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Frequently Asked Questions

Answers From Z-Wave Experts

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Below are the most frequently asked questions and answers by topic that explain what Z-Wave can do for you and your smart home. If you still have questions, please ask one of our experts here

General Z-Wave Questions

There are Z-Wave sticks available that plug in via a USB port, but they are targeted mainly at programmers or advanced users who get the software elsewhere and know how to set it up. Z-Wave is a radio frequency, like WiFi, but the similarities stop there. There are differences in bandwidth, range, purpose, etc. Z-Wave is made to be different, so that it does not conflict or interfere with your WiFi network (or another). Z-Wave is proprietary and controlled by an alliance of companies to ensure that certain criteria are met. In order to use Z-Wave in your home, business, or other space, you will need an appropriate controller or gateway.

Currently we are a web-based e-commerce site with some of the best minds in the industry available to us. However, as of right now we don't offer installation services, nor sponsor any particular firm. This may change in the immediate future. We advise you call electricians in your immediate area. Many are becoming Z-Wave savvy and can help you with your electrical and home automation needs.

Currently we are a web-based e-commerce site and our focus is on such. We offer free support and advice on any of our products.

I used to think this was an interoperability question, but after communication with clients, I found that some people expect Z-Wave devices to behave like 2-way radios; communicating with one another like walkie-talkies. Z-Wave requires some type of controller. A handful of devices can associate with one another using just a minimote (Remotec) for setup, but for the most part, 99% of the time a Z-Wave controller works to communicate in a mesh network of devices. More can be found in the getting started section of

Since these three questions are related, I put them together. Older electrical systems (pre-1980's in the US) are the bane of the DIY home automation installer. So many of our customers gleefully order a shiny new Dragontech or Linear switch or dimmer, only to find that their electrical systems don't match the drawing on the instruction sheet. To understand the smart switch requirements, you have to start by understanding the dumb switch. For most older homes (yes, 1975 is older now) supply lines run to a fixture. Those supply lines contain a hot, neutral, and a ground. The ground could be a wire, or it could be metal-clad armor (like BX). The only thing needed to turn that fixture on/off was a wire running down to the 'dumb' switch, and one running back to the load. Break the leg of this set of wires, and the fixture turns off. Add a ground to the switch for safety, and that constituted the modern switch of the day. For a smart switch to work, it needs a hot and a neutral wire. It's like a tiny appliance in your wall. Your computer or refrigerator wouldn't work with just one plug, and neither will smart devices. And just because your dumb switch didn't have a neutral connected, don't hesitate to look in the back of the box for capped off white wires (some electricians were forward thinkers, or needed a place to pull neutral wires to). Test any wire to be sure of its purpose.

2 Wire Dimmer: a workaround for incandescent bulbs in the past was to have a dimmer that never completely turned off. There was always a tiny bit of electricity slipping past the dimmer, which, combined with the physics of alternating current, supplied a false neutral. The problem began when LEDs came down both price and load. The LEDs were not drawing enough power. That little trickle of energy was sufficient to power the LEDs at a noticeable level, even if the dimmer was at its lowest level. Two ways around this are to forgo changing your bulbs to LEDs, and leave the incandescent bulbs installed. Alternately you can have an electrician install a dummy load to increase the draw down to where the LEDs would be less noticeable. If you plan on installing a lot of devices that require neutrals, it may be a good idea to build it into a renovation of your home and have an electrician update your wiring.

The neutral is described as a return path for the electricity, while the ground is an emergency route for safety reasons. Using the ground as a neutral to overcome the lack of a proper neutral is dangerous. Call an electrician or use 2 wire dimmer switches and suitable loads.

For your education, has the instructions and wiring diagrams for every item it sells under Documentation.

Z-Wave Plus contain 500 series chips, which have many advantages over the previous versions. However, Z-Wave devices are backwards compatible, so the devices you bought today will work with the ones you bought 3 years ago; at least in some basic level.

