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How do I get started? Is X-10 the only way to go?
This thread has 6 replies. Displaying all posts.
Post 1 made on Wednesday August 11, 1999 at 18:41
Historic Forum Post
I'm interested in home automation. I know very little about this stuff and I was wondering is X-10 the only solution? I have full attic access and an unfinished basement, so I have full wiring access if necessary. I would like to have a system that can communicate with an alarm system too. Plus, I would like to remotely check the status of the system, possibly running on a secure server. What is available such as software & hardware. I don't want to hire anyone to do this for me as I believe I am capable of doing the work myself, since I setup and maintain Netware & NT systems for a living.

OP | Post 2 made on Wednesday August 11, 1999 at 21:31
Robert (RCI Automation)
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There are "hardwired" automation systems available, but they are usually proprietary and are not as flexible as an X-10 based system. Many times they are lighting systems only. CEBUS is another open standard that has been in the works for years but is not catching on, therefore there are very few products available to date.

The advantage of X-10 is that it is relatively low cost, flexible, many products made by many manufacturers,is an open standard, and has been around for decades. The main disadvantage is that it isn't as reliable as a hard wired system. But, you can do things to improve the reliablity of the X-10 communications substantially buy isolating AC power line noise, and increasing X-10 signal strength (see my other posts in this forum).

If you choose the right type of X-10 based home automation controller, it will really be a hybrid system. We are a dealer for the Stargate system. This home automation controller communicates via X-10 (mainly for lighting), but also communicates via 3 RS-232 ports(serial), a RS-485 port, relay ouputs, digital inputs, and analog inputs. All of these are "hardwired" communication channels, except X-10. So if you want to communicate with an alarm panel but don't want to use X-10 commands, Stargate will do that via its RS-232 port (many alarm panels allow full control of the system via RS-232). Another example is sprinkler control. If you don't want to rely on X-10 commands to control your sprinklers, the Stargate has 8 relay outputs that can be connected directly to sprinkler solenoid valves for hardwired control. Another example is HVAC control. You can use the Stargate's RS-485 port to control up to 16 thermostats.

If you are interested in this type of system, please take a look at our web site at: [Link:]

RCI Automation
OP | Post 3 made on Thursday August 12, 1999 at 01:11
Larry Boyers
Historic Forum Post
Take a look at two products from JDS Technologies.

The first is Stargate. It's a very powerfull system that integrates far more than just your X10 devices. Add the IRXpander and you have full two-way control of Ir devices as well. Also, all of Stargate's telephone functions (caller ID, voicemail, call screening, etc.) and the things that Robert mentioned. Stargate is definately the way to go if it fits your budget.

A cheaper option is the JDS Timecommander. The Timecommander is a scaled down version of Stargate (actually, it's vis versa but same difference). The TimeCommander handles all the X10 and, with the addition of the IRXpander, all the Ir stuff as well. What you're giving up is the telephone, voice responce, voicemail, etc. features. With Timecommander you also have the choice of going with (TimeCommander Plus) or without (TimeCommander) the hardwired inputs/outputs.

Approximate prices are as follows:

Timecommander Plus....$590


OP | Post 4 made on Thursday August 12, 1999 at 10:53
Robert (RCI Automation)
Historic Forum Post
While the TimeCommander is a good product, it is an older product and doesn't have the newest technology that the Stargate has. If a customer's budget doesn't support a Stargate, I recommend the Stargate Lite. The Stargate Lite has all the features of Stargate except the telephony (voice mail, DTMF) and digital voice features. At a later time you can purchase and add the expansion board that will add all of those features. When the board is added you have a complete Stargate system.

One other thing to mention. The JDS equipment prices shown above are lower than what a customer would normally expect to pay for these products. Setting up a home automation system can be complex and I recommend that people purchase the products from a company that can provide you with the necessary technical support. A home automation controller must be programmed (via program code) to do what you want it to do. The Stargate (and Stargate Lite) have a capacity of 6000 - 8000 lines of program code. This is the code that the user must write to get things to happen. The manual that is supplied with the Stargate will get a customer started writing code (i.e. Events), but eventually a customer will need help with writing more complex code. This is one of the reasons I recommend that the purchase decision for a product like this include more than just the product's price.

RCI Automation

RCI Automation

OP | Post 5 made on Friday August 13, 1999 at 02:45
Historic Forum Post
Thanks for responding Robert & Larry. Now I have a little more to go on. The stargate sounds interesting. I would like to hear from end users too, if any are listening.

OP | Post 6 made on Friday August 13, 1999 at 18:07
Ed Maurus
Historic Forum Post
And of course I have to chime in here and recommend Homevision. Available from worthington and H.A.S.
OP | Post 7 made on Saturday August 14, 1999 at 01:54
Jim Fouch
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I have both a Stargate and the IR Expansion unit that I bought from Robert -- the hardware is very nice -- the software for it is dreck (in my opinion), but its kinda like someone (Churchill?) said about demoracy, 'its not great but far better than any alternative'...

If you have any specific questions, I will be happy to try to help...

Cheers, Jim.

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