Finding the Troublemaker

October 23, 2014

Your Control4 system was built from the ground up with a wall-to-wall, curb-to-hall, complex system in mind. Complexity is what Control4 is for—it manages the increasing number, variety, and communication “languages” of your home’s devices, helping all work as a single, integrated system. And every Control4 product has been designed for versatility, reliability, and durability.

It’s likely that the other products in your home were built with the same guidelines, as well. But many home electronics weren’t designed to be part of a complex system, so those devices can…”misbehave.” For example, it’d take a lot of physical damage to make your front door inoperable, but with electronics, it doesn’t take as much, and you might have more frustration with a “misbehaving home” as a result. So how do you find the problem?

The scapegoat solenoid

Here’s what you don’t do: Blame the solenoid. Let me explain (story time!). My brothers-in-law are great guys, and they can fix just about anything. They’re mechanically inclined, but I’m mechanically reclined. So in the early years, I’d run to them for some cost-free help whenever my 1982 Honda Prelude (nickname: “Silver Shadow.” Yes, really.) was acting up. But I was less than impressed when they’d peer and poke into the darkness under the hood for a few minutes, then straighten up and solemnly declare, “It’s probably the solenoid.” Every. Stinkin’. Time. I didn’t even know what a “solenoid” was, but one thing I did know was that the real problem was never the solenoid! It became a running joke in my family, so one time I even took a crack at looking under the car with them before suggesting, tongue-in-cheek, “Maybe it’s the solenoid?” Although I expected a punch in the arm, they instead took the suggestion at face value, hummed & hawed, then reluctantly conceded that, hmmm, I might be right, could be the solenoid, dunno. (It wasn’t.)

To this day, I do not know what a solenoid really does in a car. But I know what my in-laws used it for: a scapegoat. It was a convenient target of blame, the Dennis the Menace of auto parts, and that misdirection only delayed a successful repair.

Remember the system

To troubleshoot, here’s what you do: First and foremost, keep in mind that, like a car, Control4 is part of a system. A lot of things work together to make it “go,” and although Control4 does its level best to direct all connected devices, some devices may insist on being “difficult.” In a connected system, one misbehaving component may affect others in unexpected ways, so the culprit could be anywhere. Think back to the car example—would a mechanic begin replacing engine components before checking whether the car’s out of gas? That may sound a bit unrealistic, but problems with a home automation system can be just as mundane (and unrelated to the automation system itself)—an unplugged power cord, Internet provider problems, a power outage—and have just as drastic an effect on performance.

When you need help
Your Control4 Dealer knows how to troubleshoot Control4 system issues, but you can help by taking care of some homeowner tasks before contacting them:
  • If you’re experiencing Internet problems, ask your ISP if there are outages in the area.
  • If your entire house has no power at all, ask your power company about a general power outage (or look in your breaker box to troubleshoot room-level outages).
  • Check power cords: You’ll want to stay away from the media closet where Control4 equipment is located, but you should check the power connections of exposed devices throughout the house, making sure all is plugged in. (No home automation system can turn on a TV that’s unplugged.)
If you end up calling your Control4 Dealer for help, trust them. If they suggest you relocate or reboot something, follow their instructions to the letter. They are expert problem solvers, and they likely know quite a bit about your home electronics.

The communicator
The Control4 system itself is more about communication than control. That’s a bold statement, but it’s true. Control4 doesn’t control everything—it communicates many messages to many devices throughout the home, obeying your commands. To make all that happen, the devices in the system need to behave predictably, but when the unpredictables happen, make sure to cover the basics before blaming…the solenoid.