A few weeks ago, I was preparing to order a bunch of switches for my house, and was trying to decide the best way to go. I had 8 switches in my last house that were Simply-Automated, so I wanted to stick with those for consistent look/feel. I noticed though, from talking to people and reading posts, that there was misinformation out there. I decided that, now that I'm 2/3rds of the way through a 60+ device install, I'd share what I know and the things I've learned in the process about the Simply-Automated line and different configuration and programming options you may encounter.

Automating Your Home with UPB

CocoonTech | Cocoon Tech

Automating Your Home with UPB

Contributed by: CocoonTech

A few weeks ago, I was preparing to order a bunch of switches for my house, and was trying to decide the best way to go. I had 8 switches in my last house that were Simply-Automated, so I wanted to stick with those for consistent look/feel. I noticed though, from talking to people and reading posts, that there was misinformation out there. I decided that, now that I'm 2/3rds of the way through a 60+ device install, I'd share what I know and the things I've learned in the process about the Simply-Automated line and different configuration and programming options you may encounter.  


Why Simply-Automated?

To be honest, that decision was made several years ago and I don't remember all the reasons, but I know the basics.  First off, why UPB: At the time, Z-Wave wasn't as mature as it is now, and I've read about issues with having to retrain the switches to understand their routing path; that seemed like a pain, plus Z-Wave isn't as well suited for starting small as I understood.  With UPB you could literally add 2 switches on opposite ends of the house and be fine.  Like others, I also saw the flexibility of the US240 switch and liked it - and I also read other peoples' opinions of Simply-Automated having a better "feel" to them.  Plus, their pricing is much better than others - and they have sales all the time.  At that point, I went with SA - and once I had their products, I decided to standardize... I want all the same lights and options and for everything to match.  My gut feel was just that they were a good company with a good product so I went with it - and I'm perfectly happy with that decision. 


Gen I vs. Gen II

Simply-Automated switches are Gen I. I believe PCS and HAI are Gen II. If you want something like the Simply-Automated switches, but want Gen II, Web Mountain actually takes the SA switches and sells them with Gen II firmware. This process isn't something users can do; there's no way for an end-user to upgrade firmware on any of these switches because of the special equipment required.

Normally you might think newer must be better, but in my reading of forum posts, I basically got the idea that YMMV and different people noticed different results. I'd suggest researching this topic if you're worried about it. My house is good sized and I have never had noise or reliability issues and I like the flexibility that the SA switches have and I had read opinions that they had the best "feel" to them when using them. There's a good statement from SA at the bottom of this page about Gen II.  This recent post comes to mind where PCS offered their opinions, and other members shared theirs as well.


Switch Models

SA switches currently come in a few different models. There are:

  • US1130 – Single Rocker Dimmer (discontinued – this unit uses Green, Red and Orange lights)
  • US1140 - Single-Rocker Dimmer
  • US240 - Deluxe Dimmer Controller with a variety of faceplate options
  • US2240 - A Dual-load deluxe dimmer (It can control two circuits ie; light/fan, or two different lights)
  • USR40A - This is a dedicated remote switch that can be used with any of the above switches on a 3 or more way circuit, plus some other uses.
  • UCQT40 - A 4-button Scene controller with separate status lights. This can only be used to send links; it can not control a load directly.


General Notes

  • SA Does not make a Relay switch; other manufacturers do. That means you should never use a SA switch to control an outlet! There are people better qualified than me to explain this; but basically if someone plugs the wrong kind of load into an outlet it can cause a lot of damage and hurt the switch or burn your house down. I'll cover some tips/tricks for working around this in a follow-up with hookup examples. Here’s a thread that talked about the issues.
  • The SA switches all have an option to disable dimming. According to SA, in this mode they’re safe for any load that doesn’t exceed what the switches are rated for; including motor loads, etc. You must use this mode if you’re controlling anything that isn’t a dimmable lighting load – generally speaking, incandescent loads or lights designed to be compatible with them.  They do say that they're only for control of permanently installed fixtures, which I read as anything other than an outlet of a known load.
  • All switches seem to be available in White, Almond, Light Almond, Ivory, Black or Brown.  The color kits can be changed any time.
  • SA switches have a configurable delay from the time you press the button until the light is activated. This is to allow time for a double-tap – but throws people off if they’re not used to the delay. With the SA switches, you can configure this from 300 to 750 milliseconds to reduce the delay. For some people, this delay really hinders the WAF.  When sending a Link vs. controlling a local load, this is even more noticeable.
  • The US1130, US1140, US240, US2240 each have an LED on top. This LED is actually pretty configurable; Here’s a screenshot that shows all the options for the light on the US2240 (Which is the same for the 1140 and 240; the 1130 list looks the same, but with green, red, and orange as the color options).


