What is Home Automation – Z-Wave Lighting Control (Blog Post 8)

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Lighting control, as we discussed last post is probably the simplest and most common manner of entry into the home automation market for most residential users. Plug-in lighting and appliance control is easily the quickest way for newcomers to get into controlling their lights, for Z-Wave as well as for almost ANY protocol or type of automation.

However, plug-in lights or lamps and plug-in appliances like TV’s, ceiling fans or air conditioners are obviously only a small percentage of the devices that are begging to be controlled by your home automation system. What about all the hardwired lights in every room of your home? Some are in your living room ceiling or on the wall as sconces, some are in your kitchen and might be fluorescent lights or maybe recessed lights, even under cabinet task or ambiance lighting. Don’t forget your bedroom or dining room which may have dimmers or ceiling fans too! There are many, many scenarios for the control of hardwired installed lighting in the home, and Z-wave is the perfect application to control these systems, very easily and affordably as well.

You do need to have some electrical wiring experience if you want to add this type of control to your home, but it is definitely a good place for a DIY er to begin if you have that kind of experience, and Z-Wave devices are certainly a good candidate for the DIY’er because of the inherent wireless properties of the protocol. This doesn’t mean you can’t hire an electrician to do the install, alot of people do hire a professional electrician to install the switches but quite often the homeowners make the purchase of the varying devices according to their uses and applications by themselves. An example of this is if they want to bring in their electrician to replace all the standard switches and in their living rooms that currently control the low voltage or LED recessed can lighting with z-wave controllable ones, they will go ahead and buy switches that are capable of controlling that type of lighting load ahead of time, ready for him to install when he makes his next service call.

Lighting and the types of loads is going to be my next topic of discussion as lighting loads are very often where the most problems occur when it comes to DIY installations. Please check back soon as I continue my series on Home Automation, and specifically on the applications of Z-wave to lights and appliances.

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

What is Home Automation – Z-Wave Lighting Control (Blog Post 7)

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Z‑wave is a wireless protocol of Home Automation that sends RF signals from one device to the next over a frequency of 908 MHz here in the US, and it is the same in Canada and Mexico. Z‑Wave devices are very easily adapted for use in many applications because all Z-Wave products use the same language, thus it is easy for them to communicate with each other as well as they are easy to install, do not require any rewiring, affordable, very reliable with over ten years in the marketplace, and also secure at the same time.  In fact Z-Wave products use the same encryption methods as online banking!  Plus, there are lots of choices for the consumer to choose from as far as styles & colors, not to mention the already 20 million products in homes worldwide manufactured by some of the biggest brand names in the world.

Once you setup your own personal Z-Wave network by pairing or including your first device(s), every system is then automatically given a local or “home” network id by the controlling device, also known as a controller. This addition of devices as you expand your network is actually creating what we call a “mesh” network.  Each and every device added into the network or “mesh” makes your network more robust, increases its range AND its security – as opposed to X-10 for example, where your neighbors can accidentally turn on or off the devices in your home if they are within range on the same leg of the powerline source as you, and on the same house code.

Lighting control is the simplest form of use for z-wave, and especially when using plug-in lamps and/or appliances as they do not require any hardwiring in order for the end user to control them. All you need is a receiving device (we call them modules) to receive the signal, and a transmitter to send the controlling signal to that module. Just plug in your lamp to a Z-Wave Lamp Module, plug the lamp module into a wall outlet and then use a controller or transmitter to control the functions of your new Z-Wave controlled lamp!  The same procedure can also be used with a Z-Wave Appliance Module to control small plug-in appliances such as ceiling fans, air conditioners, radios (remember those good old-fashioned radios that we used to dial in an AM or FM channel in lieu of a fancy name like Pandora and an Internet connection?) and even TV’s.

Now of course if you prefer a more permanent system and want to control your existing ceiling and/or wall lights, you can do that as well by simply replacing your existing light switches with Z-Wave ones. Next time I am going to expand on hardwired lighting control, and on how you can use Z-Wave to control the in-wall lights in your home and some of the important issues in that regard.

