Thoughts on ditching Control4...need input please! - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 06-21-2014, 09:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Thoughts on ditching Control4...need input please!

Alright, so I've got an expansive Control4 installation in my home and I'm thinking about dumping it. I'm coming on here to hopefully get some input and advice on what I should consider replacing it with, if it's even feasible to do so.

Currently, my Control4 system provides several things we use, but it also integrates everything else. We really love the system, and my whole family uses it like crazy. I can share more details on why I'm thinking about dumping it later if anyone cares to know why, but this post will already be long enough so I'll save that for a reply if needed.

Currently our Control4 does the following (primarily):
- Controls roughly 90 lighting loads (Control4 branded equipment)
- Distributed audio through stereo zones (Control4 branded equipment)
- Distributed video (Binary A/V Matrix Switch controlled via RS232, but can also be controlled via IP)
- Controls all my TV's via either IP or RS232 (DB9/serial)
- Controls all my media players and Bluray player via IP
- Interfaces with my surveillance system (Wirepath 9 channel DVR)
- Provides an interface to control lighting, security, surveillance, movie selection, etc... (Control4 branded equipment)
- Monitors the status of my garage doors and gates around the property, and controls them as well (combination of hard wired contacts and relays, as well as wireless contacts and relays)
- I use lots of GE wireless sensors to monitor the status of doors/windows/freezers/safes, etc... I use a device from Card Access to seamlessly interface Control4 with them
- Yale door locks to monitor access and fire programming based on the code entered in the lock
- Interface with MyMovies for movie library database management
- I send and receive communication to/from the house via email and NMA (Notify My Android). I can be alerted about all sorts of things, and my reply can trigger all sorts of other programming
- In wall keypads to control different things (Control4 branded equipment)
- HVAC control (Control4 branded equipment)
- Dedicated touch panels so system control (Control4 branded equipment)
- We use a whole bunch of SR250 remotes (Control4 branded equipment)
- All theater equipment is controlled via IP or IR (Epson PJ, Marantz receiver, etc...)

I guess what I'm wondering is if there are any other products/systems that I can administer/install/manage myself, that can provide all of this functionality. Every system and component is integrated wonderfully and it's a breeze to use. The system controls our radio tuners, it interfaces with Rhapsody, etc... We have motion detectors triggering lighting, timers that automatically close the garage doors, etc...

Is there anything (other than Savant, Crestron or AMX) that provide all this functionality, be DIY, and be as easy and robust for the end user (my family) as Control4?

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post #2 of 20 Old 06-21-2014, 10:00 AM
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It's unlikely anything else is going to be able to control the C4 gear. That's how they lock you in to the brand. The Zigbee stuff will be using their own proprietary Zigbee stack and so won't be controllable from third party systems unless someone has hacked it or something, and I've not heard of that happening. Not sure about any of their hard wired gear, but probably similar.

Else, I would recommend our own CQC product. Not that I could recommend anything else though, unless you are going to toss the C4 gear and get stuff that is controllable by third party systems.

Maybe I'm wrong here, and I'm sure someone will correct me if so, but it seems likely any controlled C4 gear, in addition to the controlling C4 gear, would have to be replaced.

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Chairman/CTO, Charmed Quark Systems, Ltd


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post #3 of 20 Old 06-21-2014, 10:39 AM
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Ok I'll be the first to take the bait. Why replace?! Sounds like you are happy with the system. And that is a pretty comprehensive integration. Replacing all that functionality will be an intensive process and is not likely to be a 'clean' one-for-one swap.

I just must know!


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post #4 of 20 Old 06-21-2014, 04:03 PM - Thread Starter
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I don't want to control the Control4 stuff, i'm thinking of replacing it with something else. My worry is that a more "open" product will come along from one of the big tech companies, and immediately this stuff will become almost worthless.

Right now it still has a ton of value and I could move the Control4 pieces on the second hand market with no issue. I worry that may not be the case a year or two from now, and it's a substantial investment we're talking about.

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post #5 of 20 Old 06-21-2014, 06:48 PM
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No is my answer on this. There are tons of kinda-sorta solutions. The more I read, the more it seems that way. They kinda do what C4 does. They sorta do what Crestron does... Just keep your computer on all the time, don't let your network go down, and be prepared to maintain, maintain, maintain.

