Product Reviews

Entering the Z-Wave Zone One Step at a Time

Posted January 18, 2017

I have always been enchanted by that car commercial where a homeowner pulls into his driveway, reaches up to the overhead transmitter and with a touch of a button opens the garage door and lights up the house. Finally, I got around to installing the same features in my home only to discover that I not only purchased the wrong house but apparently the wrong car as well. More precisely, the built-in remote control in my car did not communicate with my house and the garage door opener did not communicate with anything. Normally, I would have just given up the idea if it were not for two life-saving Z-Wave devices from Wayne-Dalton, the Lear Car2U garage door converter and the Wireless Gateway Module. To complete my first Z-Wave scenario I also installed two Light Modules (which will be discussed in greater detail in the next installment) and rounded off the project with a Wayne-Dalton Key Chain Remote.

The Wireless Gateway Control by Wayne-Dalton is a programmable control panel with up to three sets of instructions (called “Scenes”) that can be activated with a push of a button. That button can be one of the conveniently located device itself or on your Wayne-Dalton Key Chain Remote control. For those who want to go the extra step, Wayne-Dalton also offers the Car2U converter that permits your garage door to be opened from their Key Chain remote.

Overall, the project was certainly easier than installing a water heater or clothes dryer but required some forethought. In fact, planning where the various Z-Wave modules would go and how they might interact opened my mind to the realm of possibilities. Even better, for the price of a microwave you can get started and for the price of a dishwasher you could automate your entire home. It’s just a matter of taking the first step.

The first step for me was to install the Car2U converter. This turned out to be a great problem solver since my vehicle, which came with a HomeLink® remote control, does not want to work with my Sears Craftsman® garage door opener. I still need to have a separate remote to open the door, but at least it will be a Z-Wave compatible one.

Installation was elementary in nature but a lot of little starts and stops pushed a 20-minute job well past two hours. For example, the documentation is as clear and easy to read as you could hope for, but then everything came to a halt when I installed the twin-lead wire connecting the Car2U module to the door opener. The illustration of the existing door opener was different from reality.

Note in Figure 1 that the Car2U installation document (left) refers to a “typical” terminal connection as being two or three clearly labeled holes. What I had (right) was four leads with no markings at all. This required that I trace every wire to determine what I was dealing with. The documentation did offer me two clues that I managed to interpret correctly. The first was to specify that the “P.B.” label referred to in the manual was the “Push Button” opener on the wall. The other was the “Hint” to “Connect to the same two terminals used by your existing wall control.” From that I deduced that the first and second terminals from my opener should be connected in the same order to the Car2U receiver. I seemed to have guessed correctly.

Figure 1. Documentation vs. Reality

Another addition to the overall project time was the fact that I did not have the original documentation for the garage door opener. This required some digging on the Sears web site looking for the correct manual.

There is one point that the Car2U document really does not clarify well enough. There is a long screw that you need when attaching the module to the power outlet. While it does explicitly state to “Be careful not to over tighten,” it does not specify why. I bounced that statement off of three people and each one felt it was a warning not to break the unit. However, when I did overtighten the screw, I didn’t realize what I had done until I did a visual inspection. It turns out that the caution not to overtighten is not a reference to the tension but rather to the fact that the module can and will become partially unplugged from the outlet. This is especially problematic since the outlet is almost always upside down. (See Figures 2 and 3.)

Figure 2. Too tight
Figure 3. Just right.

The fact that I had to somewhat guess about the terminal connections (and I tend to be overly cautious around electricity), added more time to the project. Therefore, I had to turn the main power off and on several times. While this is hardly an issue if you are living in California, where the panel is usually in the garage, I live in a colonial style home in New England. The main power panel for the house is deep in the basement so that it will not freeze in winter.

In the end, the Wayne-Dalton Car2U Converter worked the very first time. It should be known that the device itself is very basic and quite easy to deal with. The place where it needs to be installed is not.

For about $30 you can purchase a Z-Wave compatible remote control that fits on your key chain, slips easily into a pocket or purse, and even comes with a clip attachment so that you can fasten it to your car visor. Programming the remote is a breeze. Just activate the program button on the Z-Wave control device – in this case the Car2U converter – and then select the desired button on the remote.

