiring pratices. Also, be aware that the hardwired solutions are about as proprietary as most current PLC solutions. You cannot build compatible products without the licensing of the technology owner. If the technology owner is out of business your options are limited.

Moreover, notice that the hardwired modules might be proprietary, but their wiring architecture (most of the times) are not. A home-run wiring will work with almost any technology. Check all the solutions available and try to think long term. At the pace in which home automation is advancing, which technology do you think will be prevalent in new houses build 20 years from now? Will PLC survive to the broadband-over-power-lines technology? Will RF tolerate all the noise/interference that will exist in the future house without compromises?
 
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