Whether they do it for fun, energy savings or simply to make their lives easier; more and more people are looking to automate their homes. One of the largest sectors of this automation push is in power and lighting control and if you think about it, that makes sense. The typical home has more of these circuits than thermostats etc. Years ago geeks were accomplishing this automation through X10 but now the most common protocols are Z-Wave and ZigBee, with the recent new comer being Bluetooth. All of these protocols operate on mesh networks and are capable of passing along commands to distant devices. There are many companies out there that make these devices but only one that GE
trusts to license their name to... Jasco
Jasco has been around since 1975 and produces a wide range of consumer electronics and their home automation devices cover the three main protocols mentioned above. Jasco's most complete offering is in the Z-Wave
arena. Here they have in wall and plug in switches (indoor and outdoor) as well as outlets and fan controls. The also offer a large indoor/outdoor smart switch which is geared towards pool pump control. The ZigBee
line up currently only offers indoor solutions. Since Z-Wave has a more robust offering we will focus on that line; but much of what is covered would apply to ZigBee devices as well. In a series of upcoming reviews we are going to take a look at a few home automation products from Jasco, with the first being a GE branded Z-Wave in wall smart dimmer switch (model 12724).
Features and Specifications:
The GE Z-Wave in wall smart dimmer switch is a paddle style device, but they also have toggle style switches available. The switches are designed for 120VAC 60Hz and are rated for 600W incandescent or 150W dimmable CFL/LED, and can only be used with copper wiring. Operating temperature range is listed as 32-104F and the Z-Wave range is listed as 100 feet. As expected from a quality manufacturer, the device is also UL listed and comes with a two year warranty.
Packaging and accessories:
Older versions of the GE Z-Wave products were in clamshell packaging but thankfully that has been replaced by a well designed full color box. The front of the box has a picture of the switch contained inside and shows that it includes an alternate almond paddle. Also important to note is Jasco's use of color coding. All Z-Wave products will have a green stripe down the left side, ZigBee will be red, Bluetooth will be blue and products that are interoperable will be gray. This is a great feature allowing end users to know they are getting the protocol they wanted quickly and easily. The side of the box shows the most common compatible hubs you'll need to control your new switch and the back confirms the switch can be used alone or in multi-way setups as well as some possible functionality.
Lifting the cover of the box reveals a smart home guide and manual with the switch neatly secured underneath. Below the switch is a small zipper bag with the almond paddle and a white jumper wire.
On the front of the switch there is a very small LED and an air gap switch. On previous versions the device kept a small amount of power going out to the load at all times, so if you needed to change the bulb you could pull the air gap switch, the LED will go out and the it will remove all power from the field. The problem was this small amount of current was enough that LED's and CFL would remain lighted. This redesigned switch utilizes the neutral so the power doesn't have to go through the circuit to power the Z-Wave radio and LED on the front. On one side there are two screw terminals, one for the load and one for the line connection. The other side has a terminal for the neutral and a piece of tape covering a terminal for a traveler. This terminal connection is only used if you have more than one switch controlling the same light but I will cover those details in the add on switch review next. These terminals are clearly marked when viewed from the back.