Implications of ZigBee 3.0: Towards a More Universal Home Automation Standard … Kinda Like Z-Wave

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One big gripe about ZigBee, the home automation and energy management technology, is that it isn’t really a standard. Not all ZigBee “Pro” interoperable devices communicate with others.

More from the original author’s website…

Now I get that everyone is sick of new so-called standards, but I see Zigbee 3.0 as being quite a bit different. I have never been a fan of the separate profiles that zigbee uses but they have been around as long as Z-Wave and with this new “3.0 standard” (I am not sure the term “standard” is even the correct name for it) almost all of them with the exception of Crestron/Control4 devices and Zigbee Energy metering devices used by the power companies will now be compatible. There may even be a potential for integrating 6LowPan devices, although thats a guess on my part. I am also wondering if 3.0 will include Centralite and their Cable Co HA products (Azela) into the mix as being compatible with ZHA1.2 as well. That would even integrate TWC/Comcast, here in the US, and Rogers, in Canada, HA systems as being more DIY ready as well as making their Jetstream products compatible with Azela, and further compatible with Philips HUE or others – again just a guess.

I see this as groundbreaking news for HA because, one, its not really a new standard but more about the integration of existing zigbee profiles, and two, it seems like there may be a potential here, once Thread has been finalized and is more mature, for popular products like Nest, Philips Hue, WeMo, and many more to be all capable of speaking to each other. Thats possible to some degree now with bridges but I am getting the impression that these devices may even be able to communicate P2P without a bridge or a hub, similar to Insteon devices. Just surmising on that one.

Also, this new ratification is not supposed to have any affect on existing devices, so developers can keep making Zigbee HA 1.2 devices, NEST can keep making 6Lowpan devices and they may ALL be compatible with 3.0 via OTA firmware updates, but all the older profiles will be forward compatible with the new 3.0. If you ask me, Zigbee just became a major threat to Z-Wave. Not picking sides here, I love Z-Wave and Insteon, but I never believed Zigbee was going to be a true threat to the DIY HA industry until now. Just my opinion.

Thank you for letting us, “automate YOUR world”!

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

Using Linear Z-Wave dimmer switches with dimmable LED’s

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Everybody these days is concerned about energy conservation, not only for a green planet but also in their own homes.  One of the easiest things you can do to conserve energy in your home, is convert your existing light bulbs from the horribly inefficient incandescent light bulbs to LED’s or CFL’s.

I have been getting a lot of questions lately regarding the use of LED bulbs with Z-Wave dimmer switches, so I wanted to post some of the results of some tests that I completed recently in my office to help those of you with questions on where to start and what type of bulb and switches to use.  I will expand more in future posts on additional bulbs and switches, but for now I am posting the results of my tests using three common brands of dimmable LED’s (yes you DO need to use “dimmable” LED’s) wired into circuits being controlled by a Z-Wave dimmer switch, Model WD500Z-1 by Linear Corp.

Here are the results of my tests…

1) Cree 6W Dimmable LED (450 Lumens)

– Dimming steps good.

– Dims full on/off (0-100%) nice and smooth

– Resume dim good.

– no discernible noise

– no flicker but hard to control on lower spectrum of wattage (close to off or 5-10%)

2) Philips 8W Dimmable LED (470 Lumens)

– Dimming steps good.

– Dims full on/off (0-100%) nice and smooth

– Resume dim good.

– no discernible noise

– no flicker

– Good control at all dim levels.

3) EcoSmart 9W Dimmable LED (650 Lumens)

– Dimming steps good.

– Dims full on/off (0-100%) nice and smooth

– Resume dim good.

– no discernible noise

– no flicker

– Good control at all dim levels.

Now there is no guarantee that buying these brand of bulbs and these switches will absolutely work for you in your environment, as every home is wired differently and may have other mitigating circumstances, but at least this is something for you to start with. I would recommend that you get one switch and one LED dimmable bulb and hook everything up properly then test to see if it works for you in your home environment and that you are happy with how the bulb and switch work together and with their performance.

