Guide to Z-Wave based home automation in Singapore

From my previous post, if you have decided that you’d like to engage a professional or DIY  a home automation system based on a wireless protocol, you may consider Z-Wave. In this article, I’d like to go a bit more detailed for installing a Z-Wave based home automation, especially in Singapore. I may cover my thoughts on other protocol in the future, so bear with me for this one.

What is Z-Wave?

Z-Wave is a next-generation wireless ecosystem that lets all your home electronics talk to each other, and to you, via remote control. It uses simple, reliable, low-power radio waves that easily travel through walls, floors and cabinets. Z-Wave control can be added to almost any electronic device in your house, even devices that you wouldn’t ordinarily think of as “intelligent,” such as appliances, window shades, thermostats and home lighting.

• Z-Wave Is Simple – Z-Wave control is easily added to almost any device in minutes. Simply plug the device you want to control into a Z-Wave module, and “join” it to your Z-Wave network!

• Z-Wave Is Modular – With Z-Wave, you can add as much or as little home control as you want over time.  You can add Z-Wave to a device, a room, a floor or the entire home, according to your needs and desires.

• Z-Wave Is Affordable – Unlike costly whole-home control systems that need special wiring and professional installation, Z-Wave is accessible and easy for the do-it-yourselfer.

• Z-Wave Is Powerful – Z-Wave’s intelligent mesh networking ‘understands” the present status of any enabled device, and gives you confirmation that your devices have received the automatic or manual control commands you want.

• Z-Wave Is Versatile – Z-Wave can be added to almost anything in your home that uses electricity, and gives you the power to control or monitor them from your home or away from home.

• Z-Wave Is Intelligent – Z-Wave enabled devices can work together as a team.  Have your main door turn on your house lights when you come home. Have your door locks notify you when your children arrive home from school. Turn your living room lights off from your bedroom. Create your own intelligent control “scenes” with Z-Wave!

Where can Z-Wave devices be found?

You don’t find much Z-Wave products in Singapore with the exception of a few brands like MK Astral which I heard are more expensive (I’ve not managed to contact any dealer for the price, please correct me if I’m wrong). These products are common in US and Europe but not so in Asia. You will probably need to order online from websites like SmartHome (US based products) or UK-Automation (UK based products). Before you go ahead and jump into these website to order your products, you’ll need to know which devices are suit for use in Singapore.

What do you mean by suit for use in Singapore?

I’m sorry that I have to go slightly more technical here. The bad news is that Z-Wave is a protocol that works in multiple frequencies for different countries. Also, you may need to take note of the voltage which the devices support.

Z-Wave comes in different radio frequencies, for UK, its 868.4 Mhz, for US, its 908.4 Mhz. This means that devices purchased in UK do not work with US and vice versa. For the voltage, I assume my readers know that you should never buy any devices that works in US voltage (120V) in Singapore.

The good new is, in short, you only need to focus on Z-wave devices that runs on 230V and run on a radio frequency of 868.5MHz in Singapore!

What devices should I buy?

There is only a few categories of devices that Z-Wave can control currently. Depending on your needs, the following are the broad category of Z-wave modules (which you can google using the same exact terms)  that you may like to purchase:

  1. Z-Wave Switch modules – For controlling built in ceiling/down lights (i.e on/off)
  2. Z-Wave Dimmer modules – For controlling dimmable built in ceiling/down lights (i.e setting intensity to 25%, 50% etc)
  3. Z-Wave Switch sockets – For controlling on/off power to electrical appliances that you plug in to normal power socket (i.e TV, home theatre system)
  4. Z-Wave Dimmer sockets – For controlling dimmable floor lamps, bedside lamps that you plug in to normal power socket
  5. Z-Wave Blind/Shutter modules – For controlling blinds/curtain/shutters
  6. Z-Wave Sensors – For sensing motion, opening/closing of doors
  7. Z-Wave Thermostats – For, obviously, temperature control

