The first step in getting started with home automation is choosing a networking technology. Popular technologies for home automation include X-10, UPB, INSTEON, Z-Wave, and ZigBee. The one you select determines the direction of your future home automation system.
X10 has long been the standard by which other home automation technologies are measured. X10 works via home’s power line wiring and may experience problems related to wiring distances, phase differences, and line noise. Many enthusiasts believe X10 technology has become obsolete
, replaced by the newer and more versatile wireless technologies. If you’re new to home automation it’s probably a good idea to start with some other technology, because X10 devices can be more difficult to configure and performance is sometimes erratic.
Universal Powerline Bus (UPB) is similar to X10, using the home’s built in wiring to transmit home automation control signals. Developed to overcome many of the shortcoming that X10 experiences, UPB is a superior powerline technology to X10. UPB is not X10 compatible. If you have X10 compatible products and you want your UPB and X10 compatible products to work together you will need a controller that talks to both.
Designed to bridge wireless home automation to powerline automation, INSTEON devices communicate over both power lines and via wireless. INSTEON is also X10 compatible, thereby adding wireless capability to an existing X10 network. Finally, INSTEON technology supports even home automation novices: even non-technical individuals can set up and add devices to the network.
The original wireless home automation
technology, Z-Wave set standards for wireless home automation. Z-Wave extended the usable range of home automation by making all devices double as repeaters. Its increased network reliability also enabled commercial applications. Z-Wave devices are designed for ease of setup and use, and come about as close to turnkey as the home automation industry allows, especially helpful for beginning enthusiasts.
Similar to Z-Wave, ZigBee is strictly a wireless home automation technology. The technology has been slow to gain acceptance with home automation enthusiasts largely because Zigbee devices frequently have difficulty communicating with those made by different manufacturers. Zigbee is not recommended for those new to home automation, unless they intend to use only devices made by the same manufacturer.