These tests were done on my test bench in my office under perfect conditions, I did not do anything but wire up the switches and screw in the LED’s. I have a VeraLite controller as well as HomeSeer but did not set them up within either controller as I wanted an unrestricted unbiased test using a standard GE Z-Wave remote controller and/or and Aeon Labs Minimote, so those were what I used for my tests. That’s not to say you couldn’t improve the step rates and presets with Vera or another controller to improve the performance even more, as I am sure you could.  Also, the more load you add to your final circuit – ie: the more LED bulbs – the better the performance will most likely be as I only used one bulb as noted in each test above to ensure I was giving you tests based upon the worst case scenario. More often than not, multiple bulbs with a total higher load (usually above 40 Watts) than what I used will afford better results and improved dimming than a lower load like I used.  Again, please follow my advice and conduct some tests on your own before going out and buying dozens of bulbs and a bunch of switches only to find out later that they do not work very well in your home.

Good luck on your fight to save the planet and stay tuned for more test results in future posts!  Thanks for letting us “automate YOUR world”!

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

 

Using Vera to control X-10 Wireless RF, Blind & Shade Controllers for Vera using X-10

vera3 veralite x10
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The title of today’s post is really two separate subjects but because they were both intermingled together with what I was doing at the time, I am presenting them in one post, as thats how this whole issue came together for me.

 

The first part of the title, “Using Vera to control X-10 Wireless RF”, was the result of some research I had been doing to help out a fellow redditor on the subreddit I am a moderator on, the Home Automation Sub on Reddit.com.  He had a few X-10 door and window sensors in his home but did not use powerline X-10 devices so was limited to X-10 Wireless RF signals.  He bought a VeraLite and was hoping to use Vera to control his X-10 via a CM15A Transceiver/Controller. The Mi Casa Verde Forums had a number of threads relating to this issue such as Plugin for cm15a/cm19a X10 Controllers, and X10 RF devices? but really no standup solution, hence he turned to the Home Automation Sub-Reddit hoping for some answers.  After a week or so, I came to the following conclusions;

 

My research tells me that either the EZX10RF from Smartenit for about $120 or the RFXCOM RFXtrx315 USB 315MHz Transceiver  for about $165 USD would seem to be the way to go for getting Vera to accept and understand X-10 RF signals.  There was some information, as per the links above regarding plug-ins for Vera on the MCV forums, but unless you know something about Linux OS (which I do not) there doesn’t seem to be an alternative to what they are suggesting with either the CM15/CM19 and linux or pogoplug, other than the EZX10RF or the RFXCOM units.  The CM15A/CM19A plug-in would probably be the cheapest but to me not the easiest nor the cleanest if you need to run Linux to do it.

 

Now the second part of the title, “Blind & Shade Controllers for Vera using X-10” came about as I was researching the first part.  I came across a company that I had heard of in the past but had forgotten about called RollerTrol, and I thought some of you Vera users might find some interest in them and their products. They have some unique products, specifically geared to shade motors and blinds and they are where I first came across the X-10 transceiver from RFXCOM that allows you to use X-10 RF directly with Vera via a plug-in. I am not totally familiar with it yet but would be interested to know if anyone else is, and what their experience is with any of the RollerTrol products.

 

They also have a really great webpage on their site, called “Vera And VeraLite Are Powerful Controllers For Blinds & Shades”  that is a series of articles or step-by-step procedures on how to use their shade and blind motors with the RFXCOM transceiver and then hook it all up to a Vera Controller.  Seems like there may be a lot of potential for some of their devices.

 

Let me know what you think. Btw, we sell Vera for a lot cheaper than RollerTrol does!  We have them on sale for 10% off right now, here is a coupon if you need one.

 

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

GE Jasco Z-Wave Model 45612WB & LAB Dimmer Switches have been discontinued!

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April 2/2014 Update: Jasco Products has decided that they no longer want their JASCO branded products to be sold direct to consumers. They have indeed discontinued the 45612LAB line of products as well as ALL lab (light almond) colored switches and dimmers but are replacing them with the 45712 line of dimmers and soon the 45709 models. The 457XX series models are JASCO branded and will feature interchangeable colored faceplates but will only be sold to Contractors, Installers and Integrators. Only the GE brand in retail packaging will be available to retail customers.