In all fairness, replacing an existing 3-way setup is one of the most perplexing jobs for the DIY automation installer. It shouldn't be that hard, but pre-existing conditions may work against you. In order to replace an existing dumb switch setup in your home with a smart solution, you will need to replace both switches with a load control (master) and slave (aux) pair of the same make. Most or all of our manufacturers have wiring diagrams to show the expected setup for the pair. The master controls the load and contains a Z-Wave chip. The auxiliary switch controls the master and contains no chip. Please keep that in mind when building your mesh network. There are about 20 possible ways an electrician could have wired a 3 (or 4, 5) way switch in your home. Do a google search for 3-Way switch, and you will see diagrams for a good number of them (we didn't include them here for copyright reasons). Many of these existing wiring setups will not match the expected configuration. It is up to you to figure out how yours wires run and act accordingly. Sometimes an electrician needs to get involved to move the load to one side or another. If you're lucky (or have a newer home) you'll have the load in one box, and just a traveler in the other. The load becomes your master. It's easier than it sounds, once you know you're not just randomly exchanging devices. And unfortunately, neutrals are still required in this setup, which adds another dimension to the project. There is a way to do a virtual 3-Way switch, if you don't have a traveler wire (for 'new' 3-Way setups not wired as such) but it can be complicated, and it requires switches from a specific brand. Contact us for more information.

Right now, dedicates its website to the North American frequency (9098.4). In the future we may offer other locations, but will have to change our ordering system to ensure the consumer receives the correct frequency, which he or she might not even know. Please stay tuned.

By nature, Z-Wave is a radio signal that can only handle little bits of information. These little bits tell your devices what to do, give a status, and may help another device do something. That way the radio signal uses a small amount of energy, leading to efficient devices and the possibility of a battery-operated device lasting 6-12 months on its original batteries. Video, photographs, and sound require much more bandwidth and cannot 'run over Z-wave'. A wired Ethernet connection or WiFi are required to transmit video. In an effort to give the consumer one stop networking and security, they have integrated this signal into a Z-wave interface. Even more than that, camera actions (motion detection, etc) can signal Z-Wave devices via the gateway. So you can tell your living room lights to go on if the camera senses motion, giving you a clearer image. These types of networks would not be possible without Z-Wave working nicely with other protocols. IP Camera simply refers to the address that you give your device to be on your local network (similar to getting into your router to make changes).

This question (and it's many variants) keep a fair share of DIY installers awake at night. There are two components of this answer. First, all Z-wave devices are created to be interoperable with any other. By definition from an alliance that certifies Z-Wave devices, all products must conform to a specific set of parameters to perform a basic level of tasks. Therefore, your alarm panel from company A, and our switch from company B, SHOULD work together. Binary switches (On/Off) and Multi-level switches (like dimmers) almost always work together, no matter what the mix up. Sensors for door/window or garage doors usually are the same. Thermostats work in their basic forms. Remotes can be added as secondary controllers and don't care what manufacturers they see. Cameras, since they are not Z-wave, are open to interpretation by the gateway manufacturer, but for the most part there is suitable integration for a generic IP camera to work with a Z-wave User Interface. Locks can be complicated but are universal, but have their own set of requirements for security purposes.

The flip side of the equation is, does your alarm company allow you to add devices (they may call it enrolling, commissioning, including, etc)? It is getting less common, but at one time alarm companies wanted to sell you the service and the devices. When 3rd party devices were available (usually at a discount) some companies put stops on including these. Check your alarm providers website for information on including 3rd party devices. If you are looking to add some switches, LED bulbs, receptacles or a garage door opener control, 90% of the time any device will work. If you are adding thermostats or door locks, please contact us at We always think we've seen it all, but some combinations perplex even us. Consider the recent story of the customer with a name brand gateway who bought our thermostat. She was very happy and the device worked fine. She purchased a remote from us and it too, worked fine. She could control the thermostat from the remote (because we checked it) but had problems when using the remote to control the gateway to control the thermostat. Some scenarios confound even our experts. But that's what they're here for so send us your questions.

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