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printf("Hello world\n"); //looking to start with Z-Wave and need some suggestions

Deadeye

New Member
Hello World......well, at least this forum.
 
I've been meaning to hook up a Z-Wave system in my home for quite some time now (slowly started buying Z-Wave compatible parts), but then got busy (had a kid, so therefore, my free time for this went down the drain).  But since the global economic downturn, the number of break-ins in my city has increased by around 70% in just the last year.  With a new babe in the house, my paranoia level has increased, so I was thinking of finally getting my Z-Wave home off the ground sooner rather than later, but this time including some cameras and security system.  My dream system is to hopefully have something like the Mobilinc system (can't post links, sorry) but for Android.  Problem is, I have no idea where to start.  I've read a lot of websites, but they mainly tend to be sellers of a certain brand of hardware, so I couldn't really get a non-biased answer.

Here's the hardware that I currently have: 
* Schlage Z-Wave deadbolts on all the doors (I tried their Nexia service with the Nexia bridge that came with one of the locks, but I don't think what they offered was worth $10 a month, so I am REALLY hoping that I don't need the Nexia bridge to use these Schalge locks again)
* A Trane Z-Wave thermostat (still in the box)
* One license for mHome Control server software, but it appears as though they went under as their website (Embedded Automation) is no longer up.
* A Z-Wave USB dongle that I haven't tried out yet, but it came with the mHome software.
 
My end goals:
1) Set up core Z-Wave system.  Not sure if this requires a large hardware controller, or if I can just use my windows server with the USB dongle.  Haven't been able to find a straight answer on-line for this one.  I think I would prefer using a Windows box and some software to control the system (like Axial as it looks pretty cool), as I think I would have more control over the environment (be able to write scripts, for example, if the motion sensors detect movement in a room, turn on the lights and keep them on for x minutes)
2) Install a Z-Wave security system.  I live in an older home, but I'm doing some renovations (along with replacing ALL the old aluminium wiring with copper) so I'd rather use wired where I can, but I know in some locations (outside walls) it will be very difficult to run wires (for window security sensors).  I'd like to have a panel at the front and back door, but I'd also like to be able to access the security system remotely (Android mobile) and through the server (to be able to use the security system for some home automation (IE: If the motion detectors don't detect any motion between the hours of 11:00 to 12:00, arm the system)
3) Full camera monitoring.  I would like to put some (mainly outdoor) cameras to record any thefts around the home, so I'm not sure what hardware to buy.  There are camera kits you can get at Costco that are pretty cheap, but they are not Z-Wave, so I'd have to use a completely separate system to connect and view those, and they wouldn't incorporate into the existing system at all, so I'm not sure what to use here.  Plus, I saw an AWESOME demo on the Mobilinc website where the guy had a camera in his garage that had a microphone, so he had it alert his phone when the volume when above a certain threshold when his security system was enabled.  THAT is the level I would (eventually.......baby steps) like to achieve.
 
Otherwise, the rest that comes with it would just be gravy.  Does anyone have any suggestions with which hardware/software combinations I should go with to reach that level?  At least something to start?
 
Thanks,

Deadeye
 

drvnbysound

Senior Member
First, welcome to the forum! I think you'll be able to find a lot of information here about what it is that you want to do. Lots of experienced installers around...
 
I'd suggest that you study the security aspect of what you want to do a bit more... reason being is that there is NO WAY that I'd suggest anyone rely on Zwave devices for security purposes. I have 20-ish Zwave devices of my own and really don't have any issues with them. Having said that, I know that I have missed Zwave messages (that is a light didn't turn on when I know it was supposed to). What I wouldn't want is my alarm system to not alarm when it was supposed to. That said, Zwave for Automation - sure, no problem. Zwave for security - no way!
 

Deadeye

New Member
Wow, that's a bit eye-opening.   So, it's not because of the wireless aspect (wireless is NOT the best for security, but I don't think I will be dealing with the most sophisticated criminals), you just don't think it would be reliable enough to trigger when there's an actual break in? Is it that un-reliable?  

