Choosing a home automation standard

Since I'm taking the big adventure into buying my first home, I thought I'd take my mind off it by looking at gadgets to furnish the future home. Automation is something I've been waiting years to start looking at properly.

Having taken a look at different standards several times in the past, now I'm seriously considering which standard I should settle on I'm getting slightly confused. To help me cipher this out I thought I'd start by documenting the process, and the first thing to do is to understand the different standards that I've got to choose from.


X10 and Domia

Possibly the most widely known standard, X10 works both by using the ring-main circuit to communicate, as well as having RF modules which can be used to interface with remotes. DomiaLite is a very similar (not sure if it's compatible) standard, but the same inventors.

The down-sides of X10 seem to be:

  • No real security - Anyone with an X10 remote can control your stuff
  • A bit too basic - The mechanism used is very simple and has the ability to be quite unstable. The style of the modules are also not the most aesthetic and pretty bulky.
  • A limited amount of devices - There are 2 dials on each device which selects the ID of the X10 switch. These two dials have 16 positions, meaning there is a limit of 256 devices. Of course this is quite a high limit but it's something to think about.
  • Generally, X10 controls do not have manual override controls.

Home Easy

Similar to X10, Home Easy is a simple solution. In the UK it's sold only through B&Q stores (and of course online). The best thing about Home Easy is that the modules are the cheapest of all the types I've seen and are meant for DIYers, so are easy to fit.

The modules are cheap, and although the plug-in units look pretty big and ugly like the X10 ones, the light switches look similar to those of C-Bus. Comments I've seen say that, like X10, they're not the most reliable and repeaters might need to be placed around the home to make sure the signal reaches ever device.


A considerably more complex standard and one of the best looking solutions.

From what I have been able to figure out, it seems that C-Bus runs using Cat5 cabling, but cannot run off your home LAN. It appears to be a little sensitive to load on the line as they have 'burden' units (small resistors) that may need to be plugged in along the way. It also seems that the system is controlled centrally, so might be harder to retro-fit into existing buildings. I hope someone can give me a little more info on this, as I have had a hard time understanding the intricate details of C-Bus.

The best thing about C-Bus is that it works in a similar way to ZeroConf computer networking. The units obtain unique IDs and the light switch units act as individual buttons, each programmable.

Although I would love to have this as an option, I don't think this is a feasible option, at least for my first attempt.


The more I look at this standard the more I like it. Firstly, Z-Wave is completely wireless, so it's very easy to retro-fit. Each module is a repeater, and the system uses any route possible to get the message from the remote to the final destination module, so it seems a lot more stable than both X10 and Home Easy.

Secondly, the Logitech Harmony 895 remote is compatible with Z-Wave, so the aesthetics for the remote control are the best of all the standards I've seen. The plug-in units are a similar size to the X10 ones, but at least feature a manual override switch.


Like C-Bus, Rako seems like a 'professional' solution which would be quite hard to retro-fit. Pretty much all of the modules need to be wired-in, so again, it doesn't look too feasible for my use, at least to begin with. I'm not going to look too much into this as there doesn't seem to be too much info that I can find easily.

Price comparison

Another crucial thing for me is the price of each module. I haven't seen any price comparisons around, so I thought I'd create one. These prices are for UK plugs and wiring, in case that matters to you.

Standard Plug-in appliance Plug-in lamp Single light switch Wireless Gateway Remote control Computer Interface
X10 £17.61 £19.56 £17.12 £23.00 £13.80 £80.44
Home Easy £9.98 £14.98 £39.98 n/a £39.98 n/a
C-Bus n/a n/a £92.50 £117.30 £143.75 Discontinued
Z-Wave £34.50 £34.50 £46.00 n/a £46.00 £50.60

For the modules above I didn't see that I could include Rako. Even C-Bus was hard to find relevant modules to list.

Conclusion so far

As ever, comments are very welcome and appreciated. My current thought is that Z-Wave would work best, but I'm yet to research fully into which modules I can't find in ZWave that might change my opinion.

Next I will be looking at the specific uses of Z-Wave (unless someone gives me a reason to choose something else), including the available module types and control software for Windows, Linux and OSX.


Sunday 30 November 2008 23:29 | user icon Frank Mc Alinden
Thursday 3 September 2009 00:13 | user icon Simon
Monday 29 November 2010 22:10 | user icon Donna

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About the author

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On weekdays I'm a Technical Lead at, having previously been a Solution Architect at Nokia & Nokia Siemens Networks, creating creative software solutions for mobile operators around the world.

In my spare time I'm an avid new technology fan, and constantly strive to find innovative uses for the new gadgets I manage to get my hands on. Most recently I've been investigating Mobile Codes, RFID and Home automation (mainly Z-Wave). With a keen eye for usability I'm attempting to create some cost-effective, DIY technology solutions which would rival even high-end retail products. The software I develop is usually released as Open Source.

I have a Finnish geek partner, so have begun the difficult task of learning Finnish.

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