Another Important Note

I discovered some new behavior just recently, and I'm not sure if it's Gen I behavior or UPB in general, but it's fairly important to consider as it can impact how you install/program your switches.  It turns out that the switches don't appear to have any real collision-control when talking on the network.  What that means is, if I press two switches at once, the communication generally won't go through (status, links, etc).  Where this matters - In a lot of my rooms, I have more than one light-switch and I'll often hit them both at once (desk light and ceiling light; table lamp and overhead; vanity and bathroom cans; ceiling fan and light).  With mechanical switches this doesn't matter - but with these it does.  If the two switches are both load-controlling (1140's) then the loads will generally perform as expected, but status won't update correctly.  If one or both is a 240 or is working in link-only mode, either neither or only one switch will perform as expected (that is, the links won't activate). 

In my bedrooms, most have a ceiling light and a controlled outlet; for those I wired the ceiling light as normal to a 1140, but I also capped the outlet to full-time power and put another 1140 in that's not wired to any load; that then sends a link to control a lamp dimmer module on a table or desk lamp (the only safe way to get dimming from a wall switch to a non-permanent fixture).  When I press both buttons upon entering the room, the ceiling light always activates; the table lamp never does.  In a bathroom that's all 240's and virtual links, if I press two together, neither activates.

In a lot of situations, I've found a workaround for this.  Take the bedrooms for example - if I want both switches on or off, I just set the outermost (closest to the door) so that single-tap is on/off of its own load; double-tap is all-on/all-off for that room.  So now, instead of hitting both switches on the way out, I have to double-tap the one.  This works in most places for me.  This should make more sense when you read the details on the differences between the 1140 and the 240, and the tricks you can do with the 1140.


US1140 Single-Rocker Dimmer

SAI-2This is my default switch for all installations. Originally I went into this thinking that because the US240 could be configured with any faceplate, including the standard rocker, that it was the better choice - with ultimate flexibility. The reality is, there are some good reasons why it's not a smart choice.

  • The 1140 has a built-in timer (the 240 does not), a configurable light (green/blue) and can dim loads up to 900W.
  • You don't have to program a single transmit or receive action with the 1140's. They can directly control their own load (unlike the US240 which needs a link to control the local load) and can be addressed from any controller just by their Unit ID.
  • You can still make the rocker actions totally separate from the sent/received links if you want (make them work more like a 240 with a single-rocker).
  • Simply   Automated UPStart Rocker Switch OptionsThe 240's don't have the Rocker Switch tab; they do everything through Send/Receive – which means you get the same fade rate for on and off; with the option to snap on/off on a double-tap. With the 1140's, you get a tab for Rocker Switch that gives you much greater control – including the ability to set different ramp/fade times for single/double tap and for up/down; plus separate control for the timer (another example is my garage – on a 20-minute timer, unless I double-tap – then it turns on without the timer). This screenshot should show how flexible this can be.
  • Because of how the 1140's have direct attachment to the load vs. having to both send and receive a link, the 1140's feel more responsive.  The time to send and receive a link seems to add about 150ms (non-scientific estimate).  More details below. 
  • Controlling the attached load and sending links are two separate events that can be used individually or together. The US240's can only send/receive links as a switch is pressed; so there's no way to get two separate functions out of a switch.

