Editor’s note: This week, Ryan Scott shows how he quickly engineered a smartphone solution to managing his garage door. Do you have a story you’d to share? Email your 300 – 500 word REAL Z-Wave article to email@example.com. Be sure to include as much detail about the setup, installation and full user experience. — Catherine LaCroix, ZWW Editor
My kids are notorious for opening the garage door and leaving it open. When a neighbor called me at 2 in the morning to let me know the garage was open, I decided that I was going to figure out a way to monitor the garage door from my computer.
This job took me about 4 hours. My friends and neighbors will be shocked to find out I did it, because my wife is the handy-man around the house. She asks for the power tools for Christmas while I ask for the NewEgg & Best Buy gift cards. If you are truly handy, this should be a quick and simple project.
The first step was to get me some z-wave hardware. I ordered an Evolve LFM-20 relay and an Aeon Labs Door / Window Sensor. The LFM-20 would be used to actually open and close the door, while the sensor is used to tell me if the door is currently opened or closed.
Door sensors are sensitive to metal, otherwise I could have mounted them directly to my garage door railing. Instead, I needed to figure out how to raise them “above” the rails and still have the paired sensor halves match up.
I went to my local hardware store and purchased a “Garage Door Top Bracket.” After removing part of it and forcefully bending it into a desired shape, I was able to mount it to my garage door along with a sturdy piece of 2×4. This piece would go up and down with the garage door.
On the other side I mounted a 2×4 to the fixed side of the door. This part wouldn’t be moving anywhere. Here is the finished sensor mount:
I purchased a $5 plug kit and wired it onto the black/white/green wires of my LFM-20 relay. My garage door opener is conveniently located right next to an outlet, so this worked out great.
The next step was to wire the Evolve switch into a parallel circuit with my existing garage door opener button. The “diagram” of how I did it looks like this (please don’t mock my artistic ability!)
Using InControl, I’m able to monitor my garage door. When it’s open past 9 PM, I get a text message at which point I can use my Android phone to close the door.
Ryan Scott is the owner of InControl. InControl Console is an application that runs on your pc. It allows you to use our iPhone & Android application to control your zwave devices from anywhere you have internet access on your phone. More information at www.incontrolzwave.com
REAL Z-Wave: Adding ADT’s Pulse Brings Home Automation Via Z-Wave
By Jeremy Radwan
We recently upgraded our home security system and added ADT’s Pulse service. In addition to the remote security features (such as being able to monitor, arm, and disarm the system from a browser or an app on my iPhone), Pulse also introduced us to home automation via Z-Wave devices.
The heart of Pulse is the iHub, a WiFi and Z-Wave router, which connects the ADT system to the internet.
The ADT technicians installed the iHub in my computer closet near my cable modem and existing router. Then they fished a serial cable through the attic to the location of the alarm panel equipment and finally connected the iHub to my router via a Cat-5 cable.
A quick summary of the technology: Z-Wave uses the 900MHz range of the RF spectrum (so it doesn’t interfere with WiFi and other devices in the more crowded 2.4GHz band) and was designed with home automation in mind. Z-Wave devices form a mesh network to talk to each other and the iHub, which basically means even if one device is out-of-range of the iHub, it can still send/receive commands by communicating through the other Z-Wave devices within its range.
My initial ADT install came with a single appliance/lamp module, but since then I’ve installed two dimmer switches and two outlets, and also added two outdoor plugs (for the Christmas lights and landscape lighting) and another lamp module. Adding a device to the existing network is pretty simple. On the Pulse web site you select the device type being added, which puts the iHub in discovery mode for 45 seconds. Then you press the “pairing” button (usually the on/off switch) on the Z-Wave device and it’s added to the network. Even though Z-Wave is an industry standard, ADT only supports certain makes/models (like with the WiFi cameras) so I went with the GE devices, all readily available from standard Z-Wave suppliers as well as from Amazon.
I got to experience the mesh network benefit of Z-Wave first-hand during my rollout. Unlike lamp modules that plug into an outlet so they can be near the iHub during pairing, one electrical outlet and one dimmer switch I installed were too far away to be initially paired. To work around this I purchased the GE 45601 Z-Wave remote control, which could be paired with the iHub to be used as an inclusion controller.
Basically, once the remote was part of my Z-Wave network I was able to pair the far devices (the outlet and switch) to the remote, which then relayed the pairing to the iHub when I brought it back into range. Then after refreshing the Z-Wave network, the other devices in the house were able to “see” and route to those further devices and include them in the network. Pretty sweet!
Another benefit of having the inclusion controller is that it allows for advanced programming of the GE Z-Wave devices. You can change the values stored in registers you can control — for example, the speed of dimming — or even turn off the annoying bright blue LED when the device is off.
Once the mesh network was in place I started building my home automation schedule on the ADT Pulse web site. You can create recurring schedules (turn on the family room lamp every Monday and Thursday at 6pm and turn it off at 10pm) or automations (when the back door is opened, turn on the rear landscape lighting).
Since my Z-Wave network is integrated with the security system I also have the option of only triggering events when the system is in a certain state (armed, for example) or when system events happen (like a burglar alarm). I have found some complex scenarios you can’t create through Pulse, though, such as combining the alarm status and time of day (if the alarm goes off after 9pm, turn on the inside lights). Also, you can’t set schedules or automations as inactive, so if you have a schedule for when you’re away on vacation, you’ll have to delete those events when you’re back from your trip and then re-create them for your next vacation.
In addition to controlling my Z-Wave network from the Pulse web site, I can also control the devices from the ADT Pulse app on my iPhone. Simple rocker switches allow me to turn lights on or off, and even control the dimmer settings.
The WiFi side of the iHub is encrypted with WPA2 and used for any wireless cameras you install with the system. At this time, ADT only supports one model of camera, the RC8021, which has no night-vision or PTZ features. My existing camera setup is a lot more extensive and capable so there’s really no need for me to use the ADT one that the installers brought other than it ties into the security system and mine can’t.
Another annoying thing about the iHub wireless is that it broadcasts its SSID as “iHub_<serial number>.” There isn’t a customer-facing web configuration page available on the iHub and I’ve not been able to determine if this can be changed or hidden. Ideally, since I’m not using the WiFi features of the iHub, I’d prefer to turn it off altogether.
In conclusion, I’m pretty happy with Z-Wave and the automation it’s allowed me to add to my home.
About the author: Jeremy Radwan is an IT systems administrator from sunny St. Pete, Florida. When not tinkering with a piece of equipment or new gadget, tweaking Linux configurations, or writing code, he enjoys spending time with his family, reading, and catching up on the backlog of recorded shows on his TiVo.