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Owners of smart homes liken automation systems to the convenience of carrying a smartphone.
Need to start the coffee pot in the kitchen before rolling out of bed? Want to let in the cable man while away from your new apartment?
Once your home begins to respond to your individual needs and family schedule, there are few substitutes that compare. Each year, homeowners spend billions on smart home devices that help make their lives easier.
Take the next step in your tech evolution by getting started with a z-wave smart switch. This comprehensive guide will help you get your smart home setup no matter your level of technical expertise.
Do the Wave
New technology is a slippery slope. Too complex and it’s a turnoff for consumers. Too basic and the market is saturated with options that vary drastically in quality (I’m looking at you, cell phone chargers).
When it comes to your home, you need technology solutions that are easy to both understand and install. Z-wave technology makes smart home setup simple.
Z-wave is a radio frequency communication system owned by a Danish manufacturer called Zensys. Z-Wave was created as an alternative to Zigbee, another communication system for smaller home automation devices like keypads and smart locks.
Z-Wave is not yet a household name which can be intimidating. If you understand Bluetooth technology and wireless internet, however, you’re halfway there.
Wireless and Bluetooth aren’t built to handle low power devices like those used in home automation. The Z-Wave system helps your devices talk to one another instead.
As of 2019, around 70 percent of smart home devices are Z-Wave certified. That means learning to install a Z-Wave smart home gateway will be relevant for most of the devices you buy.
What Do I Need?
Smart is a relative term. Your smart home setup can have a range of priorities.
Homeowners commonly choose smart devices that have entertainment, energy efficiency, and security as their main function.
The beauty of a smart home setup is that it’s very customizable. With so many products available that use Z-Wave, you can a range of functionality without worry the devices won’t sync.
If you’re just getting started with home automation, here are a few staple pieces every homeowner should consider purchasing:
- Smart Plug
- Connected Light Bulb
- Dimmer Kit
- Security Camera
- Smart Locks
- Smart Thermostat
There are various levels of customization available to each of the areas listed. For example, you might choose light bulbs that change color or controllable LED strips to add a futuristic look to a hallway.
Home security systems are not on this list as many homes already have one installed. If the security system is recent, chances are it is compatible with Z-Wave.
If not, there are a range of home security options both with and without security cameras that can be added to your smart home setup. The Honeywell Lynx Touch 700 is one example.
The list above is a starting point for meeting your automation goals. Take a look at the following smart device categories to determine whether each product is right for your home system.
Imagine heading to the airport to catch a flight and realizing that, yet again, you left the Christmas tree lights on. With a smart plug, you can control connected appliances and any other electronics plugged into a smart plug.
This is a must-have for homeowners seeking a more energy-efficient home. When you go on vacation or leave the house for the day, you can be sure little power is wasted.
Smart plugs are also a convenient way to get a home automation system started while on a budget. You can start with one plug or add them to all existing outlets in your home.
They have a relatively small footprint allowing them to easily fit behind kitchen appliances without the need to rearrange your countertops.
Smart plugs are plug and play. To use a smart plug, simply plug the adaptor into an existing wall plug.
Home automation devices are controlled via a smartphone or web app that controls the devices remotely. Most home automation apps are free and may or may not require an account setup.
Connected Light Bulb
In addition to allowing lights to be controlled remotely, connected light bulbs are a way to control the mood lighting of a room. These bulbs are dimmable and can sometimes change color.
Connected light bulbs are used just like standard light bulbs in ceiling, wall or table lamps. Like smart plugs, you control how much or little control you want over the lighting in a room.
Smart bulbs are available in both kits and as a standalone bulb.
Connected bulbs can be pricey for a single bulb making the cost of getting started fairly high in a home with lots of practical lighting. Average lifespans ranging between 18 and 25 years.
The Aeotec LED Z-Wave bulb is moderately priced with a 25,000-hour life span and 16 million shades of colors. If you’re using another Z-Wave gateway like the Samsung Smarthings system, this bulb can be linked so there’s no need to control it through a separate app.
The upside is that turning off lights on a schedule or using a remote device saves money on your energy bill over time. If you can afford the initial investment of installation, you save on both the cost of replacing light bulbs every few months and on your electric bill.
For a wired approach to home automation, consider installing a system like the GE Three-way Dimmer Kit. This hub-controlled dimmer controls light levels and colors similar to the connected light bulbs, but are hard-wired into your home.
