The Aeon Labs Z-Wave Siren plugs into any household outlet and features five user-selectable audible tones and three bright, flashing LEDs to notify you of alarm events in your home. The Aeotec site says that the focus of this product is the safety and security of your family, but I use the Siren in my home theater room to notify me when the phone is ringing or when someone’s at the door. The Siren is very loud, but sometimes the movies are even louder, in which case we must rely on the Siren’s flashing LEDs.
Z-Wave network inclusion was a snap. There’s an inclusion button on the bottom edge of the Siren. One of the three strobe LEDs doubles as an indicator of network inclusion status: it will stop flashing once network inclusion has completed successfully. It may be worth noting that although this strobe LED is labeled as a “Network” indicator in the user’s manual, it does not flash to indicate everyday network traffic; it only flashes during the inclusion process and during an alarm event.
Configuring the Tone and Volume Settings
The wording on the Aeotec site promoting the Siren gave me high hopes of being able to assign a different audible tone to each different alarm source. I wanted to be able to tell whether the Siren was set off by the phone or the doorbell. The Aeotec site says:
“Siren offers 5 different alert tones. They’ve been designed for issues ranging from home intrusions to fire emergencies to falls.”
The user’s manual says:
“Advanced functions – Associating different tones with difference events. Your Siren contains 5 different alert tones, and each can be set to be used for a different type of emergency. One tone is more relevant to intruder alerts, while others are more relevant to the likes of water leaks, medical emergencies and door chimes. This functionality can be setup and configured via supporting Z-Wave gateways. Please refer to your gateway’s user manual for further information.”
I couldn’t find any description of how to assign tones to events in my controller’s documentation, and a visit to the Vera forum pages gave me the impression that others were struggling with this as well. I sent an email to Aeon Labs, and Christopher Cheng responded, saying:
“Unfortunately, for sound, only 1 can be activated at a time. The only method of changing the sound is via the parameter setting 37. If you can change this setting before alarming the siren, then it may be possible to utilize all 5 sounds.”
Parameter 37 is not mentioned in the user’s manual, but some searching online turned up the following information:
|Parameter 37 (two bytes)|
|Byte 1 (high-order)
|0 = Do not change tune|
|1 = Select tune 1|
|2 = Select tune 2|
|3 = Select tune 3|
|4 = Select tune 4|
|5 = Select tune 5|
|Byte 2 (low-order)
|0 = Do not change volume|
|1 = 88 dB|
|2 = 100 dB|
|3 = 105 dB|
Someone on the Vera forums mentioned that sending the tune selection parameter also triggers the siren without having to also send a BASIC_SET command. I also found this to be true. The poster in the Vera forum was trying to write some custom code that would dynamically send a different parameter setting for each type of alarm event. Unfortunately, my controller does not provide functionality for sending parameter settings in response to events. I had to settle on a single pre-configured tone. I chose tone number 5 which sounds the most cheerful to me. Setting parameter 37 to 0503 (hex) will give you tone 5 at full volume.
Questions About Z-Wave Plus
Since parameter 37 wasn’t mentioned in the user’s manual, I wondered what other undocumented parameters I might find on the Siren. In the past I’ve been able to use my Leviton RZC0P to query Z-Wave devices to discover what parameters are supported, but in this case either the Siren would not respond to my RZC0P, or the RZC0P was not able to process the Siren’s responses. When I asked Christopher Cheng about this, he responded:
“As per the difficulty with the Siren Gen5, all Z-Wave Plus devices use security encryption which may or may not be handled properly with some software or controllers.”
So it seems that my RZC0P does not support Gen5 or “Z-Wave Plus.”
Considering the claims that Z-Wave Plus is compatible with existing Z-Wave devices, but that some feature’s of Z-Wave plus can only be accessed through updated controllers, I wondered about Z-Wave “associations.” Before the advent of system controllers, I would take advantage of associations to configure sensors so that they could directly control other devices. I still have a couple of Z-Wave light switches that are directly controlled by motion sensors. I wondered if one of my old sensors could set off the Siren directly. I configured an old Everspring ST812 Flood Sensor, adding group 1 and group 2 associations for the Aeon Labs Siren. Group 1 on the ST812 sends a SENSOR_ALARM_REPORT to the associated device, and group 2 sends a BASIC_SET command to the associated device. The Siren did not respond to either of those messages from the ST812. Not knowing whether this was a limitation of Z-Wave Plus in general or if this was unique to Aeotec’s Siren firmware. I sent a follow-up email to Christopher Cheng. He responded promptly as he always does, which is another reason why I like Aeotec so much. Referring to the new security command class on Z-Wave Plus devices, Christopher says:
This is an issue that stems off of all of the Gen5 line, and Z+ products. Though with some of our newer Z+ products such as the Smart Switch 6 and Multisensor 6, there is a provided method to use it as a secure device, or a non-secure device which should allow for easier integration.
The security command class is also an issue for direct association between Z devices and Z+ devices. They cannot communicate to each other because a Z device cannot decrypt the message. This will force the user to rely on the gateway being used to create a scene for this type of application between Z and Z+ device.
In the quote above I think Christopher meant to say that the older Z-Wave device cannot encrypt the message. Christopher says that what we are seeing now with Z-Wave Plus is similar to the issues that occurred when the Z-Wave door locks first came out: the older controllers were not able to send encrypted commands.
Based on Christopher’s response I think we can conclude that older Z-Wave devices do not support the sending of encrypted commands to associated devices, and that because the Siren can only be configured as a secure device, it cannot accept non-encrypted commands directly from older Z-Wave devices.
Another notable feature of the Siren is its backup battery. This enables the sounding of the siren even during a power outage. Having a siren that could run on backup battery power would be of little use if your system controller didn’t also have the capability of running on battery power, but now we are starting to see system controllers that do have battery back-up. We are also starting to see system controllers that can automatically fail over from the land line telephone to a built-in cellular card. So the burglars could cut your power (and your landline), and your siren would still go off.
Aeon Labs “Doorbell” is Coming
The Aeon Lab’s brochure that was handed out at the 2015 CES shows an upcoming “Doorbell” device that looks similar to the Siren. More details on the Doorbell came out in an April email from Aeotec, stating that the Doorbell would combine a battery powered push-button on the home’s exterior with a device similar to the Siren on the interior. The siren portion of the Doorbell will supposedly have selectable tunes and will also have a feature that allows the user to upload custom MP3 sounds to the device.
The Siren’s stylish design sets it apart from other plain-looking home automation devices. At its maximum volume setting, the Siren is loud enough to be heard over normal household noises, and the flashing LEDs are bright enough to light up the entire room. The Siren works with Z-Wave Plus compatible controllers, but it may not work when associated directly with older Z-Wave devices. The Siren is only capable of having a single tone and volume setting at a time. Special controller programming is necessary if you want to change tones and volume on the fly.