Muy potente, muy complejo
Mi Casa Verde’s Vera home-control module is far more powerful than the Schlage LiNK home-control system we reviewed in our October/November issue (you can read that review online here). What’s more, the Mi Casa Verde doesn’t sweat you for any fee-based subscription plans (where Schlage, in fact, does), and the Vera supports three home-control protocols (Insteon, X10, and Z-Wave), where the Schlage LiNK supports only Z-Wave.
But there is a double gotcha. The Vera is far more complex to set up and use, and the only tech support Mi Casa Verde provides is via user forums and email. Schlage offers instant assistance via telephone tech support—as well they should considering you’re paying $9 per month to access the hardware you bought.
The Mi Casa Verde Vera home-control interface speaks Insteon, X10, and Z-Wave.
The Vera hardware looks very similar to a wireless router, and it actually adds a wireless access point to your network. The controller has plenty of horsepower on tap, including a Broadcom CPU with 16MB of flash memory and 32MB of SDRAM. It runs on the MiOS software platform.
Once you’ve connected the hardware to your network and added your Z-Wave, Insteon, or X10 devices to its inventory, you can control your entire system using a PC or smartphone, either locally or via the Internet. We tested the Vera with our large collection of Z-Wave devices: in-wall Intermatic lighting controls, a Schlage keypad deadbolt, and a Trane thermostat, to name just a few.
Those are our Z-Wave devices, but the Vera can control any variety of lights, dimmers, thermostats and other switches and hardware designed to work with the three protocols it supports. Add a free plug-in or two from the MiOS Marketplace, and you can monitor and control most brands of IP security cameras. This brings up another major advantage that the Vera has to offer: Schlage’s system is something of a walled garden that limits the types of devices you can add to your control system. Schlage-branded IP security cameras, for instance, are the only type of cameras that work with the LiNK system—and they won’t work with the Vera. The Vera, however, is capable of controlling a long list of cameras from other manufacturers.
The Vera’s Spartan user interface won’t earn Mi Casa Verde any usability awards.
As with other Z-Wave controllers, you begin the Vera installation process by enrolling Z-Wave devices into the controller’s memory. Mi Casa Verde provides a large rechargeable battery for this purpose, so you can unplug the Vera from the wall and take it to each device. When you’re finished, plug the controller back into the wall and to your Ethernet network, call up the Vera dashboard on a networked PC, and rename each of the devices you’ve just finished enrolling.
Once you’ve assigned easy-to-remember names to each device, you can define rooms and assign each device to a particular room. When you have a large number of devices—we have more than 50 and are adding more—organizing them becomes increasingly important.
Once you’ve installed the system, you can use the Vera’s browser-based user interface to schedule events (e.g., turn on the porch lights at sundown) and create scenes (e.g., when the front-door deadbolt is activated, turn on the light in the foyer). Mi Casa Verde exposes all the power—and complexity—inherent in the Vera hardware, MiOS software platform, and attached devices. That’s great if you’re interested in diving deep into the nitty-gritty and don’t mind climbing a learning curve. But some folks will be happier with Schlage’s just-the-basics approach to home control.