UPB FAQs

UPB Technology and Products FAQs

UPB Questions

How can I implement UPB timer control?

What is Universal Powerline Bus (UPB)?

What are the technical differences between UPB and X10?

What is the benefit of using UPB over other powerline carrier solutions?

Why is UPB better than RF-based communication?

What about Z-Wave and Zigbee?

How many devices can be used in a UPB system?

Can my neighbor operate UPB devices in my house through the powerline?

How to I configure a UPB system?

What are “scenes” and how does UPB address them?

What are “Links”?

How long has UPB been available?

Are there any interference issues with UPB?

Do I need a phase coupler?

Can I use an X10 phase coupler for UPB?

Can UPB products be used on 3-phase power systems?

Are UPB products available worldwide?

What is the warranty period?

What should I do if I have a question or a problem?

Web Mountain SW-Series UPB Switches

How do the interchangeable faceplates work?

How do the multiple actuators operate when installed on an SW-2 universal base?

What if I just want to order a single rocker switch?

How is the power rating of the SW-1/2 switches affected by multi-gang boxes?

What are the limitations on scenes?

How can I achieve 3-way operation using SW-Series switches?

Can I use SW-Series switches with remote switches from other manufacturers?

Can the indicator on the remote switch turn on and off with the load?

Why are there two multi-way traveler wire connections on each switch?

What about non-incandescent lighting?

What if there is no neutral wire available in the switch box?

Home Automation Controller Interfaces

How does UPB’s 2-way communication work?

How do I configure a UPB system and an HAI Omni controller to work together?

General UPB Questions

1.    Q:  What is Universal Powerline Bus (UPB)?

A:  UPB is a highly reliable, cost effective, 2-way communications technology that enables intelligent control of lighting and appliances with no special wiring.  UPB utilizes existing powerlines to communicate control signals throughout the premises.

2.    Q:  What are the technical differences between UPB and X10?

A:  Although UPB and X10 each use standard powerlines to communicate, the underlying technologies of each are significantly different.  First, X10 uses a fixed carrier frequency to communicate data.  Carrier frequencies traveling on household power wiring are subject to attenuation and noise interference, which can cause intermittent reliability issues.  UPB utilizes a patented communications method called Pulse Position Modulation (PPM) that is based on timed pulses rather than a carrier frequency.  Using pulses for signaling means (a) less attenuation on the powerline and (b) less susceptibility to RF interference.  In addition, there is a difference in voltage strength: an X10 signal is 4 volts at its strongest level; while UPB is 40 volts, or 10 times stronger.  The end result is faster and more reliable communication, especially when transmitting over longer distances.  Another difference between the two technologies is that the transmission packet for UPB allows more data to be communicated over a much wider address space.  This enables a higher level of control and far less potential of interference between adjacent homes.  Lastly, UPB is a two-way communication protocol, whereas X10 is primarily unidirectional.  Two-way communication allows the system to verify that a given message was successfully received.

3.    Q:  What is the benefit of using UPB over other powerline carrier solutions?

A:  The increased reliability of UPB’s PPM communication methodology reduces the total cost of deploying a controlled lighting system, because it decreases the number of service calls and eliminates intermittent reliability issues.  This is true for both new construction and retrofit applications.  Most X10 installations require the use of filters and repeaters to address intermittent communications and reliability issues.

4.    Q:  Why is UPB better than RF-based communication?

A:  Although very reliable, RF-based automation has certain limitations.  First, the radio waves are easily obstructed by physical structures made of concrete, brick or steel.  Compensating for these obstructions requires multiple repeaters throughout the structure to assure reliable signal strength, which can make an RF system very expensive.  Second, radio transmitters must be placed in plain site for optimal signal strength, and they are not always aesthetically pleasing.  Wireless solutions are ideal for untethered household devices (such as remote controls, telephones and laptops), while using wired solutions for fixed devices will help avoid interference related to RF oversubscription.

