Pros and Cons to UPB Home Automation

Universal Powerline Bus (UPB) is a proprietary software protocol developed by Powerline Control Systems for power-line communication between devices used for home automation. Household electrical wiring is used to send digital data between UPB devices via pulse-position modulation.

Communication can be peer to peer, with no central controller necessary


In terms of speed, Universal Powerline Bus (UPB) is far superior to other powerline systems, particularly X10.

In fact, data transmission is 20-40 times faster than that of X10; the average latency of command to action is less than 0.1 seconds, which allows for ten full commands per second.

In addition to overcoming X10′s speed issues, 3-phase couplers also solve the speed issues previously encountered in 3-phase systems. Although this speed is not fast enough for high bandwidth applications, it is perfectly suitable for command and control interaction.

Rock-solid reliability

X10 equipped homes usually operate with tolerable reliability ranging between 70-80%. UPB users, on the other hand, are equipped with two-way communication capabilities in hardware, software and protocol design, so they enjoy signals that are less susceptible to interference and collision of commands. Based on large-scale field test results, UPB, on the other hand, shows the reliability of 99.9% when it comes to an effective and operational transmitter/receiver relationships.

Total cost

The system cost of new generation UPB products is roughly comparable to higher-end X10 products. On a scale of low-medium-high, X10 products would be classified as ‘very low cost’, while UPB products would be categorized under low cost. For example, the incremental cost to add two-way communication to a UPB microprocessor-based application circuit is less than $4.00, approximately the same as the cost to add X-10 type transmitting components.


Because UPB uses a totally different frequency range, it can peacefully co-exist with all other powerline systems, including X10 (link: 12_Intro to X10.doc), Insteon (link: 16. Intro to Insteon.doc), CEBus and LonWorks; no equipment interference is experienced from either side.

Cons of UPB

High initial cost

Although UPB devices are cheaper to operate in the long run, they are expensive to install, as each unit costs around $90. However, as the protocol becomes more commonly adopted by whole-home automation systems, many inexpensive devices have hit the market, which is reducing the higher initial costs for the system.


As it’s a newer technology, UPB is behind X10 in regard to the vast number of supported products and devices available. As technology rapidly matures, this is becoming less of a problem.

Powerline issues

No matter how sophisticated and advanced the system is, it remains a powerline carrier technology, making it susceptible to problems related to all forms of communication sent on a shared powerline.

Other minor issues

Additional shortcomings include product compatibility, as you must use compatible devices in order to avoid jamming. Triac-type dimmers are notorious for causing system-wide signal jams, for example, and three-phase houses may experience problems because signals from each phase are shifted. This, however, is solvable by using a signal repeater/amplifier/phase coupler.

Why should you get it?

As an improvement on the powerline concept that drives X10, UPB naturally overcame the many shortcomings of its predecessor, including speed, reliability, total cost, and flexibility. The balance of advantages over disadvantages is evident for those installing whole-home automation systems, where UPB is the clear protocol of choice.

If you want to compare why not look at the Pros and Cons of X10 we made earlier by clicking here

Here are a few examples of UBP Home Automation products out there already

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