Replacing our BTicino F420 with an MH202

Today’s post continues with the home automation topic, as I am still busy mastering our BTicino system from 2008. One of the issues we had with the system is that our F420 scenario module did not work properly anymore and since I stumbled over a good second-hand offer for an MH202 scenario programmer, I decided to go for that upgrade as replacement of the F420. The more advanced MH202 is programmed via the My Home Suite software I just introduced to our system (see also my last blog post) and it can handle much more complex scenarios with additional triggers and actions.

This blog post summarizes what I learned when replacing the F420 with the MH202, starting with how linking control components to MH202 scenarios works and differs from the F420, then continuing with a few comments on scenario programming and finally going into the specific control components we are using and their configuration for calling up scenarios. Very helpful were again the folks in the BTicino thread in the openHAB community, so far the most active and knowledgable discussion space I found for BTicino topics.

Differences in Linking Controls

Apart from the more advanced programming, the MH202 is also linked differently to the physical controls that trigger scenarios. With the F420, controls are by their configuration directly linked to one of only 16 scenarios it can store and the controls are also used to program those scenarios.

With the MH202, the controls trigger scenarios by sending more advanced CEN or CEN+ messages, opening up additional options for controlling scenarios not available with the F420.

CEN vs. CEN+

So, what are the differences between CEN and CEN+, and how to decide which to use?

First, if your control components are configured with physical configuration (hardware jumpers) or virtual configuration in the My Home Suite, then they will only support CEN messages. Virtual configuration is what is used for older components without ID that are addressed with the by-button method (see my last blog post). Only if you have newer control components with ID and advanced configuration in the My Home Suite, or if you use touch screens, you have the option of sending CEN or CEN+ messages. Also noteworthy is that while scenarios in the MH202 can be triggered by either CEN or CEN+ messages, the MH202 itself can only send out CEN messages.

For CEN we also have to distinguish between basic CEN and evolved CEN. The former supports only one event type for a button being pressed, the latter multiple different events to distinguish between short and long pressure and start and end of pressure. The older devices that support only virtual configuration will support only basic CEN, while the newer devices with advanced configuration will also support evolved CEN. 

CEN+ also supports pressure event types and additionally for touch screen controls such as our 4684 advanced lighting scenarios that offer buttons for activation, dimming and deactivation, all of which can trigger different actions in the MH202.

Another difference is the addressing, with CEN using traditional A/PL addresses and CEN+ using a scenario address. Especially if you are short on A/PL addresses it can be advantageous to move your scenario controls to CEN+ and scenario addresses.

If you like to dive deeper into the topic I found the Open Web Net documentation on CEN/CEN+ frames (Legrand, my server) helpful, as well as the Open Web Net Client (Legrand, my server), which allows you to listen in on the bus and see what messages are being sent.

In the next sections I will get into how to setup the MH202 and the control components for the different options described above.

Programming the MH202

General information on setting up the MH202 can be found in its data sheet, the programming via the My Home Suite is described in the MH202 Software Manual. In this section I’ll only go into a few topics that I did not find explained in the documentation and had to figure out for myself.

Sending configuration: 

Let’s start with a small pitfall, when you try to send configuration to the MH202 via the My Home Suite, the My Home Suite needs to be disconnected from the used gateway. Otherwise the screen to send the configuration to the MH202 will simply not open up.

Adding actuators:

The MH202 configuration has a section for adding actuators as system parameters. Here it is only necessary to add those actuators that have the PUL option set to exclude them from general/area/group commands. If those actuators are not added to the MH202 system parameters with the PUL option, they will be included in such general/area/group commands sent by the MH202, regardless of the PUL option being set on the actuator itself.

Triggers for starting and enabling/disabling scenarios:

For starting MH202 scenarios from physical scenario controls, there are three relevant start objects:

  • Family Scenario Control/CEN if your control sends out CEN messages,
  • Family Scenario Control/CEN PLUS if it sends out CEN+ messages and
  • Family Scenarios/Scenario PLUS for advanced lighting scenarios, with controls for activating, dimming and deactivating a lighting scenario.

