Aeotec Z-Wave Sensors are the first Z-Wave devices to be certified and released using 700 series technology. The 700 Series update provides better security, a more powerful CPU for faster automation, improved range, 64-percent less power consumption for battery life of up to 10 years.
Aeotec makes a wide range of Z-Wave sensors and other Z-Wave products. I had a chance to evaluate several of their products for this article. The Door/Window Sensor 7, the aërQ Temperature & Humidity Sensor, the MultiSensor 6, and the NanoMote Quad.
What Makes a Smart Home Smart?
Many people are jumping on the smart home bandwagon. According to statista, the smart home adoption rate in the U.S. will have reached 36.6% in the U.S. in 2020 and grow to 57.2% by 2025. But, just installing a few smart light switches and a smart thermostat that you control with voice commands or apps on your smart phone doesn’t really make a home smart.
A home really becomes smart when the disparate systems in a home (lighting, HVAC, security, etc.) are integrated so they can work together to take actions on behalf of the homeowners. Sensors can also be installed in a home to further enhance a smart home’s ability to understand what is happening in the real world.
Here are some examples of how the integration of different systems in a home can help make it truly smart:
- When a family arms their alarm system in away mode and leaves home the alarm system can tell the HVAC system to set back the thermostat to save energy. It can also either turn the lights off throughout the home to save energy or trigger the lights to simulate that the home is occupied for enhanced security. It can also turn off any TVs and audio/video equipment that might have been left on
- When the family returns and disarms the alarm system it can restore the thermostat to its normal set point. If it is past sunset it can light pathway lights in the home to make it safer for the family to enter
- If a family begins streaming a movie the lights can automatically be dimmed to enhance the movie experience. If someone pauses the movie then the lights can be raised slightly to make it easier for someone to go to the kitchen for snacks and dimmed again when the movie resumes playing
- If a fire is detected, then lights throughout the home can be turned on to make it safer for family members to exit the home. The HVAC system can be turned off, so the forced air heating/air conditioning system doesn’t spread smoke around the house. Motorized shades can be opened to make it easier for family members to exit the home through windows in the event that other avenues of exit are blocked. Finally, exterior lights around the home can be flashed on/off to make it easier for first responders to find the house.
These are just a handful of examples of how a smart home can intelligently assist homeowners and their families when the disparate systems in the home can work together.
When you add additional sensors into a smart home the actions the home can take on behalf of the homeowners and their family can be further enhanced.
Motion sensors can be used to automatically turn on lights when someone enters a room and turn them off when the room is no longer occupied. This is especially useful in rooms that don’t have windows. It is also useful in a laundry room where a homeowner may enter the room carrying a basket full of clothes that they intend to wash and don’t have a hand free to reach for a light switch.
Presence sensors with a geofence around the home can be used to automatically arm an alarm system when the family leaves and disarm the system when they return.
A location-sensing product, like RoomMe, can inform a smart home where people are within their own home. This can be used to automatically set the temperature and lighting to an individual’s preferences when they enter a room. It can also be used to make a person’s favorite music follow them as they walk between rooms in a home.
Water sensors can be linked to a motorized valve that can automatically shut the water off in the even of a leak
Temperature can be monitored in a home. The heat can automatically be turned on if the temperature in the home drops to the point where there is risk of a water pipe freezing and bursting. If the temperature continues to drop (possibly because the HVAC system is broken) a motorized valve can be turned off so a frozen pipe that bursts won’t cause a massive leak and notifications can be sent to the homeowners to make them aware of the emergency.
A light sensor can judge whether it is a clear or cloudy day so lights will only be triggered to turn on as a person enters a room when they are needed.
Security sensors that detect if a window has been forced open can automatically turn off the air conditioning system if someone just opens a window to let some fresh air in during the summer.
Introducing Aeotec Z-Wave Sensors
Aeotec makes a wide selection of Z-Wave sensors that can be integrated into a smart home. The company was founded in 2006 under the name Aeon Labs in Silicon Valley. One year later they joined the Z-Wave Alliance. Then, in 2018, Aeotec acquired German electronics maker Popp & Co, which had an almost 100-year long history of pioneering home electronics technology.
