Tag Archives: Expert

EZMultipli How-To for Vera

vera_logo_tmVera is one of the more popular home automation platforms and with the UI7 release it fully supports the EZMultipli muli-sensor. The main selling points of Vera are “no monthly subscription fee, no contracts and no hassles” which pretty much sums Vera up. Vera is an easy to use system with good support and an active user community who are often quicker to respond to questions than the Vera technical support team.  Vera has several platforms to choose from. I’m using the VeraEdge in this How-To which for only $69 is a good deal. This post will show you how to get the most out of Express Controls EZMultipli Z-Wave MultiSensor and specifically how to use it with Vera UI7. Refer to the EZMultipli User Manual for more details.

EZMultipli Multisensor

ezmultipli200The EZMultipli performs five functions:

  1. Motion Sensor
  2. Temperature Sensor
  3. Light Level Sensor
  4. Color LED indicator
  5. Z-Wave Range Extender

What sets the EZMultipli apart from the typical battery-powered motion sensors is that it is wall powered so you never need to change the batteries! Because EZMultipli is wall powered it is a Z-Wave range extender and adds another routing node in the Z-Wave mesh network. If your Z-Wave network is a little flakey and you have some nodes that are having trouble reporting in reliably, adding an EZMultipli or two will provide additional routes for every Z-Wave node to talk to every other node. The sensors are just a bonus!

Because EZMultipli is simply plugged into an outlet, there is no mounting required. No screws, no tape, no mending of the wall when you move. This makes EZMultipli ideal for apartments, offices or other short-term uses where you’ll want to take it with you when you leave. But what if you don’t have an outlet in the right spot for detecting motion? Ah… that is a problem and not every device can solve every problem. EZMultipli was specifically designed with a wide-angle lens to capture motion in any direction out to about 12 feet. So it doesn’t have to be placed in the perfect location to be able to detect motion where you need it. It is ideal for kitchens, bathrooms and garages which often have unused outlets in handy locations. You can also put it in unused outlets under a table or chair. Obviously it isn’t much good behind a couch or other solid furniture. Some locations like hallways will have to use a battery-powered motion sensor because the sensor has to be in just the right place and there are no outlets in that place.

Another placement problem involves pets. If you put the sensor down low in a typical wall outlet, virtually any pet from a cat to a small dog will trigger the motion sensor. You have to either put the sensor up on a higher outlet or in a room that pets are not allowed in when you need to detect if a burglar is in your home. In my case we always close off our home office from the pets during the day when we are not home. Only the EZMultipli in the office and the one in the garage will send us a text when the home is in Away mode.

Setup and Configuration

The first and most important step is to make sure you are running Vera Firmware Version 1.7.2406 or later. Check the firmware via Settings->Firmware and the screen will show you which version you currently have and if there is an upgrade available. You can include the EZMultipli into Vera but previous firmware versions didn’t understand the Z-Wave Notification command class used by EZMultipli so it isn’t very usable without at least this version.

Include EZMultipli into Vera in the normal way: Devices->Add Device->Generic Z-Wave Device->Next->Next then press the button on the side of EZMultipli. You should get a device called “EZM” which is the default name. Pick a room. Then click on FINISH.

You’ll then have three new devices:

  1. vera3sensorsEZM which is the motion sensor
  2. _Temperature Sensor which is obviously the temperature sensor
  3. _Light Sensor which is the light level in the room

Initially the temperature and light level sensors don’t have a value but in a few minutes the sensors will send readings the values will update. Rename the devices to more meaningful names  by clicking on the > and entering a new name. These three sensors are the main sensors – but where is the color LED? Currently you have to load a Plug-in to use the color LED. Hopefully in a future release Vera will add support for the Z-Wave Color Command Class and we won’t need the plugin anymore. To add the plugin click on Apps->Install Apps and then enter “EZM” into the search bar and the EZMultipli Color Utility will come up. Click on DETAILS and then install the app. While you’re at it, search for DataMine2 graphing plug in and install that too.

vera4sensorsWith the plugin installed there are three more devices but the only one that is interesting is the EZM Light 2 which has the 8 LED color buttons as shown here. Assign that device to the same room as the other EZMultipli sensors. I create a virtual room called ZZZVirtual to put all the extra stuff I don’t normally want to see so it’s at the bottom of the screen.