As described in the previous section, you can use those different triggers depending on what control components you have available and how they are set up. Each scenario can have multiple start objects, and therefore support control components of different types. The following two screenshots show the three start objects mentioned above:

Additionally, scenarios in the MH202 can be enabled or disabled by CEN or CEN+ messages. The touch screens offer dedicated controls for that, but also the CEN/CEN+ messages sent by buttons on physical control components CEN/CEN+ can be used for enabling/disabling scenarios. This can be useful for example for scenarios triggered by timer or other events but for which the user may want to prevent execution for some time.

Configuration of Controls Components

Our system has physical controls of type 4651/2 (special functions/single load), 4652/2 (basic control/2 loads) and one 4680 scenario control.

The 4651/2 supports integration with our old scenario module F420 and we previously used it as scenario control. However its virtual configuration in the My Home Suite does not support CEN mode and therefore integration with the MH202 is not possible. Luckily with the 4652/2 controls, of which we have much more in place, it is the other way around. They do not integrate with the F420 but support CEN and for the newer revisions with ID also CEN+ for integration with the MH202. Our 4680 scenario control is an older revision without ID, which supports both the F420 and integration with the MH202 via CEN (but not CEN+).

Virtual Configuration of the 4652/2 and 4680

The virtual configuration of the older 4652/2 controls without ID and the 4680, also without ID, work the same. In the 4680 control configuration, an A/PL address is specified and M is set to CEN. For the 4652/2 you can either link only one side or all four buttons with scenarios. For only the left side set A1/PL1 and M1=CEN, for only the right side set A2/PL2 and M2=CEN, for both sides set A1/PL1 and M1=M2=CEN and leave A2/PL2 empty. Details on the virtual configuration can be found here: 4652/2 technical data sheet, 4680 technical data sheet.

In the MH202, the CEN start object is used to trigger scenarios from those controls. It is configured with the same A/PL address and additionally a button number, to indicate which button of the control shall trigger the scenario. The components’ technical data sheets linked above and also the MH202 data sheet have an overview how physical buttons map to button numbers, which looks like this for the 4652/2 and 4680:

Advanced Configuration of the 4652/2

In our system only some of our 4652/2 control components have an ID and thus support advanced configuration in the My Home Suite. For those it is possible to choose between CEN and CEN+ messages by choosing either “Scheduled Scenario” or “Scheduled Scenario PLUS” as function type:

Advanced configuration for CEN messages …

… and for CEN+ messages.

For identifying buttons, the advanced configuration works with virtual button numbers, with virtual buttons 0-31 being assigned to physical buttons in the control configuration.

Update Jan 5, 2023: A Bug with CEN Messages in the 4652/2

After observing unexpected side effects when calling up MH202 scenarios from our 4652/2, I identified what appears to be a bug in our older 4652/2 controls set up with advanced configuration. Those buttons support what the Open Web Net specification calls Evolved CEN, with different events for when a button is pressed shortly or for an extended time. In case of a short press on the button there are two events, the first when the button is pressed and the second when it is released. The issue the older 4652/2 controls have is that for the first event they send out the physical button number (1-4, see the image further above) and only for the second event they send out the configured virtual button number.

The following screenshots show this issue with a control configured to call two scenarios with A=9, PL=1, virtual button 4 on physical button 2 (upper right button) and virtual button 9 on physical button 4 (lower right button). In both cases, the first Open Web Net message for start pressure refers to the physical button and only the second for short pressure to the correct virtual button.

For comparison, here the messages from a new 4652/2 which we bought in 2022. It is configured to call scenario A=9, PL=1 and virtual button 3 on its physical button 1 (upper left button). When pressed, it correctly sends the start pressure and the second short pressure event with the correct virtual button 3.

Unfortunately those controls do not support firmware updates, and replacing them is the only way to fix this issue.

As workaround you can either use CEN+ messages, which are also supported by those controls, or setup your MH202 to listen to short press events only:

If you decide to use the short press events, be aware that not all devices support the Evolved CEN button press events. For example our 4684 touch screen (see the next section) does not and will send out only the start pressure events. So when assigning CEN scenario addresses you have to make sure that the erroneous 4652/2 messages do not interfere with any of the addresses you use for other devices.

