Since the dawn of the millennium, the wireless revolution has radically reshaped methods of communication, shopping and entertainment consumption. With each technological breakthrough comes an expansion of the overall principle: yesterday it was smartphones, today it’s smart homes. This latest development has been spurred by competition in the burgeoning sector of do it yourself home automation systems, which connect household functions, electronics and appliances to a single wireless interface.
When your doors, lights, outlets and multimedia devices are connected to a home automation system, they can all be controlled from a software interface on your PC, laptop, smartphone or pad. Of all the systems that have emerge at the forefront of the smarthome revolution, one of the easiest to use and most universally interoperable is the Z-Wave protocol.
Z-Wave: The Finest in Do It Yourself Home Automation Systems
What is Z-Wave Technology?
Z-Wave technology is a communications protocol for the automation of everyday household functions, such as doors, lights, thermostats, cameras, computers, windows, blinds, TV sets and various other appliances. The purpose of Z-Wave is to streamline DIY home automation and make modern–day living easier and safer for busy homeowners.
For people who are constantly on the go, Z-Wave makes it possible to control crucial functions of the house via smartphone, laptop or pad from any location. As such, Z-Wave home automation represents a key component in smart living, whereby everyday functions in public and private are becoming automated with the power of mobile technology.
Anytime you wish to add a new device to your Z-Wave arsenal, all you need to do is turn on the device and enter it into the network. After that, the device can be controlled from your home computer, from a restaurant or an automobile using your smartphone or pad. Only a few Z-Wave devices — the switching relay, for one — require the installation work of a professional. Furthermore, Z-Wave setup involves no cabling, because the system is wireless.
The ease with which Z-Wave can be installed means that you can take your time building a network of devices around your home. One week you might decide to install a garage door opening device, and on the following week you could add a light dimmer.
Affordable Home Automation
In contrast to competing systems like ZigBee and KNX, Z-Wave is an affordable home automation solution for the average homeowner. System setup is easy and requires no special construction. Whether you want the system for your home, apartment or seaside cottage, Z-Wave is quick to install in any location. You could have Z-Wave first installed for mobile control of your garage door while in transit, and later decide to have the system expanded to functions in other parts of your house.
Every Z-Wave device is connected to a wireless network that ensures foolproof security for each user. As part of this standard, each use of a given device must be acknowledged by the Z-Wave network. Unusual activity is picked up by motion sensors and recorded by the Z-Wave security system. If the sound of human activity is detected within a home when the homeowner has remotely enacted their locks, this information is relayed by the network, so that the homeowner can be notified within seconds. At that point, the homeowner can confirm authorization of the in–home activity, or alert the authorities.
Infinite Signal Range
Until recently, wireless technology has been flanked with inconsistencies regarding signal range. For example, it’s easy to send text messages from a train to someone at home, but when the train goes into a tunnel or the other person walks near the microwave, suddenly the signal goes blank.
Running on 908.42 MHz (868.42 MHz in Europe), Z-Wave represents a revolution in terms of signal range, because the network operates as mesh technology, whereby each device sends en route signals to the nearest neighbor within the network. As such, each device forms a chain that delivers signals to their final destination. Therefore, the more devices that everyone has connected to the Z-Wave network, the faster it operates on a global scale.
Variety and Interoperability
Unlike certain automation systems that bind you to a limited set of products from a single manufacturer, Z-Wave is compatible with more than 900 interoperable devices from over 250 manufacturers worldwide. Essentially, this gives you infinite bang for your buck, since Z-Wave offers the widest–possible range of device options on today’s smart home market. The list of manufacturers that make Z-Wave–compatible devices includes:
A central part of Z-Wave’s affordability is its ability to conserve energy, which is especially important considering that some of the key devices run on battery power. Thanks to Z-Wave, devices such as sensors typically run for at least one year on a single set of batteries. Furthermore, Z-Wave devices don’t emit harmful levels of electromagnetic emissions. On interoperable sensors, dimmers and thermostats, emissions are 4,000% less than those of typical smartphone devices.
Products and Solutions That are Compatible With Z-Wave Home Automation Technology
A Z-Wave device connects with system software through a PC adapter, which plugs into either the USB slot or RS 232 port on a computer. This allows the user to control functions such as dimmers, light switches and sensors through commands in the software program.
A remote control can be used to program devices in the Z-Wave network. Some remote controls are made specifically for the network, but there are also universal remotes that will program Z-Wave devices, as well as TVs, DVD players and other electronics that are not part of the network.