If you wave your hand in front of the motion sensor, the EZM device will go red indicating the sensor has detected motion. If there is no motion for 10 minutes it will go back to being grey which means no-motion. NOTE! The motion sensor sends a MOTION command when motion is initially detected. Then, only after the OnTime number of minutes of there being a complete lack of motion will the No-MOTION command be sent. The sensor does NOT send a motion command every time it detects motion (though you can enable it to do that).

Vera Scenes

The most common thing you want to do with a motion sensor is to turn on a light when motion is detected and turn it back off again when no one is in the room. With Vera, we do this with Scenes. Click on Scenes->Add Scene. This will open up a wizard that will guide you thru the process. Step 1 picks the device which in this case is EZM and we’ll choose “Whenever EZM detects motion whether is armed or disarmed”. Step 2 is to pick a light to control. In this case we’ll chose the EZM Color and chose the green color. Click on Next step, scroll down and name the scene then click Finish. Next click on the RUN button just to be sure the scene works. There are tons of other options you can choose as part of the scene so try them out and experiment. You can set the scene to only run at certain times of the day or certain days of the week. This is handy for example to set the brightness of a dimmer to be only 20% late at night when all you really want is a night lite to get down a hallway without stepping on the toys your kids left in the hallway.

Configuration Parameters

EZMultipli has five configuration parameters that change how the device responds to various events.

  1. OnTime – Number of minutes the light will stay on when motion is not detected
  2. OnLevel – Dim level sent to Association Group 2 nodes
  3. LiteMin – Number of minutes between luminance reports
  4. TempMin – Number of minutes between temperature reports
  5. TempAdj – Temperature adjustment

The most important parameter is the OnTime parameter. As the name implies, OnTime is the number of minutes the lights will be ON after motion stops being detected. When you walk within range of the motion sensor, Vera receives a Motion event immediately. Vera can then turn lights on or if you configure association group 2 EZMultipli can control the lights directly. Let’s say you then walk around the room for 5 minutes and then walk out of the room. Then 10 minutes later, Vera will be sent a No-Motion event. Why 10 minutes and not 5? Because OnTime is set to 10 minutes which starts counting down when you left the room, not when you entered. Here are some recommended values for the OnTime parameter:

  • OnTime=0 disables sending OFF commands. Only ON commands are sent. This setting is not recommended.
  • OnTime=1 is the minimum setting. For example, late at night you could set the timeout to be only the 1 minute since you’re probably just passing thru. But at dinner time you want a much longer timeout of 30 minutes to prevent Vera from turning the lights off at the dinner table while you are eating dinner. Having to wave your arms in the air in the middle of dinner to turn the lights back on will lower your Wife-Acceptance-Factor (WAF).
  • OnTime=5 minutes is generally a good setting for hallways or other places that you are actively moving thru and only need the lights on while moving thru the space
  • OnTime=10 default setting which is OK for most use cases.
  • OnTime=30 minutes is recommended for rooms where people might be sitting for some time such as in an office or watching TV.
  • OnTime=60 minutes or more might be necessary for a room where someone might be sitting for a long time perhaps reading.

Remember that EZMultipli detects MOTION, not people. So the people have to be moving within range of the sensor otherwise the lights will turn off while they are still in the room!

veraconfigTo change parameters, click on the > on the EZM device and then the Device Options to get the screen shown here. If there are no configuration settings shown, click on the Add Configuration Settings button and one will be created. Select “1 byte dec” in the Data Size field then enter the desired value for the OnTime parameter in the Desired Value field. Then click on Save Changes.

Refer to the EZMultipli User Manual for details on the other parameters. The challenge with the Vera parameter user interface is that it only uses unsigned integers whereas many parameters are signed values. For example, parameter 5 is the TempAdj parameter which is in 1/10ths of a degree Fahrenheit and is a signed number. So if you want to adjust the temperature readings of EZMultipli up by 1.2 degrees you enter 12. But if you want to lower the readings by 1.2 degrees you have to enter the number of 256-12=244. The other parameters are unsigned 1 byte integers so they don’t require this crazy math.

Z-Wave Association Direct Control of Lights

EZMultipli also supports the Z-Wave Association Command class. Associations are used to tell EZMultipli to send ON/OFF commands directly to other Z-Wave devices with out requiring a scene or even talking to Vera. The advantage of Associations is that it results in very fast response times and even if Vera isn’t running the lights will come on and off automatically. Note that if EZMultipli controls a device via Associations, the Vera UI won’t show the new state of the controlled device until it gets around to polling it which can be several minutes later.

