Leviton has just added an RF component to their Vizia line. I spoke to them yesterday and they said it's been out for about 1 month.
I'm replacing all my old X10 stuff (too flaky). i also have just redone several rooms in my basement, so i'm going to wire up all those rooms with a mix of non-RF and RF switches. If the technology is reliable, I'd likely get to work changing many of the switches throughout the house.
These things are very expensive ($70-$80+) per switch. To cut down on the cost, i may opt to mix in Decora switches (the decoras are your typical rocker switches, while the vizia's are 'return to neutral switches' (meaning u just press the bottom half of the switch)).
Although they're new, I'm wondering if anyone has tried them? they're only available from lighting or electronic stores - not (yet?) from home depot's or lowe's. thanks
Before your throw in the towel on X10, it may be worth seeing what you can do to improve your X10 reliability. I have been writing a troubleshooting series to help those who have X10 reliability problems:
Even with all the electronics we have in this house, X10 was virtually 100% reliable before I added the XTB. Since then, the only problem we have had was due to the DST shift (forgot to re-enter latitude into C-Max after installing the update).
Leviton's Vizia RF systems are Z-Wave. One advanage there is that they are compatible with all of the other Z-Wave systems on the market. There are over 100 manufacturers selling or developing Z-Wave hardware already.
Z-Wave is reliable. Although one poster who has not used it claims otherwise, the stuff can handle a very large home if done right. Leviton also makes X10 compatible units though I prefer the RF.
Prices vary depending on who the vendor is and the volume they do with Leviton. Shop around.
Note: I'm a Leviton dealer so I'm not entirely unbiased.
Although I've posted many of their other products online, I still have to get the Vizia set up in our database. I should have them available shortly. I can't give you customer experience on Vizia thoough. It's still too new.
Whether you use X-10 or some other Power Line Control (PLC, eg: UPB, INSTEON, various flavors of ethernet over powerline) you might find Jeff Volp's suggestions helpful.
Key in my opinion is to have a map (i.e., schematic, or diagram) of your home's wiring so that you can understand the relationship and geometry between devices, noise sources, signal extenuators and AC phases.
A strategy that would apply to all these technologies that IIRC Jeff has applied in his house to X-10, is to put the PLC devices on one phase and as many of the noise producers and signal suckers as practical on the other and _not_ use a phase coupler.
Physics and the US and Canadian electrical codes dictate that one shouldn't move loads around willy-nilly in the AC power distribution panel, but in my case, I could make significant improvements taking care to keep the loads balanced and compliant with the NEC.
That is correct. And most of those potential "signal suckers' are confined to one circuit fed through a 20 amp X10 XPF filter.
While I agree that it is a good idea to balance loads across both phases, I couldn't find anything in the NEC regarding that issue. I may have missed it. Except for some slight variation in voltage due to line drop in the neutral, the only component in the distribution network that might be effected by load balancing is the utility step-down transformer.
All three feeds to our main distribution panel are the same size, so the neutral is properly sized to handle the maximum current from either phase. That is not always the case, particularly in older buildings.
Our major loads are the 240V A/C compressors necessary for this climate with peak summer temperatures well up in the teens. Lighting and convenience circuits are almost all on one phase, and the other phase supplies most electronics, fixed appliances, and other non-X10 circuits. The XTB-II is just driving the X10 phase. This configuration works very well.
Agreed. Though my first house had 100-amp service and no 220v appliances, and so had I put all lighting on one phase and all the window AC's and multitude of high-wattage 110v kitchen-counter appliances of the day on the other, I could have tripped the main breaker even when the total was well below the total service capacity by overloading (relatively) one phase and 'underloading' the other.
The entrance panel also had numerous breakers that supplied more than one circuit which might have run afoul of NEC 210.11 (B) Load Evenly Proportioned Among Branch Circuits.
My main point, not well expressed, was that not every homeowner is knowledgeable enough to safely rearrange the wiring in their AC service entrance panel.
NEC 70 mentions the subject in relation to neutral conductor size requirements. The concern is that an unbalanced load can create higher current on the neutral and (in the event of a break) on the grounding conductor.
I may have missed
neutral, the only component in the distribution network
If the neutral opens any unbalanced load goes directly to the ground which might not be of sufficient gauge to handle it. This could lead to overheating and possibly fire.
neutral is properly sized to handle the maximum current
I don't know the physics well enough to be certain but presumably that's enough.
peak summer temperatures well up in the teens.
phase supplies most electronics, fixed appliances,
configuration works very well.
