How to Set up a Z-Wave System: A Beginner’s Guide

How to set up a z-wave system

Do you want to bring your home into the 21st century by making it smart? The fact that you found this article, makes me think you do, which is fantastic! Not only that, but deciding to get a Z-Wave system is a great first step! ..But, now what? If you’re confused about how to set up a Z-Wave system, don’t worry, we've got you covered! 🙂


Benefits of a Z-Wave System

When first jumping into the realms of home automation, it's easy to get tempted by products that offer "easy installation" and eye-appealing ads. The only problem, is that these devices are usually proprietary, so they don't play well with others.

Z-Wave products, on the contrary, are able to ingrate seamlessly with each other, which means your smart home can be set up in any way imagineable.

What About Wifi, Bluetooth, and Zigbee Products?

These products work at a different frequencies than Z-Wave and they can more easily be interrupted by your web surfing, movie streaming, or any other wireless devices in your home. Z-Wave communicates at a lower frequency (900 MHz to be exact), which means you'll likely have less interference. A lower frequency also means the signal goes further.

Z-Wave also operates on a mesh network so that each device relays the signal further. That means you’ll get a much smoother working smart home with Z-Wave, than you would with other technologies.

That isn't to say Wifi, Bluetooth, and Zigbee devices shouldn't be in your home. After all, there are Z-Wave hubs that support all four technologies. I'm just saying, they shouldn't be your main home automation technology source; That should be Z-Wave.

How to Set up a Z-Wave System

1

Choose a Z-Wave Hub


The brain of every Z-Wave system is a hub. Like the name implies, this is the device that connects all of your other devices together. Without it, you're Z-Wave devices wouldn't be able to communicate.

The hub wires directly into your wireless router (some even have wireless routers built in) and it, not only connects your devices together, but it also connects your home automation system to the outside world. That way you can control your lights, thermostat, and doors from anywhere.

When choosing a Z-Wave hub, you want to look at the interface to make sure it’s something you can easily learn. It’s also important to look at the reviews of different hubs and of the company’s tech support in case you need help figuring out how to set up a z-wave system. Alternatively, you can simply read our article on which Z-Wave hub is best.

2

Choose Your First Z-Wave Devices


It's important to put thought into which devices you’re going to start with. That way you don’t end up duplicating your efforts later. For example, you could buy a smart light switch or a smart light bulb to be able to control a light from afar, but both would likely be overkill.

Lighting control is a good place to start. In fact, lighting was the whole reason Z-Wave was created in the first place, but today it's grown into something much larger.

Controlling your lights is convenient, because you can automate them to turn on when certain rooms are occupied or have them turn off when you leave home. You could even have them turn on and off randomly while you're away to fool thieves into thinking you might be home.

You could also start with HVAC control (ie. a smart thermostat) or even motion sensors. The joy of a Z-Wave system is that you can add more devices later, which makes the network stronger and more customizable.

We suggest making a list of smart home goals (ie. automate lights based on motion, lower energy bills), then figure out which devices would help you accomplish those goals. Alternatively, you can contact us and we can help guide you.

Useful Link: 13 of the Best Z-Wave Devices For Home Automation

3

Sync to Your Hub


Once you get your devices (at least one), you can start building your system and automating your home. The first step is to install the device.

Many devices need to be integrated into the existing electrical wiring in your home, much like you would install a regular fixture or switch. Others can retrofit more easily, like screwing in a Z-Wave light bulb into a standard fixture or mounting a battery powered motion sensor. In any case, you need to get the device in place first.

After you've done that, you need to go to your hub and follow the steps to add the device into your system. This is where the hub you choose can either help you or confuse you when setting up a z-wave system. Easy to use hubs can automatically detect smart devices and sync them to the system, but others take some work.

Adding a device will vary by hub and the device itself (ie. see this post)​. The best thing you can do is check your hub's forum and the instructions included with the device. Chances are you should be able to figure it all out from there.

4

Automate Your Smart Home


Now that you have your devices synced to your Z-Wave hub, forming a wireless mesh network, you can automate them however you want! This is the fun part of home automation!

Using your Z-Wave controller, you can set up what are called “scenes” on Vera and "SmartApps" on Smartthings. These are specific sets of circumstances triggered by events in your home. For example, when a door is opened, your smart thermostat turns on the AC and the lights in the front hallway come on. You can even set up automations for when you leave for work and when you go to sleep at night.


Home Automation Ideas

If you’re still a little worried about how to set up a Z-Wave system or what to do once you have your system set up, don’t worry. Here are some great ideas for fully utilizing your new automated smart home:

Lockdown

  • When your doorbell is pressed, your security cameras turn on and the footage displays on the TV.
  • Motion sensors outside make outdoor flood lights come on at 75% brightness when tripped.
  • Every family member has their own unique code for the door lock, so you can always know who is coming in the house.
  • Set up a door/gate to automatically lock five minutes after closing, so you never forget to lock up.

Vacation Mode

  • Your TVs in various rooms and both indoor/outdoor lights turn on and off throughout the day making it look like somebody’s home.
  • Push notifications are sent to your phone when the doorbell is pressed or a door is opened.
  • Water valves can automatically shut off water flow should a flood sensor be tripped and then alert you via text message.
  • Automatically turn the thermostat to a certain temperature when you’re gone, and a different temp when you are on your way home.

Energy Friendly Home

  • Light sensors control the brightness of indoor and outdoor lights, so that your indoor lights don't turn on when it's bright outside.
  • Use a whole home energy monitor to measure of the power consumption of your home in real time, so you know exactly how much energy you’re using.
  • A weather app notifies your hub when it's raining, so your sprinkler system doesn't waste water running on a rainy day.
  • Set your thermostat to notify your hub to lower or raise or your drapes depending on the time of day or the temperature outside.

With these tips, you should feel a lot more comfortable knowing how to set up a Z-Wave system. Now you can just focus on customizing your smart home to your needs.

If you have any questions about setting up your Z-Wave system, let me know in the comments and I'd be happy to help you.

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