As a C-Bus and Dynalite technician I've come to learn that you can achieve the same results in terms of lighting control and automation in a home with either product. However there are a number of differences between the products, creating differences in price, installation, system reliability, and ongoing costs and maintenance.
This will be an ever evolving blog post I feel as it's improved upon, and automation installers and owners input their 2 cents. It's not going to be a perfect but here we go.
Lighting controller hardware
Both C-Bus and Dynalite products have a variety of lighting control interfaces and gateways that allow a user to control a variety of lights available on the market today. Both allow control of some common types:
- Incandescent and halogen lights controlled by relays or phase dimming, both leading and trailing edge
- LED lights by relays or phase dimming, both leading and trailing edge.
- LED lighting with direct DC control
- Lighting with 1-10v and DSI control and dimming
- DALI addressable lighting
- DMX lighting (commonly used for shows, and stage lighting)
Both the C-Bus and Dynalite products can cater for almost any lighting requirement and simple control is relatively easy to program on both products. Both are reliable and long lasting. The cost of the C-Bus lighting controllers is substantially more these days. A 12 channel voltage free relay with power supply by C-Bus is approximately 45% more expensive than Dynalite's equivalent which has also 12 channels and supplies power to the Dynalite bus. The C-Bus 8 channel dimmer 1A per channel is approximately 60% more expensive than Dynalite's 8 channel leading edge dimming controller, which has 2A per channel, double that of C-Bus's.
Across the board with controllers, Dynalite's come in significantly cheaper.
Another thing to mention is that DALI commissioning can be done within Dynalite's Envision Project software. C-Bus DALI needs to be commissioned in a 3rd party software and manually married together with the Toolkit software. Which can add an extra cost to programming and commissioning time.
Switches and keypads
There are a variety of keypads available for both products in different styles, capability and price. C-Bus has available at the current time, 7 different styles of switches, Dynalite with 5. We'll just look at a few to compare.
The C-Bus standard style switch is commonly used in a lot of homes in most areas. It's a cost effective option and allows simple control of individual lights, but no scenes or scripting/logic. The buttons cannot be labelled so I generally find visiting users or sometimes even some owners don't know what all the buttons do. Lighting control systems allow control of more than just your immediate area so in my opinion this is a problem.
The recent Dynalite standard style switch was the DLP keypad, still available today was the cost effective option for Dynalite homes. Available with LED feedback, engraving, scripting/logic control and at a similar price to the C-Bus switch, its definitely a better option of the two. In a lighting control system, button engraving is vital.
The new standard in Dynalite keypad is the Antumbra. The Antumbra keypad is cost effective (cheaper than the DLP and C-Bus standard switch), allows for 6 buttons and can be labelled. It also allows complex scripting. Another really nice feature with the Antumbra is the backlight which illuminates when motion is sensed as you enter the room. Clearly the pick of the standard keypads. You are not only limited to text with Antumbra labelling either, and not just english. You can have them labelled with icons, pictures, in English, Arabic or Chinese.
Next we look at the advanced keypads with dynamic screens and multi-page functionality. The C-Bus DLT and eDLT keypads allow customised labelling, over 4 pages, giving you 16 functions per keypad. This type of switch is good for a central location where you may want to control various aspects of your house or multiple scenes. Scenes can be fired directly from the keypad, however scripting is not possible. Logic or scripts need to be activated from the keypad, but stored on a central logic controller still so more hardware is required.
The Dynalite Antumbra Display keypad also has a backlit LCD screen and allows multi-page functionality. It allows up to 16 pages of functions, scene control and scripting or logic. It can also display custom images, and dynamic icons, like a rotating fan or level indicator. The Antumbra has a built in temperature sensor for air conditioning integration, and glows when a user is near. The cost of the Dynalite Antumbra is about 25% less than a C-Bus eDLT and is our pick of the two in terms of capability and functionality. You can see more in the Dynalite switches on our website.
We won't spend a long time on touch screens. Both Dynalite and C-Bus offer touch screens in their product line up. Quite simply the C-Bus touch screens are better functionally. Both allow the user to control any aspect of the home. But the C-Bus touch screen offers a more user friendly experience in terms of speed, better options, and simplified alteration of timers and settings. In a C-Bus home a touch screen is a must have as they carry out logic and other scene control functions. This is due to the less intelligent C-Bus keypads that don't allow scripting, scene control and logic. This can create an extra expense for an item that you may not desire.
c-bus vs dynalite failures
If it's C-Bus or Dynalite in your home and it has been designed and programmed well, both can be very reliable over many years. Due to the difference in architecture of the two systems when something breaks the outcome can be quite different. C-Bus relies on automation controllers or touch screens to carry out logic and scene control, so much of the programming is stored on one of these central devices. This means if one of these devices fails then much of the control in the home can be lost.
Where Dynalite differs is it doesn't rely on touch screens or logic controllers to carry out scenes and logic control. All Dynalite keypads allow scripting right on the device to the intelligence is distributed meaning when a device fails the rest of the system can carry on as normal.
C-Bus and Dynalite both use a communications cable that connects all input devices to all output devices. Although they both use Cat5 cable there is a major difference in the communications protocol between the two. The Dynalite protocol is susceptible to electronic interference and this can mean that lights or control may not happen when they should. This issue can be mitigated by using a shielded Cat5 cable in Dynalite installations.
Whether C-Bus or Dynalite is used in your home, both products integrate well with other 3rd party systems. Control 4, RTI and other control integrations systems have drivers for both C-Bus and Dynalite to make integration simple and fast. Security systems available these days integrate with both meaning lights and other electrical can be controlled when arming, disarming, and when your home is in an alarm state. This means accurate control and relatively quick programming for both.
Both C-Bus and Dynalite have available interface devices that allow commands in a variety of forms to control both systems. These may be:
- High level interface like ethernet or 232 to communicate directly with the C-Bus and Dynalite communications protocol
- Lower levels interfaces like analog sensing or simple close contact interfaces
3rd party systems like security, CCTV, AV, integration processors and many other systems can control and be controlled from both.
Smart phone and remote control
Both C-Bus and Dynalite automation solutions allow for system control from your smart devices. You can also access control to the system while you are not at home to switch on or off lighting, or control other aspects of the home. The C-Bus solutions is a done a little better, nicer graphics, and more customisable interface.
To compare the 2 we look at a typical home installation. Both with typical light fittings, assuming both would like to dim LEDs with leading edge controllers. Up to 24 circuits of lighting. We'll install a single 12 channel relay controller for garden lighting and other on/off switching for lights and GPOs, also garage and door control if required. We'll use 15 keypads from the standard range around the home, and a single advanced keypad in a high use area like the kitchen to control various aspects of the home. We'll include 4 ceiling fans to control, 4 blinds, and also remote access and smart phone control. We will assume that both systems require the same commissioning time and costs. We will also include 5 sensors to control areas based on light levels and occupancy.
A major difference between the 2 systems is the Dynalite keypads will have engraving on them, where there is no labelling available on the C-Bus standard range of wall switches.
Costs have been worked out starting with trade prices on both. GST is also included. Cabling and electrician installation costs have not been taken into account but would be the same for both.
C-Bus solution installed costs: $16,204.40 inc GST
Dynalite solution installed costs: $12,430.24 inc GST
So which one to choose?
If you've read the above I'm sure you will agree Dynalite, giving you better bang for your buck. Both systems are reliable when installed and programmed well by an experienced technician. The standard range of Dynalite keypads come with labelling which is a massive bonus. With a lighting control system labelling is essential.
C-Bus touch screens and iPhone interface apps are a bit better than the Dynalite system's, but the differences go unnoticed.