Figure 4. Key Chain Remote

The remaining two buttons can either be used for additional garage doors or can be used to activate “scenes” that are programmed into in-house controllers like the Wayne-Dalton Wireless Gateway.

The range between the Key Chain Remote and the Car2U converter was over 150 feet. However, the remote had problems communicating with the Gateway after 65 feet. (The Gateway is placed on the other side of the wall that is adjacent to the garage car door.) This was hardly a scientifically derived set of numbers but it does point out a likely discrepancy in distance between the two devices. Therefore it might not be a good idea to program one button to open both the door and turn on lights at the same time (like I did). If you are within range of the Car2U converter but not within range of the Gateway, the garage door will open but the lights inside the house will not go on.

The next step in the process is to get my Key Chain Remote to announce my arrival to the house to turn some lights on. Programming the secondary buttons on the Remote was child’s play. One needs only to remove the Gateway from the wall outlet, push and hold a “Scene Button” until the LED goes out, then hold the Remote transmitter down until the Gateway’s LED flashes three times. Done? Not yet. This is where the real journey begins.

The final step is to install the lighting modules in my house. It was at this point my true initiation into the Z-Wave world was to take place. It’s best to locate the Gateway in a place that reflects your regular pattern of behavior. Do you approach the house from the far side of the garage or the near side? Do you need to turn lights on upstairs? What about the yard lights? What happens in winter? This will let you see the vast possibilities of home automation. Fortunately, the Wireless Gateway offers enough room to get started and expand without having to worry about having purchased too small a capacity.

The gateway offers up to three “Scenes.” A Scene (or more accurately, a Scenario) can be as simple as turning on a light or as complex as activating every Z-Wave module in the house. To get started, I placed two lighting modules on lamps in the living room. I will be leaving Scene 1 open for a future project. Scene 2 will be defined as turning both lamps on dimmed mode and Scene 3 will be both lamps on full. Programming the Scenes was even easier than explaining it, but here goes.

  • Plug the lighting module in the wall.
  • Plug the lamp into the module.
  • Set the lamp to the desired lighting level.
  • Bring the Gateway over to the module.
  • Press the Scene button on the Gateway you want the module to associate with (until the LED went out).
  • Immediately press the program button on the lighting module.
  • Wait for the confirmation flashes on the Gateway.

It honestly takes twice as long to say it than do it, although the first time I managed to get the sequence wrong. The instruction manual is extremely literal. Trying to anticipate what to do next without reading through the document never worked. On the other hand, once I learned the proper sequence my training was over since every module I add will be exactly the same.

Placement of the Gateway was obvious in my case because the garage is the first part of the house I come to regardless of direction. Therefore, the device was placed in the mudroom – a common space found in a typical New England home that all but replaces the front door.

Figure 5. Gateway placement

An additional consideration is that the average mudroom is also the door where people enter after walking in from the street. We frequently walk home in the dark, so it’s a real benefit to be able to turn on lights throughout the house from the first door we enter. In this way, the Wayne-Dalton Wireless Gateway becomes a second light switch. We even placed a nightlight above the Gateway to help zero in on the buttons should we want to go there first.

An interesting bonus is the fact that the Gateway is HomeLink® compatible, which means the remote transmitter buttons in our non-Z-wave compatible cars have a potential use after all. The only drawback is that the Gateway only permits one remote control at a time. So, for the time being, I will continue using the Key Chain Remote to open my garage door, Button #1 will still talk to the Car2U converter, and my wife will have her HomeLink® remote be the one that turns on the lights.

Ratings

Overall Strength

Ease of Installation

Documentation

Value

Quick Reference

Product Name
Car2U Garage Door Converter, Key Chain Remote, Wireless Gateway Module.

Company
Wayne Dalton

Rants and Raves

Raves
The documentation is great but it’s critical to follow it to the letter. The three products all worked as they were supposed to once installed and delivered on the promise of connecting my garage door opener with the house lights. The three scenes were easy to program and set up. If you’re looking for a way to get started with Z-Wave based home control and you want to have the added security of turning on the lights in your house when you pull into the garage, this could be the product for you.

Rants
Some of installation took longer than it should have — some was user error, some was unclear direction on the illustration in the documentation. I also needed to dig up the original manual for my garage door opener (not the fault of the products, however) but that did add to the time it took to complete the installation.

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