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There’s more to it than dimming the lamp from your couch
Two automation standards are fighting for dominance: ZigBee and Z-Wave. We’re focusing on Z-Wave here—despite the fact that it’s not an IEEE standard—because it has the biggest presence in the market. But you needn’t worry about owning an orphan technology should Z-Wave not stand the test of time. ZigBee’s promoters tell us that designing and manufacturing a ZigBee-to-Z-Wave bridge would be trivial.
If you don’t want to hire an electrician, the easiest way to set up a Z-Wave lighting network is to buy a kit consisting of plug-in modules and a remote control. Add a Z-Wave USB stick if you want to use your PC to control your lighting.
|Plug-in Z-Wave modules don’t look great, but they save you from futzing with bare electrical wires.|
If you can plug in a lamp, you can install a plug-in Z-Wave module. Simply unplug your lamp from the wall receptacle, plug the Z-Wave module into the receptacle, and plug the lamp into the module. You’re done. We’ll show you how to program the module in another step.
Before you buy a bunch of modules, however, make sure you select the right type. If you’ve replaced the incandescent light bulbs in your lamps with compact fluorescents, you’ll need to buy an appliance module instead of a lamp module. Most appliance modules, such as Intermatic’s HomeSettings HA02, will control any household appliance (such as a fan or television) up to 15 amps. Avoid plugging a module into a receptacle that’s controlled by a switch because the module can’t function if the switch shuts off its power source.
Step 1: Remove Old Switch We recommend hiring a qualified electrician for this step because a wiring mistake can cause serious injury or death. Even experienced do-it-yourselfers should proceed with extreme caution. Since we don’t know how your house is wired, we can provide only general guidance.
Turn off power to the existing switch by flipping the circuit breaker or removing the appropriate fuse. Put a sign on the fuse or breaker box warning no one else to turn it back on. Go back to the switch, remove the cover plate, and use a voltage tester to ensure that the circuit is cold.
Now, examine the existing wiring. Typically, a black wire is hot, white is neutral, and green or exposed copper wire is ground. We’re setting up a single-pole application, meaning only this switch will control the load. The Intermatic InTouch CA3000 switch we’re using can also function as a three-way or multi-way (the load can be controlled from two or more switches). Unscrew the wires from the old switch.
Step 2: Install New Switch Connect the black wire inside the wall to the black wire on the switch by twisting the exposed wires together. Screw a wire nut onto the two wires and wrap it in electrical tape. Using the same technique, connect the blue wire on the switch to the wire connected to the load, and then repeat this process with the white and green wires. The switch’s red wire won’t be used, but screw a wire nut onto it so that it’s not exposed.
Push the switch and its wires into the junction box and tighten down the screws. Turn the power back on and make sure that the switch turns the load on and off. Replace the cover plate and prepare to program the switch.
|Because Intermatic’s CA5500 remote control lacks an LCD, you have to guess what its single LED is trying to tell you.|
This process is pretty much the same whether you’re programming a lamp module, an in-wall switch or dimmer, or any other Z-Wave device. Once you’ve installed all the Z-Wave switches, receptacles, and wall-mounted controllers you intend to deploy, use a compatible remote to establish a network. First, to ensure you’re working with a clean slate, use the remote at each device: Press the Exclude button on the remote and then press the Activate button on the device.
Once you’ve done this with every device, go back and build your network one device at a time by pressing the Include button on the remote and the Activate button on the device. The InTouch CA5500 remote we’re using in this example flashes a blue LED to inform you when an action is successful.
As much fun as it is to control lights and other devices using a remote control, you won’t realize the full benefit of a home-automation system until you add software that will enable you to control the system with your PC. We use ControlThink’s ThinkEssentials in this example because it’s simple and inexpensive and comes with a USB Z-Wave adapter—all for $50.
|ThinkEssentials is great for getting your Z-Wave feet wet, but a more powerful option is HomeSeer’s HS2 Home Control Software ($200).|
Click the Home tab in ThinkEssentials and click the Draw Rooms button. Using the mouse, draw your home’s floor plan. Once you’ve included all your Z-Wave devices in your master remote, you’ll transfer the information about them to your PC via the USB adapter. Click ThinkEssentials’s Advanced Settings tab and click Join Existing Network. Press the button on the remote that you use to include Z-Wave devices in the network.
When the data has been transferred, an icon representing each Z-Wave device will appear on your floor plan. If the icon is a question mark, click it to send it a command. The icon will then change to a plug (for a receptacle or switch), a light bulb (for a dimmer), or whatever is appropriate. Once you’ve determined which icons are linked to which devices, drag the icons into the appropriate rooms.