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

What is Home Automation – Applications of Z-Wave (Blog Post 6)

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Hi and welcome back to the HA World Online Blog!

To continue the story of my foray into HA, last time I was humming and hawing over the cost and labor of all this new wiring to add in these new lights for my remodel. Over the next day or two, I happened to read an article in a magazine I had just subscribed too. It was an article in “Old-House Journal” magazine about how Black and Decker was getting into the remote lighting control market with a new product they called the “Freewire” system. These devices were supposed to be able to give you remote control over plug-in lights and appliances, no wiring needed!

Wow, I thought, wouldn’t that be a great solution to my problem. A subsequent advertisement in the magazine said that the Freewire products were supposed to be sold at Home Depot – so I headed to my local store to check them out. However, to my chagrin the salespeople at Home Depot did not know anything about the product, except for one fellow who told me about a company he had heard of that made something similar called “smarthome” products. He told me to google the word “smarthome” on the Internet which I did and as I am sure most of you have already guessed what came up, was, you got it – Smarthome. The next day I called up their customer service department, learned a bit about “X-10” and had an inline module, a transceiver and a wireless wall switch on order.

Bottom line is this, I never did have to run that crazy amount of switch leg wiring, in fact, I installed another pair of lights (dialed into a different unit code of course) and used X-10 to control both pairs of my new lights, remotely and very easily!

That was my first experience with home automation and remote lighting control.  In this instance I used X-10 instead of Z-Wave. Each of the different protocols have quite a few similarities, you just use combinations of the appropriate devices to solve similar problems. There are even bridges between some of these different technologies, HomeSeer and Mi Casa Verde each make a software solution, and nowadays there are becoming alot more options in terms of a central controller or gateway that can “talk” to all the protocols, but that’s a topic for another day, and, although I do want to get into the differences between each of these protocols, for the next couple posts I want to delve into some of the more common applications of the Z-Wave protocol.

Please join us next time as we do just that, we look forward to having you as a reader and as always, thank you for letting us “automate YOUR world”.  Please also visit our store for great deals on Z-Wave and X-10 products.  Oh btw, we are running a great sale on the MiCasa Verde Z-Wave, Insteon & X-10 Home Controllers right now, just click on either the following  links, Vera3 or VeraLite, and you will go direct to the product page for each of them – the coupon code for 10% off is added automatically, free shipping too!  All you have to do is pay!

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

 

What is Home Automation – Common Applications of Z-Wave (Blog Post 5)

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OK, last time I talked about “The History of Z-Wave” and its developer, Sigma Designs. In upcoming posts, I want to start leading you into exploring some of the applications of Z-wave, and how it is used and utilized by consumers, but today I want to share with you how I got into this awesome field to begin with.  I think it is quite an interesting story – of course I would, it is MY story after all, but I hope some of you find it interesting too!

Remote control of lights and appliances, or lighting control, I have found, is probably the easiest and most fun reason that people seem to get into home automation. That is why I got into it. I was remodeling my living room and wanted to add some wall sconces to supplement the new skylights I was installing. I planned to wire them into a brand new circuit and they were going to be installed above my fireplace mantel, one on each side. Problem was, there was no room for the switches because of the way the framing was done around the fireplace. The switches would have to be in such an awkward location they were going to be almost unusable. The only plausible location for the switches was going to have to be on the opposite side of the room. Now, because I had vaulted ceilings, there was no attic space (so much for a direct run!) and so this so-called “plausible” location for a switch meant running the wires all around the perimeter of the room, approximately 65’-70’ of wire, in addition to the new line wires from the breaker. It seemed like a huge cost (not to mention alot of work) just for a wall switch and that would have been just for a two way circuit! It would have been nice to have a three way, except that would have made it even more costly in terms of time AND money!