Battery–powered controllers can be mounted to walls and used to control dimmers, doors and various other devices in the Z-Wave network. Voice–control devices like Amazon Echo can also be linked to Z-Wave for DIY home automation.
Switches can be attached to walls and surfaces in any room of your house or garage to control various devices in the network. These make turning something on or off as easy as flicking the Z-Wave switch. Z-Wave switches can also be controlled remotely via laptops, PCs, smartphones and pads.
Personal light needs vary throughout the day. Instead of being stuck with the limited choice of full–on light or no light at all, Z-Wave allows you to set each light on the network at whichever level you desire. With an adjustment of the dimmer prompt, you can enjoy the following options:
- -Dim lights from the comfort of your sofa — In the prime–time hours of the evening, you’re bound to get into a more relaxed mood while watching shows or movies on the television. With the Z-Wave system in place, you can adjust the lights to a dimmer, cozier level.
- –Dim light out as you fall to sleep — Whether you fall asleep to late shows, books or the sound of music, getting up to flick off the light can be a drag. Z-Wave allows you to program the lights for a slow, gradual fadeout each night. The lights could be at a low, relaxing level while you’re still awake, and then fade as the system senses your lack of sound or motion.
- -Turn lights off when you’re away — If you’re the first one out each day, the last one out might forget to turn off the lights. The habit might even show on your monthly energy bills. With Z-Wave, you can check to see if lights are on while the home is empty, and turn them off accordingly.
- -Turn lights on when you’re out — As darkness looms outdoors, a house can look darker through the windows. This is a tell–tale sign that the house is empty, which makes it a sitting duck in the eyes of burglars. If no one gets home before the sun goes down, Z-Wave allows you to switch on the kitchen and living–room lights while you’re still at work or in transit. Alternately, the system lets you activate the lights as you pull into the driveway so you won’t have to enter a dark, spooky house.
Sensors are the virtual ears of your home that detect and report unusual sounds and movements when members of the house are out for the day. Through the Z-Wave automation system, sensors can also be used to control other devices in the network. Z-Wave sensors are powered by batteries, which will typically last two to three years in most homes.
With Z-Wave Energy Meters, the power consumption of every device in the network is calculated for monitoring purposes. You can access this information from your PC or smartphone, and use it to track energy bills and adjust consumption levels accordingly.
The Z-Wave network allows you to control heat settings in your home from any location. This way, you can save on heating costs in the daytime during colder times of year.
With Z-Wave–compatible IP cameras, you can monitor the inside or outside of your home from any location. Cameras installed within your home can track activity in your living room, bedrooms, attic or basement. A camera installed on your front or back porch will detect the presence of unauthorized individuals on your property. Since it’s easy to monitor everything via Z-Wave network software, you can handle the following situations from your laptop or smartphone:
- -View who’s knocking at your door — Whether you’re home or out for the day, outdoor IP cameras allow you to see if the person at your door is someone you’d be happy to see, sorry to miss or happy to avoid.
- -See who crosses your lawn or backyard — If noise or movement are detected on your property, the system will alert you within seconds. Viewing the IP–cam footage, you can then determine whether it’s a non–threat like wandering domestic animals or children catching balls, or if it really is an issue for the authorities, such as wild animals or would–be burglars.
- -Monitor the insides of your house — When you’re away, indoor IP cams allow you to monitor activity that takes place inside your house. If children have a babysitter, you can check to see that rules are obeyed. If everyone is out, you can check on the cats or dogs, or spot and report intruders the moment they enter your living room.
- -Monitor other rooms in the house — If you live in a large house, Z-Wave IP cameras will let you spot an intruder who enters at the far end. With this heads up, you can get police on the scene long before he slips out with valuables or harms you and your loved ones.
Z-Wave Door Locks make it possible to lock and unlock a door from any location on your laptop or smartphone. No more rushing back home when you realize you’ve forgotten to lock the door; no more calling the locksmith when you lose your keys. Thanks to the capabilities of Z-Wave door–locking technology, you can handle the following situations from anywhere with ease:
- -The first one home loses their keys — If the earliest person home has a habit of losing keys or (gasp) mobile devices, you can be the savior no matter how many miles away you are at the time. If you get a distress message, use your smartphone to unlock the door for your child or significant other. Alternately, if IP–cam footage shows them sitting outside when they would be going in, unlock the door before you even get a distress call.
- -Visitors arrive before you get back home — Your parents are coming over for dinner tonight, but they end up beating the traffic before you get through the line at the grocery store. No problem. If they message you with news that they’re waiting at your doorstep, you can respond by unlocking the door for them.
