Z-Wave: Smart Home Technology Explained

Just imagine – you arrive at work after driving through lots of traffic. Suddenly you question whether or not you shut the garage door. No one else is home, so now you have two choices. You need to drive home and check the door. Or you can take a few seconds and use your smartphone app make sure the door is closed.

If you choose to check via your smartphone, Z-Wave devices will be at play. Z-Wave devices are the key to wireless home automation from your smartphone, computer or tablet. From locks and lights to alarm systems, appliances and HVAC systems, you can control Z-Wave devices from anywhere in the world.  If you forget to arm your alarm system on the way out, simply use your smartphone or laptop to send a message to arm and disarm the system thanks to the Z-Wave device you installed that allows you to do so from afar.

It’s easy to add Z-Wave products as you go, so there’s no need to spend a bunch of money up front.  Here’s what you need to know to get started automating your home:

What Are Z-Wave Devices?

Z-Wave devices are products that control appliances, such as lights and locks, that aid in home automation. These devices range from simple, easy-to-use plug-in devices to wired devices controlled through keypads, switches and connected wall outlets.

What Products Are Available?

Currently, there are more than 2,100 devices utilizing Z-Wave technology. Multiple manufacturers make Z-Wave compatible products. Devices are available to control your home alarm system, door locks, thermostats, smoke alarms, fans and HVAC systems. There are even Z-Wave products to control window coverings.
Some Z-Wave devices use sensors to alert you to flooding, temperature increases and valve shutoffs. Door, window and motion sensors can also be controlled via Z-Wave devices. If you live in an earthquake prone area, the Smart Lock System, an electronic wireless cabinet lock that keeps contents of drawers and other storage areas from falling out, is just the latest.
Click here to read our blog post about smart door bells.

How Does Z-Wave Work?

Z-Wave technology uses two-way wireless radio frequency technology to send commands to the devices. You control the devices via your computer or smartphone from anywhere you have Internet access.

For instance, if you want to arm your alarm system, you simply press the button on the app on your smartphone that arms the system. The technology then sends the command to your alarm system, arms it and sends a message back to you notifying you that the system has been armed.

Is Z-Wave Secure?

Z-Wave technology relies on heavy encryption and security features, so the devices are safe to use in your home.  As always, you should change the login info for each Z-Wave device to something only you can figure out.
Click here to read our blog post about protecting smart devices.

What Do I Need?

Smart Hub
All Z-Wave products require a smart hub, also referred to as a network controller. The type of hub you need depends on the complexity of the devices you want to use.

We can help you figure out what type of hub is required. Froula installs smart hubs in our customer’s homes as a new installation or as an add-on to a current alarm or home entertainment system.

Once you add each device to the Z-Wave network, the hub helps all of the devices talk to each other via a smartphone, computer or tablet. These low-powered hubs can run on a small battery for years, making them reliable for long periods of time.  This wireless technology will not affect your Wi-Fi signal.
Ask us about installing a smart hub in your home.

You’ll need to download an app that allows you to send messages via the hub to your Z-Wave devices. Froula customers use Honeywell Total Connect. Total Connect ties into the alarm systems we install, allowing you to arm and disarm from afar as well as control your Z-Wave devices.

Now it’s time to decide which smart devices you want in your home. You may want to start with your alarm system and expand to lights, smoke alarms, etc. Consider the goals for your smart devices. You may want to simply save on your electric bill and be able to turn on the lights as you arrive home. Or you may want to control your security system, such as letting the kids in after school, disarming the system for the cleaning crew or tracking what’s going on while you’re gone.