This workaround resulted in a more complex but still manageable assignment of CEN addresses to scenarios, as can be seen in the table below. The 4684 touch screen and 4680 scenario control have their own A/PL address space using basic CEN (green) and only start pressure events, while the other controls use one address space (blue) with evolved CEN and short pressure events.

Configuring the 4684 3,5” Touch Screen

Our 4684 3,5” touch screen is configured with the TiDisplayColorIP software and offers different options for integrating with the MH202, which I’ll describe below. While their configuration works differently, the same concepts can also be applied to the 4690 3,5” touch screen and the 10” models.

The 4684 has two different “applications” or pages related to scenarios, the simple Scenarios application and the Improved Scenarios and Schedulers:

In the Scenarios application it offers three different options, the SCENARIO, the SCENARIO MODULE and the SCENARIO PLUS.

The SCENARIO MODULE is intended for integration with the F420 and not relevant for the MH202.

Trying the SCENARIO option was one of the major pitfalls I encountered when trying to link the 4684 with the MH202. From its configuration, I’d assume the SCENARIO option would be for sending CEN messages, however the implementation in the 4684’s current firmware version 6.0.11 does not seem to work. I have debugged this using the Open Web Net Client, and the 4684 simply does not send out any messages at all when configured with this option.

The SCENARIO option, which does not work with the current firmware 6.0.11 of the 4684.

And finally, there is the SCENARIO PLUS which is based on CEN+ and is used for the advanced lighting scenarios mentioned earlier, with dedicated buttons for activation, dimming and deactivation:

Moving on to the Improved Scenarios and Schedulers page, we have the options of the IMPROVED SCENARIO and the SCHEDULED SCENARIO.

The IMPROVED SCENARIO allows programming and execution of simple scenarios in the 4684 itself, based on either timer events or triggers from other components and able to execute multiple actions. However, with the MH202 in place, there is not much reason to go down that route, with the programming options of the MH202 being much more powerful.

And finally, there is the SCHEDULED SCENARIO, which is the most relevant for integration with the MH202, especially with the simple SCENARIOS option not working. The SCHEDULED SCENARIOS offers four buttons for starting, stopping, enabling and disabling a scenario:

You can choose which of those buttons you want to show on the touch screen (available or not available) and for each of those you make available assign its own CEN or CEN+ to trigger the MH202. For simple scenarios you can just use the start button, for more complex applications you can add the stop and enabling/disabling buttons. While those buttons match the start, stop, enabling and disabling triggers that the MH202 offers for each scenario, each of them could also be used to trigger independent scenarios.

The following screenshot shows a SCHEDULED SCENARIO with a CEN message configured for the start button. Note that while in the configuration software all four buttons are displayed, on the screen itself only the start button will show if the other buttons are set as not available.

Final Words

To conclude this post, a few thoughts on whether upgrading to the MH202 was a worthwhile endeavour, especially given the age of our system.

By today’s standard the configuration and programming software of the MH202 is pretty outdated, but still much more powerful and comfortable when compared to the F420. Especially if you’d like to stay within the BTicino ecosystem than the MH202 is still their most current and advanced product for managing scenarios. If you are willing to consider alternatives you can consider adding a vendor-independent platform like openHAB, not only for managing scenarios but also for integrating automation components from different vendors.

For my part, I am happy with the upgrade, especially considering the reasonable price I got on my second-hand MH202, and was already able to implement some useful scenarios that would not have been possible with the F420. Despite it being less fancy, I like the physical reliability and simplicity compared to having a platform like openHAB running on a NAS or RaspBerry Pi. Still, adding openHAB is what I am going to look at next, maybe not for managing scenarios but for integrating automation components from other vendors. Particularly I’d like to add wireless components such as light switches or power plugs, and here offerings from vendors such as Shelly look more appealing than what BTicino’s currently has to offer.

Last but not least, my desire to try out the MH202 and also the MyHomeServer1 allowed me to build up a small branch of our BTicino home automation system in my office. That branch not only houses those integration components but now also integrates additional lights and taught me a lot about the physical side of working with the system:

The new BTicino branch in my office in its final state …

… and with work still in progress.

If you have any questions related to this blog post and the MH202, don’t hesitate to contact me.