5.    Q:  How many devices can be used in a UPB system?

A:  The UPB address space is a two dimensional array based on a Network ID number and a Unit ID number.  The address space covers 250 networks per power transformer and 250 UPB devices per network.  In a normal residential installation, the house would be assigned a single Network ID (analogous to a “house code” in X10 terminology), and the devices would then be assigned sequential Unit ID numbers from 1 to 250.  Any device may communicate directly with other devices that share the same Network ID.

6.    Q:  Can my neighbor operate UPB devices in my house through the powerline?

A:  The wide address space of UPB allows unique Network IDs to be assigned to adjacent houses to avoid interference.  In addition, every UPB message contains a 4-character password that provides protection from unauthorized attempts to change the settings of a UPB module.

7.    Q:  How to I configure a UPB system?

A:  UPB modules can be configured manually, but they are most easily setup by using the Web Mountain NetPlace server or a software program called UPStart.  UPStart is available as a free download from many websites including ours.  The software requires a PC running Microsoft Windows, and a PIM (Programmable Interface Module) such the Web Mountain SPIM-01.  The PIM is not required after configuration, unless you have an intelligent controller like the Web Mountain NetPlace server installed.

8.    Q:  What are “scenes” and how does UPB address them?

A:  “Scene” is a term used in the lighting control industry to describe specific lighting events. For example, you can create a “viewing scene” for your home theater or an “entertainment scene” in your dining room.  When the scene is activated, a UPB command is transmitted on the powerline and the appropriate lights will respond by brightening or dimming to the proper level.  No central controller is required to make this happen.  Most UPB devices can be included in up to 16 different scenes.

9.    Q:  What are “Links”?

A:  “Links” is a UPB term to describe a channel of communications linking transmitters and receivers in a lighting system.  A link essentially represents a scene.  A transmitter sends a “link command” over the powerline, which contains a “link number” from 1 to 250.  Receivers within the network domain are programmed to listen for and act upon certain link numbers.  Receivers can take different actions (i.e. dim a light to a certain level at a certain rate, turn the light on or off, etc.) depending on the link number received.  Because of the “link” structure of UPB, one powerline command can affect up to 250 devices simultaneously.

10.  Q:  How long has UPB been available?

A:  UPB has been in development since 1999 but has been deployed in commercially available products since 2004.

11.  Q:  Are there any interference issues with UPB?

A:  UPB overcomes most electrical noise that can be generated by AC-powered household lighting and appliances, and is far less susceptible to noise interference than any other powerline communication technology on the market.  UPB can coexist with nearly all powerline carrier and lighting control technologies, with the exception of Lutron HomeWorks®.

12.  Q:  Do I need a phase coupler?

A:  In many cases, the UPB signal is strong enough to operate across phases in a split-phase residential wiring situation.  However, some installations will require a passive phase coupler to achieve reliable operation.  Since it is impossible to predict the need for a coupler in any particular situation, we strongly recommend that a phase coupler be included in all  installations.

13.  Q:  Can I use an X10 phase coupler for UPB?

A:  No.  UPB signals will not pass through a coupler made specifically for X10.  However, Web Mountain’s UPB couplers (available soon) will also pass X10 and broadband signals.

14.  Q:  Can UPB products be used on 3-phase power systems?

A:  UPB devices can be used on 3-phase power systems only when a 3-phase coupler/repeater is installed.  A repeater is required to time-shift the UPB pulses so that they will appear in the correct position on the AC sine wave of all three phases.  Contact Powerline Control Systems (PCS) for more information on 3-phase coupler/repeaters.

15.  Q:  Are UPB products available worldwide?

A:  To date, UPB products are only available for the North American residential automation market.  These products are designed to operate on 120VAC, 60Hz split-phase power systems.  Although we do not currently offer powerline products for 220-240VAC, 50Hz, it’s likely that there will be products available for this market in the future.

16.  Q:  What is the warranty period?

A:  Most Web Mountain UPB products are warranted for a period of two (2) years after date of shipment.  NetPlace servers carry a 1-year warranty.

17.  Q:  What should I do if I have a question or a problem?

A:  Contact us at support@digitalAVnew.com or call us at 1-877-568-4511.

