April 06, 2016 50 Comments
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.
All Z-Wave lighting controls need to be wired exactly according to the user manual, with neutral, line, and load identified correctly on the first try. If you are not sure which one is load and which one is line, use a professional multimeter (your regular $10 multimeter will not be accurate enough) or better, consult a licensed electrician. Line and load are sometimes swapped in standard switch installations so it's best no to rely on original layout exclusively.
If you decide to hire an electrician to complete the installation, have them read the manual as well. We have found that professionals often approach Z-Wave equipment as if it was a simple electrical switch which may cause the device to malfunction. Remember to check for neutral connection in every gang box you plan to replace with a Z-Wave switch, especially if you live in an older house!
Most Z-Wave switches require at least 20 Watts on load and need to be connected to resistive load. So make sure there are no transformers along the way (common for low-voltage lighting), and preferable more than a couple of high-quality LED bulbs on the circuit. This is due to the TRIAC electronic component these devices are based on - it needs enough load to operate.
Don't forget that any motor loads like gas dryers will consume more power at start-up that mentioned in the specs. Always examine the specifications for each device carefully and compare it against the manual for your Z-Wave switch. Or ask The Smartest House support team!
3-way installation is different for Z-Wave switches than for regular electrical switches. When wiring two smart switches to control the same light, you have what we call a master switch which is connected to the load, line, neutral, traveler and ground and which also includes to your Z-Wave system. And then for additional manual control, you have the add-on switch which must NOT be powered up and connects to traveler, neutral, and ground only. That is the most popular configuration used by GE/Jasco for example.
If you have a set-up like that, you need to make sure none of the wires you connect to the add-on switch is hot, otherwise the switch may be damaged easily. The add-on does not include to the Z-Wave system but merely transmits any status changes to the master switch through electrical impulse communicated via the traveler wire.
Here is a great video from Jasco with a step-by-step guide on how to install a 3-way Z-Wave switch:
If you don't feel like spending extra money on the add-on switches, check out the Zooz product line. Their devices don't require dedicated auxiliary switches and you can just use your existing on/off 3-way switch in multi-point control set-ups. Just remember that you will only be able to manually dim from the master location and that you will still need a neutral wire at the main location.
I hope this has helped answer some questions you may have had about wiring your Z-Wave switches. Feel free to share your tips, questions, and experiences in the comment section below!
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May 05, 2022
Insteon just became another smart home company to shut down their services. Overnight, the platform’s servers were disconnected, leaving their customers without a functional smart home. SmartLabs, Insteon’s mother company, claims to have sold over 5 million connected devices; that’s a lot of sensors, switches, and controllers that became orphaned. Does it mean that all of this hardware is now completely useless?
It turns out that there are ways to salvage your Insteon products and continue using them, at least to some extent, on other platforms who stepped up and provided integration for this protocol. However, these workarounds are less than user-friendly and will require more time and possible frustration around a system that’s no longer backed by any official support. What’s the alternative and is it even worth it to have a connected house these days?
August 06, 2020
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.
May 10, 2020 12 Comments
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.