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Which product for lighting control?

alternety

New Member
I have been looking at home automation for years. I have used X-10 and would not do that again. I am just getting to final stages of a new house. I put off selecting controls to see what would be available when I actually needed to buy. I rather liked the words about Insteon. I was going to use that if they were available. Well they are available - sort of. They meet an acceptable price point but:

I have been reading posts on multiple forums for several weeks. What I am seeing about Insteon really really scares me. That was my preferred choice.

The issues still unresolved, as far as I can tell, include:

1 - no means of updating firmware except replacing the device. Lots of firmware bugs and no immediate stabilization in sight. OK, PCs manage to update firmware (BIOS), some disk drives do it. They have a lot more riding on the results. Why can't Insteon provide a PC based firmware update? Over the link with current protocols seems impossible. How about you plug in an Ethernet cable for updating. Commonaly available, simple plug. Provide an interface box at the PC. The business model that says send them back for new firmware exchange seems to be a good path to bankruptcy. And what are they doing with all the returned units. Reselling them as new with used components would be a real bad thing for them legally.

2 - Current communications protocol is essentially ineffective for reasonable function and performance (including firmware updates). Insteon is saying that developers need to drop the current protocol and support the extended version. This may fix the firmware defencincy. In all likelyhood this will mean no software support for existing devices. There is no commitment I have found from SmartHome to upgrade devices that do not provided the extended protocol.

3 - Appears to have an ineffective testing program before committing to production quantities (and necessary certifications, which are probably a worse problem). New devices would seem to have no better chance of working than the ones currently in production.

4 - Relays that seem to destroy themselves at load levels they should easilly handle.

5 - Lacks important components. Hardwired phase bridge. Keypad with an inductive load unit (we are all supposed to be switching to fluorescents for energy savings). If the TRIAC dimming units could control an inductive load, and be programmed to disallow dimming, that would fix it. Ability to dim compatible fluorescent ballasts and inductive loads. PC interfaces that run at an acceptable speed. LEDs that don't keep people up at night (this can be good but people need to be able to decide and program levels if that is the objective). Switches that allow an n-way light circuit to be tied into remote controll without having to replace more than one of the hardwired n-way switches. Battery operated handheld and "stick to the wall" controls or units to go on your key chain sort of thing.

6 - Lacks any devices (except the problematic RF phase bridges) that actually support the advertising touted RF/Line communications mesh.

I am sure many new devices are under development and may address specific functions that are needed for an effective control system. The biggest problem is the probability of being stuck with controls that won't function with next years software or controllers.

I have not seen evidence of Insteon/Smart Home being particularly forthcomming about the various issues. They seem to give hints. People want hard information. They are spending a lot of their money. If Insteon/SmartHome can't preform project planning/management to provide realistic schedules, it is yet another strike against the product. If this is not the problem, who are they trying to hide things from. It does not appear anyone else has taken this system to market. Even if other manufacturers are working on products - that is what Insteon wants to happen. If they truely want to build a standard and a market, they must nurture it not behave like a secretive competing manufacturer. End device manufacturer or IP supplier to a robust multi-vendor marketplace - pick one.

To return to the question in the title after my Insteon rant (they have really dissapointed me), UPB seems to pricey and has that thing about switch delay (having done X-10 I am reasonably sure I won't like that), Z-wave seems to be too expensive. My house is designed assuming some electronic control of lighting circuits. I am just not able to come up with something I can live with.

If Insteon would make some commitments, and provide a product path, I would do that. Otherwise ?
 

IVB

Senior Member
My house is designed assuming some electronic control of lighting circuits.

What does that mean? Do you have low-voltage wiring to each location, meaning you can do hardwired lighting easily?
 

alternety

New Member
No. I have multiple lighting circuits that are run from individual switches but need to respond to other remote switches as well. These are mostly involved in exterior lighting and the kitchen area. All assumed powerline control.
 

Event5

Active Member
Alternety,
Sounds like Insteon is where you want to go for various reasons, just waiting for it to settle down. UPB is pricey but a very stable system. Many of the comments you made concening Insteon, IE, power ratings, relay/dimmer(same switch with UPB) lack of components, engineering, testing have been handeled (I will say differently)

You might try one of the Demo kits available for UPB. $525 worth of products for around $125. You would be able to test the signal around your property, play with the Upstart software, and see the versitiliy available with every switch or device. You can play with the software right now at:

http://www.simply-automated.com/products/sa_upstart.htm

You could check out the delay for yourself. I would even say, if you didn't like it. I would buy the kit from you.
Just a thought,
Dave
 

Ripper99

Active Member
When I click the link above and go to the site and try the link to get an evaluation kit it gives a 404 error..do others sell this kit or just simply-automated?
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
Alternety-

Pretty good summary but I would add the fact that thay still are not shipping wall mount brackets for ContoLincs to the list. Wouldn't bug me so much if they weren't listed on the box of every ControLinc shipped as an available option.

