Impressions from Installing and Configuring Devolo Home Automation Control Center

As a first step, I had installed remote con­trolled (Z-Wave) ther­mostats for my radi­a­tors. In addi­tion, I installed Devolo’s Con­trol Cen­ter and reg­is­tered on its web­site for access to the con­trol cen­ter. I had thought, from a pri­or email exchange with Devolo’s sup­port, that it would not be nec­es­sary to use their web ser­vice. How­ev­er, I was not able to iden­ti­fy (or find doc­u­men­ta­tion) about a web server or some oth­er man­age­ment UI on the con­trol cen­ter, so I decid­ed to go through their web­site. I resent this, as I didn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly want them to have data on my home con­fig­u­ra­tion, but it was the fastest way to a work­ing set-up.

The first step was still a hard­ware instal­la­tion step. I need­ed to plug-in the con­trol cen­ter box and con­nect it to the Inter­net. My cur­rent solu­tion below uti­lizes a Fritz! pro­duct, Eth­er­net over power-line. The Devolo Con­trol Cen­ter comes with its own built-in Eth­er­net over power-line sup­port and is sup­posed to be plug com­pat­i­ble with the Fritz solu­tion, alas, this did not work out of the box. It is the one remain­ing prob­lem to solve for me, lat­er.

The Develo home automa­tion web ser­vice works quite nice­ly. I’m usu­al­ly skep­ti­cal of hard­ware com­pa­nies devel­op­ing soft­ware, but this one is OK. The soft­ware has a sleek mod­ern look and has done its job so far. 

The real nui­sance of set­ting up a home automa­tion net­work like this is the laten­cy of con­nect­ing devices. It takes ages to have a device rec­og­nized, added to the sys­tem, and con­fig­ured. Z-Wave, or the Devolo prod­ucts, for bet­ter or worse, are rather prick­ly, as is my impres­sion. In the end, the soft­ware “trained me” to not be too impa­tient but rather work in the pre-configured 5 min­ute incre­ment inter­vals of tak­ing steps.

In a bit more detail:

  • Rec­og­niz­ing a device. You ini­ti­ate the process on the web and then scur­ry around the apart­ment to push the right but­tons on the devices. There is a tim­ing issue, in that you have to push the device but­tons fast enough after process ini­ti­a­tion, not too long and not too short to trig­ger the right com­mand, and final­ly be rather patient until the con­trol cen­ter tells you it found the device. (Or may­be it is just their web ser­vice which is slow.)
     

    The most com­mon com­pli­ca­tion is that the device can­not be reached by Z-Wave. My apart­ment isn’t huge, but it does have Alt­bau walls (i.e. solid stone walls). I could not find a sin­gle loca­tion for the con­trol cen­ter that would make it reli­ably reach all ther­mostats. How­ev­er, Z-Wave can use any plugged-in and con­nect­ed device as a repeater, and so I installed a switch­able pow­er out­let, which relayed the com­mu­ni­ca­tion and final­ly allowed me to reach all devices.

  • Adding and con­fig­ur­ing a device. All of this is done on mydevolo.com, Devolo’s web ser­vice for home automa­tion. It looks nice, but is a bit slow. It remains unclear to me whether their ser­vice is under­pow­ered or it is the Z-Wave con­nec­tion to the devices which is so slow. In any case, bring patience, and then it will work. At least it did so for me. 

Sev­er­al times, in order to speed up the process, I want­ed to unscrew a ther­mostat from the radi­a­tor and take it right next to the con­trol cen­ter. I’m assum­ing this would have sped up recog­ni­tion and con­fig­u­ra­tion. How­ev­er, once hooked-up to the radi­a­tor, the ther­mostats are hard to remove. The fix­a­tion ring does not allow the user to grip it eas­i­ly (no ribs, just a pol­ished sur­face). It doesn’t help that dur­ing device recog­ni­tion the web ser­vice told me that I should have first installed the con­trol cen­ter and then the devices. (Then I knew, but the doc­u­men­ta­tion hadn’t told me that before­hand so I had gone the wrong way and installed all ther­mostats first.)

Still, all in all, I’m hap­py now. I’ll still eye one ther­mostat, the one clos­est to the con­trol cen­ter: It should be the fastest one to respond, but was the worst to get con­nect­ed reli­ably.

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