So, what should I do? Well that seems like a good place to leave you until next week, when I look forward to continuing the story of my first foray into Home Automation.

Until next time, thanks for letting us “automate YOUR world!

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

What is Home Automation – The History of Z-Wave (Blog Post 4)

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Hi, welcome back! I know you are dying to know what happened in 2008, so without further ado, here we go.

Zensys was acquired lock stock and barrel by Sigma Designs based out of Milipitas, Ca. There, the cat’s out of the bag! The acquisition was touted to be a huge benefit to the industry in general because of the size and financial stability of Sigma, something which Zensys lacked even with the backing of some well known original investors such as Intel, Cisco and Panasonic. But, perhaps even more importantly, Sigma was the right company as well. Their contributions to the consumer electronics industry as a manufacturer of semiconductor multimedia chips, I think more than sufficiently proved they were the right company for the job.

The formation of the Alliance followed by the acquisition by Sigma was exactly what the industry needed, and today Zensys, a division of Sigma, ships over a million RF transceiver chips per year into a widening range of consumer devices. The yellow brick road is ahead, and Z-Wave, just like Dorothy, is definitely not in Kansas anymore. Well I hope you enjoyed the post today, I thought alot of you, would be interested in a little information on the background and history of the Z-Wave protocol, and I hope I was correct. See you soon, and, thanks for letting us “Automate Your World”.

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

What is Home Automation – A Brief History of Z-Wave (Blog Post 3)

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Hello again, and welcome to the HA World Online Blog!  We are happy to have you as a reader today as we continue our series on Home Automation, and, specifically the Z-Wave protocol and a bit of it’s history.

The Z-wave protocol was developed by a company by the name of Zensys founded in 1999 to develop wireless solutions for the emerging home automation and remote control markets.  Their line of RF transceiver chips in addition to the development of the Z-Wave wireless mesh network ecosystem, has been designed into more household products than any other competing standard.  Today, the protocol has been designed into more than 900 Consumer Electronic related products.

In 2005, Zensys formed the Z-Wave Alliance whose role was to become an industry consortium which would administer and promote the Z-Wave standard.  The Z-Wave Alliance has been, in my opinion, almost completely responsible for the success of the Z-Wave protocol.  Once Zensys and the Alliance implemented the set of device definitions and/or specifications that must be included in all certified Z-Wave products, interoperability of Z-Wave devices by different manufacturers could now become a reality.

When Zensys was formed, some very well know investors were involved right from the beginning, and now that the Alliance had become a reality, the yellow brick road should have been paved with gold, right?  Right?!  Well, actually no, sometimes it takes more than just lots of money to make something as substantial as a global standard like Z-Wave a reality.  Sometimes it takes the right company to lead the way forward on that yellow brick road.

That is what happened in 2008.  Stop by next time when I will continue the series and let you know what happened in 2008.  Thanks for letting us “Automate Your World”.

 Kelly R. Foster – HA World

What is Home Automation – An Introduction to Z-Wave (Blog Post 2)

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There are many different types of home automation protocols and over the few posts, I am going to talk about each one of these, in depth.  Because of its popularity and ease of use, I am going to start the series with a Home Automation standard called Z-Wave.

Z-Wave is a proprietary wireless communications protocol for home automation.  Specifically, it is a standard used to remotely control applications in residential homes, and uses radio frequency signals to send and receive commands to your household systems such as lighting, home control, entertainment, household appliances and much more.

It has long been the opinion of a great number of people in the industry that the Z-Wave protocol is destined to become the ipso de facto standard for Home Automation.  After using X-10 and Insteon for well over 15 years, and up until about 7 or 8 years ago, I would have argued that Insteon would be better equipped to become the new standard.  However, the formation of the Z-Wave Alliance in 2005 has changed all that, Z-Wave now has as good of a chance as any to become a true standard for an industry that severely needs a leader, or at the very least some standardized specifications.  Now there is a subject that needs to be discussed, a topic for new day!