We installed a 440/208 WYE transformer in my church some years ago. The chief electrician did careful load calcs to make certain the neutrals and grounding conductors wouldn't be overloaded. Some time later the system got rewired to accommodate 40 or 50 new
1KW circuits. It took a lot of time getting it straight again. To date the place hasn't burned down so I guess we did it right. :^)
That's not quite true Bob. The ground only has the ability to carry current directly back to the utility transformer through the neutral conductor itself. The other path is usually to a water pipe or metal stake in the ground. There is no direct path from that to the utility transformer center tap. The only route I can see is through an electrically conductive water main, and a neighboring house sharing the same utility transformer. The resistance of a circuitous path such as that would limit the current, and any resulting heat would be dissipated over a large area. I'm not sure whether the ground does much more than provide an exit path for a stray lightning bolt that gets into the house wiring.
I have seen the neutral fail twice. One was an undersize neutral fuse that popped in our apartment building, and the other was the neutral feed from the pole broke. In both cases the voltage divided very unequally across the two phases, and some electrical devices were damaged.
Please note that I am not advocating unbalanced loads. If you take a careful look at X10 and non-X10 loads in an average house, reapportioning the circuits so that all X10 loads are on the same phase may not cause any significant unbalance. It could actually be better than the electrician did in the first place.
I have done two ViziaRF installs to date. One large and one medium. Several others are planned in the near future. Installation is no harder than X10 or any other retrofit. You will curse the electrician with some regularity due to box size. Any of the HA switches are quite a bit larger than standard ones and box space will be tight. That said, I have always been able to make things fit...eventually.
The ViziaRF switches rock in terms of feel and ease of install and come with a 5 year warranty. High WAF on the Vizia as well. They follow Lutron and other high end lighting in terms of form factor. Its also being pushed as the preferred format for the elderly. I have not used other brands enough to comment on them.
I am yet to find a range/hops issue, even in the large installation. I have not done formal tests, but my current attitude is that it is good enough up through the 3500 sqft range/single story, depending on layout. Homeseer offers a tool that does Z-wave network analysis which would help with any network issues.. It requires their Z-troller primary controller.
Same goes for signal interference. I have set Homeseer to poll regularly and it logs any devices that does not respond. A subset of the nodes show up randomly and I can not tie it to household activity. However, they all respond to polls. For now its seems to be network transients, and they are not impacting performance. The closed loop feedback is great, especially for anyone coming from . Even the low cost Intermatic HA09 give an indication in case of command failure.
While there are other PC products out there, Richard Helmke still sets a high standard for customer service and support. His efforts with the rollout of the Leviton Zone and Wall controllers were exemplary.
I have not yet integrated Z-wave with either with HAI or Elk. I used Homeseer with the larger installation, and no central controller (other than the Z-wave primary remote) on the other.
The interchangeability is OK, but not perfect. There are still wrinkles in a few areas. Creating heterogeneous secondary controllers is a case in point.. Typical under the circumstances, but better than I thought I would find. Cynic that I am, I was pleasantly surprised about the overall interoperability I have found.
Asymmetric control is my big whine at the moment. Nothing out there that addresses that yet. It can sort of be done by Homeseer, but the limitation is fundamentally existing Z-wave hardware. I am annoyed enough by it to consider hybriding a system with UPB or even X-10 to get around it. The new wall controller from Intermatic may. Its in beta, and I have asked to join that effort. Other manufacturers appear to be interested in that functionality as well..
There are other product areas I would like to see filled. Fan speed controller is one, fixture modules, and outlets (there is one promised from Intermatic real-soon-now) also come to mind. A wall controller with single switch functionality would also be very useful.
In the event there's leakage it will travel through the grounding conductor.
I've seen it happen when someone incorrectly connected the neutral wire in a lighting system. The result was several blown, high current bulbs. I've also seen an electrician accidentally opening a shared neutral.
loads are on the same
This will vary from house to house. No two are the same, even among identically built homes because people connect different loads to different outlets. Balancing loads requires some thought and some understanding, not only of stated ratings on various fixtures and appliances but also of their usage. For example, some lights are almost always on when the family is home and awake. Others are on only occasionally. The same applies to appliances. Although I'm a strong advocate of DIY, unless the homeowner is technically knowledgeable, I prefer to have an electrician manage the breaker panel.
I think the real point is that in applications such as yours the standard (4 hop) Z-Wave system is quite capable. Obviously, each home is different and one 3,500 sf home might be more difficult to accommodate than another. Some have claimed without ever having seen it, much less tested it, that Z-Wave cannot handle larger homes at all. It does the newsgroup a service to post real world experience with Z-Wave and competing technologies.
