Wireless Systems


Wireless systems can apply to lighting systems or whole-house automation solutions. By definition they are solutions employing radio frequency communication between a central controller and external components of the core system. The external components can be slave controllers, human interface devices such as touch panels, lighting or thermostat control devices, or relay/sensor sub-controllers.

Examples of wireless systems are Insteon for lighting control, ZWAVE for lighting/climate controls and Control4 for whole-house automation systems.

The core components of these systems use radio-frequency (RF) technology as the backbone connection between the central or master controller and other system components. This class of system may also include standard interfaces such as Ethernet for communication between the master controller and other components, RS-232 for serial communication with a subsystem or device from a different manufacturer, or infrared emitters for control of off-the-shelf audio/video components such as TVs, receivers, DVD players, etc.

Because these systems use RF technology, communication between components is reliable and fast. Technical support comes from one source for the core system, and product quality is consistent throughout. These systems have a significant advantage for retrofit applications as wireless components require no extra wiring. For example a wireless thermostat would replace a traditional thermostat, and a wireless wall switch replaces the existing wall switch. The central controller or control devices in a peer network use RF communications to control other system devices.

On the flip side support for other popular sub-systems or devices is non-existent unless the system also supports other IEEE or industry standards. Interference from other home appliances can impact the reliability of RF communications, however wireless systems that use the same RF band as your appliance can normally be configured to use different channels within the band to eliminate this possibility.

Popular RF protocols in use today in wireless automation systems include Insteon, ZWAVE, and ZigBee (IEEE 802.15.4).

The following table compares these 3 protocols:

Wireless Home Control Systems Control4 Products (Zigbee) Insteon Products ZWAVE Products
Wireless Network Topology Mesh, each device strengthens signal reliability Mesh, each device strengthens signal reliability Mesh, each device strengthens signal reliability
Wireless Network Specification IEEE 802.15.4 Smarthome Labs developed Zensys developed
Lighting/Appliance Control Control4 wireless switches/dimmers, lamp/appliance modules & keypads Smarthome wireless switches/dimmers, lamp/appliance modules & keypads Intermatic wireless switches/dimmers, lamp/appliance modules & outdoor lighting module
HVAC Control Control4 Wireless Thermostat T1700/T1800/T1900 Thermostats w/Insteon Thermostat Adapter Homeseer RCS TZ16 ZWAVE Thermostat
Entertainment Center Control Control4 HC-200/HC-300 Controller IRLinc - Insteon IR Receiver integrates a universal remote Logitech Harmony 890 Remote Control
Security System Control Control4 Contact/Relay Extender plus serial interface to security systems ELK M1Gold Kit is Insteon enabled GE Choice Alert Wireless Alarm
Whole-House Control System Control4 Home Controller Cortexa 7202 or Homeseer V2.0 Home Controller (Insteon enabled) Home PC w/Homeseer V2.0 & HomePro RF Interface for ZWAVE
Unique Features Control4 product line enables whole-house automation from a single manufacturer Sends dual wireless and powerline signals First wireless technology available for home automation
Uninstalled Cost for Entertainment Controller Plus 3 Light Switches $886, HC-200 + 3 Wireless Dimmers $319, Insteon Starter Kit w/3 wall dimmers (add $$ for universal remote of your choice) $534, Harmony 890 + 3 ZWAVE Wall Dimmers