Lighting control has come a long way since two scientists developed X-10 around 40 years ago. X-10 has grown to provide lighting control at affordable pricesâ€” appealing to approximately fifteen million X-10 users. Although affordable, X-10 has faced reliability issues, leading most professional installers to look for other technologies.
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However, this is not to say that X-10 does not have some good products. In fact, none of these new technologies provide the plethora of products that X-10 provides. Personally, my favorite X-10 device is the 6-1 universal remote control. Before going to sleep, I can relax while catching up on the news or watch my favorite movie. When I am ready to go to sleep, a simple press of a button can turn off my TV, all the lighting in my home, along with arming the system.
Three new lighting protocols are stepping up to offer replacement options that provide more reliability for under $100 per switch.
â€¢ PCS Lighting (www.pcslighting.com) invented the Universal Power-Line Bus or UPB lighting standard that provides 99% accuracy. This is probably closest to X-10 as it still uses the electrical powerline in the home.
â€¢ Smarthome Mfg (www.smarthome.com) developed a RF-based lighting standard called INSTEON. The RF-based light switches have two-way communication. A command is sent out, and the receiving switch confirms that the command has in fact been received. If the switch cannot immediately hear the command, a Mesh Network is used to communicate via other switches in the home to relay the message. Smarthome’s INSTEON switches have the ability to receive X-10 commands.
â€¢ Zensys (www.zen-sys.com) created the Z-wave lighting standard, also based on RF and also uses the Mesh Network concept. This technology is very reliable, but not compatible with X-10.
Listening to lighting control users, there is much anticipation and debate over which is the better standard to migrate to. All switches supporting these technologies do not require any new wires in the home, although some require a neutral (typically a white wire) in the switch box. They all offer switches, dimmers, and plug-in modules for electrical outlets.
I believe we will see a intermingling of lighting protocols and technologies for 5-10 years. Many X-10 users will want to intermingle few UPB or other RF capable switches at first, migrating their homes over a few years, spreading the cost out. Users with existing UPB or RF switches may just want to keep a few of their favorite X-10 devices.
How can X10 / UPB / RF lighting control be intermingled? Find out if your existing X-10 home automation controller supports UPB or RF lighting products. If not, you may want to check with your product manufacturer, and see if they offer newer firmware or software upgrades to support the newer technologies. For those systems that do not offer a firmware or software upgrade or their systems are no longer supported, visit www.architechtronics.com. Architechtronics produces a series of translators called “Chameleo” that will help X-10 users migrate their systems, or simply intermingle multiple technologies in a home.
Brett Griffin is co-founder of Architechtronics, based in Bothell, Washington. He has extensive experience in the home technology industry and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Chameleo Line, including X10 translation visit our website at www.architechtronics.com