We have wrapped up our first day of Loxone training. What I have seen today looks to be the best home automation platform on the market. They are #1 in Europe, and I think they have a chance of taking over a large portion of the market here in time. Here are my favorite parts so far.
There are two main types of HVAC systems. There is the central air systems that we Americans use and the mini split systems that the rest of the world uses.
With Control4, we had to purchase a driver(software) and also a hardware piece made by a third party to control the mini split systems With Loxone, we can add one IR device that controls the unit. They have pre-built templates for simplified programming and there is no requirement to take the unit apart to control it through relays and other complicated interfaces. In addition, if you have a Loxone touch in the room, it will sense the temperature and humidity in the room and use its logic to automate the mini split system. This dramatically increase ease of use and will simultaneously improve comfort and save electricity.
Even though this is the primary method of heating and cooling in the US, I find it to be the lesser of the two technologies. IT is less energy efficient, less accurate in cooling/heating the house equally, and requires more upkeep and adjustment to keep it operating correctly. The loxone approach is different than Nest, Ecobee and the larger automation companies like Control4. Instead of using a few thermostats in a house (one per a/c unit), the Loxone system samples the temperature in all rooms of the house by using it's Touch interface. It can either average out these temperatures or, if you use their damper system, will tune the air flow to achieve the perfect temperature in each room. The combination of sensing in each room with proper air flow can reduce cooling and heating costs by up to 60%. This is much better than the 10% savings you can expect with a Nest or Ecobee system.
I look forward to installing the centrail air dampening system in my downstairs and using the mini-split controller in the upstairs master in my home to test it to its fullest capability. I will report back on this once testing is complete.
The lighting control from Loxone is a mixed bag.
Distributed Lighting Control
Loxone simply does not make a standard dimmer that can replace an existing switch. They do integrate with Lutron RadioRa 2, but that is not a solution I typically offer because Lutron does not allow clients to work on their own system. It is a very reliable system, but allowing the client full control of their system is something we strongly believe in and I hope that Loxone adds a Z-Wave module at some point in the future to increase the number of options for us and our clients.
Central Lighting Control
Their centralized lighting system is so good, that I am going to strongly encourage our builders to switch over. Their panels are easily expandable, low cost, and quite flexible. They have modules for standard switching, dimming with leading edge or trailing edge control, 12v/24v low voltage RGB or standard white, and also make their own low voltage bulbs which are independently addressed in the system. This goes way beyond what we could offer with Control4 and the cost is somewhere around 30% less. The greatest part of it all is that their Touch interface integrates seamlessly with the lighting system and offers one touch control to flow through different scenes and a double tap to turn off all of the lights for that room. All of this together is so elegant and easy to install. Then it goes even further in which motion detectors can be added to the room and without complicated programming they are able to set the lights to the clients favorite scenes. Automatic user adjustable timers are preconfigured and operational from the onset to allow hands free control of each room. If all of this was not enough, they even added logic into the system to delay the lights turning off for a longer time if the user turns on a scene manually. I am in love with this system. I could keep geeking out about it, but it just does everything I have wanted a lighting system do and does it WITHOUT hours of programming. Kudos.
The Loxone system can be accessed remotely by the user without a monthly fee. With Control4 and many other system on the market, there is a monthly or yearly fee to use the system away from home. I could use VPN services to get around this, but now even the Alexa voice integration requires this remote access service to be active. It is frustrating, but understandable on the part of Control4 due to the way their system infrastructure is set up. Control4 has a local 'controller' in your home. It is a server that connects to their cloud service. When you want to access your home, your phone will contact Control4's servers and the servers will open a VPN tunnel into your home to allow remote access to the system. This system has it's benefits, but there have been times when their servers were down and it caused our clients quite a bit of frustration. With Loxone, the mini server that sits in your home does not connect to some central hub. It is your server and you can access it by simply setting up one open port and using their built in DNS to simplify connection. There is no reliance on the cloud, there is greater reliability, and you don't run the risk of losing access if the company goes out of business or if you do not pay your remote access bill. I clearly prefer the Loxone model.
Tomorrow's training will further explore the advanced lighting programming functions and should start to expand into media control. I will publish another post if I have time after training.
Matthew Mathis has designed home technology systems since 2003 and has been involved in construction even longer. This site used to be devoted to this company but it now it is a place for me to rant and rave.