On some other points:
I think the reason you don't hear much from SmartHome on the protocol issues is because they don't yet know themselves what they are going to do about it. They have come to a point where extended messaging needs to work for them to move forward with HouseLinc and RF offerings but must take the instaled base into account. I also notice PCS is not very forthcoming about how it is going to address the double tap delay issue nor Zensys on when it will set standards for status reporting of local control.

You can always use a UPB bridge if you want to go hardwire instead of SignaLinc between phases so I don't think this is a real issue.

The relay issue has also been fixed so I don't think that is a concern either.

While it would be nice to control the LED brightness level, in most cases brighter is better than dimmer. There is nothing worse than not being able to bake out if a light switch is on or not because the LED is too dim to make out in daylight. If somebody leaves an outside spotlight on during the day I want the LED on the switch to make it glaringly obvious. For the few switches that end up in bedrooms, just use an Icon (yellow LED) with a red light pipe and you will only have a very dim orange glow from your switch.

The communication protocol is never going to support firmware upgrades (per Smarthome) so the only hope for field upgrades is via the programming port under the switch paddle.

The PC interface problem is related to communications speed over the serial/usb cable (no a powerline protocol issue) and should be easy to fix. Don't know why it hasn't been addressed yet.

With regards to your need for virtual n-way switching. Insteon is the only protocol fast enough to do that. UPB requires hardwired multi-way switches because it is not fast enough to have software linked switches act like hardwired companion switches. The Insteon stick-a-switch battery stuff is supposed to come out in Q4 but I don't know how that is impacted by both the extended messaging issue and the SignaLinc range issue.
 

jeffx

Active Member
Ripper99 said:
When I click the link above and go to the site and try the link to get an evaluation kit it gives a 404 error..do others sell this kit or just simply-automated?
Contact Martin at Automated Outlet. I'm pretty sure he can sell you this package.
 

DeLicious

Active Member
Event5 said:
You could check out the delay for yourself. I would even say, if you didn't like it. I would buy the kit from you.
Just a thought,
Dave
of course, I would buy it from you too :)

in fact, if anyone has a spare starter kit sitting around, i'm a good candidate to buy it... don't mean to hijack the thread here.
 

alternety

New Member
Can the us11-30 or any other switch be used in a n-way circuit using only one electronic switch and the rest of the switches remain the normal mechanical electrical switches. In other words, the existing switches still work if one US11-39 is added to provide remote control from other UPB devices.
 

Event5

Active Member
DeLicious,
You know a good deal when you see it.....

I intentionally did not suggest a supplier(even though I have a preferred one)The kits are available from several sources. I just sent an email to Simply Automated advising them of their lost link.


upstatemike,

PCS was forthcoming to me when I asked about the tap delay. They can not set the time any shorter due to the way you enter setup mode. The switch has to wait to see if there are multiple taps coming. (5 taps for setup mode) It is adjusted as tight as they feel they can put it and still go into setup correctly.

you said {You can always use a UPB bridge if you want to go hardwire instead of SignaLinc between phases so I don't think this is a real issue. }

Are you mixing your protocols? a UPB bridge could be used as an x-10 bridge but not for Insteon.

Also, you can use a virtual 3way with UPB.The switches work fine linked together. It is more expensive than with a slave switch. If you don't like the speed don't use the protocol. I believe the advantages to a UPB system far out way the few millisecond delay.
 

upstatemike

Senior Member
Event5 said:
Are you mixing your protocols? a UPB bridge could be used as an x-10 bridge but not for Insteon.
The Insteon frequency is not much higher than X-10 and a UPB bridge provides a pretty wide window. It will bridge Insteon signals just fine.
 

alternety

New Member
RE: Virtual 3 way switch. If that is for me I don't think that is what I am trying to do. I need to do this - existing conventional 5 way lighting circuit. Remove one and only one switch and replace it with a controlled switch for UPB or whatever. Everything works as before but now sixth unrelated remote control can participate in the circuit switching by controlling the one electronic switch in the circuit.

This ought to be simple to make with a relay that simply duplicates the innards of a mechanical 4 way switch.

I noted one thing really useful about the UPB switch - it can be programmed not to dim. It appears to use the neutral so if the TRIAC can survive the inductive loads this solves the problem with using fluorescent lights without risking someone trying to dim them. That is very interesting to me.
 
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