What is KNX? Should I use it?

KNX is a smart control system that differs from many others and is often mis-understood. This blog is aimed at explaining KNX and giving you information needed to make informed decisions early on your build.

  • What is KNX?
  • What can KNX do?
  • Who makes KNX products?
  • What are the Benefits of KNX?
  • What does KNX not do so well?
  • Should I use KNX?
  • What is the next step?

What is KNX?

KNX is not a product or even a manufacturer. KNX is a certified standard of communication. Think of it as a language defined and controlled by a governing body!

KNX works by sending short digital messages known as telegrams out onto a wiring structure. Other devices listen to these messages and make decisions and actions based on this.

KNX is known as a de-centralised system as no one device is a master that all others must report or be assigned to. Each device simply waits its turn to send telegrams along the copper wire and listens out for any telegrams that it may want to make use of.

What can KNX do?

Using KNX you can brings together functions in the home to enable building-wide automation. The possibilities are endless but here is a list of some popular functional uses of KNX:

Blinds and shading controlled independently, combined with lighting scenes to great effect or respond to sunlight to reduce solar gains

Lighting control from on wall keypads that can control all lights in any combination. Control by movement, or even external light level to reduce energy consumption

Heating, Ventilation and Air conditioning control to manage the room temperature efficiently. Temperatures can be adjusted by time of day, usage, and any external factor

Security Is important and having this incorporated into KNX just deepens integration. Why turn off lights on your way out when your alarm being set is all that is needed to turn off lights and lower temperatures?

Door communication allows you to see and interact with visitors as well as open the door for them. If it is dark, you may want the lights on the drive to come on for a time automatically

Visualisation of your system is one of the largest benefits. Monitor energy usage of your heating, lighting and more, controlling everything in your home whilst at home or away.

Who makes KNX products?

The fact KNX is a standard of communication only, it means that many manufacturers make KNX devices. These manufacturers compete with one another to make the best smart products whilst being completely compatible because of the KNX standard!

There are 495 members who manufacture KNX devices and parts, more than can be listed here but some favourites here at Micarta are:

  • Gira
  • Theben
  • ABB
  • Basalte
  • Zennio
  • Ekinex

A full list of manufacturers can be found here.

What are the benefits to KNX?

KNX is a robust, reliable and flexible solution by its very nature. Not only this but because of its interoperability with many devices, it becomes very capable too.

It is robust because of its slower means of communication and its simple “2-wire” cabling infrastructure. This means that telegrams get to where they need to get to over large distances and are less sensitive to interference

Reliability is embedded into its de-centralised standard. If one device was to fail, you would only lose the function of this devices and any other device that relies on information it provides. Other than that, the system will simple continue working.

KNX is flexible for a few reasons. Firstly, there are hundreds of manufacturers building an incredible varied portfolio of parts from keypads to door entry to weather detection devices that can all work together seamlessly. Secondly, the physical cabling connecting all devices can be wired in a number of ways meaning that if you decide to extend a room, cabling only needs to get to the closest KNX device.

What does KNX not do so well?

As with any system, there are always drawbacks. KNX’s slower robust communication is a massive strength in its use in building infrastructure however causes its weakness when fast data rich communications is needed.

KNX “Homeservers” seek to get around this issue by storing all the latest device information so it is available quickly and can be relayed to smart devices. This does work incredibly well when used to control the infrastructure of the home but still comes up weak when compared to control systems such as Control4 or Crestron. These can interface seamlessly with audio visual devices, video gate entry and display this information fast on smart phones and tablets as well as in wall touch screen controllers around the building.

At Micarta we find KNX is a superb infrastructure technology that is brought to life when coupled with the latest front end control systems such as Control4 or Crestron.

Should I use KNX?

KNX is certainly a system you should consider. Even though it has been around for a long time in its current form, there is no denying that it forms an infrastructure in a building like no other. Much like you do not question electrical cables behind walls standing the test of time, KNX can be thought of in the same way.

Having complete control over every aspect of your home from any point in your home is a superb function which not only provided that wow factor when lighting scenes fade between each other but allows the house to be automated and moulded to your lifestyle, automatic comfort in every way.

If you are building a property spanning large distance, you can trust in its ability knowing that KNX was used on a large scale at Heathrow terminal 5 and was used for its reliability, robustness and future proofing.

What is the next step?

Involve a KNX certified professionals such as Micarta early!

There is a lot to consider as KNX can be installed in a number of ways to suit your build. Your certified professional will work closely with your electrical and mechanical designers and installers to ensure cohesion of design and install.

As there are so many manufacturers of similar parts, all with their own added features, it is so valuable to utilise experienced installers to design and install with your end goal in sight.

Incorporating technology such as KNX into a home is an exciting and fascinating journey that does not need to be difficult or indeed expensive for the function it offers. Interacting with your home in an intelligent way brings your living into the 21st Century and beyond.

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The Micarta Team are based in Kent, England. We are specialists in professional integrated technologies and provide the highest quality design, installation and service to our customers.