Mini Z-Wave Device Review

Sep 18 2012

Z-WaveIn our recent review of Micasaverde’s Vera home automation (HA) controller several devices were mentioned, but not in enough detail to be useful to anyone thinking about building a Z-Wave network, or adding to an existing one. To address that a list of all the devices and a mini review is included below:

Home Automation Controller:

Open/Close (aka Door/Window) Sensors:

  • Everspring SM103-1: Larger than the Aeon Labs sensor and much more reliable. Also, since it supports an external sensor with a lead wire it is actually more flexible to use/install than the Aeon Labs. I use this device to detect if the garage door is open in the scene that ensures that the door gets closed at night.
  • Aeon Labs: More compact than the Everspring, but the range for reliable operation is so limited that I didn’t find it to be useful.

Dimmers:

  • Intermatic Intouch CA600: Hard to find (make sure to check eBay), but cheaper than the GE models. They don’t have quite the same tactile satisfaction of the GEs, but they work just fine for incandescent bulbs (i.e. don’t try it with anything that doesn't add up to a least 40W load on the line). For some reason these (and the Intermatic receptacles), will not pair with the Vera from more than a few feet away so I made a special wiring harness (three wires taped together) that fits into an extension cord so I can add them before installation.
  • GE 45612: Varies wildly in price so wait for a sale. Overall I prefer these to the Intermatic, also incandescent only. Most Z-Wave switches require a neutral (white wire) as well, these stand out in that they do not.
  • GE 45613: A decent three-way, but wiring instructions are incredibly obtuse so make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get it right.

Standard (aka Binary) Switches:

  • GE 45614: Like the 45606 these and the 45609 fluctuate in price a lot. Unlike the three-way dimmer these are easy to install, and since they work fine without the second switch in-line and are sometimes cheaper than the non-three-way GE model it is the most common switch in my home. All the GE switches have a blue “finder” light on the bottom, which some may find annoying. If you don’t like it, I don’t think it can be disabled but it is possible to make it turn on when the light is on instead of when it’s off.
  • GE 45609: This is actually the same switch, minus the traveler switch, as the three-way which makes it even more bizarre that it is often much more expensive.
  • GE 45604: Outdoor modules are convenient for times when you need temporary control inside, multiple control points off one receptacle (via a power strip), or [obviously] when using in a wetter environment. While they are easier to install, they are also the only Z-Wave device that has a measurable power draw (~1W), so I try not to use them if possible. These have the widest variance in price. Right now they are $40 on Amazon, but I picked up a few when they were $20.
  • GE 45605: Solid but more expensive than the Intermatic and unlike the model it wires in like a traditional receptacle.
  • Intermatic HA01C: Like the dimmers, these receptacles will not pair from more than a few feet away. Instead of being wired like a traditional receptacle, these have three wires that must be bound using wire nuts. Also, if you use (or want to use) Powerline Networking, they don’t work.

Scene Controller:

  • GE 45600: Hard to go wrong at $6, but it’s really annoying that they don’t work with scenes that embed Luup. Scene logic doesn’t seem to transfer as a complete scene, so if it changes on the Vera it is often necessary to reprogram the scene controller. Very important that it is paired using “full power inclusion” even if you put it right next to the Vera. I was not able to get it to work properly using “low power inclusion”, often leading to the scene controller getting wiped and needing to do all of the trigger programming again.

Lock:

  • Kwikset SmartCode Deadbolt: The most expensive single item in the list so it quickly adds to the BOM to fully automate the home. Even before starting with HA we had some keypad locks at our old house so that part was an easy sell (I hate carrying a key when going for a run). These add the ability to create codes that only work at specific times or days (e.g. for the babysitter, cleaner, etc.). Also, I’m a little OCD about whether I remembered to lock the door set the alarm – adding them to the mesh solves that.

Alarm System:

  • DSC 1832: It’s not a Z-Wave device, but since it integrates so well with triggers and exposes each door/window sensor to the network as if it were, I think it’s worth a mention. I used a EnvisaLink 2DS to provide the integration point, but it’s also possible to use an RS-232 module as well.

Comments

Great run down of Z-wave devices, thanks!

Andy, have you done any automation between your Kwikset lock and DSC 1832?  I'm looking at a similar setup, and wondering if it's possible to have a correct PIN entry on the lock disarm the alarm system.

I haven't setup that scenario, but I do use the door unlocking events in other ways (e.g. turning on the light by the door that unlocked if it's night). I also have it setup the other way where if the alarm arms all the doors lock (if it "STAY" arms it will also close the garage door if it's open).

To disarm the alarm you would need to hard code the alarm code into the alarm panel device on the Vera which I'm not super comfortable with, but I'm pretty sure it would work; just haven't tried it.

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