Web Mountain SW-Series UPB Switches

1.    Q:  How do the interchangeable faceplates work?

A:  The SW-2 Universal Dimming Transceiver Base can accept a variety of removable actuator faceplates.  The faceplates provide various combinations of rocker and/or button actuators in various decorative colors.  Installing an SW-2 makes it possible to change color and function to meet changing requirements, without having to untwist a single wire nut.  To change a faceplate, you simply remove the wallplate, remove the faceplate, install the new faceplate and replace the wallplate.  If the new faceplate has a different actuator configuration, the NetPlace server or UPStart software must be used to reconfigure the programming of the SW-2.

2.    Q:  How do the multiple actuators operate when installed on an SW-2 universal base?

A:  Each SW-2 Universal Dimming Transceiver Base drives a single load of up to 900W.  When a multi-actuator faceplate is installed on the base, the top left switch is always the load-controlling actuator.  All other switches (including the load controller) act as UPB transmitters, so they can be configured to activate other UPB devices or scenes.  This feature is very handy when retrofitting an existing room with additional lighting, or simply as a strategy to reduce “wall clutter”.

3.    Q:  What if I just want to order a single rocker switch?

A:  No problem.  The Web Mountain SW-111 Single Dimmer Switch comes as an assembled unit, including a single rocker faceplate.  You can also purchase a fully-assembled Remote Dimmer by ordering the Web Mountain SW-311.

4.    Q:  How is the power rating of the SW-1/2 switches affected by multi-gang boxes?

A:  One SW-1 switch or SW-2 base mounted in a single-gang box is rated at 600W.  Mounting two switches in a dual-gang box de-rates each switch to 500W.  Mounting three or more switches in a multi-gang box de-rates each switch to 500W.  A single dimmer in a dual-gang box carries a rating of 800W.  A single dimmer in a triple-gang box carries a 900W rating.  2 dimmers in a triple-gang box carry ratings of 700W each.

5.    Q:  What are the limitations on scenes?

A:  A scene can activate or deactivate up to 250 devices.  Each SW-Series switch load may be included in up to 16 different scenes.  The connected load can be programmed to respond in a different way for each scene, both in terms of dim level and fade rate.  There is a limitation when using multi-actuator faceplates on an SW-2 Universal Base: any “transmit-only” actuator programmed for scene control cannot include the connected load in that scene.  This is because the transceiver cannot transmit a UPB message to itself.  If a scene is to include the connected load, then it must be activated by the load-controlling actuator.

6.    Q:  How can I achieve 3-way operation using SW-Series switches?

A:  In a hard-wired 3-way installation, the Web Mountain SW-311 and SW-321 act as extensions of the switch actuator that is built into the UPB “master” switch.  When you press a rocker on the remote, it has exactly the same effect as if you pressed the corresponding rocker on the master, in terms of both activating the load and transmitting UPB commands.  You can connect multiple remotes to a single master for multi-way operation.  You cannot connect a single remote to multiple masters, but you can achieve the same kind of operation by configuring UPB links among master switches.  If the wiring is not in place to support a traditional 3-way circuit, you can still achieve 3-way operation by configuring one master to activate the load of another master.  UPB is very flexible in its configurability, which makes it possible to achieve a lot of different lighting schemes without having to change the household wiring.

7.    Q:  Can I use SW-Series switches with remote switches from other manufacturers?

A:  Web Mountain switches are completely compatible with Simply Automated’s product line, other wise the answer is “No”.  However, there is no problem using SW-Series UPB Switches and Transceiver Bases in the same system with UPB devices from other manufacturers.

8.    Q:  Can the indicator on the remote switch turn on and off with the load?

A:  Yes, the remote switch can be wired in such a way that the indicator tracks the load status.  Please refer to the SW-Series Installation guide for wiring diagrams.

9.    Q:  Why are there two multi-way traveler wire connections on each switch?

A:  When using multi-rocker faceplates, it is possible to hard-wire a 3-way circuit for both the load controlling switch and the 2nd “transmit-only” switch.  It is also possible to use a dual rocker faceplate with a remote switch, thereby allowing two remote switches in a single-gang box.  Please refer to the SW-Series Installation guide for wiring diagrams.

