Lighting Control Systems - CBus or Dynalite?

Posted by Harry Simidis on Sep 25, 2019 7:52:23 PM

I often get asked by Electricians, which lighting control system I would choose over the other. CBus or Dynalite?

CBus versus Dynalite ControlFreq

The truth is, there is no simple answer to such a deceivingly simple question. In order to answer this question, in the most informed way, it's probably best to understand a little bit more about each of the lighting control systems, and that is what this blog is about.

Both CBus and Dynalite started life as Australian-made products. Both were conceived and manufactured by Australian companies. CBus is made by Clipsal, who were subsequently acquired by Schneider Electric a few years back, wheras Dynalite was made by WMGD Pty Ltd, and were acquired by Phillips some time ago. 

One of the primary differences between the two systems, is that CBus uses a two-conductor bus comprised of power, with communications superimposed over the top. The CBus network voltage is 36v dc, is polarity sensitive, and runs at 4800 bps. The Dynalite bus is comprised of four-conductors, namely +12v dc, ground, and 2 communication lines Data+ and Data-, it runs at 9600bps.

Both networks use RS485 communications at the physical layer level, which is why they can each run for long distances and have very good immunity to noise, given that RS485 is based on a differential voltage system. This means that any induced noise is cancelled out at the bus transceiver within each unit during processing. Each control system has it's own recommended network cable, but essentially, they are both CAT5 twisted pair cables. The CBus pink cable is available as solid or stranded variant, and offers a pink sheath which is rated to mains voltage. The Dynalite network cable also offers a mains rated orange jacket, however, is only available as a stranded, shielded cable. Having said this, there is also a flat type cable that Phillips makes available, although, I have not seen this installed in too many places. 

Groups of lights in CBus are identified as "Group Addresses" in the software and manipulated from a channel-centric perspective. This means that larger scenarios are usually comprised of long sequences of group address message broadcasts. Dynalite views it's surroundings in the way of areas and channels. Groups of lights are given channel numbers within broader areas as a way of managing the environments which it controls (preset-centric).

There are arguments for and against each methodology as each has it's pros and cons. A major difference between the two systems is that the CBus communications, such as "group level messages", provide inherent feedback on the buttons that control them, whereas Dynalite messages tend to be broadcast only. My understanding of this is to minimise network traffic for the larger systems that Dynalite was originally designed to control, hence, the one-way communication when controlling. Naturally any configuration change from applications software, involves a two-way network message acknowledgement to ensure download integrity.

So now that you understand a little bit of the inner workings of each system,  both systems can handle large and small projects competently. I personally love how easy it is to program complicated logic in CBus using its higher level programming language PASCAL. Although Pascal is quite dated, it does provide a "near English" library of commands that help one achieve virtually any customer request. Dynalite also offers very powerful programming capability, albeit at a far lower machine language level, allowing the programmer to get into the finest of details down to the behaviour of a status indicator on a switch.

As Lighting Control Specialists, we love both systems and would happily use either on the right project. Both systems have highly desirable user interfaces, like switches and touch screens, as well as apps.

To work out which system would be best to use in your application, it's probably a discussion we would need to have in person after considering size, customer preference and budget.


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Topics: Lighting Tips and Tricks, lighting control, Dynalite, CBus

What does Harry know?

It's a Fair Question

Harry Simidis has been working in this industry for about 20 years now, he has an Engineering Comp Sys Degree and is the ultimate ControlFreq. So when you think about it, he's the man you want to help you with your Smart Home Control System.

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