The benefit to this system is that it is relatively inexpensive compared to replacing every bulb in your home with a connected bulb. You can use existing incandescent light bulbs with your dimmer kit.
The automation comes through the wiring and not the bulb itself. The downside to using this system is that it isn’t a plug and play option.
Unless you have electrical experience, hiring an electrician guarantees a safe installation. In older homes, old electrical wiring poses a safety hazard best handled by a certified electrician.
Adding in the cost of an electrician drives up the overall investment, but can pay off when you sell your property and list the feature as an amenity.
Similar to a wifi signal, Z-Wave devices can only communicate over a certain distance. The devices work poorly or not at all when they are farther than the recommended range.
A Z-Wave repeater or extender helps carry the signal further so that you can use the devices in larger spaces. Consider a security camera in the front yard or connected bulbs used in the basement.
These devices might be far from the hub but get an equal signal with the use of a nearby repeater. Some smart home devices, like the JASCO Z-Wave Smart Plug, come with extenders already inside.
The benefit to this is fewer devices plugged into outlets which means more space to install other home automation devices. If you have limited outlets in your home, a combined device could be the difference between having a smart plugin a room or using a security system outside.
Most extenders work by simply plugging them into an existing wall outlet.
Home security is a staple feature of many smart home systems. Homeowners need that added ability to protect their homes in addition to simply controlling the ambiance.
Z-Wave offers few security cameras as a standalone but connects with most major home security brands like ADT, Ring, and Honeywell.
If you are looking for a Z-Wave certified system while renting a place, look for do-it-yourself systems that can be easily uninstalled when you move out. A single security camera might be sufficient for smaller apartments or studios with a single entrance.
DIY security systems range in installation difficulty from interconnected wired systems to simple wall-mounted units.
There are few luxuries that equal that of the remote door unlocking when guests are visiting from out of town. With computerized locks like the Schlage Z-Wave Connect Touchscreen Deadbolt, you can control who has access to your home and when.
The installation process for smart locks are more involved than screwing in a lightbulb, but can generally be completed in the same time as replacing a doorknob. Check your smart lock’s door requirements to be sure the thickness of your door matches the intended lock.
If you choose a lock too small for your door, the lock motor could jam leaving you, literally, out in the cold.
Most smart locks require the removal of the old lock’s turn piece. With the turn piece out of the way, you can access the deadbolt the smart lock will need to operate.
Energy efficiency is the way of the future. Homeowners flock to devices that help lower energy bills and give way to awesome tax credits at the end of the year.
Smart thermostats are controllable through your Z-Wave gateway as well as some home security systems. Like controlling appliances while on vacation, your thermostat can be programmed to turn off or “down” when you aren’t at home.
They also come with eco-friendly settings in case you want to maintain the best possible temperature to save money and energy during the day. One of the most beneficial features of smart thermostats is their ability to learn your patterns.
If you keep the air conditioning on 80 degrees between 8 am and 12 pm every day, the thermostat can begin changing to that temperature setting every day without your input saving you the extra step.
Thermostat installation won’t work for everyone. Homes with high voltage systems or direct lines can’t use a smart thermostat.
Also, check your internet speed before installing. Old routers can slow down performance and lead to a malfunction in your thermostat down the road.
Thermostat installation isn’t the best option for the novice handyman. If you’ve never touched a set of wires, it might be helpful to hire out this service to be the unit is set up according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Installation services are often available through retailers who sell smart home products. Reach out to the manufacturer for recommended installation techs if you purchased your unit online.
Smart Home Setup
Installing your first Z-Wave home automation system will help save you time and money over time. It’s best to remember that no two smart home setups will be, or need to be, the same.
Avoid the trap of comparing with neighbors or in online communities where budget, priorities and home wiring can all vary. Your home might have an old furnace that guzzles energy and be too expensive to replace.
In this case, no smart thermostat you install will save the planet no matter how much someone else benefits. Set your home improvement goals and work toward them slowly.
When installed correctly, your home automation system can easily become an asset that you can leave or take with you when you decide to move into your next home. As with all technology, prices drop as devices grow in popularity.
Avoid splurging beyond your budget to keep up with trends that might change next year. The biggest value from your smart home setup will come from the ease of use and convenience it brings you every day.
For more information on creating a smarter home for your everyday life, keep reading our blog.