Aeotec Door/Window Sensor 7
The Aeotec Door Window Sensor 7 is a Z-Wave Plus, 500 series device. It is very secure with optional AES-128-bit encryption. Battery life is estimated at three years because it uses at least 50-percent less power than earlier Z-Wave devices.
There is a wealth of reasons to track when doors and windows are opened and closed in a smart home.
- Security – trigger an alarm system when an exterior door or window is opened when the home isn’t occupied
- Convenience – monitor when the door to the mailbox is opened and mail is delivered
- Energy Savings – automatically turn off air conditioning in a home when a window is opened
- Safety – Alert a homeowner when children open an exterior door
Again, because the Door/Window Sensor 7 is a Z-Wave Plus, 500 series device it can communicate up to 164 feet outdoors, which is 67-percent farther than older Z-Wave devices. Indoor communications will be shorter because the signal strength is attenuated as it travels through walls.
The Door/Window Sensor 7 is very small. It is only three quarters of an inch high x 2.8 inches wide x 0.7 of an inch deep. Two different magnets are included: a thin, flat magnet and rectangular shaped one. The rectangular shaped magnet is labeled as the “large magnet” yet it is only 0.13 of an inch high x 0.78 of an inch wide x 0.43 of an inch deep.
The Door/Window Sensor 7 can be mounted using the included self-adhesive pads or using the included screws and wall anchors.
The Door/Window Sensor 7 includes a wide range of features beyond what you expect from a simple sensor to detect when a door or window is opened or closed. First, in addition to detecting that a window is opened when the magnet is moved away from the sensor, it can detect the opening of an awning-style window that tilts when opened.
Second, the Door/Window Sensor 7 includes screw terminals that can be used to attach any sensor that provides a contact closure.
For example, a standard magnetic security sensor can be wired to the Door/Window Sensor 7. In my previous article on techniques for making your garage smart (https://restechtoday.com/how-to-integrate-garage-into-smart-home/) I explained how this specialized magnetic sensor, available on Amazon, can be used to monitor whether an overhead garage door is open. It could easily be wired to the contact closure input on the Aeotec Door/Window Sensor 7 to communicate the door’s status to a smart home hub.
Alternatively, a simple pushbutton could be wired to the Door/Window Sensor 7’s contact closure inputs to trigger automations in a smart home hub
If your home has a basement and uses a sump pump to prevent flooding, then a float sensor could be wired to the Door/Window Sensor 7’s contact closure inputs. The float would be mounted above the normal water level in the sump pit. It would trigger the smart home hub to send a notification to the homeowner if the water level rose too high because the pump failed or because water was coming into the home faster than the pump could expel it.
I was able to easily able to pair the Aeotec Door/Window Sensor 7 with my Hubitat Elevation Hub. One challenge was that the Hubitat Elevation Hub didn’t automatically recognize that the new device was an Aeotec Door/Window Sensor 7. However, once I manually selected the device type it immediately started working. As promised, communications were very fast, which makes it ideal, for example, for triggering lights when someone opens a door and enters a room at night. I did find that it is very sensitive to the placement of the magnet for proper operation. This is both good and bad. On the good side it adds to the security of the device. Someone can’t trick the Door/Window Sensor 7 by simply placing a magnet near it. On the other hand, this means you have to be very careful during your installation to position the magnet properly for reliable operation.
I also found that the Hubitat Elevation hub didn’t support the tilt sensor in the Door/Window Sensor 7. It only supported the internal magnetic sensor and the contacts for attaching an external sensor to the device.
I do want to add that while the Aeotec Door/Window Sensor 7 performed flawlessly in my testing, I don’t recommend using any smart home hub as a security system. People place their lives in the hands of a security system’s ability to tell them if their home has been broken into or that there is a fire. To make sure that it is 100-percent reliable, a security system goes through extensive testing and certifications. This is simply not the case for a smart home hub. While it is tempting to create your own alarm system with smart home sensors, like the Aeotec Door/Window Sensor 7, it is a much better idea to use them for enhancing the functionality of a smart home and leave fire and intrusion detection to a dedicated security system.