I personally was disappointed to find that I couldn’t trigger   different actions based on single-tap or double-tap any other way; I   figured it would be cool to have hidden functionality homeowners could   have/use, while leaving a relatively simple stock appearance for   everyone else who visits your home.If you want to get tricky with your switches, you can set it up so that you get double-functionality out of them. Take my Kids' bathroom for example, in the vanity area there's one light switch that controls the vanity lights. There are also two more switches in the Bath area, controlling other lights. By setting custom actions on the Send tab, I can have it turn off all the bathroom lights if I double-tap Off on my way out. To anyone who didn't know about this, the house would operate exactly as they'd expect when they press a switch in a room. See this example of programming in UPStart:

There are limitations to this – The primary load/action (single tap action) must be what's wired into that switch. You can't use this to activate two difference links (scenes).


US240 Deluxe Dimmer Control

Be sure to read the details on the 1140 - I make a lot of comparisons there to the differences between the two.

There is one simple and obvious reason these are a great choice, and in my opinion, what really sets Simply Automated ahead of their competition. That reason is the flexibility of a single switch (their cost is phenomenal as well compared to other scene controllers).

By installing a US240 switch body, you can come back any time and change to any of the following faceplate options just by taking of the switch plate cover and swapping the faceplate. You never have to touch the wiring again.  I have a few places where I installed a 240 with a standard rocker and will soon be upgrading to a ZS25O, or where I put in a 4-button plate and am now considering switching to an 8.


US240 faceplate options
(Source: Simply Automated Website)

I have never been big on scenes before, but in this house, there are so many switches in so many places, and on their own the lights are often brighter than I want. Luckily, as it turns out, the electricians who wired this place deserve to be tracked down and rewarded for making my life so much easier. This is a standard cookie-cutter tract home that's about 5 years old, and there were relatively few upgrades if any... but, every gang box is extra deep; every single ceiling light is wired with 3-wires in case I could ever want a fan up there; there is a neutral in every single box; if an end-of-run switch was used, they didn't cost me the Neutral; instead they used the red of a 3-wire (Except for one); and every room has a switched outlet and an overhead light. I don't use switched outlets really, so in a lot of rooms, that outlet was converted to be always on, and a US240 went in that spot with a 4-button oval faceplate. In a couple places I'm using something like the Single-Rocker 4-Button Oval; but mostly my switches look normal, and there's a special controller mixed in many of the gang boxes.

One important note with the faceplates – and something I consider a bit of a design flaw. Any place you have two rockers side by side (Dual-Rocker Thin Bar or Dual Tall Rocker) – you might try to hit both on or both off at the same time (different links controlling two separate lights; light/ceiling fan). That doesn't work – you may get one load; you may get the other; you may get neither – but you won't get both. To avoid this confusion, I never use these style rockers; I only use the dual-short if I want two rockers. Unfortunately this is an issue with the USR's (3-way remote switches) that I'll get into below.  Something else to note with the faceplates, and this applies to all models - once in a while you'll get a combination faceplate/switch that just don't like each other... every time I've been able to swap the two (take another switch and trade faceplates) and get them to match up better.  Also sometimes the pin won't line up just-right - if that happens, just pop it off/on a couple times and you should be able to get it.


US2240 Dual-Load Deluxe Dimmer Control

SAI-6For this switch, take everything great about the US240, and add the Timer function that the US1140 has, and most importantly, the dual load controller.   This is the UPB equivalent of this: A single switch that can control two separate loads or circuits. Except, like all the other switches, what is physically controlled through the wiring is independent of the faceplates. Where this can be handy:

  • A Ceiling fan and Light combo
  • Any place you're wiring in a second load (maybe you're adding cabinet lights or additional fixtures).
  • If you want to use a UCQT40 Scene Controller without replacing the switchbox (More details in that section).
  • In an Entry way; Maybe there are 3 switches – Exterior, Entryway and Hallway... But, the Exterior lights are fully automated and need no physical interface, so you can hide it on the second load of a 2240, and free up space to put in a Scene controller.

Mustangcoupe did a great write-up/review of the US2240's – Click Here to Read.