 

The caveat here is twofold. One, with the new 457XX series switches no longer available for sale to retail customers, this limits the average consumer to a product line consisting of only 2-wire dimmers model 45612 & 45613 3-way switch kits for incandescent lights only. Second, retail customers are only left with one color choice, white, until the new 457XX series from JASCO replace the GE line around the end of the summer.

 

Original Post dated March 17, 2014;  The Jasco 45712 Z-Wave dimmers came in today, they have been redesigned from a 2-wire to a 3-wire dimmer now, requiring a neutral. They are now LED and CFL compatible so that should shake up the market a bit! We tested them really quickly with a dimmable LED today and they work great! I will try to get some more of my real world tests completed for you as soon as I have a chance but they definitely do work pretty good on the one LED I tested now that they have that neutral connection – what a difference.

 

Plus, they now come with interchangeable faceplates in both White and Light Almond.

 

The 45612WB and 45612LAB 2-wire dimmers are now discontinued.

New Product! Leviton VRMX1 Universal Dimmer for LED’s & CFL’s in stock now!

Leviton VRMX1 Universal Dimmer
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The answer to all your dimming needs, for ALL loads including dimmable LED’s and CFL’s! On sale now and in stock for $89 free shipping!

 

The VRMX1 supports a universe of lighting applications including local and remote dimming control for incandescent, dimmable LED and CFL, halogen, and magnetic low voltage. The highly advanced Vizia RF+ device provides two-way feedback, is scene capable, includes 49 different fade rates and features user pre-sets for powering on and minimum brightness.

 

We expect these to be a hot seller for all you Leviton fans so pick up a couple before they are sold out. We only have limited stock on hand for now, but more are on the way so act quickly.

 

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

X-10 CM15A ActiveHome Pro USB PC Transceivers – Back in Stock!

X-10 ActiveHome Pro USB Transceiver/PC Interface - Model CM15A
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We just received an order of CM15A ActiveHome Pro USB PC Transceivers in today, after being out of stock for quite some time. We only ordered a few of them last week, but more are on their way soon.  These are being sold without software at this time as the ActiveHome Pro software is not yet available from X-10 Pro USA but if you are just replacing your old CM15A or using it with Homeseer HS2 or another third party software you should be fine as long as you do not need to reinstall the drivers.

Please be aware that the new version of Homeseer, HS3, is NOT compatible with the CM15A.  We were told by a customer recently that had wanted to purchase HS3 and had called Homeseer to confirm it was compatible,  was told by them that they considered X-10 a low priority so they were not actively working on a plug-in for the CM15A and also that since X-10 was a “dead” technology – such a low priority for them that they only made the discontinued CM11A (along with the TI103 interface) the only X-10 interface available for HS3 at this time.

Wow, try telling that to the millions of X-10 users in the US and Canada!  Burn!

Plus, where do you buy a PC nowadays with an RS-232 serial connection?  I haven’t seen one of those installed in a PC since Windows XP came out around 2000!  If I were you I would stick with HS2.

Oh well, I guess it’s Homeseer’s loss, because the CM15A is back and it will be selling like hotcakes i’m sure.  There are plenty of other third party apps that will run with it.  We will be posting some other alternatives in the near future so stay tuned!

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

Controlling X-10 devices with a VeraLite from Mi Casa Verde using IR and a USB-UIRT

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Very cool project I just completed yesterday as a result of doing some homework for a customer of mine relating to the use of IR through my Mi Casa Verde Veralite Z-Wave Controller/Gateway (click that link if you need a VeraLite, we are having a 10% off sale on both them and the Vera3 right now!)

In a nutshell, what I managed to do was to be able to control my X-10 devices by transmitting X-10 signals through my USB-UIRT which was plugged into the Veralite, into a 3rd party version of the old, discontinued IR-543 which I had kicking around for testing IR devices that we sell in one of our stores.  Worked great!

