Do you have a Vista or First Alert alarm panel that you want to integrate with Control4? If so you will be happy to know about a new serial module on the way by Houselogix.
I actually have a first alert panel with a 20p chip. It’s basically a generic vista 20p panel. I had my panel automated with Control4 via the vista icm module which is now discontinued.
About a year ago I had a power surge at my house from a storm and it killed my module. Well since it was discontinued I was left with no alarm automation. 🙁
About 5 months ago Honeywell came out with a new serial module to control vista/first alert panels. However it requires your panel to be on one of the newer firmware panels. Mine was installed in 2008 and wasn’t new enough so I was going to have to replace my panel and get this module if I wanted to get my alarm integrated back in. I’ve been putting it off because I hated the idea of replacing a panel that was in perfect working order.
To my wonderful surprise Houselogix is creating a serial module that seems to work with any firmware module. I have been test driving this module for two weeks now and it works perfectly with my system. I had a cat5 going from my alarm panel down to my equipment rack where my vista icm module was. Each end required 4 wires from the cat5. I simply unhooked the wires from the vista module and placed them into the appropriate slots on the Houselogix module and connected it to my controller’s serial port. Dropped in their free driver and made all the necessary bindings, and I was back in business. (They are giving the driver away for free when you buy the serial module from them.)
The driver does have an auto sensor built into it so that once you bind it in composer it can determine what address the keypad panel is set to. However it may not get it correct. In my case I knew my panel was set for address 23 to be the virtual keypad. This driver determined address 17 was the correct one. This did allow C4 to know the panel status however it didn’t give me control via C4. I didn’t install my alarm system, but I’m betting that address 17 is the real security keypad by my garage door. Under properties in composer I changed the address to 23 and now I have full control as expected.
You can program events based on stay, away, disarm, trouble, change in display text, or trouble text. You can bind the zones to sensors so you can monitor their state with C4 also.
For those who had the vista icm or know how it functions here are pros/cons compared to it.
Pro: When you close a zone with Houselogix driver/module C4 recognizes it immediately. With the vista icm module it took 30 seconds before C4 saw it closed and executed any programming based on zone closure.
Pro: Watchdog feature. It allows you to program a feature that causes C4 to check in with the serial module at a certain frequency that you can set. If it tries to check in and can’t, you can program via C4 to alert you that for some reason they aren’t communicating with each other.
Con: If you have any programming based on when a zone opens it will execute repeatedly until it closes. This may be good in instances when you want a repeat in announcement to remind you that you left a door open, however it repeated much quicker then I would have liked. There is a work around this though to eliminate this issue…
You can program based on trouble text change, so I did my programming there instead of the sensor contact itself. For example:
When garage open timer expires (set this time to be how ever long you want the interval between notifications under agents-timer) I choose 1 minute for this example.
In the screenshot above you will notice a variable called announcements that I’m checking to see if true. This is a variable that I turn off when I have parties where people will be going in/out of the door a lot.
You don’t have to do the part below, but if you want to really make it complete and not have a timer run unnecessarily…otherwise it will stop on it’s own when the timer runs out and sees the door is closed.
Here is a snapshot for my notifications for a part of the day. You will also see notifications for my kwikset lock and driveway sensor.
Well there you go now that it’s integrated there are all kinds of things you can do. Here are a few that I have done:
I have certain led’s letting me know if the alarm is set (not where a burglar could see them, plus good luck them knowing my led strategy)
I have my alarm auto arm with it’s quick stay function at 2 times each night. One when we usually are done going out, and the second later on, when we should definitely be done going out.
If I need to let someone in while I’m away I can log into my C4 app and disarm the system, then when they are done I can go back in and arm it.
I also have a variable before most of these that says…
? If variable announcments is true
? If variable party mode is false
I toggle these variables to either true or false whenever I’m having a lot of people over that way they can’t accidently set my alarm or C4 set it during one of my daily auto sets. Also to prevent door open announcements/notifications when I know people will be going in and out a lot.
This serial module plus driver has really brought me back to what’s great about home automation. Having your alarm panel automated is a great feature and there are so many things you can do with it. So a big THANKS to Houselogix for not making us early adopters throw out a perfectly working alarm panel and filling the void that Honeywell left!
Paul J. Smith
The SOHO Shop