Aeotec aërQ Temperature & Humidity Sensor
The aërQ Temperature & Humidity Sensor is a 700 series Z-Wave device. It has an estimated battery life of two years and three layers of security, including AES 128-bit encryption. In addition to providing both temperature and humidity readings, when used with Aeotec’s AutoPilot software, it can determine the dew point and the risk of mold growth.
Monitoring the temperature and humidity throughout a home can be very valuable. It can be used to:
- Automatically turn on the heat in a home if the temperature gets too low and there is risk of a water pipe freezing and bursting
- Notify the homeowner if the temperature in home continues to fall even with the heat turned on signaling that the furnace may have failed
- Monitor for freezing temperatures in other spaces where water pipes are located, such as the garage, basement, and attic
- Trigger air conditioning to turn on as spring transitions to summer so a homeowner doesn’t suddenly come home to a sweltering home before they thought of turning on the air conditioning themselves
- Monitor the climate in closets to make sure that conditions aren’t conducive for mold growth as mold would ruin clothes, and other items, stored there
- Monitor the temperature in a room where wine is stored to make sure it doesn’t get too warm, which could ruin the wine.
Dew point is the temperature below which water, which is held in the air as humidity, will start to condense and form into droplets. Outside, these droplets would condense onto plants in the form of dew. Inside a home the droplets can lead to the growth of mold in a home.
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, for people that are sensitive to mold, exposure can lead to “symptoms such as stuffy nose, wheezing, and red or itchy eyes, or skin. Some people, such as those with allergies to molds or with asthma, may have more intense reactions.”
Today, testing for mold is a standard part of a home inspection that will occur when a house is being sold. Remediation of mold growth can cost thousands, or in severe cases even tens of thousands, of dollars. So, monitoring the temperature and humidity of a home, and taking actions when the conditions exist for mold to grow in the home, can save a homeowner a tremendous amount of money.
The aërQ Temperature & Humidity Sensor, like the Door/Window Sensor 7, is very small – only 1.38 inches square and 0.7 of an inch thick. The temperature range is 14 to 146 degrees Fahrenheit with an accuracy of +/- 1.8 degrees. The humidity range is 0 to 80 percent with an accuracy of +/- 3 percent. It comes with a double stick adhesive pad for mounting.
I connected the aërQ Temperature & Humidity Sensor to my Hubitat Elevation Hub. Pressing the action button 3 times in quick succession places the unit into pairing mode and it was very quickly acquired by Hubitat. However, like the Door/Window Sensor 7 the aërQ Temperature & Humidity Sensor wasn’t automatically recognized by the Hubitat and I had to manually select the device type for it.
The sensor measures the temperature and humidity every 15 minutes. An immediate measurement can be forced by tapping the “action” button on the front of the unit. A color-changing LED will also report the sensor’s status:
- Green – Environment is good
- Red – Environment is ideal for mold growth
- Blinking Red Three Times – Low battery
Throughout the testing process, the unit performed flawlessly and the temperature/humidity values returned matched with other sensors I had available.
Aeotec MultiSensor 6
If you want one small device that can measure it all the Aeotec MultiSensor 6 is the device that you have been looking for. It can measure:
- Visible Light
- UV Light
The different ways the MultiSensor 6 can be used in a home are almost endless. For example:
- General Living Spaces in a Home – Shades can be opened during the day for daylight harvesting so the sunlight reduces the need for turning on electric lights and saves energy. However, if the UV light level gets too high, which could damage expensive upholstery, the shades can be triggered to close. When motion is detected because someone has entered the room, if the visible light sensor detects that it is dark in the room, then lights can automatically be turned on. When motion is no longer detected in the room, the lights can be turned off to save energy.
