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Lighting Control Options

PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 7:29 pm
by vaporhat
What is the most robust lighting control option available in the sense of both hardware and control? While I do not have plans to incorporate a new system in new construction, i have wire access to most switches.

I have been spinning my head reading about the difference systems and others experiences.

Re: Lighting Control Options

PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 1:31 am
by samsonlov
Hi vaporhat,

Congrats on your decision to "tackle" a lighting automation project. I imagine that when you write "the most robust" you mean the "most" features/capabilities. I'm pretty sure I can provide a more helpful response if you can indicate the feature-set that best describes the options and considerations that are the most important to you:

Your "feature-set" of what you consider a robust system might include answers to the following:
What is your approximate "budget"?
How-much over-budget are you willing to go to get everything on your list?
How much "programming" do you want to do?
How much "skinning" do you want to do?
How many lights/loads do you want to control?
Will you be using timed events?
Will you want to use external triggers?
How much control (outside of xlobby) do you require?
Do you need the system to provide interfaces other than "lightswitches" - such as keypads or remotes?
What companies' hardware looks good to you? (maybe multiple)
What companies' hardware feels good to you? (maybe multiple)
Is the look/feel compatible with everyone who will be using the system?
(A "custom screwless keypad with "cool-looking little buttons" vs. "a light-switch that is easy to hit in the dark")
Does list of old problems that the system solves outweigh the list of new problems the system will create?

All of these considerations may ultimately play some role in your decision process, and in the end, you may find that you have to compromise a bit to get the best system for your budget, application, and WAF.

Absent answers to the afore-listed "questions", following is my general experience with lighting control and XLobby:

My experience with the follwing is listed for what little help it may provide (you probably already know most of this stuff, but here's my mini-evaluation anyway):

X-10:
Relatively inexpenseive.
Available almost everywhere.
1-Way only - "Did it turn-on?".
Easy to set-up the X-10 hardware.
The protocol can to be somewhat unreliable depending on many factors.

Insteon/Pulsworks/UPB:
Also relatively inexpenseive.
Good replacement/upgrade for old X-10 hardware.
2-way connectivity - "Yes, it's On/Off"
Reported higher reliability than x-10.
I have not confirmed "higher reliability", but I have,in-fact, ordered the UPB components to replace an existing (small <8 devices) X-10 system that is experiencing some reliability issues, and for which I'd like 2-way communication for "status", and I have ordered the components to add some XLobby UPB control to some "lamps" and other "triggers" in my home.

Centralite:
Centralite is a U.S. based manufacturer of lighting control products that I have used in the past with good results. Their programming interface along with some other resources are available for download from their website, and their engeniers will even take phone calls from consumers. They provide both IR and RS-232 interfaces, but I have not-yet integrated a Centralite System with XLobby. Centralite is also an excellent value. As soon as XLobby's RS-232 interface is ready, I will be integrating a 190+ load Centralite Elegance system with an XLobby server in a 14,000 sqft house. If you email me, I'll let you know how it goes.

Lutron Homeworks Interactive:
If a "stand-alone" lighting control system from the likes of Lutron or others are more of what you had in mind, I can tell you from experience that the Lutron Homeworks Interactive system has "tons" of capability, is VERY stable and integrates beautifully with XLobby(V3), but:
It is expensive and,
...you'll have to hire a "Certified" Lutron HWI Installer and...
...they typically charge about $125.00/hr.(In Southern CA) and...
...they will require you to pay for about 30-40 hours of "programming" to do the "initial programming" for a 40-60 zone system, and...
...you will NOT get a copy of the software they use to make any adjustments to the system programming so get ready for a $125.00 - $250.00 service charge any time you want your "certified" installer to change something as small as the programmed dimmer preset level on a particular lightswitch.
On a brighter note, Xlobby's new Lutron Service can make the Lutron Processor do pretty-much whatever you want.

Other manufacturers you may want to check-out are "Lite Touch" and "Vantage" they both have some "cool-looking" keypads, have been around for a while, and offer RS-232 support. (But as with Lutron, you'll likely have to hire a "Certified" installer to use one of these "High-End" companies.)

In short, the look and color of the wall-switches you want or don't, your budget, and whether you want a "stand-alone" system that will work with or without XLobby can influence your "optimal" system. If you take a look at the websites for the brands mentioned, you'll likely get pointed in the right direction - at least in terms of what questions are most relevant to your project. Then you can ask "us" how our experiences match a particular manufacturers' claims.

I sure hope that helps. :)
Samson

Re: Lighting Control Options

PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 3:48 am
by vaporhat
Great post, let me answer your questions below..

By robust I was really talking about ability and longevity. I can't deal with a switch that only works 95% of the time. I need it to work every time, period. I also would hope the hardware could take use of many years of use.

As far a features, I do require 2-way communication, it must be able to be integrated into XLobby, self-installed, and can't feel like X10 junk :)


samsonlov wrote:Hi vaporhat,

1. What is your approximate "budget"?
id be willing to scale back on the number of lights or zones to get a product I am happy with. However i have a reasonably small job so it's not a huge factor. At the same time I am not willing to pay anyone to set-up the system for me and it must be able to have full integration into XLobby.

2. How-much over-budget are you willing to go to get everything on your list?
See #1.

3. How much "programming" do you want to do?
This is not a factor. I'll do as much as i need to do to get the functionality to work. I just hope this doesn't require buying special equipment..