Regardless of the devices that you’d like to control, you will always need a Z-Wave controller. The Z-Wave controller can come in a form of handheld remote controller or a central controller that looks/works like a router. I will go into details for each of the devices in my future post but for the sake of illustration for a basic 4 rm HDB setup, you may require the following devices:

  1.  4 x Z-Wave switch modules (for master, dining, bedroom and study)
  2.  1 x Z-Wave dimmer modules (for living room if you use dimmable bulbs)
  3. 1 x Z-Wave Blind/Shutter module (for curtain/rollers in living room)
  4. 1 x Z-Wave Switch socket (for turning on/off power to TV console)
  5. 1 x Z-Wave central controller (for communicating/controlling the devices above)

What brands do you recommend?

Personally, I’ve used Düwi Z-Wave modules and Vera 2 as central controller. You may like to google and read up more on these devices. Düwi works well with Vera 2 controller and is one of the cheapest Z-wave modules available.

However, I do not recommend Düwi for HDB due to its form factor. As we know, for HDB flats, its compulsory to install pattress box for light switches and these Düwi modules do not fit into the pattress box well. You may end up fitting the module in the pattress box but unable to use a physical switch cover to cover the pattress box. If you are installing in a private apartment where you can happily drill a hole in the wall and install a flushed switch cover, you can use any brands.

Other brands which works well with Vera 2 includes ACT, Fibaro and Everspring. In fact you may like to refer to this compatibility list if you encounter any other brands. Rule of thumb is to ensure they have an EU version (i.e support 868.4 Mhz).

What else do I need to consider before installation?

You will also need to consider if you are renovating your new home or retrofitting your current setup. You will need to open up an light switch in your home to check the wires. If you see only 2 wires in the light switch, you will need to engage a professional electrician to lay neutral wire from your main switch to the light switch. Thus, if you are renovating or moving into a new place, that will be the best time to start your project. You’d be surprised to know that despite being a wireless protocol, most Z-Wave switch modules require a neutral wire to operate. Z-Wave dimmer modules, however, only require live and earth.

One last thing. You will require an inquisitive mind to explore the various settings once you have install and setup the Z-wave devices with the Vera central controller. Otherwise you may consider engaging an experienced installer to complete your setup.

Cheers,

Domotics

Sources: Z-Wave.com

5 thoughts on “Guide to Z-Wave based home automation in Singapore

  1. Hi Domotics,
    Thanks for this fantastic write up and the first for the Singapore users. A big thank you and appreciation for the effort. You have answered 80% of the question for a newbie like me. I have another couple of questions I am sure you will have the answers:

    1.Z-Wave Switch modules – For controlling built in ceiling/down lights (i.e on/off).
    I presume from the likes of the article you are staying in a private apartment. Does it mean that you have to cut a hole in the wall for every moduls switches? Since private apartments do not require a pattress box.

    The next question will be : How durable are these switches ?

    3rd question : Surfing on some of the vendor I see that there are central controllers that you can buy off from them. Is there way to incorporate controlling these z-wave modules as an app into apple or IPAD via Wifi/ local LAN ? Since VERA looks like connectable to the local LAN.
    Looking forward to hear from your expert opinions

    Regards,
    Chin

    1. Hi Chin,

      Thanks for your comment.

      For private apartment, if you unscrew an existing switch from the wall, you will see that a hole already made to hold the wires. You just need to make sure the module can fit inside existing space behind the switch.

      I’m not able to comment on the durability yet as I’ve only used them for almost 1 year. No problem so far.

      Yes. To incorporate iPad and iPhone, you will require a central controller like Vera. I’ll probably cover that in details in my future post. 🙂

  2. Hi, I started my zwave journey last october. The toughest part of the whole deal is the neutral wire. You will find that no singapore household’s switch socket is laid with neutral. Since mine is a new house I practically hacked all walls with conduit path for neutral to all my switches (lighting and ceiling fans). Instead of using a vera or pc based controller, I’m using the Comfort with zwave bridge controller to setup complex lighting control. Thats all for now,

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