Subscriber Discussion

Who Is Using Z-Wave?

I was looking at some of the fancy "WiFi" thermostats and what not for my new place (not at that price though, ugh!) and a friend suggested looking to ZWave for more integrated remote-access automation. Anyone here working with it? Thoughts? Caveats?

[IPVM NOTE: See Z-Wave Automation Explained for background.]

Got some hits on WeMo and Insteon as what appear to be "competing" systems, any comments on those?

I have some programmable thermostats and fancy Schlage electronic deadbolt for the front door that are waiting to go until I decide whether to return them and get into some of this stuff... but of course, the automation stuff is a good bit spendier so I have to decide whether to hold off on it for now.

I did some homework, downloading and browsing the Alegro user and installation manuals. It concerns me that there appears to be no provisions for external keypads or wired interfaces. Based on this, it would be premature to assume zwave integration is possible, through the mi casa verde vera or another system, without more homework. Just wanted to follow up because my earlier enthusiasm has clearly outrun the facts.

As noted, I am personally using the mi casa verde Vera in a limited way, but othwise have no stake in this approach.

If vera looks interesting, this link might lead you to other good information:

Plugin for Caddx/GE/Networx NX-584/NX-8E security system

This Vera plug-in appears to exploit the GE control panel interface, used as human interface for alarm system control and notification, to interface alarm system info and controls directly into your central control system.

It's possible that your GE Alegro system already does what it needs to do and can integrate into your central control system.

Awesome! Thanks, Horace. Probably have to wait until I do a little side work or something to get that with my own "pocket change", since of course, it's hard to convince the wife of the value of these things :) Got that added to my Wish List now though :)

In that case, you might look at the vera 3 controller.

In aggregate, Amazon's product reviews often give a fairly clear picture of a product's benefits and limitations, and there're more than 50 on this product (the successor to our Vera 2 system).

"Insteon from what I can see is a single brand... Zwave is a generic technology"

Yes, this is certainly true and worth considering.

Thanks Horace! In this case, I'm looking to do up my house, so not too worried about a business solution :) In fact, I don't mind experimenting a bit, tinkering, etc. I was looking to start with the alarm panel because that's the one thing I don't really have... well, the place came with a GE Alegro system, but since it's primarily designed to be a monitored system, and we've decided to forego the landline now, it's not much use. Figured start building a system with the alarm setup, then expand as budget permits.

Insteon from what I can see is a single brand... Zwave is a generic technology, like X-10, supported by a number of different manufacturers... so you can get alarm panels, thermostats, door locks, light switches and dimmers, etc. all with the integration technology. Some manufacturers have more limited product lines than others.

We have been using a limited Z-wave network for about 3 years to support programmable entry at our facility. We use the Vera 2 Z-wave controller with schlage locks. I've posted elsewhere the limited condensation issue we've had with the older Schlage locks, but since that version is not available anymore, that's irrelevant.

Z-wave also creates a mesh network. My sense, using the Vera-2 controller, is we are applying a hobbyist setup to a business need. Vera-2 is adequate but not well engineered as a total solution. We update infrequently (whenever changing codes or fixing problems), and the user interface in not sufficiently intuitive that we can be proficient at 6-month use intervals. That means it's been something of a cost sink where a 10-minute code programming takes us an hour.

More recently Schlage and (someone else, don't remember who) have implemented their Nexia solution to Z-wave control. Although I have no experience with it, I would imagine that the consumer product is almost certainly more polished and useable. The older Schlage z-wave solution was web based and required a $5/month subscription. I understand a Nexia subscription is $10/month to enable web access.

More nodes = better performance (mesh network). If you have a challenge, plug an inexpensive zwave lamp module in an electrical outlet to cross mesh network gaps. We're managing 5 internal and external controlled access points across 1800 square feet, which has not been a problem for range.

Summary of our system:

It's adequate for what we do (doors with programmable entry codes)

Vera-2 user interface can be confusing, and it's sometimes challenging to do simple things that we do infrequently

I haven't noticed distance issues.