Normally you would need an Insteon Modem 2413U that you plug into the VeraLite and then configure it to work as an Insteon controller and send Insteon commands.  This also would allow you to control X-10 devices because Insteon is backwards compatible with X-10.  These cost about $80 on Amazon or directly from Smarthome.  What I did eliminated the need for the 2413U modem in my setup because I already use a number of IR-543’s with my universal remotes to control X-10 lights and appliances.  When I started trying to get the IR working on Vera I noticed that there was an IR command set for X-10.  I wondered if it might be similar to the IR codesets that universal remotes use within the auxiliary mode to send X-10 commands over IR.  Low and behold, that is exactly what it seemed to do!  I used the built-in virtual remote keypad inside the Vera, dialed in my house code on the IR-543, punched in the unit code inside Vera and A-1 was up and running!  A-2 was another keypunch away and that was all I needed to know.  Now for some more testing to see what else I can do with it!

Oh, btw, It also allowed me to control X-10 from my Android smartphone using the Vera Mobile app I had already installed!  Worked exactly the same as the Vera Internet GUI on my PC!  More software apps for Vera also available on our Home Automation Software page.

Very cool learning day!  Can’t wait to experiment with Z-wave scene now and using IR commands to control A/V devices as scenes triggered from z-wave events.  More to come on that as well.

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

Using Leviton 2-Wire Z-Wave dimmer switches with dimmable LED’s

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One of the easiest things you can do to conserve energy in your home, is convert your existing light bulbs from the horribly inefficient incandescent light bulbs to LED’s or CFL’s.

Here are some more test results using Dimmable LED bulbs with Z-Wave dimmer switches, specifically using four common brands of dimmable LED’s wired into circuits being controlled by a Z-Wave dimmer switch, Leviton Vizia RF – Model VRI06.  Now the results  are not that great as this is a two-wire dimmer but here goes nonetheless.  Maybe these results will help someone who cannot use a 3-wire dimmer if they do not have neutrals pulled into their switch boxes.

Here are the results of my tests…

1) Cree 6W Dimmable LED (450 Lumens)

– Dimming steps good.

– Dims full off ok but brightening to 100% requires holding the dimmer on for a while longer than normal to get to 100%, otherwise it is fine as far as smoothness goes.

– Resume dim good.

– no discernible noise or humming

– no flicker but hard to control on lower spectrum of wattage (close to off or 5-10%)

2) Philips 8W Dimmable LED (470 Lumens)

– Dimming steps good.

– Dims full off ok but brightening to 100% requires holding the dimmer on for a while longer than normal to get to 100%, otherwise it is fine as far as smoothness goes.

– Resume dim good.

– no discernible noise or humming

– no flicker but hard to control on lower spectrum of wattage (close to off or 5-10%)

– overall the same performance as the Cree above, except it seemed like the dimming steps were somewhat smoother.

3) EcoSmart 9W Dimmable LED (650 Lumens)

– Dimming steps a little rough.

– Dims only to 20% and flickers slightly, you need to hold the dimming a second for full off. Brightening to 100% requires holding the dimmer on for a while longer than normal to get to 100%.

– Resume dim good at only >40%.  Doesn’t seem to work at all below that.

– no discernible noise or humming

3) GE 11W Dimmable LED (800 Lumens)

– Dimming steps OK.

– Dims only to 30% then you need to hold the dimming a second for full off. Will not dim up from off, Brightening to 100% ok only after being switched on, THEN dimmed up.

– Resume dim is good.

– no discernible noise or humming

– Very little flicker if any and good control at all levels.

Now there is no guarantee that buying these brands and these switches will absolutely work for you in your environment, as every home is wired differently and may have other mitigating circumstances, but at least this is something for you to start with. I would recommend that you get one switch and one LED dimmable bulb and hook everything up properly then test to see if it works for you in your home environment.

These tests were done on my test bench in my office under perfect conditions, I did not do anything but wire up the switches and screw in the LED’s. I have a VeraLite controller as well as HomeSeer but did not set them up within either controller as I wanted an unrestricted unbiased test using a standard GE Z-Wave remote controller and an Aeon Labs Minimote, so those were what I used for my tests. That’s not to say you couldn’t improve the step rates and presets within Vera to improve the performance even more, as I am sure you could.