- -Maintenance is scheduled for the middle of the workday — Gone are the days when you have to schedule the plumber for days that you have off, or miss a day of work to accommodate the cable guy. Thanks to the Z-Wave automation system, you can unlock the door to your house from the downtown office at 11:30 am. You can also motor the maintenance crew via IP cams, and lock the door behind them once they’ve finished.
- -The neighbor is feeding your cats for the week — You’ve booked five days in the Bahamas for your whole family, but you don’t want to leave your pets at a daycare center. No problem, as dear old Dan — the kind, gentle, octogenarian widow whose lived next door for 35 years — has agreed to walk the dog, empty the litter box, fill the food bowls and feed the goldfish. Best thing is, you don’t have to leave him with the keys. You can simply schedule the door to unlock and lock at specific times of day.
Your garage door can also be integrated with Z-Wave home automation technology, which allows you to open the garage from your smartphone as you pull into the driveway. Additionally, this lets you open and close the door while at work so that delivery people can leave large packages or boxes in your garage.
On Z-Wave–connected power outlets, energy consumption can be activated, deactivated and adjusted for any lights, electronics or appliances plugged into them. This way, you can save on energy costs by adjusting power usage to more accurately suit the needs of a given hour. Adjustments can be made anytime from anywhere, whether you’re at home, at work or out shopping. Z-Wave wall plugs require no special installation, you simply plug them into available outlets throughout your house.
The Z-Wave automation system can be connected to your pre–existing entertainment arsenal for wireless control of your TVs, recorders and stereo equipment. With simple clicks on the system’s IP interface, you can enact the following commands from any location, near or far:
- -Change music without getting up or going inside. Whether you’re planting flowers out front or sitting in the hot tub out back, there are times when you don’t want to deal with the stereo, but you still want music. With your Z-Wave connected stereo, you can select or skip songs, browse or change channels and choose playlists with no interruption to your current activities, from any far point of the house.
- -Turn household music on and off from anywhere. Music can make a house seem occupied, which is a good impression to make when you’re out for hours on end. As with lights, Z-Wave allows you to activate the music console from anywhere to create the impression that people are home.
- -Record programs when you’re on the move. Sometimes you learn that a rare rerun or strange documentary is airing in 30 minutes, but you don’t have time to manually program your recording equipment. Thanks to Z-Wave software, it can all be done remotely from your smartphone or laptop.
Wireless Window Blinds
Out of all the innovations in domestic convenience ushered in by smart home technology, one of the newest and most unique has been introduced by ZebraBlinds.com, makers of wireless window blinds and shades. Through the Z-Wave network, you can control blinds in any room of your home from your PC or smartphone. With wireless blinds and shades from ZebraBlinds.com, your windows become easier to cover and access, because Z-Wave makes it possible to enact the following prompts:
- -Close blinds when you’re not at home. People close their blinds at night. When the blinds are open yet rooms are dark at 9:00 pm, it usually means that no one came home that evening — a perfect opportunity for burglars on the prowl. Thanks to Z-Wave, you can close the blinds from your laptop or smartphone for added security on evenings when the sunset wraps before your home–bound commute.
- -Close blinds on high windows. Z-Wave makes it possible to close blinds and shades on windows that would be out of reach to anyone less than 5′ 10″. No more using chairs or footrests as makeshift, risky ladders. This can be especially convenient in houses headed by older adults.
- -Get rid of cords and ties. When blinds break or lose their smoothness, it’s usually due to worn cords, which also happen to be one of the more dangerous features of old–fashioned homes. Low–hanging cords have even been the cause of tragic accidents in situations involving unsupervised children and up–close cribs. Now that ZebraBlinds.com has made blinds into a wireless household accessory, cords should be a relic of the past.
Blinds and shades in the ZebraBlinds.com inventory are equipped with built-in Z-Wave antennas, which make their integration into the system quick, easy and seamless.
Experience Wireless Blinds and Shades from ZebraBlinds.com
At ZebraBlinds.com, it’s our belief that the customer experience should be all about enjoying the convenience of our blinds and shades. To that end, we handle all questions regarding setup and operation, and we also offer video tutorials that walk you through each easy step. That way, you don’t have to worry about who to call — the hub or the motor manufacturer — if there’s an issue with one of the components.
Integrated with Graber–made, Somfy–powered Z-Wave motors, our shades are all tested in–house by our staff. To add wireless blinds and shades to your DIY home automation system, check out our smart blinds and shades here at ZebraBlinds.com.