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Z-Wave Associations and Scenes

Question

What's the difference between Z-Wave Association and Scenes, when should I use them?

Answer

In Z-Wave systems, Associations and Scenes are used to enable one device to control other devices in the system. They do behave differently and there are reasons and times to use either.

Associations

An Association is made directly between one device and another - it can control one device or a small 'group' of other devices (typically 5 or 6 devices).

The advantage of using Association is that commands are sent directly from the 'controlling' device to the 'controlled' device(s), the commands are not sent via the central Z-Wave controller.

This method helps reduce unnecessary network traffic and is good for simple On/Off, non-conditional commands.

For instance, a Z-Wave motion sensor could be associated with several Z-Wave dimmers, when the motion sensor detects movement (tripped), it can immediately send a BASIC Set command (ON) to the associated dimmers - turning those lights on. Normally this type of sensor will also send an OFF command a set amount of time after it has last detected motion. This time would be set in the sensor's configuration settings.

Most devices have 1 or 2 'Association Groups' and send different types of commands to each group - check the device's user manual for details.

Associations are typically configured in the central controller. The 'controlling' device is 'associated' with the devices that it will control. More information is in APNT-19: Associating Devices in Z-Wave Controllers.

Scenes

Scenes give you much greater control of your system. They can send different types of commands to multiple devices, they can use sensors as inputs, and can make conditional decisions.

This is easier to explain with a few examples.

  • One scene could be a 'movie' scene - this turns some lights off, others lights to a low dim setting and turns the TV and AV equipment on
  • Another scene could be running the heating - measures the room's temperature (using a Z-Wave temperature sensor) and decides if the heating should be On or Off - it will only turn the heating On, if it is during a particular time period
  • For the motions sensor, you may wish the sensor to only activate the lights if it is later than 6pm - a scene will be able to control this
  • Scenes are created in the central Z-Wave controller, you select the triggers, schedules and how the scene will control devices - most controllers have very good 'scene editors' to help you create your scenes.

Summary

In summary, Associations are easy to configure, but offer limited control of other devices. Scenes are more complex to create, however, they offer infinite control of devices in the system.

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