Z-Wave automation goes mainstream—finally
Schlage’s LiNK system is a welcome addition to the Z-Wave ecosystem, enabling users to monitor and control their home’s doors, lighting, and HVAC systems using a Web-connected PC or smartphone.
If you’re not familiar with Z-Wave, it’s a wireless mesh network designed for home control. Z-Wave devices use low-power radios—not to save energy, but to prevent commands generated by one home’s network from bleeding to neighboring homes. A mesh network, meanwhile, acts like a digital bucket brigade: A controller broadcasts a command addressed to a specific device. In-range devices execute the command if they’re the target; otherwise, they ignore the instruction and pass it on to the devices in their range.
Schlage’s Z-Wave line consists of the LiNK starter kit, a Trane remote-control thermostat, and a Schlage wireless IP camera. A $9 monthly subscription to Schlage’s LiNK Access service enables you to monitor your home and manage all its Z-Wave devices via the Web.
The Schlage deadbolt featured the rugged construction we expected, and installing it was a familiar affair—aside from threading tiny wires through the hole in the door and inserting one nine-volt and three AA batteries into sockets on the interior side, that is.
Entering the correct four-digit code into the 10-digit keypad doesn’t retract the bolt; it just activates a knob that you turn to throw the bolt. You can set up multiple PINs and the system can alert you each time they’re used.
If someone repeatedly enters the wrong code, the device shuts down and sends a “tamper” alert. Opening the door from the inside resets the keypad, and enabling “vacation mode” turns it off altogether. You can also activate the lock over the Internet, enabling someone to turn the knob to gain entry (but you must depend on him or her to lock the door when they leave!). The website will inform you of the door’s status, locked or unlocked.
A subscription fee enables you to remotely monitor and control Z-Wave devices in your home, including the HVAC system if you purchase the optional Trane Z-Wave thermostat.
The thermostat has buttons for controlling your HVAC system, but the subscription service is the only means of programming it (with as many as four independent heating or cooling events for each day of the week). The service also tracks the hours the system operates and sends alerts based on user-defined values for high and low temperatures and when someone uses the keypad to override your program.
An online log tracks and date-stamps events, including each time the deadbolt is activated and when lights are turned on or off. You can also create schedules (e.g., turn on the porch light at 7 p.m. on weeknights) and “scenes” (e.g., when the deadbolt is activated, turn on the light in the foyer).
The IP camera lets you view your home and snap pictures, and you can place buttons in the user interface so you can control Z-Wave devices within its field of view. But it doesn’t do anything automatically. It would be much more useful if it took a photo and sent an alert when it sensed motion at times when the house is scheduled to be unoccupied.
The subscription fee is a downer and we wish the camera did more, but Schlage’s LiNK is a strong home-control system.