At last we have another X-10 switch to choose from. The SwitchLinc 2Way from SmartLinc has many of the features of it’s counterparts from Leviton and PCS plus a few new ones of it’s own. Out of the box this switch has a nice look and feel with a definite “click” when you push the top or bottom of the unit. It is adorned with a series of LED’s. 8 down the left side indicate the dim level of the light in operation and one on the top acts as a nightlight when the light is off.
Simply Brilliant UPB Dimming
The SwitchLinc 2 Way requires a neutral wire in the circuit to operate. Be sure to check your house wiring before you buy a bunch (I for one don’t have a neutral in my house). Of course there are optional slave switches for 3 and 4 way lighting circuits and two basic models with power ratings of 600 or 1000 watts. The size of the switch is almost the same as it’s counterparts which is pretty big if you’re trying to fit 2 or more into a shallow electrical box (another problem I have at home). In addition to the red, white and black wires (Load, Neutral, Line) there is also a yellow for multi-way wiring and a bare ground wire.
As far as reliability is concerned … that’s a hard one to call without extensive testing (beyond the scope of this review). SmartLinc states that the switch “operates where other powerline switches fail utilizing enhanced noise rejection technology”.
Basic operation of the switch is just that … basic. Press top for on, Press bottom for off / Hold top for bright, Hold bottom for dim. Duh!!! Oh and remember that annoying little safety lever on the bottom of X-10 switches that shuts the unit off … well all you have to do with the SwitchLinc is push a little harder on the bottom of the switch to achieve this (a tag on top of the paddle says “System Off”). This may be a problem with kids who reach up and slam the switch (and they do). I know mine love to drive me wild by flicking that lever so I presume they will continue to turn my hair grey once they find out about the the new method 🙁
There is a major difference between this switch and any others that I have used and that is the method of setting the Primary X-10 address. No little dials to be found anywhere. Instead you push on a very small “Set” button on the unit until the brightness LED flashes and the light goes to 100% ON (about 7 seconds). Then let go of the button and the nightlight LED flashes to indicate the switch is ready to program. Within 30 seconds send the housecode that you want to use (via a controller of some sort – maxi / mini / remote etc.). When the light blinks and the LED goes out … the unit got the code. I’m not sure whether I like this or not … I’ll reserve judgement. Being a bit forgetful and at times not that organized 🙁 sometimes I need to go to a switch and take the cover off to find out what code it has. On the other hand, since the switch sends it’s code when you tap it … all you really have to do is be able to read the code from your controller or a test meter. Too easy.
OK … so much for the basics … now what nifty stuff can this switch do. Here’s a quick list:
* Tap Top when the light is OFF – Light ramps up to a preset ON level. (Both the light level and the ramp rate can be adjusted locally using the “Set” button or remotely using a controller).
* Tap Top when the light is ON – Light ramps to full brightness.
* Tap Bottom – Light ramps to OFF.
* Double Tap Top (sounds like a mouse to me) – Light ramps fast to full bright.
* Double Tap Bottom – Light ramps fast to OFF.
Will my better half and the string of half pints in the house remember these commands … probably not but then again that’s their loss 🙂 I can hardly wait to scare the neighborhood kids by tapping on my switches for a Halloween “trick”.
How about scenes … you know … the ability to bring on a series of lights to preset levels with the touch of one switch. This is an extremely powerful feature of the newer intelligent switches. Each SwitchLinc can be a member of up to 64 “Scenes”. Programming the scenes requires a maxi controller or the special “Lighting Control Setup Application” that runs on the TouchLinc touchscreen controller. Programming scenes can be somewhat tedious (no matter what system you use). With SwitchLinc it entails sending a series of codes down the powerline to initiate the process … setting all the lights to the desired levels (you’ve got 4 minutes) … sending another series of codes indicating that you’re done … sending the desired “Scene Address”. If you did all this correctly then the lights in the scene will all blink … whew! SwitchLinc makes this process a bit easier since you can use a controller to set the dim levels instead of running to each switch to set it manually. Now … when you send the “Scene Address” down the powerline (either with a separate switch or a controller), all the lights in that scene go to the preset dim levels that you set them up for … awesome for a home theater set-up or “romantic mode” in that bachelor pad. You can even program different ramp rates for each scene light.
Many who use X-10 for lighting control have been awaiting the “Two Way” switch for some time now. Why? The main reason is because while you may have a sophisticated controller that monitors the powerline for commands and keeps track of lighting status from that data … there has not been a method of keeping track of light levels or status if someone actually uses the manual switch to change them. In other words … the switches didn’t send the X-10 code when someone pushed the button … they just dimmed the light or turned it on or off. The problem arises when you have a control scenario that try’s to adjust the brightness a light that someone turned off manually for example. SwitchLinc transmits it’s primary address and brightness level after local control and responds to query commands to its primary address. Now your smart controller will always know the lighting level at every switch and can also ask the switch what it’s status is.
One more nice little feature. If the power fails, each SwitchLinc will return to it’s last brightness level when power is restored. Now if only the candles would walk back into the closet we wouldn’t have to leave the chair at all.
A quick look at street prices indicate the following:
* 600 W SwitchLinc – $90 to $100
* 1000 W SwitchLinc – $100+
* SwitchLinc Slave – $30-$40
Comparable to similar offerings from Leviton and PCS with a few extra goodies to boot. Are the advanced features and reliability of this class of switch worth the cash? Only you (and your automation budget) can decide. I’m very impressed with the quality and features these switches have to offer. X-10 Powerline device technology and reliability has come a long way in the last year and that’s good for all of us.