It has been much too long since my last Z-Wave product review. Life got complicated when I started a local non-profit, Baltimore Hackerspace which has consumed much more of my time than it was supposed to. There are over a thousand hackerspaces world wide and each has its own purpose. Our purpose is to provide 24/7 access to a physical space where people come to collaborate on just about anything related to science, technology, or engineering. As thrilled as I am with how this has turned out, minding a 1250 sq ft commercial space has its downside.
There are several problems with giving 20 people a key to a shared space. I have learned that you can not expect grown adults to remember to:
- Turn the lights off when they leave
- Clean up after themselves
- Lock the doors
- Turn the air conditioner or heat off on their way out.
Thankfully we now live in a world where home automation for the average business owner is not unreasonably priced. In this review and future reviews I will be implementing a Z-Wave Network from scratch and documenting the pros and cons of each device I use in the system.
Every Z-Wave Network needs a master controller. We will be using the VeraLite from MiCasa Verde. MiCasa Verde has been making popular Z-Wave Home Automation controllers since 2008 when they launched their Vera Server. The VeraLite was created for users who already have a WiFi router but want to add an IP based Z-Wave controller.
The VeraLite has a built in server which allows us to monitor and control our Z-Wave devices from a laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. A friend of mine suggested I install the Home BuddyApp directly from the Google Play.
Home Buddy automatically found my VeraLite when I supplied it with my username and password. The Home Buddy App has a clean and simple user interface which is very user friendly. There are other application for Android and there even seems to be applications for iPhone, BlackBerry and other Java enabled phones. This will be perfect for our hackerspace when we get around to adding Z-Wave enabled door locks.
We installed two Leviton Viza RF+ VRS15-1LZ ON/OFF light switches, a single VRR15-1LZ 15 Amp Receptacle, and a VRCS4-MRZ 4-Scene Controller with Switch. The ON/OFF switches control the lighting in the computer room and the bathroom while the receptacle controls the power supply to our 15,000 BTU window air conditioner.
The 4-Scene Controller is a cool little device that has its own load switching capabilities as well as the ability to remotely control other loads. I will have to admit that getting this device properly added to the VeraLite was not as intuitive as adding the other devices.
The VeraLite can run off 4-AA batteries which allows you to take the unit around to each devices and include it in low power mode. With most devices this was as simple as pressing the + button on the VeraLite and then pressing the button on the light switch or receptacle. The 4-Scene controller actually shows up in VeraLite as multiple devices. Being the “Hacker” that I am I did not carefully read the instructions which came with the switch. The first time I added the 4-Scene Controller to VeraLite I only held buttons 1 and 3 for five seconds. This caused only the local load to be included. What I should have done is held buttons 1 and 3 for ten seconds until the lights flashed red twice. This resets the 4-Scene Controller to factory default. Then I should have included the device by pressing buttons 1 and 3 for five seconds. I’m still not sure I understand what is going on when adding the 4-Scene Controller to VeraLite but I can confirm that it does work.
I’m glad I ran into my little problem with adding the 4-Scene Controller because it pointed me to another great feature of the VeraLite. In the VeraLite web interface you can navigate to the Account – Tech Support tab to easily open a new support ticket. That’s not all. There is an enable button which when activated will give you an access code which you can share with the fine folks at Micasa Verede tech support. This will allow them to remotely access your VeraLite to help you troubleshoot any problems you may have. Nothing is better than having a technician at your fingertips who can actually see what problems you may be encountering.
One area Micasa Verde is lacking is in their documentation. There is a mass amount of documentation available but its scattered in multiple places and appears to be outdated in some areas. For example the documentation on adding a Z-Wave Scene Controller was available however it referenced older models of Vera which lead to confusion when certain tabs were missing from the interface. So you may find yourself using the tech support feature and forums more often than you would like.
The VeraLite is a fantastic product so far. The mobile app options are plentiful and their web interface along with their scripting capabilities provide a very powerful Home Automation platform. We are only getting started with our implementation so you will have to check back in the near future as we add different types of devices to our network. Next up will be the Remotec ZRC-100us controller.