4. How much "skinning" do you want to do?
I have no issues with that...

5. How many lights/loads do you want to control?
~20 loads

6. Will you be using timed events?
none planned at this time, however if I did I would plan to use the timed events features in XLobby to manage that.

7. Will you want to use external triggers?
yes, I would have some rs-232 triggers planed for a couple of the laods

8. How much control (outside of xlobby) do you require?
none. other then the switch it's self.

9. Do you need the system to provide interfaces other than "lightswitches" - such as keypads or remotes?
none.

10. What companies' hardware looks good to you? (maybe multiple)
I have not had the opportunity to "play" with many systems. At the moment I have been looking z-wave and Insteon. Although after reading your post i will be looking into Centralite.

11. What companies' hardware feels good to you? (maybe multiple)
See #10.

12. Is the look/feel compatible with everyone who will be using the system?
(A "custom screwless keypad with "cool-looking little buttons" vs. "a light-switch that is easy to hit in the dark")
I live alone at the moment WAF is not key :)

13. Does list of old problems that the system solves outweigh the list of new problems the system will create?
Stability and robustness is key. I will go though some set-up growing pains if the outcome is perfect operation and longevity.




Thank you!

Re: Lighting Control Options

PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:50 pm
by samsonlov
Well, it seems like you have a good grasp of what you want - usually the hardest part to figure-out.

I think the Z-Wave enabled devices may be a good option for you. The reliability seems to be there as far as the rest of the industry is concerned.

A more cost effective solution may be a "power-line carrier" solution like the ones offered by Pulsworx or some of the other manufacturers of UPB or similar technologies - like Insteon. With only about 20 loads, it's more than 4x what I'm controlling at home, but by all accounts, 20 loads is "tiny", and something like Z-Wave or UPB might be a perfect fit(IMO).

There are also small-scale solutions from Lutron (like Radio-Ra, and GrafikEye) and more from other manufacturers that also do not require a major re-wire and a large processor, but I'm not sure if they offer much more in the "robustness" department.

If you don't want to have to "re-install" your electrical wiring to a central location and replace the "regular" switches with "low-voltage" units, then Centralite and the other "Large System Processor-Based" manufacturers are probably not for you.

If you are prepared to re-wire all the lighting loads to a garage or equipment closet where the lighting system processor and dimmers will reside, and are okay running low-voltage control wire (usually cat-5 or similar) to the switch locations from the processor, Centralite used to have a system called "LiteJet" that started at 24 loads.

In any case, I'd wait to make sure Wes and Steven really get the bugs out of any XLobby to Z-Wave interface before adopting it.

Good Luck.

Re: Lighting Control Options

PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 7:56 pm
by vaporhat
I agree that Z-Wave seems like a good fit for me. Aside from the issue that it's not yet incorporated into XL. I suppose I can wait and focus on some other aspects to my project in the mean time ;)

I am not ready to convert all my lighting to a low level electrical system nor am I ready to re-install my electrical wiring to a central location. Both of those options seem a little too drastic for my project.

While I am tempted to jump on with Insteon I might just have to wait this one out.

ps
I also agree with your view you posted in the z-wave thread. Even if that means my lighting projects takes a back seat.

Thanks for your information and direction.

Re: Lighting Control Options

PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 10:26 pm
by samsonlov
I just re-read that post, and I'm thinking it might be a good idea to re-post it as its own "new topic" so that everyone can read it and chime-in on the idea of fixing the current bugs before adding new features (for or against) that way, we can establish some kind of consensus - at least among forum members.

If I re-post it as a new topic, where do you think it would fit best? (support? feature requests? other?)

You're probably right to lean toward Z-Wave for your application - if I was "retrofitting" a lighting install, that's probably what I'd be looking at since there are so-many remotes and other "stuff" that is already set-up for Z-Wave. And, of-course, "Pulseworx", because it's 2-way, inexpensive, seems stable, and if the local independent electricians who install it: seem to love it, it can't be that hard to use. :lol:

Glad to be of some help.
Samson

Re: Lighting Control Options

PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 12:16 am
by vaporhat
Id probably put it under "feature requests" or "bugs".

I feel the same way you do about all these new features being created before some of the fundamental actions are worked out. But at the same time I have no viability to what sort of leverage or happiness those features gain the direction of XLobby. I mean perhaps they have some huge installer that wants to adapt XLobby but won't do it until z-wave or whatever the next new feature is built into XLobby. We have no idea what their business strategy is or what cards are on the table are. to some extent we have to trust they have a vision and with each action a step closer to archiving those goals.

While I agree with every word you said personally and apparently at the very least a few others, I can not be confident in saying it's what best for their business. In the case of of that particular post regarding z-wave, Wes was asking for our put. And that's what we did, gave it to him. In that instance it appeared that Wes wanted some reading from the forum to help guide or priorities that particular implementation. On other features I could care much less about, he did not. For whatever reason, that's just the way it was.

Wes and company have always seemed very receptive about listening to new ideas from the forum and I expect they will continue to do so in the future.

The last thing I want to be is an on-line personality that thinks they understand the needs of their business better then them. Just my put..

All said, I still do not think it's a bad idea to place that post in a separate thread. I am sure there are a lot other who will not read that thread due to the topic but share you view. If nothing else it will give Steve and Wes something the chew on in the future.