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

Google, the Nest, Control4 & Zigbee

Google owns Nest Thermostat & Protect
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Is it just me or is something big in the works here?

Google buys Nest. Nest partners with Control4. Control4 is Zigbee. Google is Android.  Google has been quietly developing Android@Home, which is someday supposed to be a killer Home Automation system. They bought out Motorola a couple years ago and are now selling a contract free Android phone, the moto g, then three days ago they buy out the Nest thermostat and Nest Protect system from Tony Fadell, the godfather of the Apple iPod.  Nest opened up their API to outside developers last fall then Control4 partners with them, now Nest has a Zigbee Home Automation publicly traded company working with them when the Google buyout happens on the 13th and don’t forget Google’s purchase now has them owning a product which has a built-in, unused, unutilized Zigbee radio in it since Nest was incorporated three years ago.

Is Zigbee not a common denominator here?  What does all this mean?  That Google plans to use Zigbee as their underlying HA protocol or base for the Android OS phones & tablets all under the Android@Home name? They could easily (not sure how easy?!) include Zigbee radios in their Android smartphones (maybe a moto g??) and tablets and you have home automation built into one of the largest and most popular mobile OS’s ever built.  Seems like a very real possibility to me.

Or maybe Google is setting up to be the biggest name in HA by maneuvering for a takeover of their public trading partner, Control4?

Doesn’t seem too far fetched to me either. Or both. Or none, I am just talking after all.  Do you really think Google bought Nest so they could own all their many products?  All 2 of them? What do you think?

Kelly R. Foster – HA World

Using Evolve Z-Wave dimmer switches with dimmable LED’s

Evolve LRM-AS Z-Wave LED & CFL Dimmer Switch
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Everybody these days is concerned about energy conservation, not only for a green planet but also in their own homes.  One of the easiest things you can do to conserve energy in your home, is convert your existing light bulbs from the horribly inefficient incandescent light bulbs to LED’s or CFL’s.

I have been getting a lot of questions lately regarding the use of LED bulbs with Z-Wave dimmer switches, so I wanted to post some of the results of some tests that I completed recently in my office to help those of you with questions on where to start and what type of bulb and switches to use.  I will expand more in future posts on additional bulbs and switches, but for now I am posting the results of my tests using three common brands of dimmable LED’s (yes you DO need to use “dimmable” LED’s) wired into circuits being controlled by a Z-Wave dimmer switch, Model LRM-AS by Evolve Guest Controls.

Here are the results of my tests…

1) Cree 6W Dimmable LED (450 Lumens)

– Dimming steps good.

– Dims full on/off (0-100%) nice and smooth

– Resume dim good.

– no discernible noise

– no flicker but hard to control on lower spectrum of wattage (close to off or 5-10%)
2) Philips 8W Dimmable LED (470 Lumens)

– Dimming steps good.

– Dims full on/off (0-100%) nice and smooth

– Resume dim good.

– no discernible noise

– no flicker

– Good control at all dim levels.

3) EcoSmart 9W Dimmable LED (650 Lumens)

– Dimming steps good.

– Dims full on/off (0-100%) nice and smooth

– Resume dim good.

– no discernible noise

– no flicker

– Good control at all dim levels.

Now there is no guarantee that buying these brands and these switches will absolutely work for you in your environment, as every home is wired differently and may have other mitigating circumstances, but at least this is something for you to start with. I would recommend that you get one switch and one LED dimmable bulb and hook everything up properly then test to see if it works for you in your home environment.

These tests were done on my test bench in my office under perfect conditions, I did not do anything but wire up the switches and screw in the LED’s. I have a VeraLite controller as well as HomeSeer but did not set them up within either controller as I wanted an unrestricted unbiased test using a standard GE Z-Wave remote controller and an Aeon Labs Minimote, so those were what I used for my tests. That’s not to say you couldn’t improve the step rates and presets within Vera to improve the performance even more, as I am sure you could.

Good luck on your fight to save the planet and stay tuned for more test results in future posts!  Thanks for letting us “automate YOUR world”!

Kelly R. Foster – HA World