I haven't tried them but would suggest you need some minimum spacing between network nodes (I think 20-25').
You might also try less expensive sources. AutomatedOutlet.com lists a 600W Vizia return-to-neutral dimmer switch for under $20. I have no idea how these differ from the more expensive models but Martin Custer, the owner of AutomatedOutlet, has always proven to know what he's talking about (unlike some other dealers) so I suggest you ask him. See...
Other than to hire you to install his system, what advice would you offer the OP who appears to be planning a sparsely populated Vizia network?
Both Vizia and Intermatic's InTouch systems have only started shipping this month. Can you shed any light on why these second generation Z-Wave products cost so much more than the first generation products? Using AutomatedOutlet.com prices and comparing to Intermatic's original products, Vizia seems to cost about twice as much (although there's one $18 dimmer switch) while InTouch seems to cost nearly three times as much. One thought that comes to mind is that they have increased the sensitivity of the receivers which would be one way to improve range, FCC rules would prohibit increasing transmitted power but would not prevent improvements to the receivers.
The few range figures posted here have been biased in that they have involved transmitters that were outdoors sending to a module indoors (with no mention of intervening walls, etc.). In the video on the InTouch website, Intermatic says up to 100' range and the datasheet for the Vizia remote says
75' range but neither say whether this is free-air range. (Almost universally, manufacturers quote free-air range.) Echelon published a whitepaper that included hands on tests of Z-Wave (first generation) that indicated 20-30' reliable indoor range. A user in the UK found he couldn't reach a shed (40' away) without adding a module half-way between the shed and house. (This is not directly applicable because Europe uses a different frequency and allows different power levels.)
For anyone who doesn't understand the max hop issue, the video on the Intouch website addresses it.
FCC rules allow higher power for systems that are primarily operated by a humanoid pushing a button and require reduced power for systems that send signals automatically. Automatic polling would appear to be a technical violation of the rules.
It is the same reason any new technology initially costs more. The manufacturers need to recoop their investment in R&D.
True. The previous poster has repeatedly posted short ranges based entirely on supposition. In fact Z-Wave does far better than Mr. Houston alleges.
Speaking of bias, it is noteworthy that Echelon is a competitor of Z-Wave. However, their single test site showed consistent successful transmission up to 33 feet per hop.
Manufacturers routinely publish range figures based on transmission in open air. There's a good reason for this. No two building environments are alike so testing indoors will yield very different results from place to place. A user who reads that product X has a free air range of 100 feet and product Y has a range of 50 feet will know that product X has roughly twice the range of product Y. This isn't linear though since each frequency behaves a little different from another in the same environment. But the published free air range does give an indication of relative performance between X and Y.
The test in the cited paper indicated reliable performance up to 33 feet with *some* locations functioning reliably at up to 60 feet. With early release Z-Wave systems going four hops and the controller centrally located this would allow for a theoretical installation covering a structure over 260 feet in length. That is far greater coverage than what Mr. Houston claims.
Since the FCC has granted acceptance to these products obviously it is not.
What I have done could be done by anyone. I took the houses as they stood, installed the wall switches and then brought up the network. Short of a McMansion with a replica of the Great Hall from Ballmoral Castle, I don't see a situation where there would be more than 25ft, provided a house was fully done. Partial implementations could have issues. Also bear in mind where the command originates from matters. If the transmitter is in the center, 4 in each direction go a long ways. One at the fringe of the network may have more of a problem.
Not sure about the cost and performance differences you bring up, as I said, I've been working with Vizia as wall switches and a mix of hand helds. The Vizia units are scene capable, including the plug ins, not sure if that is true for the other/earlier units. As I said in a prior post I beleive $20 dimmer is for Vizia, not ViziaRF. There may also be market based pricing at work. The Leviton X-10 products were perceived as being better than others and were priced accordingly.
Citing free air range numbers would not surprise me. Not sure how it could be any other way for standardization, but it would also not be realistic, sort of like the original EPA fuel economy numbers. If someone was concerned they could get a starter kit (Primary remote and 2 wall warts) and use that to test their own personal environment.
Like the little video on the InTouch site illustrates, devices at opposite edges of the network cannot reach each other.
The online sites where I was able to find Vizia products listed do not make this distiction but I did hear back from Martin Custer who confirmed that the Vizia line has both RF and standard (non-automated) devices and the $20 dimmer is non-automated.
I would expect plug-in modules to have slightly better range than switches.