One important note that mustangcoupe brought up; if you try to address a 2240 by it's UnitID, most controllers (software or hardware) can really only control the first load; they have no concept of the switch having two separate loads. However, we discovered that you can control the second load through a link instead.  The caveat is that how/when the LED changes status varies, as does the status in UpStart; and it's difficult to get an accurate status of the 2nd load from any controllers.  That said, I'm using one for a creative fireplace automation solution which I'll write up as soon as I finish it.


USR40A – Dedicated Remote Switch

There are a lot of opinions on the use of 3-way switches. They don't have the flexibility of a full US1140 or US240; but at the same time, why pay for the dimmer and load controller if you don't need it? The biggest issue I've heard came down to control of the lights on the switch. Most people gravitate more towards the Blue LED option or different light patterns based on if the light was on or off (I personally use Light Blue if the switch is off, Solid Blue if it's on). A year ago, the USR's only had a green light, and it was wired into the load – meaning if the load was on, it was on; otherwise it was off (and it dimmed with the load too); that seriously detracted from their attractiveness, but for the more frugal (me), it still wasn't a deal-killer.

A lot of people don't realize that the USR's of the past were phased out and replaced with a USR40A. This has a way you can get a Blue light as well, even when the switch is off. I'll admit, the documentation on the wiring for the LED's was quite lacking; but if you pay close attention, there are actually a few options in there, more so than the instructions will lead you to. This could be a decent thread in itself, but for my applications, I wired them so the Blue LED is always on if I had power available. They match great, and I saved $35 every place I used one of these instead of a 1140, and I saved on wasting scenes and links (and the problems with tracking status after Links).

Something to note - USR's don't show in upstart... anything a USR does is programmed through the Master it's connected to - and honestly, there aren't really many options for a USR.  The LED control is in how you wire it, not how it's programmed.  However, if you're hooking a USR to a Fixture Module or a UPB outlet, you'll be prompted to choose whether you have a remote or not - and if you do, you'll get a whole new screen of options - basically it turns on the same Rocker Actions screen you'd get with an 1140.

Depending on how you wire your switches and the LED's, you can get the following options (Do this at your own risk – I take no responsibility for any damage caused!)

  • Blue always on (Cap the brown/red wires); connect Black to any Always Hot wire from the same breaker. * This is the important catch; you must have an always-on Hot you can piggyback to get power for the LED. If this is an isolated remote with no always-hot in the box, you'll never have an always-on light.
  • Blue only on when the load is on (Deviate from the instructions, and connect Black from the switch to the switched hot and it'll come on only when the light is on and fade with the attached load)
  • Green only when the load is on (Connect the Brown or the Red to a switched hot; when that hot is on, the green light will be on).
  • Blue for one load, Green for another (only works if you're hooked to 2 different Master's – hook Black to one switched load; Brn or Red to the other; Green will override Blue if they're both on.
  • You can probably get Green Always On if you connect either Brn or Red to an always-hot wire as well.

For me this was pretty important; I really like the LED's on the lights, and Green just doesn't fit since I use Blue everywhere, so I set all of mine to be Blue always.

Another difference with the USR40A's is that, unlike the 1140's and other load-controlling modules, they're made of a lightweight plastic housing, and they don't use a ground.  I do have 2 that give me issues because you can't tighten them down as well and they seem to shift/bend and bind once in a while.  Again though, for the savings, it's not a deal killer.

There's some additional functionality of the USR's that I just discovered as well. It turns out, both the UPB-controlled outlet (URD-30), and the wire-in Dimmers (UFD-30) and wire-in relays (UFR-30) all have a brown/white traveller wire. This can be great if you don't have a neutral in your box (this can happen with an end-of-run switch).

Another example: my Christmas lights.

My builder was kind enough to run a dedicated circuit just for Christmas lights up in the eaves of my house. They wired directly from the breaker panel to the outlet; but instead of connecting black to the black on the outlet, there's also 2 wires that run back to the switch in my garage. Black connects to black on the runner to the switch; and on the other side of the switch is the White (re-coded as black with electrical tape) which returns the switched current back to the switch and connects to the black-side. This means that at the switch, black is always-on hot, and white is switched-hot; there's no neutral. However, by wiring with this configuration, I can put a URD-30 under the eaves in place of the existing outlet, and connect the switch to the neutral and the traveller wire. No LED's will work, but I'll now have a working switched and UPB controlled outlet. Normally this is accomplished by rewiring it so the switch has a hot and a common but no switched load, then using a 1140 or 240 in transmit-only mode using scenes – but that way is more expensive, and won't alert your home control software about the change in status (but, you'll get limited function of the LED).