Do you know if there are any uh, "reliable" security options that might have the capability (or option) to notify you via some other method, but still be reliable to alarm when there is an actual issue?  I suppose I don't NEED the security system to be z-wave.  I just thought that I might be able to use some of the motion sensors with some automation scripts.
 
Gotta admit though, your reply takes a bit of wind out of my sails.  Thought I had found a "magic bullet" in Z-Wave.
 
Though, I do appreciate the honest reply.
 
drvnbysound said:
First, welcome to the forum! I think you'll be able to find a lot of information here about what it is that you want to do. Lots of experienced installers around...
 
I'd suggest that you study the security aspect of what you want to do a bit more... reason being is that there is NO WAY that I'd suggest anyone rely on Zwave devices for security purposes. I have 20-ish Zwave devices of my own and really don't have any issues with them. Having said that, I know that I have missed Zwave messages (that is a light didn't turn on when I know it was supposed to). What I wouldn't want is my alarm system to not alarm when it was supposed to. That said, Zwave for Automation - sure, no problem. Zwave for security - no way!
 

Sparkman1

Active Member
It's not that unreliable and there are a number of people using it for security purposes.  I prefer and have a hard-wired system so would always reccommend that first, but in cases where it's difficult and you are doing self-monitoring, it could be a reasonable trade-off.  Z-Wave has now obtained UL approval for security purposes, but I don't believe devices with this approval have been released yet.  Many consumer grade security systems will start coming with zwave sensors. Take a look at HomeSeer and CQC as software options too.  I have nearly 90 z-wave devices on my network and its very reliable.
 
Cheers
Al
 

drvnbysound

Senior Member
I certainly won't say that it's totally unreliable so I hope I didn't make it sound that way. I've had my Zwave network for a number of years now and I would overall classify it as pretty reliable and robust. However, as I mentioned there are times (maybe 3-5) where I know a device was supposed to turn on/off and it didn't. Is that 99.5% reliable, or 99.9? I have no idea really, but the fact remains that a device was supposed to be triggered and it didn't - and it's happened more than once. That's not good enough to me for a security system. If someone is making their way into my home it needs to be detected. If a person goes undetected for some other reason (not covered, they cut a wire, etc), I get it, but to me a communication issue with sensors is unacceptable when you are talking about safety and security. Are there other people using them? Sure there are - absolutely. I won't be one of them. There are better systems available on the market.
 
I don't have an issue with wireless sensors when it comes to security. I've installed systems that use wireless sensors (Honeywell, Elk, etc)... just not Zwave. YMMV.
 

linuxha

Active Member
There's a nice Youtube video of a gentleman using a <$100 TI board to tell the Z-Wave lock that it should unlock. He didn't know the original information he just assigned his own and the lock opened. He doesn't give many details but I'm sure it wouldn't be hard for any of us to figure it out in a few minutes.
 
Update:
I found out a bit more about that Z-Wave hack. It appears it's one vendors implementation. The vendor has fixed the problem.
 
Hack video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gn-amPvXn6M
 
Counter point: http://suretydiy.com/can-hackers-unlock-my-z-wave-door-lock/
 

Deadeye

New Member
Sparkman1 said:
It's not that unreliable and there are a number of people using it for security purposes.  I prefer and have a hard-wired system so would always reccommend that first, but in cases where it's difficult and you are doing self-monitoring, it could be a reasonable trade-off.  Z-Wave has now obtained UL approval for security purposes, but I don't believe devices with this approval have been released yet.  Many consumer grade security systems will start coming with zwave sensors. Take a look at HomeSeer and CQC as software options too.  I have nearly 90 z-wave devices on my network and its very reliable.
 