Crestron still supports systems that are over a decade out of production. C4 is building a better and better track record for some decent systems. What the most reliable systems all have in common? They are professionally installed and maintained.
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post #6 of 20 Old 06-21-2014, 08:59 PM
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Hi, do you have Composer Home on your account. If you want to tinker that allows you to.

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post #7 of 20 Old 06-22-2014, 03:42 AM
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Have you looked into HomeSeer?


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post #8 of 20 Old 06-22-2014, 04:40 AM
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Ate you running that on an Hc1000 or hc800?

Also, I don't think the residual value in C4 lighting will fall much, not touch screens or locks and door stations. There are always people looking to expand their installations.

By the time someone has made an Apple certified light switch and got it UL certified it is not going to be cheap.

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post #9 of 20 Old 06-22-2014, 08:02 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks guys. I've had Control4 (between two houses) since 2006 and it's a great system.

I have access to all the tools I need to play with and maintain the system. Although it isn't a DIY product, I've been fortunate enough to be able to make it that way in my situation.

SMHarman - I'm guessing you're the same SMHarman from the C4Forums.com site. Good to see you here. I don't even want Apple stuff...I hate Apple. Just thinking that zwave and more open source may take a foothold and leave these products in the dust. I have a bunch of controllers in my project, and it includes both an HC1000 and HC800.

Maybe I'll just stick with what I've got. We really do love it, and it works flawlessly. I just don't want to have the massive investment I've made in this stuff get flushed down the drain once Google (or some other company) decides to play.

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post #10 of 20 Old 06-22-2014, 09:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dhendriksen View Post
Maybe I'll just stick with what I've got. We really do love it, and it works flawlessly. I just don't want to have the massive investment I've made in this stuff get flushed down the drain once Google (or some other company) decides to play.
As long as it still does what you want it to, the investment is still good. Counting on resale value for any electronics as protection for your "investment" isn't something I would ever do.
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post #11 of 20 Old 06-23-2014, 08:51 AM
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If you are looking for a robust and simple to use solution...you have it. The grass is definitely not greener on the other side of the fence. Maybe in the not-too-distant future, but nothing will surpass the usability, robustness, and deep integration of the C4, Creston, Elan, Savant systems any time soon.
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post #12 of 20 Old 06-23-2014, 10:17 AM
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The thing is, people post statements like that without really knowing what the other options even are in many cases, but say it as though it were established fact. People complain about a PC based security system, but C4 is a Linux box. If PCs aren't acceptable, then clearly C4 cannot be. The fact that it's put into a pre-fab box doesn't somehow make it into something else. That you do consider it acceptable means that PC based systems can be stable and robust, which I can certainly attest is a fact. Our product is out there in challenging environments and is very stable, and it's enormously flexible as well.

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post #13 of 20 Old 06-23-2014, 10:26 AM
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Most 'things' that require processing of any great powers level are Intel architecture based.
Then you choose an os Linux, X or Win. And so on.
PC bases implies a bigger box with fan based cooling, moving part HDD etc. C4 current HC range does not have these.

I'm sure the OP could change everything for a new infrastructure and many months of headaches and programming have the same again. Of course it would be the same headaches if starting from scratch.

Maybe a better response from you is to answer how you would use / replace / recycle the current kit for your system and what the cost to change would be. That would add huge value to this thread.

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post #14 of 20 Old 06-23-2014, 11:54 AM
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Plenty of our customers run fanless systems with solid state drives, it's just a choice. However, since many of them are also doing media, and that requires obviously a hard drive based system, they may choose to just make use of it since they have it, and since it's probably a RAID configuration as well so failure is unlikely, or is recoverable I guess is the way to put it.

As I mentioned before, all of the C4 stuff would have to go. Taken that as a given, since he was going just sell it and replace it, then he would have lost of choices. A few things might require drivers if they don't exist currently, but that's generally the case with any system if you aren't buying from scratch and have existing gear to support. The replaced stuff he could buy widely supported stuff and wouldn't have that problem. And of course it's a given that if he does want to do it, that he will be taking on the work involved, no matter what other system he chooses.

