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How to switch away from Control4?


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I would love to switch to something simpler that doesn't involve dealers. Any advice would be much appreciated, even though I know this won't popular with most people here.

We had Control4 installed when we did a big reno. Now the components are beginning to fail, the OS (2.6) is out of date, and it's going to starting sucking money from us. We don't love the interface and I'm thinking we can just use native apps instead of bringing everything into Control4.

So we're thinking about making a change at some point soon, when the cost of upgrading/repairing doesn't make sense.

We use Control4 for 3 TVs, music, lighting control, and 3 door locks. Most of the equipment is sitting in two racks in our garage. We have two Apple TV boxes in there plus all the amps etc for music. We don't have cable TV - we cut that a few years ago - so all TV goes through the Apple TV boxes.

The only programming we have is for lights to turn on and off at certain times of day.

One thing we like about Control4 is that the TVs don't have any visible cables or boxes. You use the remote to pick which Apple TV you want to watch in your room, and then it plays.

For music, we use a touchscreen to control Spotify and can choose which zones to play the music.

Here's what I'm thinking:

For TV, we could just mount an Apple TV box next to each of our 3 TVs. Then we can control them individually using the TV remote plus the Apple TV remote. Each room would have a separate Apple TV.

For music, we could switch to Sonos or some other system. The Sonos amps/equipment could sit in the rack in the garage. (hopefully the Control4 speakers will play nicely with Sonos?)

The light switches and Baldwin door locks were really expensive and I would hate to have to replace them. They are zigbee and connect to Control4. This is the biggest problem I can see with making a change.

Anything else we currently have hooked up to Control4, like the doorbell and thermostat, can just be replaced with individual wifi-connected apps.

Would really appreciate any thoughts that people have!

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I am in Toronto and am willing to buy stuff from you if you decide to go away from C4.

The Control4 speakers are likely just generic speakers so you can use them with any amp, including Sonos.  Depending on what C4 amp/matrix that you have you could use something like a Sonos Port to feed your existing multi-zone amp. Or you could just put Sonos speakers in each room.  But you may have ceiling or wall speakers that you want to keep using as it is a pain to remove them.

The light switches will still work assuming that the dimmers are actually located in the rooms.  They will act as dumb dimmers.  But if the dimmers are hidden away and you are using keypads to control the lights then you are out of luck.  You are also likely out of luck if you have multiple keypads in a room to control lights such as three-way types of light control.

The locks will still work but they will be dumb and not controlable from an app.  But you can still use them as electronic locks with a code rather than a key.  You could even sell the Zigbee card for the locks.  You might be able to put in other cards that will interface with other systems.

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It's much cheaper to update than it is to start over.

Latest processors have a better interface. Depending on the number of devices and layout of your house, maybe a couple grand in hardware, and a day's labor.

All the lights, locks and thermostats can come along on the update. Skip the touchscreen, do the processors, and use the app.
That takes care of everything non entertainment.

As to music, new processors make a lot of improvement there too, depending on the equipment in the rack.
Or switch to ports or amps if that's your intention. But if you're mostly Spotify, new Control4 will likely work just as well, and use the Spotify app.

TVs, well that depends on how your TV sound is routed. Are they surround, play through the room speakers, or just TV speakers.
If just the TV speakers, then go with Apples everywhere if that's you wish.
If routed, see above, new processors and such will likely bring you back to happy.

Otherwise, you've got some wires and speakers, and changing everything else.

It won't be a constant suck of money, but there will be an investment to get it back up to great functionality, and a lot less than doing it over.

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Thanks for the tips! I'll definitely come here if I need to sell some equipment.

For the lights, we have a few things programmed. For example, there's a 'All Off' button for evening. And a few of the light switches are keypads that enable us to activate scenes. 

In our crawl space we have a bunch of things that look like light switches which I'm guessing are the dimmers? See attached image.

IMG_5233.JPG

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Yes, those are dimmers/switches.  You will need to keep the C4 system running or replace those with some other smart switch you can control.  The lighting loads are physically wired to those, then you're using programming through a keypad to control them. 

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23 minutes ago, mstafford388 said:

Yes, those are dimmers/switches.  You will need to keep the C4 system running or replace those with some other smart switch you can control.  The lighting loads are physically wired to those, then you're using programming through a keypad to control them. 

