I’m finally getting around to updating our system at home. Until now I’ve been struggling along with an Enerlogic 1400e controlling a few X10 lights and appliances. I bought the unit back in the very early 90’s and it has been chugging along ever since … mind you it just hasn’t been the same since the millennium … the dates are a bit off … unless it really is 1914 again 🙂

I firstly had to decide what to do about upgrading the lighting controls. I must admit that I have been pretty frustrated with the promises of CEBus equipment and have held off on the decision for a year or more. I’ve decided that the top quality X10 switches available today from Leviton and others will do the job for us.

With that decision made it came time to decide on the controller to use. I wanted something with not only X10 capabilities but IR as well. There has been no sign of IR use declining for entertainment system control. Other features such as digital IO’s etc. … while not the driving force … are additional needs. I also decided that I wanted a controller that operates independently of the PC. The Enerlogic box that I have depended on for several years has never crashed. Needless to say … I can’t say the same about my windows PC. Lastly … and perhaps the most important feature of the controller … is support from the manufacturer.

I’m sure you’ve already guessed which controller I have chosen … HomeVision by Custom Solutions. It meets all of the criteria above and I have known and worked with Craig Chadwick since starting HomeToys in 1995. In fact I did a review of HomeVision back in August of 1997. The amazing thing is … today’s HomeVision has not changed drastically from the one I reviewed then. That says a lot for the engineering that went into it in the first place. The old review was of Version 2.4 … the new one is version 3.02. The majority of the features are identical but here are a few things that Craig tells me have changed … mainly related to devices supported by HV, such as:

* RCS X-10 and serial communicating thermostats.
* CADDX serial communicating security system.
* Additional input/output boards with relays and opto-isolated inputs.
* Digital temperature sensors.
* Accessories to provide extra serial ports and telephone control.

Also, the new 3.0 version is a 32-bit program, while the 2.4 version was 16-bit and a Web Server has been added.

I’m not going to redo the in depth review of HomeVision here. The old review is still relevant so click here if you want to get into the nitty gritty of this controller. Suffice it to say that when I got my new HomeVision it only took a few minutes to change over all of my schedules and devices from the Enerlogic system. I did not lose one day of control and in fact added scenes and modes that I had been thinking about for some time. Not having to write and debug control code has made this experience a pleasure.

In 1997 I had some criticism of the complexity of the setup procedure. After 4 years of testing and playing with all kinds of sophisticated software and hardware I must say that HomeVision is a breeze to setup and gives me enough information and control to be confident that the system will keep on ticking but not so many options that I lose sight of what it is that I’m trying to do. After all … this is not rocket science … we just want to make things happen automatically … don’t we?

Here’s a summary of the features:

* Video output displays menus and control screens on your TV
* Two-way infrared capability so you can control HomeVision, and HomeVision can control all your audio/video equipment
* Two-way X-10 communication controls and monitors lights, appliances, thermostats, security systems, etc.
* 24 digital inputs/outputs provide direct connections to other equipment
* Battery-backed clock controls events based on time, date, sunset, etc.
* Two-way serial interface provides full control and status reporting via a PC
* Web server provides control from any web browser anywhere in the world!

While my previous review covers many of these … the Web Server is new and I just had to have a quick look at it to understand what it is and why I’d use it. Again … setup took seconds. HomeVision has pre-build a series of web pages that give you the status of your system from any computer connected to the internet or your home network. All you need to do is start the server and call up the system in your web browser. You can set up password protection etc. and customize the html pages if you like. Here’s what our system looks like without any customization at all (note that the links don’t work in this example because you are not actually accessing the system here). When the system is actually connected you can get status (click items on left index) and control devices etc. using this interface. I plan to use this feature to monitor our home when I’m on the road or using my laptop in another room on our home network. I often work late at night and will be able to turn off all of the lights … or light the path to the fridge when I need some fuel 🙂

As I said we are in the process of upgrading our home network systems and HomeVision is the first and one of the most important devices that we have added. So far I have just touched the surface of this powerful controller and as we implement more features I will be sure to pass on the experiences. To find out more about HomeVision and the many expansion possibilities visit www.csi3.com/homevis2.htm . Retail price for the basic unit is about $600.