Cheers
Al
 
 nearly 90 z-wave devices    :eek:
From what I've been reading, I'd rather go with wired for the security system, but I just won't be able to wire up the window sensors, and some of the motion sensors so I've been looking into Elk.  Apparently it's quite popular in the home automation circles, but I just need to find out if they can support a mix of wired and wireless.
 
 
drvnbysound said:
I certainly won't say that it's totally unreliable so I hope I didn't make it sound that way. I've had my Zwave network for a number of years now and I would overall classify it as pretty reliable and robust. However, as I mentioned there are times (maybe 3-5) where I know a device was supposed to turn on/off and it didn't. Is that 99.5% reliable, or 99.9? I have no idea really, but the fact remains that a device was supposed to be triggered and it didn't - and it's happened more than once. That's not good enough to me for a security system. If someone is making their way into my home it needs to be detected. If a person goes undetected for some other reason (not covered, they cut a wire, etc), I get it, but to me a communication issue with sensors is unacceptable when you are talking about safety and security. Are there other people using them? Sure there are - absolutely. I won't be one of them. There are better systems available on the market.
 
I don't have an issue with wireless sensors when it comes to security. I've installed systems that use wireless sensors (Honeywell, Elk, etc)... just not Zwave. YMMV.
Those are pretty reliable numbers for me.  Yeah, it would be incredibly unfortunate if a window break or motion sensor failed when someone was breaking in, but if your system is 99% reliable, it's probably highly unlikely.  But since I'm rewiring the electrical in my home, I'm going to try to wire as much security line in as I can, so I think I'm going to go with a wired security (probably Elk, from what I've been reading).  As I mentioned above, I just want to make sure that if I use an Elk wireless sensor, that I can still use it on my ISY to use it for automation (IE: sensor detects movement, turn on lights).  I still haven't found an answer to that question though.
 
 
linuxha said:
There's a nice Youtube video of a gentleman using a <$100 TI board to tell the Z-Wave lock that it should unlock. He didn't know the original information he just assigned his own and the lock opened. He doesn't give many details but I'm sure it wouldn't be hard for any of us to figure it out in a few minutes.
 
Update:
I found out a bit more about that Z-Wave hack. It appears it's one vendors implementation. The vendor has fixed the problem.
 
Hack video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gn-amPvXn6M
 
Counter point: http://suretydiy.com/can-hackers-unlock-my-z-wave-door-lock/
Yeah, that's a pretty disturbing video.  Makes it seem so easy to get past the system and really shows the risk of going wireless.  Do you know if you have an Insteon system, can someone get access to your system through an outdoor plug in?
 

linuxha

Active Member
Deadeye said:
Yeah, that's a pretty disturbing video.  Makes it seem so easy to get past the system and really shows the risk of going wireless.  Do you know if you have an Insteon system, can someone get access to your system through an outdoor plug in?
 
The second link provided additional details that pointed out that the manufacturer's firmware had problems. Z-Wave itself doesn't have this issue if the full protocols are used.
 
In the old Insteon (just the Power Line Communication) there was no encryption used in the communication. I don't know about the new stuff but it doesn't have encryption then it is possible. But I don't know of any attacks.
 
I'm very suspicious of wireless but I'm still experimenting with it (Z-Wave and ZigBee).
 

picta

Active Member
Deadeye said:
 nearly 90 z-wave devices    :eek:
From what I've been reading, I'd rather go with wired for the security system, but I just won't be able to wire up the window sensors, and some of the motion sensors so I've been looking into Elk.  Apparently it's quite popular in the home automation circles, but I just need to find out if they can support a mix of wired and wireless.
 
 
Those are pretty reliable numbers for me.  Yeah, it would be incredibly unfortunate if a window break or motion sensor failed when someone was breaking in, but if your system is 99% reliable, it's probably highly unlikely.  But since I'm rewiring the electrical in my home, I'm going to try to wire as much security line in as I can, so I think I'm going to go with a wired security (probably Elk, from what I've been reading).  As I mentioned above, I just want to make sure that if I use an Elk wireless sensor, that I can still use it on my ISY to use it for automation (IE: sensor detects movement, turn on lights).  I still haven't found an answer to that question though.
 Elk is a combination of security and automation controller, it can also control zwave units directly, and if this is not enough, there is an ISY plugin for Elk. Elk can combine wired and wireless sensors (made by Elk and by others via a bridge). I would not recommend using zwave sensors for security.
 