The Z-Wave protocol offers a huge variety of products to the industry.  The protocol has been designed into almost a thousand Consumer Electronic-related products to date (the Z-Wave Alliance just announced the certification of the 900th Z-Wave product on September 23 this year) and the Z-Wave Alliance now consists of an open consortium of over 160 manufacturers who create products and services based on Z-Wave.  Z-Wave Alliance membership is comprised of industry leaders from across the entire spectrum of the home controls market.  The vast number of applications and products that now meet the z-wave standard are far too many to list in their entirety, but in my upcoming posts, I am going to attempt to cover some of the notable areas or disciplines.

Next time, I am going to give you a bit of history of the Z-Wave protocol, as I continue the series with the next installment, “A Brief History of Z-Wave”.  Have a good one and until then, thank you for letting us “Automate your World”.

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

What is Home Automation (Blog Post 1)

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Home Automation is finally here!  And, it is here to stay in a big way.  But, what is Home Automation?  Further, what are the different kinds or types of Home Automation and what are they?

Before I get started with elaborate explanations of how Z-Wave uses wireless radio waves or how X-10 and UPB send signals that are carried over your homes existing household wiring, I think it would be prudent to get a definition going for Home Automation in general just so anyone who is not clear on what the industry is, will better understand it.

Home automation is the automation of the home, put simply.  What that means is that Home Automation is the automation of a home’s housework or household activities which may include centralized control of lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (or HVAC), appliances, and other systems.  The purpose of Home Automation is to provide improved convenience, comfort, energy efficiency and security to those who utilize it.  It is the residential extension of Building Automation which is best described as providing advanced functionality by the control system, via Home Automation, to a building in a commercial or business oriented environment.

There is another category within the Home Automation Industry, called Assistive Domotics.

Assistive Domotics focuses on making it possible for the elderly and disabled to remain at home, safe and comfortable. Home automation is becoming a viable option for the elderly and disabled who would prefer to stay in the comfort of their homes rather than move to a healthcare facility. This field uses much of the same technology and equipment as home automation for security, entertainment, and energy conservation but tailors it towards the elderly and disabled.  It’s use as an aid to assist the elderly and disabled can provide increased quality of life for persons who might otherwise require caregivers or institutional care.

Home Automation is an interesting field, one that is very quickly becoming, or soon to become, a part of our everyday lives.  Whether we like it or not, it is here to stay and we can make of it what we will.

Thank you for letting us “automate YOUR world” today and I am looking forward to publishing our next blog post in this series, entitled “What is Home Automation – An Introduction to Z-Wave”

 

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

Welcome to the opening post of the HA World Online Blog!

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Welcome to the HA World Online Blog!

Home Automation is the way of the future and even after over 30 years of sales in the United States and Canada, Home Automation is still a fledgling industry! HA World Online is the official website of HA World and we are proud to be a certified retailer of Home Automation and Home/Personal Security products representing many popular brands of products from major manufacturers such as General Electric, Mi Casa Verde, X10 Pro USA, Jasco Products, Leviton, Elk, Honeywell and Kwikset. Coming soon we will be adding manufacturers such as Lutron, HAI, Powerline Control Systems (PCS), Yale, and Shlage/Nexia.

Z-wave and X-10 are our most popular products but we will soon be offering HA technologies compatible with Zigbee and UPB as well. Some of our other popular products include brands such as the VeraLite and Vera3 home control devices by Mi Casa Verde, X-10 Powerhouse, X-10 Activehome and X-10 Pro by X-10 (USA) Ltd, Vizia RF products from Leviton, Lutron’s Radio RA2 brand and many more.

We would like to invite others to read our blog and leave comments in order to discuss various avenues of the home automation industry. It is our hope here at HA World to shed some light on this innovative and exciting industry to as many individuals and companies as possible.

HA World Online – Automating your World!

Kelly R. Foster – HA World