Is Control4 Considered a "Closed System" vs. Z-Wave/ST?

I’m looking to build a new home, but currently, I’m very invested in the Z-Wave/ST system. I’ve heard that a lot of luxury homes are equipped with Control4 and I wanted to know if there are any benefits to going that route? I feel like it’s a bit of a closed ecosystem (which concerns me) but perhaps my feelings are unfounded. I’m a tinkerer too, so I’m not afraid of getting stuff to work, but I also don’t want to be “tech support” for my new house for the rest of my life (which Z-wave loves to do).

Yes, Control4 is a “closed“ or “proprietary“ system, meaning it has its own protocol and you can only use devices on that protocol with it for the base system. They do have a number of integrations with external systems, including Phillips hue, voice assistants including echo and google home, and there’s even some Z wave integration although it’s not that popular.

Control4 is very nice and as I have said Multiple times in this forum I would certainly have chosen it if it fit my budget. But it doesn’t. A typical control 4 system costs 10% of the value of the home plus an annual maintenance fee which is significant.

My home automation budget is $500 per room with a total cost of about $3500 for the whole house, with an expected replacement time of every three years. That’s just nowhere near enough to pay for a control4 system.

The biggest advantages to a control4 system relative to the inexpensive DIY systems like smartthings is that it fully integrates Home Automation, home security, and home theater control. The biggest disadvantages are costs and the dependency on the professional installer to make many changes.

SmartThings: Low cost, open standards, but cloud-dependent

Smartthings is a low cost home automation system. It has very limited home theater control capabilities. And it’s just not fit for purpose as a home security system (it is not UL listed for that) because it is still primarily a cloud-based system. If the Internet or just the smartthings cloud go out you can’t get any notifications. In fact, you can’t even arm/disarm the security portion of the system without the cloud. That’s not just my opinion: the company says so themselves in their product usage guidelines:

Data accuracy and consistency from SmartThings sensors, including those provided by SmartThings directly, resold by SmartThings, or supported by SmartThings, is not guaranteed. Therefore, you should not rely on that data for any use that impacts health, safety, security, property or financial interests.

It is a very flexible, very powerful home automation system but not necessarily as reliable as some of the less flexible alternatives. And, as mentioned, mostly it’s about lights and locks. It has very limited A/V control capabilities and isn’t suited as a primary security system.

So it all comes down to what you are looking for and what your own budget is.

@JDRoberts very well articulated and thought-out response - thank you for that. My concern with Control4 is that it feels like I’m a mechanic buying a Tesla. I know it’s great tech, but if anything goes wrong, I’m stuck hoping someone else can fix it.

On the other hand, I love the idea of having a tightly controlled system. Sounds like C4 is well-geared toward those who either can’t or have no intention of modifying, like a tech-defunct homeowner or in an office situation. I’m very tech-savvy and have a significant Z-wave setup in my current home, but can’t help but feel like I’m constantly chasing the system as “tech support” to keep it alive.

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Control4 is also designed for those With lots of money who are very tech savvy but just want to spend their time on other things. People like Mark Cuban or some silicon valley executives. :wink:

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Also, just since it needs to be said…

Z wave itself is quite stable. That’s why Leviton and Eaton Cooper both use it for their high end automated lighting systems. Any instability You’ve run into is likely because of the smartthings cloud-based system. You get a lot more power and flexibility with that platform, but it has come at the cost of reliability.

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Exactly, I tell people its designed for people who are willing to throw money at a problem rather than those who like to get their hands dirty.

On the other hand. If yourr looking to build a business based on Home Automation… Go Control4 all the way.

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Control4 has opened up their programming of the system a bit to allow the homeowner to add or replace a device. But they still do not allow the homeowner to do any major routine or scene programming. I dumped it cuz I hated being locked out of the programming. It came with a new house purchase and I wasn’t about to pay someone thousands to come out and reprogram the whole house with my devices.

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@its2loud that’s actually my concern exactly. As more and more devices come to market (just about everything) with Z-wave default compatibility, I’d hate to constantly wonder whether or not I’m going to be able to connect it back to my C4.

That said, I tend to find that my Z-wave devices are constantly unreliable. There’s always a sensor failing or a light switch not responding.

The bet is that Z-wave hardware and the reliability will improve faster than C4 will expand it’s own ecosystem. Any thoughts?

I think the question you need to ask yourself is “Am I going to be ok with paying someone to come out to my house at the cost of about $125 or more a visit, or pay an annual service contract with an installer, every time I need to change something with my system. That is what you’re buying into with Control 4.

That being said, if you can afford it, it’s a very robust system.

As for Zwave reliability, I’ve had solid reliability with my Zwave devices through my home on both ST and Ring. I cannot speak for Control4 and Zwave since my system did not have Zwave devices attached. The light were Insteon.

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I find ZWave network reliability to be directly proportional to the number of powered devices and thd strength of the mesh. I hit a point (about 30 devices in ~3000 sqft) where things just stabilized and stopped giving me trouble. Ive had the occasional device failure, sure but those are almost always device failures at this point for me. I combat that with good quality name brand devices.

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I’m going to be wiring a new house so I get a fresh start on devices. I’ve been using Leviton Z-Wave light switches and have had 90% success - though a few are bad. Anyone have a sense for what the most reliable switches are?

I’m 90% GE / Jasco at the moment. But I recently had a run of failures on my old Gen 1 (12xxx model no’s) GE devices. (Either click of death or just stop responding to ZWave) My Gen2’s (14xxx models) and my Enbrighten (current low profile model) ones are rock solid. That said Inovelli’s stuff coming out works great, and is full of features. I don’t know about reliability, they’re too new, but their support is outstanding and would probably trump reliability issues. If I were starting over, I’d go Inovelli Red series for everything but fan speed controllers. (They only have an on/off currently)

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I’ve been having REALLY solid performance with my @Eric_Inovelli Inovelli devices. They’ve been incredibly helpful and released some killer firmware and features that now I couldn’t live without. Reliability got progressively better as number of devices and ST fixed some stuff. Recently, I haven’t had any issues to speak of.