UCQT40 – 4 Button Scene Controller with 4 LED's

Simply Automated UCQT40 4 Button Scene   Controller

I have to be honest – I use Links more like Macros than Scenes, so having an LED to track which scene I'm on wasn't as attractive for me at first; but they do look great when used right. In UpStart, you can configure each LED to respond to links – up to 8 each (vs. the typical 16). This way you can control when a scene activated from anywhere will activate the LEDs next to each button.  When setting up your links, just configure the LED's to respond as you wish.

The most important thing to realize is that this switch has no load-controlling capabilities; all it can do is transmit. This means you'll need to make sure what you want to control is handled through another wire-in fixture module, or relay module, or another switch. A handy option – if you have a switch bank with 2 switches, you can always take a US2240, wire both loads into that, and still have the power available to feed the UCQT40 as the Scene controller.

I just got mine and it'll get installed this weekend.  Rather than do a lot of detail here, I'll post a full review on it during install and link back here when it's done.


Tabletop Pedestal

SAI-10If you look at the pictures, this is basically just either a US240 or a UCQT40 in a neat little table-top stand.  I have one for the master bedroom until I get some sort of wireless-to-UPB bridge running.  The 240's can accept any faceplate like normal, but tend to come with a 4-button by default.  It's a good thing to have by the bed in case you hear something at night or want to dim the lights from bed, or turn on the fan.  They also sell the pedestal empty so you can put in your own switch.  Colors are White or Black.


Wire-In Modules

If you have a fixture or outlet that has power wired directly to it, and doesn’t have a switch inline – OR, you have an outlet or fixture that’s wired as an end-of-run switch (meaning there’s no neutral present at the switch), then these are good options.

  • URD30 – Controlled UPB receptacle. This is a standard Decora-style receptacle.       The top outlet is switched, and the bottom is always-on.
    • If you read my section above under the USR Switches, you’ll see that the URD’s can be hooked up to a USR for control. When you do this, you get 1140-style control on the configuration page of UPStart, with rocker-switch actions, and transmit components that’ll fire when you operate the switch. This is a great alternative to just wiring in a 240 in transmit-only mode in my opinion, as long as you can live without the LED.SAI-11
    • These come in two flavors; with and without the Timer built in.
    • I suspect these aren’t well understood; the recommendation I have always seen when dealing with a switched outlet that has no neutral has been to wire the switch always on and use an appliance module, or use one of these – but to wire it so the black/white that return to the switch location are wired as standard hot/neutral.       Then at the switch, you would have no load to control; instead you’d wire the hot/neutral into a switch and use that switch only to send links that would be received by the outlet or the plug-in module. This is more costly, and gives you far less control; plus control systems will have trouble following the status, since switches don’t transmit status when responding to a scene. This way, you do get accurate status; but, you sacrifice the LED completely; however, you get much greater control through the rocker – the same as that of an 1140.
    • Pay attention to the installation instructions!  They say to only wire into the bottom set of screws.  I suspect that if you checked the top screw, you'd see that it is also UPB controlled; meaning you could probably wire another standard outlet fixture in-line from there for it to be UPB controlled, but I haven't tested this.
    • Important: Never replace a GFCI outlet with one of these without replacing the GFCI protection in another way!  You can put one in front of this outlet, or replace the breaker.
  • UFR30 – UPB Relay Fixture Module. This is a wire-in module that can be placed inline with any fixture; most appropriate for a bank of fluorescent lights or a ceiling fan.       You would generally do this when you only have permanent power to the fixture and want to gain UPB control; or there are other scenarios as well. Just as with the URD30 above, you can use a USR for switching capabilities. These have a timer built in as well. These support up to 12-amps (which is a little lower than the 15 your standard switch/breaker would support) – the same as most appliance modules I’ve seen. 
  • UFD-30 – UPB Dimmer Fixture Module. This is the exact same as the UFR30 above, except that it is a dimming module up to 300 Watts (this is a little low – many dimmers are good to 600W). Just as above, it can have remote control using a UFR; and it has a timer.