What he might replace it with would require more info than provided. Radio RA2 might be a good choice if his currently switches and whatnot are C4 wireless ones and he needs a retro-fit friendly lighting replacement. That would also handle thermos, motion sensors, keypads, scenes, etc.... Not sure how the GE sensors would integrate into that right off hand. The RTI RP system would probably be a good replacement for the remotes, they are RF based, easy to program, and we have a very flexible means to respond to input from them, or any other type of remotes that can send serial or IP based output. Touch screen clients can be whatever combination of standard Windows PCs/tablets/inwalls, Android or iOS devices he wants to use. E-mail alerts and whatnot are supported. Reacting to changes in device status (zones changing state, contacts opening, etc...) is standard automation stuff that we of course support. The IR stuff is pretty straightforwardly done.

Most of our customers do multi-zone audio via the MZ-audio system of their choice (we support a good number) and feeding those zones from the outputs of a prosumer multi-output audio card (such as the M-Audio 1010, which provides five stereo outputs. Or fixed zones with volume controllable amps. We have a headless audio player that can be associated with each output for very fast, reliable control over the players. Some people go the other way (pull scenario) and put something like a Sonos in each room, depends on how you want to do it. MyMovies we support, so the movies integration would be straightforward enough. We have an extensive media architecture to browse and manage playback. We can also add text to speech for announcements over the mz audio system, which some folks like. You can announce that someone is at the door or the weather conditions or weather alerts, etc...

All the theater/media gear wouldn't be a problem, though depending on the exact models, some might need a driver done if it doesn't already exist.

It's all doable, and there is good quality gear available to do it all. As you say, it's a matter of work/bucks, just as the initial system would have been. If he has a house with 90 lighting loads, then maybe the bucks are not so much of an issue for him?

He could spit out a considerable amount of the touch screen interfaces via our auto-generation system and avoid a lot of work, and use that as the starting point for any customization. It would provide him very nice pre-fab screens for media, weather, lights, and security, and more will be added soon.

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post #15 of 20 Old 06-23-2014, 12:10 PM
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First off, sounds like a cool system. So, no, you won't get that integrated feeling with a DIY product today. The suggestions below have a significant DIY element but will be much cheaper than what you initially paid. If you're lights are only C4 controlled, that sucks. Of the below, I use SmartThings, iRule, Sonos to control whole house audio, A/V gear, garage, gate, lights, locks, motion, and I monitor my IP foscam through it's own app. I believe HomeSeer or MiCasa may have some integration with more of the components but for the DIY, you may be better sticking with individual apps (they usually do it better anyway). My investment is low, super low, compared to what I would pay for C4, but it's not integrated and I don't have as much control as you. Works for my 2200sf single story house and I can customize to my hearts desire.

Currently our Control4 does the following (primarily):
- Controls roughly 90 lighting loads (Control4 branded equipment): SmartThings, HomeSeer, MiCasaVerde
- Distributed audio through stereo zones (Control4 branded equipment): Russound, Niles, HTD, Monoprice, Sonos
- Distributed video (Binary A/V Matrix Switch controlled via RS232, but can also be controlled via IP): They exist but I don't know much about them.
- Controls all my TV's via either IP or RS232 (DB9/serial): What kind of TV's are they? iRule or RoomieRemote
- Controls all my media players and Bluray player via IP: iRule or Roomie Remote
- Interfaces with my surveillance system (Wirepath 9 channel DVR): Not sure
- Provides an interface to control lighting, security, surveillance, movie selection, etc... (Control4 branded equipment): iRule, RoomieRemote
- Monitors the status of my garage doors and gates around the property, and controls them as well (combination of hard wired contacts and relays, as well as wireless contacts and relays): SmartThings, HomeSeer, MiCasa Verde
- I use lots of GE wireless sensors to monitor the status of doors/windows/freezers/safes, etc... I use a device from Card Access to seamlessly interface Control4 with them. Not sure
- Yale door locks to monitor access and fire programming based on the code entered in the lock. Fire Programming? If they are zwave then the three i mentioned above
- Interface with MyMovies for movie library database management: XBMC?
- I send and receive communication to/from the house via email and NMA (Notify My Android). I can be alerted about all sorts of things, and my reply can trigger all sorts of other programming. All three mentioned above send your phone texts/notifications
- In wall keypads to control different things (Control4 branded equipment): I'd just use ipads or ipad minis
- HVAC control (Control4 branded equipment): Nest or zwave thermostats
- Dedicated touch panels so system control (Control4 branded equipment). again, ipads
- We use a whole bunch of SR250 remotes (Control4 branded equipment). URC or procontrol for physical control, iRule or Roomieremote for ipad control
- All theater equipment is controlled via IP or IR (Epson PJ, Marantz receiver, etc...); irule or roomie.
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post #16 of 20 Old 06-23-2014, 12:51 PM
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Sounds like a DIY vs non-DIY thread. Not sure why you ever went with C4 in the first place with your mindset on resale of the system and the whole "sell it before its value drops" perspective. That's what you do with a set of speakers or a projector not a home automation system. You already likely paid a dealer a huge markup for C4 equipment and you are likely going to have a hard time getting that money back out of it at resale. And then you would be starting all over again.

