Z-Wave Modules are probably the most flexible devices available to smart home enthusiasts. Modules can be used to control pretty much anything you can think of - lights, power, pumps, blinds, awnings, heating, cooling, gates... the list is endless. Combine them with other home automation devices like sensors and you have full control of your home.
The Module manufacturers have different module types designed to do specific roles, this gives you the best product for the job, but can make choosing the right product a little more difficult. You also have the choice between manufacture to contend with, although, remember that you can mix and match manufacturers on the same system as they are all Z-Wave compatible.
Additionally, there are two broad module styles - Standalone and DIN mounting. Standalone modules can be used anywhere, including in light switch back-boxes, whereas DIN modules are designed to be mounted on a DIN rail in a suitable enclosure or consumer unit.
This short guide explains the purpose of different modules, what they are used for and gives extra details to help select between the manufacturers.
Standalone Modules and Types
Firstly, almost all modules are what we term 'actuators' - meaning that they physically control an electrical appliance, circuit or light. To do this they control the power to those circuits, so they do need to be wired into the circuits to be controlled. More information is available in our Getting Started guide, and to help you with the wiring, we have numerous wiring guides available in the Application Notes section.
Dimmer modules, as there name implies, enable you to control the brightness of a light. They are wired into the mains lighting circuit and control the voltage going to the lights on that circuit. The new range of dimmers all now feature 'trailing-edge' dimmer circuits which are designed to work well with LEDs (they also work great with halogens and old style incandescents).
Dimmer Modules - things to think about:
Neutral - Can the dimmer work without neutral? This is important if you plan to install the module in the light switch as most lighting circuits do not have neutral available at the switch (termed a 2-wire circuit).
Trailing-edge - The latest dimmers feature 'Trailing-Edge' control, which means they work well with LEDs. Older 'Leading-edge' dimmers will not work with LEDs.
Information - More information about these issues and other things to consider is available in our Smart Lighting guide.
Relays are physical switches, they include a set of switch contacts that physically open and close allowing you to control the power supplied to the connected load. Relays are incredibly versatile, they can be used anywhere that you wish to turn an appliance or load on and off - lights, power circuits, pumps, gates...
Relays are also useful for lighting circuits where you wish to control lights that are not suitable for control from a dimmer such as fluorescent and high power outside lights. However, do note that all relays need neutral.
Relay Modules - things to think about:
Neutral - All Z-Wave relays (switches) need neutral. Check that you have neutral available.
Single / Double - Most relay modules are available in single or double versions. The Single controls one circuit, the Double will control two separate circuits.
Dry Contacts - Most relays have the supply voltage as the output from the contacts. However, some offer 'dry contact' versions - this means the contacts do not have a voltage on them allowing them to be used as pure switches in such things as alarms, or controlling a different voltage.
These modules are similar to relays as they have switch contacts, but have been designed specifically to control blinds and shutters. They allow the module to be calibrated so that it knows the position of the blind - if it is open, closed, 50% open etc, allowing you to have the blinds open/close to preset positions.
Blind/Shutter modules - things to think about:
Neutral - Like relays, the blind/shutter modules need neutral. Check that you have neutral available.
AC Mains Control - Most blind/shutter modules are designed to control mains (230VAC) blind motors.
DC Blinds - Motors using a DC supply often use a different method to reverse the motor's direction, call 'polarity reversal', There are some modules available specifically for this type of motor (Qubino).
Blind/Shutter modules - product choices:
Fibaro Roller Shutter 2
Qubino Shutter Plus
Qubino Shutter DC
Control of AC motors and blinds
Control roller & venetian blinds, awnings and gates
These are special modules that allow you to control the brightness and colour of LED strips. The modules can control four channels, allowing them to control the LED strip's four colour channels (Red, Green, Blue & White). They can also be used to drive four separate channels of 'white' LEDs.
RGBW modules - things to think about:
DC only - Do not confuse these with normal mains dimmers (shown above). These must be installed in the low-voltage (DC) circuits supplying the LED strips.
DIN modules have the same functions as the standalone modules, but are designed to be mounted on a DIN rail. This allows a number of modules to be installed together in a single enclosure, making the overall installation more tidy and easier to maintain.
We have two DIN module solutions available. The range of Qubino DIN modules are complete DIN modules ready to fit. The Eutonomy euFIX adapters are designed specifically to house Fibaro modules allowing them to be fitted to a DIN rail.
Qubino DIN Modules
The Qubino DIN modules are ready to fit to a DIN rail, they are available in various types including Dimmer, which can be used by itself, and Switches that must be used with the Power Meter DIN Module.
The Eutonomy euFIX adapters are designed specifically for Fibaro modules, allowing them to fitted into DIN rail enclosures. There are twelve euFIX adapters available to support the six Fibaro module types, plus each adapter is available with and without push-buttons.
Importantly, the euFIX adapters make ALL of the Fibaro module's connections accessible - so you keep all the module's features and functionality, just wrapped up in a DIN housing.
Hopefully this guide has helped clarify what options are available, what the different modules do, and shown the comparison between manufacturers. If you need any further help or advice, contact Vesternet and we will answer all your questions.