I have had the opportunity to review some Z-Wave equipment and I must say I'm impressed with the simplicity of the system. After all ... lighting control and automation should not be rocket science ... and in it's simplest form I tend to think it should become standard in all new construction.

Z-Wave Lighting Control Systems

Bob Hetherington | HomeToys

Review - Z-Wave Lighting Control Systems

Author: Bob Hetherington

My first impressions of Z-Wave are good. It's a simple system and although I have not done exhaustive testing, the reliability seems to be there. There are many subtle niceties that obviously have been included into the system based on past experiences with other automation technologies. I will include some more technical specifications and product claims etc. below but the bottom line is that this technology and growing product line should provide an excellent solution for consumers and integrators wishing to incorporate home automation into their existing or new home or project.

I have had the opportunity to review some Z-Wave equipment and I must say I'm impressed with the simplicity of the system. After all ... lighting control and automation should not be rocket science ... and in it's simplest form I tend to think it should become standard in all new construction if not for comfort and convenience then at least for energy conservation in an era where that has become a top priority.

The first box I received was the HomeSettings HA101K Lighting Control Starter Kit from Intermatic Consisting of 2 lighting modules and a tabletop controller, this is really all you need to get started and is very simple to install so that you can get a feeling for what lighting control is and what you can do with it. Basically you just plug in the lighting modules and then plug a few lamps into them. Read a few short instructions about the controller, push a few buttons and the system finds the lights and set's up the network for you to control them. No wiring, no tools and no mess. A bit more reading and you learn how to program the light to come on and off when you want them as well as how to set up scenes so when you push one button, both lights will come on at the dim level you want to set. The controllers sits nicely on the table and is easy to read. The buttons have a nice feel to them and so far I have not had any issue with reliability at all.

The next logical step is to try automating some of the lights in the room that are now controlled by light switches. OK, so now you need to do a bit of electrical work ... which is OK for those who are so inclined but maybe too much for some. Again, the installation is very simple and the instructions are clear so any electrician can do it if you are not comfortable with it. The switches I tried came from Cooper Wiring Devices (the Aspire Design). They are cool looking switches and I installed one dimmer and one standard switch to get a feel for their installation and operation. All you do is replace the light switch that controls the light you want to automate. If I have a criticism it is only that the operation of these switches is unconventional and may take some getting used to by a homeowner. But they look great and work like a charm. LED's tell you the dim level of the light and adding them to the Z-wave network is just as simple as the lighting modules. Once the controller adds the devices, it's easy to include them in lighting scenes and scheduled events as well as controlling them directly from the master controller.

Along with the switches, Cooper also sent along a handheld remote control for the lighting system. It's a fairly big remote but I'm kind of partial to bigger buttons and screens as I find them easier to see and operate. For those who prefer a hand held device ... or need control from more than one spot in the house ... having a few of these laying around it a good solution. One nice function of the Z-wave system is that you can easily add a new controller to the system and upload the network devices to it so you don't need to go around and introduce it to each one individually. From this remote you can do everything the tabletop controller can do and it can have it's own schedules and scenes programmed into it.

Now, speaking of programming and control, I know some folks just need to control stuff with their computers. It just seems like a natural thing to do and having the ability to tie the lighting system into some more complex functions of your home control system is a natural. For this, all you need is the ControlThink Z-Wave USB Adapter. It's just a stick that goes in your USB port and communicates with you Z-Wave control network. Simple as that. I tested it using ControlThink software (ThinkEssentials) which can be used to set up a graphic display of your home and control all of the Z-Wave devices, set up schedules and scenes as well as do diagnostics on the network.

 

 

Overall the software is easy to use and recognized the network via the USB adapter without a hitch. Just like any of the other controllers, you can upload the network information to ThinkEssentials from any other controller so no extra work is required as your network grows and expands.

My first impressions of Z-Wave are good. It's a simple system and although I have not done exhaustive testing, the reliability seems to be there. There are many subtle niceties that obviously have been included into the system based on past experiences with other automation technologies. I will include some more technical specifications and product claims etc. below but the bottom line is that this technology and growing product line should provide an excellent solution for consumers and integrators wishing to incorporate home automation into their existing or new home or project. I was impressed with the interoperability between products from different manufacturers which bodes well for the future of the technology. A great source for information and links to all of these products is /www.z-wave.com.