Also, you mentioned older home, zwave does not behave uniformly in different settings, and it is prone to interference by metal. Before you invest more into zwave, download a free trial of Homeseer software and check what you can control from a PC using your dongle. The locks will need "beaming" devices in order to operate, and usually the controller has to be in close proximity due to the low signal from the locks.
 

drvnbysound

Senior Member
Deadeye said:
Those are pretty reliable numbers for me.  Yeah, it would be incredibly unfortunate if a window break or motion sensor failed when someone was breaking in, but if your system is 99% reliable, it's probably highly unlikely.  But since I'm rewiring the electrical in my home, I'm going to try to wire as much security line in as I can, so I think I'm going to go with a wired security (probably Elk, from what I've been reading).  As I mentioned above, I just want to make sure that if I use an Elk wireless sensor, that I can still use it on my ISY to use it for automation (IE: sensor detects movement, turn on lights).  I still haven't found an answer to that question though.
 
Those are complete guesses as I've never done any formal testing or recorded actual numbers.
 
Let's assume for example that I have 10 Zwave events per day, or 70 in a week. If I miss one of those a week that's ~98.5% reliable - for example sake let's call it 99%. Technically, yeah, 99% sounds pretty accurate... but that's also saying that I do miss at 1 event EVERY WEEK! 52 events missed in a year! Like I mentioned earlier, yeah, if that's just my garage light not turning on when I opened the door... who cares?! If it's the other... much bigger deal!
 
I'll guess that I have between 8-12 automated Zwave actions per day. I would estimate that 1-1.5 are missed (or significantly delayed) per 2 weeks. So it's probably closer to 25-30 missed a year. Again, totally guessing solely on general observation. I've yet to observe any of my wired sensors to not work as expected... in my personal residence of 8 years. I obviously can't say the same for Zwave.
 
Also note that I'm only referring to Zwave wireless. I have a much higher confidence in Honeywell or Elk wireless security sensors (e.g. glass breaks, motions, etc).
 

Deadeye

New Member
picta said:
 Elk is a combination of security and automation controller, it can also control zwave units directly, and if this is not enough, there is an ISY plugin for Elk. Elk can combine wired and wireless sensors (made by Elk and by others via a bridge). I would not recommend using zwave sensors for security.
 
Also, you mentioned older home, zwave does not behave uniformly in different settings, and it is prone to interference by metal. Before you invest more into zwave, download a free trial of Homeseer software and check what you can control from a PC using your dongle. The locks will need "beaming" devices in order to operate, and usually the controller has to be in close proximity due to the low signal from the locks.
I still need to learn a lot more about Elk.  I didn't know they also did automation.  I wonder if I can get away with just the Elk controller and not bother with the ISY then?  I guess it depends on whether or not Elk can do Insteon as well (I'd like to keep that option open for the future).  I didn't know Elk made wireless sensors as well.  That makes things a LOT easier. I'll probably just go with all Elk for security then, and Z-Wave/Insteon for all other automation.
 
Haven't tried Homeseer yet, so I'm not sure if it will work with the dongle, but I can try it out.  I was going to try Axial's software, but I'm not sure which one would be better.  Not sure what you mean by beaming devices (does that mean line of sight?), but the controller will be fairly close (if not, I can put in some Z-Wave outlets in between to extend the range) as we are in a smaller bungalow (not a lot of metal either).
 
 
drvnbysound said:
Those are complete guesses as I've never done any formal testing or recorded actual numbers.
 
Let's assume for example that I have 10 Zwave events per day, or 70 in a week. If I miss one of those a week that's ~98.5% reliable - for example sake let's call it 99%. Technically, yeah, 99% sounds pretty accurate... but that's also saying that I do miss at 1 event EVERY WEEK! 52 events missed in a year! Like I mentioned earlier, yeah, if that's just my garage light not turning on when I opened the door... who cares?! If it's the other... much bigger deal!
 