Is there a delay with these switches?

With UPB, there is a slight delay from the time you press the button until an action occurs.  With SAI, the length of time is configurable from 350ms up to 750ms.  When you press any function on the switch, it'll wait for that timer to elapse before executing the action.  On an 1140 or other device with directly controlled load (Outlet or Fixture module with a slave USR) this action is pretty quick.  If the action triggers a link versus direct load control (any 240 or any link in general) it seems to have about another 150ms delay caused my transmitting/receiving that signal (these aren't scientific measurements; they're my best guess).  Add to that if you have a slow fade rate such as with a ramp time (I never snap my lights on unless they're non-dimmable loads) - it takes .08 seconds for my fastest light to dim up, presending another .200ms probably before the light is visible.  Those variables all put together can make it seem like delay is worse than it is.  Of course, this is all up to how you program/install your switches... you can set an 1140 to snap a direct-controlled load and it'll be a barely perceptible delay.

My take on this is that it just isn't a big deal.  For my wife and I, it doesn't bother us at all...   I'd probably prefer if it were instant, but I understand the functionaity and that this is just the best way for it to work.  More importantly, my wife seems totally fine with it.  When I have guests over, there are two types - regulars and occasionals.  If I have some occasional guests over for a dinner party or something, I control the lights and it doesn't matter.  For my regulars who are more at home and have free run of the house, they might be a little thrown off the first time they hit a switch or two, but then they're fine - the reaction is still very quick and nothing to be concerned about.  The biggest place this is an issue for me is my guest bathroom which has 2 banks of 2 switches (both identical - one full rocker, and one double-short rocker) - each bank is the exact same in functionality, and none of the rockers control the actual load wired to them - so it's all done through links (I hated how this bathroom was wired/configured, so I changed it!).  Combine that with one of the lights that has a delay before the Fluorescent flickers on, and it has thrown a couple of my guests off - but they're fine after the first time.  I generally now just leave the light on for the guests and everyone is fine.  I'll include that room in my wiring examples because it's pretty tricky.

Some have asked why it works that way - why not start executing the single-tap function immediately and if the second tap action is triggered in time, then execute that one - like some off-the-shelf dimmers do.  While this certainly isn't my design, it's one I do agree with actually (the way it's actually implemented).  With UPB programming, you have 4 events with each button (this can be a scene button or a top or bottom of a rocker) - they are Tap, Double Tap, Press and Hold, and Release.  If you think about the programming with an 1140, you can actually double that number.  See below for an example of just how flexible this can be.  In my opinion, they made the right choice, because it's quite possible that your double-tap action may not be a cumulative event, but rather a completely conflicting one.


* One thing that seems to be missing in the Rocker Switch tab under actions is a Do Nothing for any of those four options.  Interestingly enough, I was poking around another switch's configuration - PCS I believe, and I noticed that they actually had a Do Nothing option which could possibly be handy.  Once you have toddlers who can reach your light switches, you start taking a whole new look at actually childproofing light switches (especially when you have buttons like "Whole House On" and "Whole House Off".


So, How reliable are they?  Noise/Signal Issues?

As I mentioned, this is my second home with SAI switches.  My last home was the typical electrical nightmare - computers, UPS's, pool pump, HVAC running 24/7, CFL's in every fixture, etc - all the things that would kill X10.  When I ran upstart, I never had a blip of noise, and never a lost transmission that I noticed.  In my current house, it's simpler loads with less stuff turned on, but it's a big house (4K sq. ft).  Again - I've never had any noise show, and when I was going around programming the switches with the CIM with me, I never had a single signal issue.  However - when I located the CIM on the server in it's normal home (I remote into that for programming; same place all the equipment is located) - I started losing a few switches.  Just 4 out of 40 where signal was just too low.  So, I installed a breaker-mount Inverting Phase Coupler model ZPCI-B, and those issues have gone away.  Of course I could've probably relocated my CIM, but I wanted to have the strongest network possible.  That said, I'll do a quick thing on Phase Couplers.

