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Tech Tuesday:

Z-Wave Wireless Technology


Hey everyone!  We took a week off but we are back…

In the upcoming weeks we will look into the different platforms and protocols being used in the Home Automation world. Since there are so many different protocols, we will tackle them a little bit at a time. This week we look into wireless, and specifically Z-Wave, a technology that is marketed towards the DIY market.

What is Z-Wave?

Z-Wave is a smart home wireless technology that is inside everyday products like lights, locks, thermostats and much more. With 375 companies and 1500 plus products that are all inter-operable with each other, Z-Wave is truly bringing open source wireless technology to the consumer.

Now Z-Wave is a low powered RF communications technology that supports full mesh networks without the need for a coordinator node. Wait, what was that? What does that really mean? In plain terms, Z-Wave is a standard wireless technology that lets all your home electronics talk to each other, and to you, via remote control.

Z-Wave is not a company that makes the products but is the company that created the wireless technology that many companies use to create products that can talk to each other.

The reliable low-power radio waves easily travel through walls, floors, ceilings and cabinets. Z-Wave requires no complicated programming and no new cables to run. New devices are also easy to add so enlarging a system is no problem. Plus, Z-Wave lets you control these devices in ways that give you complete command even when you’re not at home from a PC and the internet… even through your cell phone!

Wow that sounds fantastic! So what’s the catch you ask? Well as with any system, especially wireless, the system is only as sound as the strength of signal and its ability resist interference of other wireless products. In today’s modern home this becomes very problematic with all the wireless devices using several different platforms.

The next problem is with different companies creating all these different products. While the hope is they are just plug and play devices, many times they don’t sync together because a software/firmware upgrade is needed, or one product is much older and other times they just don’t work together. Also, many of these companies are young and have not been in the lighting and or control business that long, so when it’s time for support you may not get what you need, especially if that company is no longer in service.

Now, while many of the Z-Wave products seem easy to install, many do require a level of “handy man” competency. If you feel comfortable opening an electrical box and changing out a switch or dimmer and you can program your TV remote, than you should be OK. If not, then there are many electrical contractors who can install and program a Z-Wave system for you … but that really defeats the premise that Z-Wave is a DIY product.

So is Z-Wave the answer to all of our Home Automation needs?  I say no.  Just as one system is not the answer for every situation, Z-Wave is not all that you may need.


So how do you know if Z-Wave is right for you? The easiest way to find out is to spend a little money and do one section of your home, say like a living room or master bedroom. Get the product in your hands and play with it. See how it works together and grow it from there.

Next up:  Blue Tooth and WiFi products that are geared towards the Do It Yourself market.

As always if you have questions or looking for more in depth information, just drop us an email and we will be happy to help.

Thanks for reading!
Dan Byers
CES Santa Barbara