Setting associations in Vera involves first clicking on the EZM device and then Device Options. Associations are just below the configuration parameters. Enter a 2 in the Group ID field and then Click on Add Group. Refresh the screen and there should now be Group ID 2. Click on SET and choose the device you want to directly control using EZMultipli. Finally click on Apply Changes. Once this is set, the device that is now associated will automatically turn on when motion is detected and turn off after OnTime minutes when motion is no longer detected.

 

Well that should get you started using EZMultipli with Vera. Future posts will include more advanced usage of the color LED and how to use the other sensors. If you have an interesting use case for the EZmultipli please add a comment or send an email to DrZwave at ExpressControls.com.

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Z-Wave Networks for Consumers

You have a Smart Home using Z-Wave as a wireless technology for all these Internet of Things (IoT) devices to communicate with each other. But maybe things are not working quite as well as you expect. You press a button on your phone and 1… 2… 3… and then finally a light comes on or maybe it doesn’t come on at all! Another common problem is when a battery powered sensor was updating the temperature last week and this week it just doesn’t seem to be sending updates anymore or at best sporadically. As a Z-Wave expert I’ve built and rebuilt hundreds of Z-Wave networks and have come up with a few habits to make Z-Wave networks more reliable.

1. Minimize Polling

This is probably THE number one mistake new users of Z-Wave make. They figure Z-Wave is a high speed network so they can just poll a light switch every 3 seconds and then react to any change in the switch. Z-Wave and most other wireless networks work best when the network is highly available. If the network is busy, every device that needs to send a message has to wait its turn and then compete (and often collide) with all that polling traffic. Collisions slow everything down just like rubber-necking on the highway.

Polling used to be the only way to get around a patent that fortunately expired in February 2016. The patent forced many light switch manufacturers to not send a message when you flipped the switch. Several manufacturers found ways to get around this or they licensed the patent. But now that the patent has expired, you can get light switches that do send a report immediately when their state has changed.

So the primary way to minimize polling is to replace the few devices in your Smart Home that trigger an event  (or SmartApp or Magic or whatever your hub calls it) with one that will instantly send an update. If you have some older switches but they’re not that important to instantly know their state has changed, you can still poll them but no more than once every few minutes. Remember that if you have 60 Z-Wave devices and you poll each one once/min then you are polling once/second and the network is hammered! So only poll a couple of nodes!

2. Have enough devices to create a mesh

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve worked with that had a door lock and a hub and nothing else, maybe a battery powered thermostat. And they wondered why the connection to the lock was unreliable when the hub was at the far end of the building! Z-Wave relies on Always-On (110VAC powered) nodes to build a “mesh” network. The mesh is the key to Z-Wave reliability. Every Always-On node acts as a repeater in the mesh and is able to forward a message from one node to another in the mesh. But only the Always-On nodes can forward a message. Battery powered devices like door locks and battery powered thermostats cannot forward messages. Only the Always-On nodes can.

Solution: If some devices are not reliable, add more Always-On devices. Add a Z-Wave repeater or any device like a lamp dimmer. Even if you don’t use the lamp dimmer it will act as a repeater and improve the network. I have a few lamp switches I use for my Christmas lights which I leave plugged in year round because they help the Z-Wave network since these nodes are at the periphery of my home.

Distance between nodes is not always the criteria for adding more nodes in a network. The Z-Wave radio signals may bounce off metal objects like mirrors or appliances and cause two nodes that are only a few feet apart be completely unable to talk to each other due to reflections of the radio signals. Adding more nodes in the mesh provide alternate routes to nodes that otherwise might be in a dead zone due to these reflections cancelling out the radio signals.

3. Place the hub in a central location

Putting the hub in a corner of the basement might be convenient, but its a terrible idea for Z-Wave. The hub is the most important node in the network and should have the best location possible. While Z-Wave is a mesh network and can route or hop thru other nodes in the mesh, each hop is a significant delay and chokes up the network with more traffic. Ideally the hub should reach 90% of the nodes in your Smart Home without relying on routing. If the hub has Wifi then putting it in a central location is easy, you just need a wall outlet to plug it in. I have my hub hung off the back of a TV cabinet in roughly the middle of the first floor of my home.