Schlage door handles support remote lock/unlock

Our schlage deadbolts support remote lock but not remote unlock, since a person must be standing there to manually disengage the deadbolt

That's my 2 cents worth

I'm also very interested in others' experience with an integrated centralized control environment. Because lighting control is desirable and easily retrofittable, we've toyed with the idea of z-waving most switched runs, but haven't done our homework. Since we've started with zwave, we'll probably continue with it, or do nothing.


Ahh, I think I see what you mean.

I've never seen something that I would call an Insteon alarm system. Insteon is more commonly used for automation, not alarm gear. There are Insteon RF door contacts, but I'm not sure if there are Insteon-equipped panels. Also, there are I/O modules that you can wire traditional contacts in to (I use one for some PIRs around my house).

A couple of places offer starter kits, that is usually a controller of some kind, like this and a few modules. I'd just buy things individually to suit your needs though. Your primary interface isn't likely to be through an alarm keypad with Insteon, but through a webUI, mobile app, etc.

matt a zwave device needs to be connected to a controller (ie. honeywell panel, 2gig, vera etc.)... I am not familiar with insteon however you could get a similar (to the honeywell shown) 2gig kit from your distributor that is zwave ready for about $300...

Zwave, as far as I know, does have its own controller interface that is then programmed/controlled via software or app. The package there is a "starter" alarm package only, without the Zwave controller (it has both Zwave interface card, and WiFi card for direct WiFi access). Just curious as to how it would compare to a similar Insteon alarm system (includes three window/door contacts, motion, battery, one keyfob remote, etc.)

matt I have been using zwave devices in my home and office for about three years now and have been satisfied with their performance... we have a smaller home so the distance limitations of zwave dont affect us... in larger homes it starts to become an issue... I am using a 2gig panel for my controller and we are an dealer so we utilize that platform for interactive services... my network includes thermostat, door locks and light switches... overall I enjoy the benefits of it at home and office...

Not even sure how to compare to that, it looks like some kind of dedicated controller? I prefer to stay away from that path. My last system was based around a JDS Stargate, which was awesome when it was new, and horribly limited by the time it died. I had a PC running along side it that had an app I wrote to augment it with live weather data, simple web/email control and other functions.

I wouldn't do that again, I prefer a PC/Mac based platform instead. You might want to check out Smart Home Systems For Every Need & Budget | HomeSeer , it's a solid platform, been around a long time, and has lots of cool flexibility.

As for the cost of ZWave vs Insteon, over time it will probably average out to be about the same.

Thanks for that, BRK. The only iDevice in this house is the wife's old iPhone 4 with broken screen that she keeps around as a music player, so iOS compatibility isn't an issue...

I've found pretty good variety of ZWave offerings from different manufacturers, so I'm still good on either option (WeMo appears to be a very limited Belkin-specific tech, from what I can find).

How would you compare the price point to, say, this example (ADI here carries the identical package, slightly higher base price, but no shipping charge, so it actually ends up being a little cheaper)?

I have an Insteon based system, mostly because there are limited native OS X home automation control platforms. Indigo (software) primarily works with Insteon devices, so that was my route when I decided to purge all the X10 from my home.

My only complaint with Insteon is that the devices are made by SmartHome, who doesn't have the greatest track record for product engineering. Typically, if it last a month, it'll last forever. Buy from Amazon, they have the best return policy.

I have umpteen switches, outlets and Insteon modules in my house. Any device that we interact with regularly (lights, thermostats, etc.) is controlled.

Z Wave is interesting, but the product selection seemed a bit limited (IMO) and I wasn't confident that the range would always be good. The upside of Insteon is that the devices basically create a mesh network. Most of the modern-stuff is dual-band, meaning that it communicates via your 110 powerline wireing AND wireless, so it routes around and/or bridges most normal problems rather nicely.

Via Indigo, I can control timed events, macros, etc. I also have remote access to all house functions via the Indigo iPhone app.

Our whole-house audio is based on AirPlay, there is an AppleTv, and/or MacMini and/or Airport Express by every TV or for each audio zone. So, you can route audio pretty much anywhere. My wife has an iPod touch in the master bed/bath. She can start a playlist playing to the local speakers (in-ceiling), or launch Pandora and redirect its audio to the local speakers and/or to speakers in other rooms (like the workout room).

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