If you’re getting started in the world of home automation, Z-Wave is probably a term you are very familiar with. After all, using Z-Wave technology and devices, you can set up your home to basically operate from your smart phone.
When talking about “controlling” or “automating” your home, we’re referring to the ability to control temperature, lights, security systems, and more. The best part of this technology is that everything is wireless! No more ugly wires hanging off of electronics, or spending time (and money) trying to figure out how to hide cords!
With Z-Wave technology on the rise, questions like, "Can you hook up multiple Z-Wave Controllers together?" pop up all the time. In this article, we’re going to dive into why you’d want to use multiple controllers for your Z-Wave products, how to do so, and if it’s the right choice for you!
Remember that “controller” and “hub” are interchangeable words, so if your new to this, don't be confused! 🙂
Why Should Multiple Controllers Be Considered?
There are a few reasons why home automation enthusiasts would want to use multiple controllers for their devices. However, before we get to that, let’s first talk about what the controller’s functions are for your home automation network;
It's simple – the controller manages and controls all of your Z-Wave devices.
It is the brain of your smart home, the device that controls every other device in your home. For example, if you wanted to lock your doors, the controller, or hub, would receive the signal from your phone/computer and tell the smart lock to lock itself.
So, why would you want multiple hubs?
Having more than one controller for your smart home is a great way to control multiple devices easily, and it helps ensure one hub isn't being overworked! Using a different type of controller than you initially used to set up your smart home network also allows you to take advantage of different hub features.
Since controllers are what the network uses to communicate to all of the different devices in your home, it’s important to remember that the hubs need to be in a central location, one that allows easy access for the wireless signal to travel.
The nice thing about Z-Wave (and mesh networks in general), is that the signal can jump from device to device until it finds the device the end user is attempting to control, but that can cause extra power, and sometimes the signal can get lost. Not to mention, the signal can only be passed, or jumped, from up to four devices, so you don't want to separate your devices too far..
This is where multiple controllers come in handy. When you have one controller in a central location, and an additional controller (or two) in other areas of your home, the signal can travel directly from the controller to the device, no device jumping needed.
That direct contact leaves little room for errors, and increases the stability of your Z-Wave network!
Setting Up Multiple Controllers
Here's where things get technical. As this will vary by hub, here's the general step by step:
You will need to re-organize your Z-Wave network, allowing the additional controllers access to your devices. Your devices will each be assigned a unique “node ID” that will pair with the “Home ID” of your Z-Wave Network.
Following the set up instructions on your Z-Wave device will allow you to see the home and node IDs. When you have more than one controller set up on your network, you will notice that the second controller is not allowed to add any additional devices to its network. This is normal – your primary controller is the only controller allowed to have more than one device routed directly.
Think of your primary controller as the “master” controller with the other devices (additional controller included) acting as “slaves” (not controlling other devices directly) to the main controller.
Physical Placement of Controllers
When working with multiple controllers, placement is important. You want your additional hubs to be in areas of your home that allow the signal to transfer quickly to each Z-Wave device with little to no blockage.
Z-Wave technologies allow devices to communicate with each other if there is a barrier blocking the direct signal from controller to device, but that usually weakens the signal.
When you place your second controller, its job is to take some of the burden of signal jumping off of your primary controller. Setting the secondary controller in a different room, or even on a different floor, is a great way to ensure that this communication is not disrupted at any point. The secondary controllers act similar to the primary controller, but without the ability to add additional hubs or devices to their own network.
Their goal is to ensure that the signal reaches the devices quickly and efficiently, without having to route through too many different devices. Controllers are the central hub where information travels back and forth from devices, and straight to your phone, tablet, or laptop.
When Are Multiple Controllers Needed?
If you are experiencing issues with dropped signals between your Z-Wave devices, or find that a particular controller is asked to perform too much data management, it may be beneficial to begin looking into additional controllers.
Another reason to get multiple controllers is if you want to control devices using different protocols. For example, if you wanted to control Z-Wave, ZigBee, and X10 devices, you could bridge a Vera and Homeseer hub to control all three.
There are many hubs to choose from, all in different functions and price points.
As we mentioned earlier, the ability to tap into the specialties of each controller is another option (and perk) of having more than one controller for your Z-Wave network.
You could also consider options like having one controller in charge of all the locks on your house. This can include front and back doors, garage doors, windows, anything with a lock. Knowing what this controller is in charge of will allow you to strategically place the hub in a location central to these devices.
Other Things to Consider When Purchasing Additional Hubs
Here are a few other highlights to consider when you are about to purchase an additional controller for your smart home.
Accessories: Does this controller support all of the needed accessories to your devices (ie. 3G capability, alarm built in, etc)? Ensure that the one you’re purchasing supports what you need!
App Flexibility: You want to make sure the controller you’re using has the ability to connect to different applications. Does the hub you’re researching have an app that you can utilize and is it well reviewed?
Technologies: Is this particular hub compatible with the technologies that you’re using? Is it able to run updates as more technologies are released? The last thing you want to do is purchase a new controller and have the technology be obsolete in a few months!
Over all, the decision to expand your Z-Wave network is up to you, the user. As your network grows, you may feel the need to expand on your controllers more urgently than you do at the start of your automated smart home.
Diligent research, along with knowing what is needed in your own unique situation, are equally important to get the right type of equipment for your Z-Wave devices.