After nearly two years of waiting, at last you can now buy an X0 wall switch for the United Kingdom! The humble wall switch has been the Scarlet Pimpernel of the home automation world in the UK. It’s been the subject of rumour and wild speculation ever since supplies of its last incarnation ran out all those months ago.
ukswitcha.jpg (12508 bytes)Although a simple enough device (indeed perhaps too simple – but more on that later) it seems that without it people aren’t as willing to dip their toe into the great swimming pool of home automation. I suppose I should understand this, as back in 1995, 2 wall switches were one of my first X10 purchases. It’s a simple device to fit and instantly converts an existing ceiling lamp to a potentially automated one.
As you can see from the pictures the switch is a fairly innocuous looking device. Cosmetically the improvements over its predecessor amount to two little white caps to cover the screw heads on the front plate. Although the switch is quite bulky it will fit in the shallowest of wall boxes as a lot of its depth is proud of the wall. There is a pull out 3amp fuse at the bottom of the switch and the large paddle on the front snaps off the reveal the house code and unit code dials underneath.
ukswitchc.jpg (23229 bytes)
The switch does NOT require a neutral wire. The majority of the rest of European countries (German, France etc) all seem to have their lighting circuits wired differently to the UK (they DO need a neutral wire) and so we couldn’t use their switches. The switch will control (and dim) incandescent lights from 60W to 300W. Many of the delays of the unit were blamed on its design. For instance I heard that it was being re-worked so it could operate the new mini-fluorescent long life low energy bulbs that are becoming so popular over here. Now that I have finally got my hands on a sample switch (thanks to London’s main Home Automation dealers – Laser Business Systems) I can confirm that the switch WILL NOT work with mini-fluorescence. But this is only the beginning of the disappointment. The switch cannot operate in a two-way set-up say for example on stairs. Nor does it have soft start or the extended X10 capabilities that allow the newer American switches to come on at a specific level rather than coming on at 100% and dimming down. Add to this the fact that the switch costs Â£35 (roughly $60) and you can see why we’re so envious of US prices!
However, after all is said and done the simple fact that the UK wall switch is available again will make it a seller. One supplier I talked to said he has “an awful lot of back orders” and feels it will help kick start interest for people in the UK to start building a system â€“ and that can only be a good thing!
Available From – Laser Business Systems Ltd (London) – http://www.io.com/~lbs/