 

Tested Product Specifications

 

HomeSettings HA101K Lighting Control Starter Kit

  • 1 HA07 Master Controller
  • 2 HA03 Lamp modules
  • Control all your lighting with the touch of a button
  • Deter intruders with random timer setting
  • Easy do-it-yourself installation– just plug-in and use
  • Radio frequency controls (no wiring is involved)
  • Built-in “repeater” function for reliable signal receptions
  • Timing control functions in all controllers and in-wall devices
  • Capacity to control 192 devices and create pre-programmed “scenes” for the perfect atmosphere every time
  • Two-way feedback to let you know if the system is set up and working properly
  • Z-Wave™ technology and compatibility
  • 4 AA batteries (not included)
  • For use in dry locations

 

Aspire Lighting Dimmer Switch (by Cooper Wiring Devices)

• With the award-winning ASPIRE™ Design System aesthetics, ASPIRE RF devices match perfectly with any ASPIRE device
• Offered in three custom colors, Desert Sand, Silver Granite and White Satin
• Softly curving arch; contrasting textures; velvet-smooth, quiet actuation; and colors that subtly complement each other make
ASPIRE RF devices an integral element of any décor
• Fits in a single-gang wallbox and can be multi-ganged.
• Virtually unbreakable, ultrasonically welded top and backbody, extra-long, extra-wide mounting straps and easy access ground
screws provide reliability and speeds up installation
• Compatible with ASPIRE Design System screwless wallplates
• Amber LED at bottom of LED display indicates On/Off load status
• Electro-mechanical push pad for ON/OFF operation with separate DIM/Bright bar
• LED light-level display for presetting illumination levels and
master/accessory units for multi-location control
• LED reduces brightness when in the OFF state
• 7 step blue LED display alongside push pad indicates selected light level – even in full daylight
• Can be used for multi-location control with use of Accessory Dimmers (RF9542-Z)
• Works with ASPIRE RF Accessory Dimmer (RF9542-Z) for wireless 3-way control, eliminating the need for traditional 3-way wiring or for a dedicated traveller wire
• Uses 200 Series Z-Wave chip at 40Kbs transmission rate
• Programmable rapid and delayed fading up to 4 minutes (default is 10 seconds)
• Single button programming
• Z-Wave Compliant Certified
• Air-gap switch disconnects power from load forcing an OFF condition.
• RFI filtering for radio, audio and video equipment
• Adjustable ramp rate (up to 4 minutes)
• Child Lockout feature
• Can be associated with up to 5 other devices
• All-On/All-Off inclusion
• Patent Pending Panic Mode
• Patented indicator system alerts if dimmer is not set up in the network
• Pressing and holding push pad for 2 seconds brings light to full brightness without affecting preset levels
• Power failure memory
• Configurable “Power on State”

 

Cooper Handheld Controller

• Blue LCD Screen with Icon Menu Navigation for easy viewing
• All On, All Off, and Panic buttons provided for quick access
• Menu & Back buttons provide user hot keys
• Directional keypad with OK button for system navigation
• 0 – 9 buttons for data entry and serve as shortcut keys to devices and scenes
• Ergonomic shape provides comfortable grip and fit
• Bottom rubber pads stabilize controller and prevents scratches on solid surfaces
• Serves as Primary or Secondary Controller, allowing multiple controllers to be used within each network (one Primary allowed per network)
• User interface guides user through any chosen function on LCD
• Able to Include/Exclude and configure up to 231 devices
• Create and edit up to 64 scenes
• Create, edit and schedule up to 32 events
• Replicate function allows user to duplicate information from one controller to another.
• System Settings provides access to Version information, Reset, Network Discovery and Get Name/Location functions
• Away Mode function allows user to create “lived-in” automated lights in network while away (e.g. work day, vacation, etc…)
• Battery Status Indicator shows when battery power is low
• Primary Controller icon on LCD indicates whether controller is a Primary or Secondary controller
• Numeric keypad provides one button access for scene selection and convenient access to devices for direct control
• All ON/All OFF buttons provide Brighten/Dim feature when a dimmer is selected
• Time and Day provided on Main Menu for quick reference
• Device Status feature allows the user to determine each device’s current status (e.g. Switch = On) in the network
• Controls ASPIRE RF devices and other manufacturer’s Z-Wave compliant devices
• Child Lockout feature offers user the option to change how
a device is controlled, either manually or wirelessly
• “Who Are You” feature enables user to identify a device’s network information by simply pressing a button on the device
• Allows user to create custom “Panic” mode. This allows user to alert neighbors or emergency vehicles or create quick viewing of outside or inside areas
• Scene transfer function allows for simply programming of scene controllers by wirelessly copying scene from Handheld to button on scene controller
• Uses 200 Series Z-Wave chip @ 40kb transmission rate

 

ControlThink ThinkStick USB Adapter: 

Wireless Technology:
Z-Wave
Speed:
4x (40kbps)
Backwards compatible with 1x (9.6kbps) devices
Supported Platforms:
Windows XP® or Windows Vista® (including 64-bit)
Software:
None (used with compatible software)
Frequency:
908.42 MHz (US)
Model Number:
ZWUSB100-US
Part Number:
CTZUS-1US
Physical Size:
3.5 in. x 0.9375 in. x 0.4375 in. (W x H x D)
Warranty:
1 year hardware warranty

 


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