4. Heal the Network

Once a Z-Wave network is built, it has to be “healed” so every node can use all the other nodes in the network to route messages. This healing process can take many minutes to even hours depending on the size of the network. When you first build a Z-Wave network, the first node added only knows that the hub is in the network. When you add a second node, the hub knows that both the nodes are in the network but the first node you added has no idea that node 2 is there – unless you heal the network. So any time you add a node, you need to heal at least a few nodes in the network if not the entire network. Be cautious with the healing process – it uses 100% of the Z-Wave bandwidth during the process and every node will wake up every FliR node (door locks) at least once which will drain the batteries of the FLiR node. Generally only heal when nodes have been added or removed or if there seems to be a problem in the network.

Z-Wave is able to self-heal automatically. Z-Wave nodes will try various routes to get their message thru if at first it doesn’t succeed.  The node will remember the Last Working Route and try that one first for the next message. But if the nodes have no idea there are other nodes in the network they have no way of knowing what routes to try so at least one full heal of the network is required.

HomeSeer

homeseerhealHomeSeer has several platforms so the precise method might be slightly different than shown here. From the web interface home page select the menu Plug-Ins->Z-Wave->Controller Management then select the Action “Fully Optimize a Network”. The network wide heal will take some time depending on the size of the network.

SmartThings

SmartThings Expert Z-Wave Eric Ryherd DrZwaveSmartThings  user interface is thru their app which makes finding the network heal a bit of a challenge. Start from the dashboard and click on the three lines in the upper left corner. Your Hub should be the first choice in the menu that slides out, click on your hub. A new menu comes up, click on the last choice “Z-Wave Utilities”. The last choice on the next menu that slides in is “Repair Z-Wave Network” so click on it and then click on “Start Z-Wave Network Repair”. The repair will take from minutes to over an hour depending on the size of your network.

Vera

verahealVera has several versions of their UI but each of them has a similar menu structure so these instructions should work on any version. The Vera version shown here is UI7. Use a PC to log into GetVera.com and select your hub. From the Dashboard, select Settings->Z-Wave Settings and then click on the advanced tab. At the bottom of the advanced tab is the GO button to run the “Update Node Neighbors”. Depending on the size of the Z-Wave network this process will take several minutes to over an hour.

5. If a device doesn’t pair, first exclude it, then include it

You’ve taken the brand new Z-Wave IoT widget out of the box and you’ve tried to pair it (the Z-Wave term is “inclusion”) but it just won’t include! Arrrghhh! The first thing to try is to exclude the node first and then try including it. Any hub can “reset” or exclude a Z-Wave device even if that device was previously connected to another network. Some manufacturers occasionally fail to exclude the device during testing so the device may already be connected to their test network. Z-Wave Expert IoT WirelessOr you may have inadvertently included the device but the inclusion process failed somehow and the hub is confused. Excluding the node should reset it to the factory fresh state. Newer Z-Wave Plus devices (which have this logo on them) are required to have a way to reset them to factory defaults using just the device itself. Every device is different so you’ll have to refer to the device manual to perform a factory reset but if all else fails this should make the device ready to pair. Naturally having the hub physically close to the device being paired will also help though most devices can be paired from a distance.

Secure devices like door locks are particularly challenging to pair. First the secure device has to join the Z-Wave network, then the AES-128 encryption keys have to be exchanged and if that process fails (which it does on occasion), then you have to exclude and try the inclusion process all over again. Secure devices definitely want to be within a few feet of the hub during inclusion to ensure reliable and speedy Z-Wave communication.

6. Battery life and how to maximize it

When a battery powered Z-Wave device wakes up and turns on its radio, it uses 10,000 times more battery power than when it’s asleep. So the entire trick to making batteries last is to minimize the amount of time the device is awake. Some devices naturally have other battery draining activities mostly involving motors to throw a deadbolt or raise a window shade. Obviously any motor will use a lot more battery power than the Z-Wave radio but the radio will play a significant role in battery life.

When a battery powered device is added to a Z-Wave network the hub should do two things:

  1. Assign the Association Group 1 NodeID to the hub
    1. Association Group 1 is the “LifeLine” in Z-Wave and devices use this lifeline to send all sensor data and alerts to this node
    2. All hubs are required to assign Group 1 but double check this assignment
  2. Set the Wake Up Interval to no more than once per hour and ideally only a few times per day
    1. Every hub assigns the WakeUpInterval differently and largely handles it behind the scenes so this may be difficult to verify or change
    2. If the device is waking up every few minutes and sends a sensor reading then its battery life isn’t going to be more than a few weeks
    3. The battery level of the device is usually reported at the WakeUpInterval  rate

Many sensors have other Association Groups or Configuration Parameters that will let you specify the frequency of sensor readings. Realize that the more often the sensors report in, the shorter the battery life.