10.  Q:  What about non-incandescent lighting?

A:  Web Mountain SW-Series switches are capable of dimming some non-incandescent lighting, such as halogen and certain low-voltage systems.  Low-voltage lighting can be dimmed if the transformer is either (a) magnetic or (b) specifically designated by the manufacturer for use with incandescent dimmers.  Fluorescent, metal halide, and many types of electronic low-voltage lighting cannot be dimmed, but can still be used with a SW-Series switch in an ON/OFF configuration with dimming disabled.  To disable dimming, you must use the UPStart UPB software to configure the switch operation as strictly ON/OFF.  Once this is done, then there is no problem driving any kind of load up to the rated power of the switch.

11.  Q:  What if there is no neutral wire available in the switch box?

A:  UPB switches require both a hot and neutral in the junction box.  If you are retrofitting an existing home and there is no neutral available, you can install a Fixture Module (coming soon) at the ceiling fixture and reconnect the two wires running to the switch box to deliver neutral and a control wire to an SW-311 Remote Switch.

Home Automation Controller Interfaces

1.    Q:  How does UPB’s 2-way communication work?

A:  When an intelligent controller sends a command to one or more UPB devices, the command message can include a request for one of three types of acknowledgements.  It is also possible for the controller to request the status of a specific UPB device.  If you are interested to know how a specific controller supports UPB’s acknowledgement and status reporting features, please contact either the controller manufacturer or the provider of the controller's UPB interface software.

2.    Q:  How do I configure a UPB system and an HAI Omni controller to work together?

A:  To use UPB with an HAI Omni, you must purchase an RS-232 serial daughter card and UPB upgrade ROM from your HAI dealer.  The Omni serial card can then be connected to a Web Mountain SPIM-01 using the supplied serial cable.  Install all of these items per the manufacturer’s instructions.  Either a Web Mountain NetPlace Server or UPStart UPB configuration software is required to initially setup your UPB system.  Configuration will be easier if you use separate PIMs for the Omni and for NetPlace/UPStart, although this is not required.

1.Configure your UPB system using NetPlace or UPStart.  Write down the Network ID and Network Password you are using, and make a list of all Unit IDs that are assigned by UPStart.  If you will be using UPB links to activate scenes from the Omni, make a list of the link numbers as well.

2.If you are using the same PIM for both NetPlace/UPStart and the Omni, follow the instructions to reset your PIM to MESSAGE mode after you are finished using NetPlace/UPStart.  This must be done because NetPlace/UPStart automatically resets the PIM to PULSE mode, and this is not compatible with the Omni interface.  You do not need to perform this step if NetPlace/UPStart is connected to a separate PIM.

3.From the Omni Installer Menu, set the serial module type by selecting “7” (EXP) and scrolling down to the module address set by the jumper on the Omni serial daughter card.  Set the type to “5” for UPB.

4.From the Omni Installer Menu, program the assigned UPB Network ID and Network Password into the Omni by selecting “1” (CTRL) and scrolling down to UPB NETWORK ID and UPB PASSWORD.

5.From the Omni Setup Menu, enable enough “House Codes” for UPB operation to cover the range of Unit IDs for all UPB devices in the system.  This is done by selecting “6” (MISC) and scrolling down first to HC1 FORMAT, followed by HC2 FORMAT, etc.  Each House Code encompasses 16 devices.  UPB Unit IDs 1-16 are enabled by setting HC1 to “3” for UPB, Unit IDs 17-32 are enabled by setting HC2 to “3”, etc.

6.You should now be able to activate UPB devices and UPB links from the Omni.  To activate a device, press “1” (CTRL), followed by the Unit ID (UNIT), followed by “#”, followed by the action code as displayed.  To activate a link, press “4” (ALL), followed by “3” (LINK), followed by the link number, followed by “#”, followed by “1” (ON).  Note that links can affect multiple devices, and the action taken by each device is defined by the configuration that was programmed using NetPlace/UPStart.