I'll guess that I have between 8-12 automated Zwave actions per day. I would estimate that 1-1.5 are missed (or significantly delayed) per 2 weeks. So it's probably closer to 25-30 missed a year. Again, totally guessing solely on general observation. I've yet to observe any of my wired sensors to not work as expected... in my personal residence of 8 years. I obviously can't say the same for Zwave.
 
Also note that I'm only referring to Zwave wireless. I have a much higher confidence in Honeywell or Elk wireless security sensors (e.g. glass breaks, motions, etc).
I guess when you're hitting that many events, then you are bound to have failures even at 99% success rate.  Do you know what causes this? Perhaps you have a gap in your Z-Wave mesh that just happens to get hit with a certain event?  Have you noticed  any patters?  I'm OK with lights not working sometimes, but like I mentioned to Picta above, I'll probably go with Elk for all the security stuff.
 

drvnbysound

Senior Member
No indication of what's caused any of my drops... and you'll find many complaints about the lack of good Zwave troubleshooting tools. I use Leviton's RFIT to setup the network and it gives you a test option with a success rate - with 20+ devices in a ~1500sq ft home they are all pretty close together and I get 100% success rates when testing this way... it's the real life operation where I see the misses. No patterns and not even specific lights every time that I've observed.
 
I too would recommend the Elk and that is what I have as well. I have my Elk integrated with the Zwave network.
 

Deadeye

New Member
drvnbysound said:
No indication of what's caused any of my drops... and you'll find many complaints about the lack of good Zwave troubleshooting tools. I use Leviton's RFIT to setup the network and it gives you a test option with a success rate - with 20+ devices in a ~1500sq ft home they are all pretty close together and I get 100% success rates when testing this way... it's the real life operation where I see the misses. No patterns and not even specific lights every time that I've observed.
 
I too would recommend the Elk and that is what I have as well. I have my Elk integrated with the Zwave network.
Weird.  
I'll try that RFIT to set-up my network too.   Thanks for the recommendations.
 

picta

Active Member
Deadeye said:
I still need to learn a lot more about Elk.  I didn't know they also did automation.  I wonder if I can get away with just the Elk controller and not bother with the ISY then?  I guess it depends on whether or not Elk can do Insteon as well (I'd like to keep that option open for the future).  I didn't know Elk made wireless sensors as well.  That makes things a LOT easier. I'll probably just go with all Elk for security then, and Z-Wave/Insteon for all other automation.
 
Haven't tried Homeseer yet, so I'm not sure if it will work with the dongle, but I can try it out.  I was going to try Axial's software, but I'm not sure which one would be better.  Not sure what you mean by beaming devices (does that mean line of sight?), but the controller will be fairly close (if not, I can put in some Z-Wave outlets in between to extend the range) as we are in a smaller bungalow (not a lot of metal either).
Beaming devices allow to communicate with devices in sleep mode, which are usually battery operated devices, locks for example. Not all zwave devices support beaming, but the newer ones should. You'll need an ISY to operate Insteon, but you can integrate it with Elk via a plugin.
 

Deadeye

New Member
picta said:
Beaming devices allow to communicate with devices in sleep mode, which are usually battery operated devices, locks for example. Not all zwave devices support beaming, but the newer ones should. You'll need an ISY to operate Insteon, but you can integrate it with Elk via a plugin.
So the beaming devices wake up the sleeping devices?  I'm still not sure I understand, or are you referring to the wireless signal as beaming?
 
Yeah, after all the reading I've been doing, I'm going to get the ISY994i ZW to support Z-Wave, then get the Insteon PLM.  Probably get an Elk M1 and use that to integrate with an Ethernet card to the ISY.   That should be all the hardware I need to buy at the moment.  Once I have it all connected and configured, I'll start buying devices.
 
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