If you already have Amazon Echo set up, you know how convenient it can be. There’s nothing like walking out the front door with full hands and telling Alexa to turn off your lights last minute. But these smart lights and plugs can be slow to react as you keep adding more smart home devices and clogging your network.
Alexa only “speaks” WiFi (and ZigBee if you have the EchoPlus). It currently doesn’t support Z-Wave, the protocol of choice for home automation thanks to its high speed and low interference with other connected devices in your home. That means you can’t have a Z-Wave switch or plug speak directly to your Echo. BUT you can use a smart home hub as a bridge between your Z-Wave devices and Amazon Alexa. Now that’s a whole other level of functionality to unlock!
And if you already have a Z-Wave hub but no smart speaker, you might be thinking how cool it would be to have voice control for your automations and smart home devices. It’s a step towards a more integrated, easy-to-use smart home with improved security, comfort, and convenience.
Starting May 13, 2020, Wink will be charging its users a $4.99 monthly subscription fee. If you don’t pay, you’ll lose your automations, smart rules, and access to voice control. [Update 5/30/20: Wink has since backed out of the decision, at least for now. Update 7/27/20: The subscription service for Wink is finally in effect.]
So is it worth paying $5 a month for Wink’s service? The platform hasn’t been adding new features or expanding its list of supported devices for a while now. The announcement introducing the subscription model didn’t include any details on when and how the system would start updating again. They also failed to give users at least 30 days notice to consider how to move forward. If you’re thinking about switching to another platform, we can’t blame you.
Here are a few alternatives for reliable smart home solutions that are most popular among our customers and the team here at The Smartest House. They’re all one-time investments without monthly fees. You’ll find a list of benefits and limitations with each platform, but if you have any questions about specific features we didn’t cover here, get in touch or post in the comment section below.
Winterizing your home used to mean lots of physical labor - caulking windows, installing heavier drapes, maybe even changing out older windows and doors that were too efficient at releasing insulated air. Winter prep can still mean all of the above, but new Z-Wave technology has made certain aspects of winterization easier while adding another level of protection as those temperatures drop.
Here’s what we’re using to stay cozy and make sure our energy bills don’t make us freeze in our tracks:
This is one of our winter must-haves. It’s the first Z-Wave line voltage thermostat in North America (but be careful, it won’t work with forced air systems!). Use it to control electric baseboards and convector heaters all from your Z-Wave hub’s app interface. Reduce your energy consumption by 30% with custom heating schedules, or just switch to the thermostat’s built-in Economy mode to keep things efficient.
Choosing the ultimate smart home system for your needs and lifestyle can be daunting if you don’t know what to look for. Each hub comes with its own advantages and limitations; a certain feature might be a godsend for someone else but a deal breaker for you. That’s why we’ve listed our top 3 Z-Wave hub recommendations below, including what we love about these hubs but also some things to consider when choosing the right one for you. And good news! They all support Alexa, so you can count on a voice-activated smart home this holiday season.
You often ask us for recommendations: what are the best, most reliable Z-Wave motion sensors out there? The choice seems endless with new devices coming out every day. While we have our favorites, choosing the right sensor for YOU will depend on YOUR needs, lifestyle, and ideas on how to apply the product to your Z-Wave network and collection of devices. So we thought we should ask one of you to test and compare our best-selling smart home security sensors.
We wanted feedback from someone who has tested and programmed lots of Z-Wave devices but most importantly, from someone who has used them in real-life scenarios at home. The comments detailed below and the invaluable side-by-side comparison chart are by Kevin LaFramboise, an expert SmartThings user and the creator of some of the most advanced and stable custom device handlers for the popular platform.
It’s easy to be wary of claims of long-lasting battery life, as so many products out there promise reliable and worry-free battery power and then fail to deliver. So when the Sensative Strips Door/Window Sensor arrived to the market – a sensor thinner than two credit cards stacked together, and featuring a brand-new kind of battery that lasts for 10 years – some of us were skeptical.
Sensative recently turned to Sony to put their product’s power consumption to the test with the help of Otii – a new energy-optimization tool that measures and analyzes the power consumption behaviors of battery-powered devices. Of its many useful features, it allows the user to pinpoint the cause of a draining battery by syncing the software’s debug output with its power readings. Otii’s findings confirmed that the battery in Strips can last much longer than 10 years with optimal configuration and network conditions.