As @mstafford388 said you would have to have an electrician come and rewire all those lights properly for non C4 system. Could consider Lutron or something else in that place. I totally understand the sentiment to get away but do wonder have you looked at OS 3.3 and it's interface yet? Huge leap from 2.x interface and much more customizable. Suggest a few YouTube videos on that. A new controller for $3k and update to OS 3.3 would be huge. That being said if you do choose to go another route totally understand but least headache would be update controller and OS. Speakers and Apple TVs can be reused, but the electric bill to change all those lights, amps for speakers, etc alone might outweigh a new controller. 

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2 hours ago, canadian8484 said:

I would love to switch to something simpler that doesn't involve dealers. Any advice would be much appreciated, even though I know this won't popular with most people here.

We had Control4 installed when we did a big reno. Now the components are beginning to fail, the OS (2.6) is out of date, and it's going to starting sucking money from us. We don't love the interface and I'm thinking we can just use native apps instead of bringing everything into Control4.

So we're thinking about making a change at some point soon, when the cost of upgrading/repairing doesn't make sense.

We use Control4 for 3 TVs, music, lighting control, and 3 door locks. Most of the equipment is sitting in two racks in our garage. We have two Apple TV boxes in there plus all the amps etc for music. We don't have cable TV - we cut that a few years ago - so all TV goes through the Apple TV boxes.

The only programming we have is for lights to turn on and off at certain times of day.

One thing we like about Control4 is that the TVs don't have any visible cables or boxes. You use the remote to pick which Apple TV you want to watch in your room, and then it plays.

For music, we use a touchscreen to control Spotify and can choose which zones to play the music.

Here's what I'm thinking:

For TV, we could just mount an Apple TV box next to each of our 3 TVs. Then we can control them individually using the TV remote plus the Apple TV remote. Each room would have a separate Apple TV.

For music, we could switch to Sonos or some other system. The Sonos amps/equipment could sit in the rack in the garage. (hopefully the Control4 speakers will play nicely with Sonos?)

The light switches and Baldwin door locks were really expensive and I would hate to have to replace them. They are zigbee and connect to Control4. This is the biggest problem I can see with making a change.

Anything else we currently have hooked up to Control4, like the doorbell and thermostat, can just be replaced with individual wifi-connected apps.

Would really appreciate any thoughts that people have!

If you want to move away from C4, first, post in other forums 😂😂

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What Control4 controller do you have? If it’s an HC800, it can be upgraded to OS3…but only if you don’t plan on having any touchscreens. 
 

To run OS3 with touchscreens, you need the newer generation EA series controller. 

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10 minutes ago, canadian8484 said:

Thanks for the advice! I don't love the system at all, but it might be worth sticking with it, given what you guys are saying about the costs of changing.

How can I determine if our system is upgradable to OS 3.3?

FWIW, I'm not a fan of the dealer model with its current constraints either given I'm a hands on/technically-minded guy and our local folks, while nice, don't get me anywhere near the responsiveness or depth I need to be comfortable with a ~$200K investment (not considering the 'soft costs'/annoyance if things weren't working in the house I live in). I now work remotely with someone from the forum (Ari) and it's totally solved that. Something to consider as there are a lot of good folks here.

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My advice: don't spend more money on something you don't like.  Move on.  I did, couldn't be happier.

What I did to transition off was to leave C4 in charge of the lights, and move everything else off.  Apple TVs strapped to the back of the TVs, as you say.  Sonos for music.  Unifi Protect for door system, cameras; August locks.  Whole thing tied together by Home Assistant (there's an integration to poll n control Control4 lighting (but nothing else).

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50 minutes ago, WhyPhy said:

What Control4 controller do you have? If it’s an HC800, it can be upgraded to OS3…but only if you don’t plan on having any touchscreens. 
 

To run OS3 with touchscreens, you need the newer generation EA series controller. 

This is not correct, you need newer screens T3 or T4 to run with your HC800 on OS3.3 not an EA controller!

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This is not correct, you need newer screens T3 or T4 to run with your HC800 on OS3.3 not an EA controller!

Right. What I was thinking of is that you need an EA controller if you want to use the HDMI On-Screen Display (i.e. Control4 UI on the TV screen.) If that isn’t needed, which it sounds like it is not, the HC800 is fine, with either T3/T4 touchscreens, or no touchscreens at all.
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2 hours ago, wnpublic said:

My advice: don't spend more money on something you don't like.  Move on.  I did, couldn't be happier.

