A touchpanel is a video screen with software buttons that allows a homeowner to control audio, video, lights, drapes, and any other electrical appliance in a home. The touchpanel does not control devices directly, but when connected to a programmable logic controller (PLC), gives the homeowner more control than a typical keypad. A keypad will have a fixed number of buttons to do a few functions, whereas a touchpanel could be programmed to do the whole house. This would require the touchpanel to navigate through a number of pages, either by room or by specific function (lights, drapes, etc.).

There are various types of touchpanels; tabletop or wall mount, wired or wireless, grayscale or colour. They also come in various sizes, from 4″ to 15″ diagonal displays.

Audio capabilities include a built-in microphone, speakers and the ability to play stored WAV files. Video presents clear graphics, full-motion video and a light sensor that automatically brightens or dims the display with room light for easy viewing. Touchpanels remove wall clutter; switches, audio/video panels and thermostats. The touchpanels that come with hard pushbuttons are preferred because the homeowner has quick access to everyday functions, like a typical keypad would offer. Touchpanels are more expensive than keypads, both in hardware and programming costs. The decision to use touchpanels should be based on the number of inputs and outputs (I/O) in the project. Projects that have a large number of lighting circuits, drapery motors, and whole house audio/video distribution with very little wall space for switches, definitely requires a touchpanel. The best configuration is to install one touchpanel on each floor, in a central area, for easy access. The rest of the rooms should be standard keypads for everyday functionality.

The touchpanel illustrated above is a Crestron TPS-2000L 5″ wall mounted touchpanel. The specific project had over 100 lighting circuits, 75 drapery motors, 20 temperature zones and miscellaneous controls for the pool/spa, fountains, gates, etc.