We get a lot of inquiries from Wink users trying to connect Z-Wave devices which should "technically" work with their hub but are not listed on the device list in the Wink hub.
You can include most on/off Z-Wave products to Wink and Wink 2, including light switches, plug-in modules, dimmers, and even multi-channel devices such as our popular Zooz Power Strip which allows you to control 5 outlets individually.
Since Wink's support is not very obvious on how to include these "generic" Z-Wave devices to your network, we created this step-by-step guide with easy-to-follow instructions and screenshots to make everything super clear.
We hope it helps you enjoy your Z-Wave system even more!
The Fibaro Dimmer 2 has been available in Europe for quite some time and listed on the Fibaro US website as “coming soon” for too many months to count. Fibaro has made several of their Z-Wave devices available in the states (RGBW controller, Motion sensor, Flood sensor, etc.) and all of them have generally been well received. The company really does set a high standard for quality home automation devices. So, with that being said, does the Dimmer 2 live up to the Fibaro name and was it worth the wait? Read on to find out if this device stands out in the crowded IoT market.
The size of the Dimmer 2 quite a bit smaller than the Aeon Labs Micro Dimmer (the competing US in wall dimmer). This will make it a little easier to fit into your switch box. One thing that sets this device apart is that it has two switch ports (labeled S1 & S2). There are a couple different uses for the second switch port, so it is a great addition to have. Read more
For those of us interested in home automation, this might be a familiar scenario: You’ve bought that new 4-in-1 sensor you’ve wanted for a while, and rush to unwrap the package like a kid on Christmas Day. Then you insert the batteries and make your way to your SmartThings hub to include it into your network. And then the disappoint descends: it’s a sensor that’s new on the market, and it’s more complicated than a simple on/off device. It will probably take a while before SmartThings provides official support for it. So how do you include a Z-Wave device to your hub if it's not on the list?
This is where custom device handlers come in: community members will often develop their own code to be able to use new devices with SmartThings. They usually publish them on development platforms like GitHub and then post a link to the code on the SmartThings forum. But they don’t always include instructions on how to install the custom device handler and assign it to the device. The average user may think it’s a complicated process, when in fact it’s quite simple! Read more
Zooz is a relatively new name in the home automation industry, but their competitive prices and good-quality products have given them a fast following. Along with their Indoor Siren and 4-in-1 Sensor, the ZSE02 Motion Sensor is just one of their answers to smart home security.
As far as specs go, the ZSE02 has a detection radius of up to 23 feet in all directions. I think this a suitable range for most homes, especially considering the motion sensor in Aeotec’s MultiSensor 6 can only claim 16 feet (the trade off is that the 6-in-1 is smaller and senses more things — this is a good lesson in custom home automation: go with the products that best suit your goals, priorities, and lifestyle). It also has a wireless range of 100 feet, line of sight, so it should have no problem communicating with your other Z-Wave devices — a super important aspect of home security. Read more
When it comes to automating your home, your choice of protocol — the type of language your devices use to “speak” to each other — might just be the most important decision you make. It determines network speed, compatibility with other devices, length of signal range, battery life, among so many other things. And there is a lot to choose from — the market is flush with protocols that have varying strengths and weaknesses.
While the amount of information out there may seem intimidating, ultimately it comes down to choosing the set up that best fits your home and lifestyle. We prepared a breakdown of three of the most widely used protocols based on key features to help you determine your ideal smart home set up. Read more
Setting up my smart devices is usually fun, but I’ve always needed a bit more patience when it comes to wiring my Z-Wave switches. They include into your network like any Z-Wave device, but they also have different specifications. For example, unlike regular switches, your Z-Wave switches should be connected exactly as indicated in the manual and require a minimum load to function properly.
It’s worth mentioning, by the way, that after this initial set-up phase, my Z-Wave switches have made all the difference when it’s come to making my home more energy-efficient and convenient for me. That’s why I’ve compiled a short list of do’s and don’ts that will help you navigate and ease your Z-Wave switch installation process.