Lutron Radio RA, Z-Wave, Universal Powerline Bus (UPB), X-10, and Insteon.
About the Author:
I’m just one happy geeky quadriplegic engineer living life to its fullest! With the majority of my body paralyzed and a very upbeat attitude I have a unique perspective on technology, living life, building homes and everything in between.
When it came to choosing the Automated Lighting standard for Quadomated I was absolutely overwhelmed with choices and possibilities. There are just so many different manufacturers and standards to choose between, and each of them with a dramatically different set of wiring requirements, look and overall sexiness, and price. Some of the systems like Luton Homeworks and Clipsal C-Bus are downright beautiful, but cost a significant multiple (like thousands and thousands of dollars) more than the alternatives, and require a very different centralized wiring technique. In the end what it came down to was finding a technology that could do everything I needed in an affordable way that looked good and could be wired in a conventional way.
This pretty much left me with 5 possibilities: Lutron Radio RA, Z-Wave, Universal Powerline Bus (UPB), X-10, and Insteon. The big thing about these 5 technologies is they can all be used in new construction or in a retrofit installation, which means they use normal wiring and should be much easier to install and troubleshoot by a regular electrician. The first two technologies, Radio RA and Z-Wave, communicate wirelessly from switch to switch in sort of a redundant mesh topology, the second two technologies, UPB and X-10, use the power line wiring for signaling and control, while the fifth technology, Insteon, is a hybrid of the two using both the powerline and wireless. I initially fell in love with the overall look/styling of Lutron’s Radio RA, particularly the modern look of their multibutton keypads, but after evaluating the price of the system found it to be about twice the price per load/keypad. For a system with 40+ lighting loads this ended up being approximately $2,500 extra for something that looked just slightly better; not worth it in my book. X-10 was the cheapest, but also quickly ruled out due to being based on an old technology that doesn’t provide two way communication or the reliability I need. I also ruled out Insteon due to some reliability/quality control problems they had experienced over the past several years, and from personally having a high failure rate from the initial switches I purchased from them. So this brought my decision down between two very different, but similarly priced technologies: Z-Wave and UPB.
Which Lighting Technology – Z-Wave or UPB?
For me, there was no easy answer to this question… Z-Wave or UPB? They both have their positives and negatives. I like how Z-Wave is supported by and has devices manufactured by the big boys, Leviton and Cooper; makes me think it’ll be around for many years to come. Z-Wave seems to have a larger offering of additional integration possibilities including: automated locks, thermostats, sensors, remote controls, etc. And, overall I felt like the Leviton Vizia RF had nicer looking switches and keypads. What steered me away from Z-Wave and closer to UPB were precisely two things: HAI’s out-of-the-box integration with UPB using their HLC lighting standard, and a side-by-side hands-on usability test of the HAI UPB switch versus the Leviton Vizia RF switch. Again, I much preferred the look of the Vizia switch, but for me usability and functionality are the most important, and with my very limited hand function I found the HAI UPB switch to be easier for me to operate. Did I make the right choice? I think so and I have never looked. But, if I had to make this decision all over again what I consider Z wave seriously? Absolutely! I still like the style of their switches better and feel like the Z-wave technology has expanded their product line considerably more than UPB.
UPB Lighting it is!
After much hair pulling and indecision on which way to go, I finally made the decision and ordered all my UPB light switches. They were installed just like any other light switch by my electrician and with no work/effort instantly provided normal local control of the lighting loads. Each switch was then toggled into “Setup Mode” by toggling the top or bottom rocker switch 5 times quickly and added to my UPB Upstart Configuration as shown below:
In total there are the following UPB Switches and keypads:
- (Qty 24) HAI 35A00-1 600 W UPB Dimmers SwitCH *(Qty 4) Converted to ON/OFF operation for non-dimmable CFL
- (Qty 2) HAI 55A00-1 1000 W UPB Dimmers Switch
- (Qty 5) HAI 40A00-1 15 A UPB Relay Switch
- (Qty 2) PCS KPLD6 6 Button Keypad with 400 W Dimmer
- (Qty 1) PCS KPLR6 6 Button Keypad with 15 A Relay
Everything has been extremely reliable and easy to automate except for a PCS 6 Button Keypad with Dimmer which has completely stopped working and needed to be replaced twice.