Just my opinion.

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post #17 of 20 Old 06-23-2014, 06:49 PM - Thread Starter
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My mindset isn't "sell it before it's value drops" as a general rule. I've been to believe that in 12-18 months the system will be essentially worthless with new competing products coming to squash it.

I've had Control4 for 8+ years, in my former house and current home(s).

The only reason I've thought about it is this. If I could sell it now for, say $25k and use that money to offset the cost of a system that will have a better long-term outlook it would make sense to do that NOW instead of have the system instantly become obsolete in a year and only be with $5k, with the replacement product still carrying the same premium.

See what I mean?

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post #18 of 20 Old 06-23-2014, 07:40 PM
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It's only worthless if it no longer does what you need. If it's doing what you want now, what makes you think it won't 24 months from now? The resale value of the parts is only an issue if you need to get rid of it. There's nothing on the horizon now, even if Apple and/or Google are getting into the market, that will so surpass the capabilities of your Control4 system that you would even need to think about changing it out.

I don't know what Google has in mind, but what Apple's working on is NOT a Control4 competitor. Not for years, if ever.
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post #19 of 20 Old 06-24-2014, 04:40 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks guys. I realize as long as it does what I need it's still a good product for me.

I'll just stick with what I've got. Thanks for the reassurance.

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post #20 of 20 Old 06-24-2014, 07:03 PM
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Just for the record... Here is a little demo video. I go from a freshly installed system to a pretty nice setup in about 11 minutes. The real thing would take a little longer since I'm using mostly simulator drivers for this video. The real drivers (Elk, Omni, Lutron, etc...) would require you to do some configuration, mainly to tell it what thermos, areas, zones, lights, etc... you want the driver to use. But, that's not rocket science or anything.

Once the drivers are loaded, it sets up 'room configuration' where you define what resources (available from the drivers loaded) you want to make available, then you configure a set of rooms and what resources should available to each room and the screen resolutions you want to support. Then we run the generation tool to spit out the user interfaces in the configured resolutions.

http://www.charmedquark.com/Web2/PostImages/4_5Previews/Auto-GenDemo.wmv

For whatever reason Camtasia forces my desktop back to the basic theme, which is why it looks like that. I have to log out and back in to get the Win7 theme back.

Anyhoo, you can see that it can generate a lot of functionality for you fairly easily. Most of this can be used as is. In some cases you might want some user logic to be run at certain places, and those are provided for, though it's not demonstrated in this video since you couldn't see any external hardware anyway. But you can for each room define an action to run upon entry to the music or movie sections, upon selection of a new room to view, and to be associated with power on/off buttons in the music and movie sections. These actions can be used to setup hardware, as required.

As soon as 4.5 goes out, we will go right back to upgrading more drivers to our V2 architecture to support the auto-gen system, and to adding more features to the auto-gen, so that it can do more for you. We just had so many new capabilities already that we had to stop here and get a release out.

And I should say that this is not just intended for DIY customers. We assume that pros will use this system to help kick start a new project, to create the initial content that can then be customized. As we add more features to the auto-gen, in some cases that might not be a lot of customization required.

The benefit, as we see it, is that, with a simple system it's quicker to set up, but limited on customization, so it can only target specific levels of the market. Systems that are fully customizable and hard to set up are also. A system that is fully customizable, but also provides tools like this to make it easier to set up for core functionality, is sort of the happy medium. You can use it to do quick in and out smaller jobs, but you can also use it to do full bore mondo-customization type jobs, all using the same tools.

We've long had the mondo-customization capabilities, so we have been concentrating hard on the other side of it, and it's finally start to bear substantial fruit.

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