Vera is Compatible with other Z-Wave Devices
One of the biggest issues we’ve seen with other Z-Wave gateways is non-compliance to implement the full specification to support all the Z-Wave classes. The first gateway we tried a few years back from Hawking didn’t support many of the devices that the Vera supports, including the Schlage LiNK lock. If a gateway manufacturer implements “some” of the spec and don’t support the various classes, you end up with a system that won’t talk to other Z-Wave devices. With Vera, we not only see an active development community adding support for new devices, but most of the Z-Wave devices on the market will be support right out of the box. There are of course other Z-Wave gateways such as HomeSeer that are compliant, but the costs for HomeSeer are much higher than Vera. The Schlage LiNK lock can be purchased as a kit with the Schlage Z-Wave gateway, but the support for other Z-Wave devices is poor and both Hawking and Schlage gateways don’t offer remote access unless you pay their monthly fee. With Vera, the service is completely free for remote access, it’s additional email notifications and SMS text messages and other additions that you pay for if desired. For a more detailed side by side comparison of the Hawking, Schlage and Vera Z-Wave gateways, see http://wiki.micasaverde.com/index.php/Side_By_Side_Comparison
Below are some details on some of the devices we used in our tests and how we used them with Vera to automate our home and add another level of safety and security:
Fortrezz Z-wave Water and Freeze Sensor
Out of all the devices we tested with the Vera, the Fortrezz water and freeze sensor is the one device that can save you the most money. It’s a very low-cost Z-wave device at around $40, but if you have a water leak or frozen pipes it can cost you much more in damage. The Fortrezz has an audible alarm, and is a battery powered device. It’s a small little box that has two contacts on the bottom that when in water triggers the alarm. This little Fortrezz box also floats and uses stainless steel hardware, so you can get more than one use if you have a leak. The Fortrezz wakes up periodically and sends the status reports the temperature and water detection status back to Vera. It’s meant to be placed under sinks, furnaces, water heaters and other areas where you may have a leak or want to protect against low temps. You then set a scene in Vera to alert you via SMS text message and/or email when there is a water leak or low temp. We tested this device and it worked perfectly, sending an alarm with water detection via a scene in Vera, and we also plopped it in the freezer for a 1/2 hour and it alerted Vera when the device reached 36 degrees.
Fortrezz also has another device that can be useful for gardeners or for folks that want to detect a low water level. It’s basically the same device as the water sensor except it has a external probe that you put IN the water or soil and it will send an alarm when the water level drops. This could be very useful for pool pumps, hydroponic and aeroponic gardening and more since if these pumps burn out it can be very expensive. You could also use these to detect a low moisture level in your plants, and it can remind you to water them. We highly recommend having these devices deployed in your automated home to protect your assets. The Fortrezz water and freeze sensor is available for about $40 at http://www.smarthome-products.com or at http://store.homeseer.com
HomeSeer HSM100 Motion/Light/Temp Sensor
The HomeSeer HSM100 sensor is another wonderful device that reports light levels, temperature and motion back to Vera. At around $75, this device really is one of the most powerful devices in the automated home. You simply set up scenes in Vera to act a certain way based on data from the sensor. If the light levels are low, turn on lights. If it detects motion, you can turn on a Z-Wave lamp module and archive a snapshot from a nearby IP camera. When the temperature reaches a certain point you can heat or cool the house by turning on or off fans or air conditioners, all without the use of a Z-Wave enabled thermostat. This device is also a battery powered device and wakes up periodically to report the status back to Vera. It’s really a powerhouse in a home automation network and we found it to be another very popular device with many Z-Wave users. We set it up to turn on a light when motion was detected near the front door and take a snapshot with the Linksys WVC54GCA IP Camera. This worked perfectly and Vera would turn the light off after 5 minutes, but the motion sensor would not re-arm itself until 20 minutes passed. This is possible by editing some advanced Z-Wave values and we had some difficulties getting this to work properly. After some discussion with MiCasaVerde tech support and the help of other Vera users, we finally tweaked the settings and got it working, but we do wish things like this would be easier with such a popular device. You can’t go wrong with adding a few of these sensors around your automated home. The HomeSeer HSM100 multi-sensor is available for about $70 at http://www.smarthome-products.com or at http://store.homeseer.com
GE Lighting/Jasco Products Z-Wave Appliance module
GE Lighting was kind enough to supply us with this device for our automated home along with a handheld remote. We used the Z-Wave appliance module to operate 2 window fans in conjunction with our Hot and Cool scenes we set to help automate the temperature levels. The GE Fluorescent Light & Appliance Module enables wireless control of on/off functions for standard incandescent table and floor lamps, fluorescent table and floor lamps, and small appliances. It’s horizontal module saves space without blocking the second outlet and it provides a Z-Wave controlled outlet as well as a regular pass-through AC outlet for other electrical devices. For around $60 this is a great device to have for adding Z-Wave control of fans and small appliances. More info can be found at http://www.jascoproducts.com or can be purchased direct from Amazon.com
GE Lighting/Jasco Products Z-Wave Home Theater Remote
The GE Home Theater Remote with Z-Wave is another one of our favorite Z-Wave enabled products that we use on a daily basis. The remote looks like any standard learning remote but packs plenty of power and comfort into such a small unit. The design is great, with a beautiful blue backlit display and a wonderfully balanced feel in your hand. The rubberized bottom also gives it a very nice feel when using it to control lighting or your widescreen TV.
Programming the device to control our TV, Cable box and Receiver was very easy although it had trouble with some of the buttons on our Scientific Atlanta SA8300HD cable box from Charter. We had to manually learn some buttons like play, pause, stop and other buttons you would expect to be automatically programmed. After some manual programming, the remote was a breeze to use and programming scenes for Z-Wave was very easy. You can combine Z-Wave scenes with A/V macros to turn on the TV, change the input to DVD, hit play on the DVD player and lower the lights automatically. It also has alarm and sleep functions and it’s extensible list of A/V codes also allowed us to add in IR codes for the Logitech Squeezebox and an IR to X10 controller for control of X10 lights that we still use. Although this remote will never replace our Logitech Harmony remote, it’s a close second with its integrated macro and Z-Wave support. If you are looking for a remote that can act as a great secondary controller (it also does primary but works with Vera as a secondary controller) don’t look any further than the GE Home Theater Remote with Z-Wave. More info can be found at http://www.jascoproducts.com or can be purchased direct from Amazon.com
Intermatic HA04C Z-Wave Heavy Duty Lighting module
The Intermatic heavy-Duty appliance module is designed for outdoor use and can handle up to 1200 watts, making it a smart choice for large appliances such as air conditioners, dehumidifiers, electric heaters or even grow lights. We used the module and a timer based scene in Vera to automate a 1000-watt grow light to get a jump on our tomato plants. This device handled the job perfectly and when used with automated watering and another GE appliance module for a small fan we never had to tend the small tomato plants, they were happy and quite happy when we transplanted them in early summer. At around $40 for this module you can’t go wrong if you have indoor or outdoor appliances you wish to control. More info can be found at http://www.homesettings.com or can be purchased direct from Amazon.com