Phase Couplers

In a large network, or large enough house, you may very well find that you need to boost your signal a bit.  This (for me at least) was nothing like tuning your house for X10 - it was just merely putting in a repeater to hit the other leg of the house's 120V wiring.  Generally speaking, the closer to the panel you can get, the better.  Also, it's good to note that there are differences with repeaters and couplers - Gen I doesn't play nice with repeaters because those repeaters don't repeat Gen I correctly.  It has to do with differences in the devices transmit.  For Simply Automated, they make their own Inverting Phase Couplers you can read up on - but here's the short version:

These come in three flavors:

  1. Wire-In - This one wires into both legs of a 240V circuit.  I'm not sure of the code restrictions if you can tap into an existing circuit or if it has to be dedicated. 
  2. Breaker-Box Mount - This is a universal phase coupler that mounts in the breaker box across two spaces (for 240V) - and it's universal in that it fits a wide variety of breaker panels.
  3. Plug-In (30A or 50A) - These plug in between any 240V appliances in the home, like a Range, Dryer, etc.  These are the simplest since there's no wiring - they just plug into the outlet and you plug the appliance into it and you're done.


(Source: Simply Automated Website)

I went with panel mount because I wanted it close - my dryer is on the other end of the house.  I didn't have enough spaces in my panel, but it turns out there's actually such a thing as double-240 breakers now... I was able to combine my Oven and Air Conditioner onto one double-240V breaker and free up two spaces for this and it worked out great.

This is really basic for some, but just to point it out... Typical US homes have 120/240V service to them.  What this means is that two 120V legs are delivered to the breaker panel.  Half your circuits are on one leg, and half are on the other, plus a neutral.  Ass the breakers go down in a row, each one sits on a pin... these pins alternate from one phase to the other.  Anything that's 240V rides both legs in place of a neutral.  So, when a signal generates on one "leg" of the house and is destined for the other "leg", it has to somehow cross to the other leg, which usually requires that the signal take a round-trip to the transformer in the street and back to your house.  In smaller homes that are close to the transformer this is easier but in larger homes you can lose a lot of signal strength.


What does it cost to run these switches?

Hopefully by now you realize that all the good stuff these switches do comes at a cost – and not just the purchase price! As I was wrapping this all up, I decided to do some tests to see how much power these switches actually consume to power the little brain that sits on the powerline listening for its next command, and to keep that cool blue light lit. Here's a link to the forum post with more details.

I took a total of 10 switches and hooked them together (The kill-a-watt is more accurate with a better load on it); so divide or multiply these numbers to estimate your own costs. The final test consisted of 6 US1140's and 4 US240's.

  • The 1140's and the 240's had no perceivable difference in power consumed
  • 100VA for all 10
  • .82 Amps for all 10. This will bounce up near double during heavy network activity such as writes; but in the grand scheme of things, their idle state is all that really matters
  • PF of .06
  • 6 Watts for 10 switches, which was consistent with the 3 watts for 5 switches, or .6 Watts
  • Turning off the LED's on the switches had no real measurable effect
    • The Wattage stayed the same
    • The VA dropped from 100 down and was dancing between 97 and 99
    • All other measurements stayed the same
  • So – at my *insanely* high electricity prices of $.409/kWh, running 50 of these switches with the LED always on will cost me about $107.82 for the year. Hopefully this is offset by always running the lights dimmer and keeping them off more often


Final Note about SAI

Being a pretty technical person and dealing with support people all the time, and running a support department, I generally have strong opinions about other support departments.  I have worked with SAI a little bit on two small issues now, and I have to say I've been very impressed with them all the way around.  When I deal with companies - people I'm giving my hard-earned money to, I get a basic feel for how they operate and what they're about - even if it's just a gut sense... and my sense all along has been that these are just good people - and my recent experiences working with them has confirmed that.  I know I've read other posts as well where they seemed to just go above and beyond to take care of their customers.  Elk for that matter is another one of those companies I like for that reason.


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