Planning Your Network
I wanted to take a minute to discuss planning of your Z-Wave network. This is something that we do often to assist electricians installing HVAC systems in older buildings. While I’m not one to post what may be confidential information, there are several lessons that can be learned while stumbling through crawl spaces and sweltering in attics. May is a nice time of the year for this, since heating season’s panic calls are all but forgotten, and there is still time to prepare for the A/C to be turned on.
The heart of any home automation is the controller. Whether your focus is security, convenience, energy savings, or HVAC control, choice and placement of your gateway is vital. There are many gateways (add a Z-Wave controller + other protocols like WiFi or :: gasp :: Zigbee, and you have a gateway controller, or gateway for short) on the market, and many of them will do a fine job. I like the Vera Edge. Smart Things is also a nice unit that’s doing well. Home Seer, Zipato, Nexia, and Fibaro all have their selling points. For a basic starter unit that will do a lot, I’d choose a Vera Edge.
Usually when we have network equipment in our homes, it gets plugged in near the computer it serves, since that’s where we find easy router access. When thinking of a Z-wave network, all sorts of things come into play, like distance to devices, construction of the dwelling, types of devices in the system, and any other restrictions to the Z-wave signal, like boxes, furniture, use. The gateway should be placed strategically to avoid unnecessary repeaters (devices which bounce the signal). If you are serious about Home Automation, I recommend purchasing a gateway and one battery operated device (like a thermostat). Include the device into the gateway’s network, then move the devices around your home. Use your gateway’s interface (healing or any strength tests) to log the differences.