Which switch is which? Neutral isn't just for Switzerland

Which switch is which? Neutral isn't just for Switzerland

Please allow me a little diversion for a second. Some info that I gleaned from a project and resulting conference call would help anyone reading this blog. The question came up, (paraphrasing) ‘does device X work with gateway Z’. The short answer is, any Z-Wave device is meant to be interoperable with any other. There is a group of people who check this and issue license numbers based on a device’s ability to fit in with the Z-Wave standard. The longer answer is, some gateways and networks don’t like 3rd-party devices. Alarm companies may want to corner the market on selling only their devices, a security firm may not allow any other device to reside on its network for security reasons, or there may just be severe limitations in the ability of an older device to keep up with faster devices. But in general, any device should work with any other.

Why this came up here? I’m pairing devices with my new Vera Edge. We have a manufacturer who had top-notch devices but not a recognizable name. Before the devices went to retail, we got a bunch to test. I bench tested some of these, but that kind of report has no business in this blog (plus, it’s boring). Now the switches and modules are available to the retail market. The manufacturer is Dragontech, and I’m going to install a WS-100 switch, replacing an existing single pole toggle switch.

The switch I plan to replace controls an outside light. The light fixture, which is about 20 years old, used to have motion sensors and a day/night feature, which have worn out and no longer function. I figure I can use my Vera and mobile app to control the day/night feature, and either add a motion sensor, or use Vera’s GeoFencing feature (your phone would do something when you get to a geographic location) to turn the light on/off. One thing I learned by accident; Z-Wave switches (particularly dimmers) don’t like controlling computers. There are several circuit boards on my light fixtures to run the day/night electronic eye and the motion sensor/heat sensor components. I could see why a dimmer installed and operated at less than 100% output could cause issues, but didn’t see why it would matter with an on/off switch. It was a good excuse to change the light fixture outside. Since I planned on using the Z-Wave features (motion, sunrise/sunset, GeoFencing) of my Vera Edge, I was able to save $75 by buying a ‘dumb’ light fixture, instead of one with all the motion sensors built in. The switch already paid for itself!

I replaced the outside fixture, and it worked fine with the dumb switch. When I went to replace the switch with my Z-Wave powered WS-100, however, I got my first lesson in old houses vs. new technology. The dumb switch only had a wire from the power, and to the load, plus a ground. No neutral wire. The new WS-100 had requirements for a hot, neutral, ground, and load (plus a traveler for 3-way operation). I dug around the back of the 2 gang box, and found neutral wires together and tucked away. I found that one of these was for the outside light (the others were for the inside lights, also on this breaker). I lucked out. I connected a lead from the neutrals to the appropriate terminal and was in business. I added the switch to my Vera.

Home Automation using GeoFences

I am anxious for my Vera Edge to do something automatic. I admit I don’t have many devices installed, and remote control of lights and remote viewing of cameras are nice, but I want this to work for me. So I found GeoFences! GeoFence can only be set up in the mobile device app (in my case, my iPhone). Go to My Modes, and click on the right arrow. At the bottom choose GeoFencing/Add new geo fence. If you are home, and want to add home as your GeoFence (like I do) select the arrow from the upper right. Select YES, name it (I changed it to 20 m but left “This is my home” as default).

To use what you just did, you need to create a scene. From SCENES, select ADD a scene, then select trigger, select location (new since you created the GeoFence). I chose, whenever the GeoFence is entered (choices are enter/exit), turn on my outside light. You can use this to lock doors, turn on/off lights and other security systems. The sky seems to be the limit. Give me feedback on how this worked for you, or if you have any questions. I will update this feature in a future blog after I test it more.
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