7.  Dead nodes in your controller

One of the big problems in Z-Wave network maintenance is eliminating “dead” nodes. When a device fails or for whatever reason is no longer in use, then it needs to be removed from the controller. If it remains in the controller then the controller will try to route thru this dead node on occasion resulting in delays in delivering messages. Eventually the self-healing aspects of Z-Wave will make this less likely but various devices will on occasion attempt to route thru it. Since the node is dead, that wastes valuable Z-Wave bandwidth and potentially battery power of sleeping devices. Occasionally running a Heal on the network will remove the node from the routing tables but it will remain in the controllers routing tables. It is best to completely remove this dead node. Each hub has a different method for removing dead nodes and usually requires going into an advanced Z-Wave menu.

Following these guidelines will help your Z-Wave experience be more robust. If you have more questions please feel feel to reach out via email to drzwave at expresscontrols.com.

Z-Wave Repeaters cannot test FLiR Nodes using Power Level CC

The Z-Wave Power Level Command Class has a number of very handy (but rarely used) commands to test and maintain a robust Z-Wave network. Power Level CC is required to be supported by all Z-Wave Plus devices so any new device on the market supports it. The purpose of this command class is to measure the quality of each link in the Z-Wave mesh network. Naturally, some devices have good links and some have not so good links. Some devices have really good antennas and are placed in good locations, others have terrible RF antennas and are stuck inside a metal box with only one side exposed and down a long concrete hallway. Power Level CC helps you figure out which links are strong and which links are weak. Informing the user that some links are weak and giving them the recommendation to install another node into the mesh to strengthen the links and make the network robust will make for a superior user experience.

Power Level Test Node Set

The POWERLEVEL_TEST_NODE_SET command has the following parameters:

  • Test NodeID (1-232)
  • Power Level (0-9)
  • Test Frame Count (2 bytes, MSB first)

The device that receives this command will send Test Frame Count NOP packets at the Power Level to the Test NodeID. The Test NodeID will ACKnowledge each NOP that it receives. Once the device has sent all the NOPs, it will return the number of NOP ACKs were received. Simply put, this command returns the percentage of packets that can be exchanged between these two devices at the power level chosen.

Sending a few dozen packets at different power levels enables the quality of the RF link between the two nodes to be measured. Do this with all the nodes in the mesh and you can build up a view of the mesh with different colored links between them based on the quality of the RF link.

Learning – you can’t send a Test Node Set to test FLiR nodes

While attempting to use this feature, I found that you can’t send NOPs to FLiRs (Frequently Listening Routing Slave). FLiRs nodes are a special type of node in Z-Wave. They are battery powered devices that can wake up when you call them! Basically they wake up once per second and briefly listen for a special WakeUpBeam. If they hear it, then they wake up and you can talk to them. Since they are asleep most of the time they use very little battery power and have a little latency but otherwise are great for things like door locks, window shades or thermostats.

The problem with Power Level Test Node Set is that the command does not tell the device that is sending the NOPs that the Test NodeID is a FLiR node and has to send a wake up beam to it. Thus, if you send the command, all you get are complete FAILs since the FLiR node has been asleep all this time because the sender didn’t tell it to wakeup.

Sigma stated that sending an AssignReturnRoute command to the repeater to give it a return route to the FLiR node the repeater should then know the destination is a FLiR node. I tried this with a repeater running SDK 6.51.06 but the repeater still did not send a WakeUpBeam so this isn’t a solution yet.

Workaround – Send the Test Node Set to the FLiR node to test the repeater

The solution to this problem is to reverse the testing and send the Test Node Set command to the FLiR node with the repeater node as the Test NodeID. A WakeUpBeam will be sent by the controller (and any repeaters in the mesh network) to send the Test Node Set command to the FLiR node. Once that node receives the command, it’ll blast out the NOPs to the always-on repeater and then send you a report when it’s done.

Well, you can only do this if the FLiR node supports PowerLevel Command Class. Unfortunately, door lock manufacturers  move pretty slow so their firmware may not support PowerLevel CC yet.

I’ve been wanting to use Power Level CC to show some cool mesh network quality drawings but haven’t had the time to do it… yet… Stay tuned…