Clipsal C-Bus – Review

Submission by Frank McAlinden – Over these last few months i have been considering which way to go with my lighting system. Currently all my lights are controlled via relays by Genesis(my alarm system).
I must say it has worked quite well and its only because i would like a dimming function on my lights its being made almost redundant (still looking after external security lights)

I initially considered x10 but was wary of its pitfalls ie lost messages and status feedback. C_Bus + Dynalite were considered and my thoughts were that both would be too expensive. That was until i got the latest Clipsal catalogue and compared the price of an 8 channel dimmer C_bus2 unit compared to using 8 LD11 X10 units. So i decided on C_Bus.

C_Bus is a product which is designed and manufactured here in Australia by Gerard Industries the manufacturer of the well known electrical accessories known as Clipsal.

The C_bus system works on a 2 wire data system which also carries the power for the C_Bus units. The system only requires a pc to program the C_Bus units initially and then the pc can be removed.

To get started I purchased one 8 channel dimmer, one 4 gang switch, two aux input modules and a pc interface with software and manual, spent a couple of evening reading the manual and then started to play with the hardware.

After loading the software i opened a new project and started as per the instructions. The first thing to do is to programme the pc interface to address 00 (default = 255). I kept getting errors up everytime i tried to download the new address. After several emails to Kevin Hawkins i was on the right track (thanks Kevin ). I didnt realise that i should have “Scanned” the network and it would detect the pc interface and then i could edit the address and reload it. After I did this I started to make some real progress.

One other little hurdle i must mention was in relation to the “NETWORK BURDEN” Every C_Bus system must have *ONE ONLY* network burden enabled. The network burden is a resistor + capacitor in series connected across the C_Bus network. I wanted to enable the 8 channel dimmer network burden but couldn’t work out how to disable the pc interface network burden and still communicate with the pc interface. There was an RJ45 plug supplied with the pc interface and it appeared to have a rc network (network burden) connected to it under the heat shrink. No mention of this in the manual . So the idea is plug in the rj45 and disable the pc interface network burden and all is OK. First up was to create a lighting application and then insert some groups into it. Groups are just tags for C_Bus inputs /outputs as I understand it.

My first attempt was to programme the 8 channel dimmer as per the picture below.. This was quite easy i enabled the network burden ,c_bus clock, you can program other things like what level each of the the channels will revert to after a power failure…can also set min and max levels on each channel..and finally there’s some logic programming (which i havn’t played with yet).

Next was the 4 gang switch.This switch will control my Lounge lights and kitchen lights. there are 4 actions that can be programmed on a key input, short press, short release, long press, long release.

I initially just played with these until I got it to work and if i got stumped grabbed the C_bus Manual to verify how the commands worked. What was required was that each group would ramp up to 100% on a short press and after a delay say an hour ramp down . If a long press was initiated then ramp off the group. The picture below shows how this was achieved. It should be noted that if a long press is activated the short press command will also be initiated but not the short release only the long release. My initial thoughts were only one or the other could be initiated but not both

The leds on each key input can also be programmed to be 0:always off,1:on /off 2:status+timer 3:always on. Its defaulted to 2: and I really like this, when you turn the group on the led lights when the lights have ramped up the led flashes to indicate the timer is running.

I connected the 4 gang switch to the C_Bus network and then scanned the network which showed the 4 gang switch with address 255 I edited the address and then downloaded the values i selected in the programming template to the 4 gang key input

Next was to play with the aux input module . These units are dry contact interface modules which are going to be used between my Genesis Alarm System and the C_Bus lighting system. I wanted my loungeroom pir , kitchen pir ,and hallway pir to activate their respective group (light) only when it was late at night or early morning ( genesis did all the time checking using its inbuilt timers) What i wanted was if a pir was tripped the light would come on at 50% and then after approx 5 minutes ramp off. This took a couple of times to get correct and the picture below shows the parameters selected to achieve this. Programming wise its identical to the 4 gang switch and also has leds on board.

I have now purchased and installed 2 gang switches for the bedrooms which will control the light and also the sweep fan ( gets quite hot in summer here in aussie). The main bedroom will have a 4 gang switch for the above mentioned and also a master on master off for all house lights.

Also purchased was a 4 channel dry contact relay module . One channel to be used to turn on my security system . I do this currently with a push switch connected directly to Genesis . The other 3 channels will turn on / off the bedrooms sweep fans. Programming is similar to the dimmer module and there is a feature were on power up you can have delays between each group being turned on, handy for large electrical loads..

I had some initial reservations about being able to program the C_bus gear but i must say its been a joy to program, very similar to Homevision .  If you decide to use C_bus I dont think you will be disappointed. Im sure my C_Bus installation will grow even more (it is addictive) and below are some pics of my C_bus installed kit. I have the pc interface located next to my computer. I also have removed the aux input units from their boxes and installed them in my electrical enclosure as seen in the pics.


Buy C-Bus on-line HERE   :   Clipsal C-Bus Website

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