What I did to transition off was to leave C4 in charge of the lights, and move everything else off.  Apple TVs strapped to the back of the TVs, as you say.  Sonos for music.  Unifi Protect for door system, cameras; August locks.  Whole thing tied together by Home Assistant (there's an integration to poll n control Control4 lighting (but nothing else).

Honestly, if I could find a decent replacement for the in-wall touchscreens, we would probably follow this route as well. The only thing keeping us from doing it is the family uses the in-wall touchscreens for intercoms (including from the phone apps). We could probably live without a phone app, but the lack of intercoms would be very noticed.

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On 8/5/2022 at 2:42 PM, canadian8484 said:

Thanks for the tips! I'll definitely come here if I need to sell some equipment.

For the lights, we have a few things programmed. For example, there's a 'All Off' button for evening. And a few of the light switches are keypads that enable us to activate scenes. 

In our crawl space we have a bunch of things that look like light switches which I'm guessing are the dimmers? See attached image.

IMG_5233.JPG

i absolutely hate when someone installs banks of hidden switches like this. its not how its supposed to be. RF smart switches are supposed to be installed in the same places you would install a regular switch/dimmer. if someone wanted to reduce wall clutter then they should go with panelized wiring.

Seems to be a market to make a module to dim 4 or so loads of lighting.

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3 hours ago, therockhr said:

i absolutely hate when someone installs banks of hidden switches like this. its not how its supposed to be. RF smart switches are supposed to be installed in the same places you would install a regular switch/dimmer. if someone wanted to reduce wall clutter then they should go with panelized wiring.

Seems to be a market to make a module to dim 4 or so loads of lighting.

Other than the stupidity of putting a programmable device in a crawl space, i also would wonder if this is even allowed with building codes?

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I would think so.  I have a few dimmers in a crawl space, plus a bunch of dimmers in my attic. My electrician is pretty by the books, so I doubt he would have done this if it violated code.

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Code basically dictates that there is at least 1 light control per room.

Local jurisdiction will dictate what that actually means, as in, if a keypad that is linked through software to dimmers/switches is applicable.

Everywhere and every inspector is different. 

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Remember, CODE is to keep the place from burning down or someone getting hurt using electricity.

If the crawl space is in a flood zone, then certainly not to code.
If the local authority says no, because it's a limited mobility space, then they are certainly within their authority to do so.

However, in that particular photo, I'm a little concerned with the lack of staples securing the wires, and whatever that romex near the duct is doing on the ground.

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On 8/8/2022 at 7:54 AM, therockhr said:

i absolutely hate when someone installs banks of hidden switches like this. its not how its supposed to be. RF smart switches are supposed to be installed in the same places you would install a regular switch/dimmer. if someone wanted to reduce wall clutter then they should go with panelized wiring.

Seems to be a market to make a module to dim 4 or so loads of lighting.

Don't completely agree here. Having a (small) bank of ACCESSIBLE switches/dimmer away from the actual location to limit wall-acne is perfectly fine - though they shouldn't be hidden in a crawlspace like they are (and in this scenario a single 8 channel dimmer module would have made more sense)

 

Do agree on a smaller module for panel lighting though, would be nice to just have a single slot DIN cabinet with a 4 or 6 load piece in it (4 dimmer, 2 true switch maybe, allowing fans to connect?)

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2 hours ago, lippavisual said:

Local jurisdiction will dictate what that actually means, as in, if a keypad that is linked through software to dimmers/switches is applicable.

Everywhere and every inspector is different. 

So true - though in general, yes it would be allowable according to most any local code: nothing states WHAT a control point is, but it certainly doesn't state it must be a mechanical control point (unlike, for example, the specific mention of a furnace needing a mechanical shut-off switch that does not require passing by the furnace to operate).

But yes, I've dealt with an inspector for a local county not accepting it - and yes we contacted her regional board and asked them to clarify to her that it was acceptable and why (and it was). And no it didn't create bad blood either, it was simply openly communicated, and once she had the OK and reasoning on why it's OK...np further issues.

So I will 100% say that not having the physical 'switch' for a device in the room it's in is in fact code-acceptable, but for many inspectors this is still a 'new' development (smart lighting, centralized lighting). Keep in mind that centralized lighting as such is a VERY old product (GE had low voltage relay panels at least as far back in the 80's) - and has been acceptable world wide under code. There is not actual switch 'in the room' in those scenarios either.

While an individual inspector has the 'power' to accept or not accept a setup at a specific point in time, that doesn't mean it's the final word.

 

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