Z-Wave is still alive and kicking. It’s been a while since I had the opportunity to do a product review, but thanks to the new line of GE Z-Wave devices
by Jasco Products Co., we’re back in business.
At first glance, the Jasco GE Dimmer Switch looks strikingly similar to the ACT HomePro ZDW100 and ZDW103, but a closer look reveals several differences
(see Figure 1).
Figure 1. GE on Left, ACT HomePro on Right
One of the problems with electronic dimmers is they generate a significant amount of heat. To dissipate the heat, Jasco has taken a creative approach that
differs from other manufacturers. Jasco’s heat dissipation tabs are folded in the center to wrap the sides of the switch. When installing either the
GE Z-Wave Dimmer (ZW3001-WCS) or ACT HomePro (ZDW103) dimmer into a multi-gang electical box you are forced to remove these tabs due to space constraints.
Removing these tabs reduces the load capabilities of the switches. In other words, the switch with the tabs is capable of handling a load of 500 watts
and when you remove one or both of tabs, the load rating is reduced by nearly half. The middle heat dissipation tabs folded over the sides allows the
switch to fit next to another similar switch by removing only a small amount of the heat dissipation surface area. This is a plus in my book and might
even be an improvement in safety and electric efficiency. Even if you insure your home with State Farm, Aviva,
Allstate or any other provider, it is still a good idea to improve the safety of your dwelling. In addition, utility companies also promote reduction
in electric consumption.
Since the Jasco GE ZW3001-WCS resembles the ACT HomePro ZDW103 so closely, it makes sense to continue this review as if it were a comparison. The next
thing I noticed was the GE ZW3001-WCS does not require a neutral wire. Instead a small amount of current is always flowing through the load (lights),
which is how the switch is able to stay ON even when the lights are OFF. The “No Neutral Required” feature of the switch makes installation simple
even in older homes that typically do not have neutral wires present in electrical boxes. This differs from the ACT HomePro ZDW103 whose manual indicates
that a neutral wire is required.
After installing the GE ZW3001-WCS Dimmer I was pleasantly surprised to find that it has a Blue LED (see Figure 2). (The ACT HomePro ZDW103 has an Amber
LED.) The GE ZW3001-WCS Dimmer allows for advanced configuration of the LED. By default the LED is ON when the lights are OFF. However, according to
the manual, this can be changed so that the LED is ON when the lights are ON and OFF when the lights are OFF.
Figure 2. Blue LED
Unfortunately, Jasco Products uses the same hard-to-access Air Gap switch. An Air Gap is a manual switch designed to physically disconnect power to lights.
The Air Gap should be used when changing light bulbs so that you don’t get shocked and there is no risk of shorting out the switch and causing damage
to it. This particular Air Gap switch is located next to the Blue LED and as you can see above in Figure 2. It can be hard to access because the cover
plate is just about flush with the Air Gap. (Side note: My wife, who has fairly long fingernails, does not have the same difficulty that I have controlling
the Air Gap.)
Sticking with the comparison theme, there is one final fact that distinguishes the Jasco GE ZW3001-WCS from the ACT HomePro ZDW103. The GE ZW3001-WCS is
UL (Underwriters Laboratory) certified whereas the ACT HomePro ZDW103 is ETL (Intertek Laboratory) certified. Both UL and ETL are recognized by the
NEC (National Electrical Code). This is interesting to note as it suggests that these two products are indeed different and the GE ZW3001-WCS is not
just a rebranded version of the ZDW103 (see Figures 3 and 4).
Figure 3. GE Jasco UL
Figure 4. ACT HomePro ETL
Ease of Installation
GE Dimmer Switch
GE, Jasco Products
Rants and Raves
The GE ZW3001-WCS dimmer does not require a neutral. Also, its heat dissipation tabs have been folded over in the middle allowing for easier installation in multi-gang boxes.
The GE ZW3001-WCS air gap switch is difficult to activate if you don't have long fingernails.