- Bathrooms – Again, lights can be turned on/off based on the light level and when motion is detected. A bathroom fan can automatically be turned on the humidity rises because a shower or bathtub is being used
- Garage – Lights can be turned on/off based on the light level and when motion is detected. If there are water pipes in the garage and the temperature gets too low a notification can be sent to the homeowner. If a motorized valve is installed it can be closed to avoid a water leak if a pipe freezes and bursts.
- Basement – Lights can be turned on/off based on the light level and when motion is detected. As basements are notoriously humid, the homeowner can be sent a notification if the humidity gets too high and there is risk of mold growth. As I mentioned earlier, mold can be a health hazard. It also can damage items stored in the basement, and it can be very expensive to remove when the home is sold.
- Laundry Room – Lights can be turned on/off based on the light level and when motion is detected. The MultiSensor 6 can be placed on the clothes dryer and the vibration sensor can be used to send a notification to the homeowner so they know when their clothes are dry. In this way the clothes won’t get left in the dryer and become wrinkled.
Like other Aeotec sensors the MultiSensor 6 is very small. It is only 1.8 inches wide x 1.8 inches long x 1.5 inches thick. It can be placed on a table or shelf, attached to a wall or ceiling with the included piece of double stick tape, attached to a wall or ceiling with the included “Back-Mount Arm,” or flush mounted to a wall or ceiling with the Aeotec “Recessor” mount (sold separately).
Like the Door/Window Sensor 7, the MultiSensor 6 is a Z-Wave Plus, 500 series device offering advanced security, long-range communications, speed, and low-power consumption.
The MultiSensor 6 is powered by one, or two, CR123A batteries. With two batteries installed, the expected battery life is two years. Optionally, the MultiSensor 6 can be powered using a USB plug-in power supply and the included USB cable. It is important to know that the MultiSensor 6 is offered both with, and without, a battery. If you simply do a Google search and purchase the MultiSensor 6 from the supplier with the lowest price, then you may be surprised when you open the box that there isn’t a power supply or any batteries included. While most people have a spare plug-in USB power supply, I think that Aeotec should supply at least one battery with all their MultiSensor 6s as most people probably don’t realize that they will need to purchase a battery separately when simply buy a MultiSensor 6 with the lowest price.
The MultiSensor 6 connected easily to my Hubitat Hub. However, I found that it wouldn’t report the UV light level. After doing some research, I found that UV is blocked by modern windows, so it won’t read any UV in a newer home or one where the windows have been replaced.
I tested the MultiSensor 6 in both a bathroom and garage as described above. In both of these locations the MultiSensor 6 worked very well. Having multiple sensors included in one, small, unobtrusive device is a definite plus that minimizes the intrusion of a modern, IoT device in a traditionally decorated home.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the MultiSensor 6’s sensor readings aren’t reported as often as you might want. For example, I found that the motion sensor would very quickly report when it “saw” motion. Unfortunately, it would take more than a minute before the device would report that there was no longer motion after the motion had stopped. I found similar results for the MultiSensor 6’s sensing of vibration. Slow reporting is OK for temperature and humidity as they typically change slowly over time.
Aeotec informed me that there are parameters that can be sent to the MultiSensor 6 though Z-Wave to adjust many of these settings. However, that requires more advanced knowledge than a typical homeowner/hobbyist may have.
Aeotec NanoMote Quad
The Aeotec NanoMote Quad is a very small, two-inch square keypad. It is so small that leveraging the optional lanyard hole it can even be used as a key fob.
Voice control of a smart home is great for many things but not everything. There are times when you don’t want to use a voice command:
- When someone is sleeping, and you don’t want to disturb them
- When you are watching a movie, and the voice command would disturb other people who are also watching the film
- When you are listening to music, and the voice assistant would have difficulty understanding you
These, and other times, are when you want a simple way to perform some specific smart home actions.
Again, like the Door/Window Sensor 7 and the MultiSensor 6, the NanoMote Quad is a Z-Wave Plus, 500 series device offering advanced security, long-range communications, speed, and low-power consumption. It has a rechargeable battery and the low power consumption of the NanoMote Quad means that the internal battery will last up to three months on a single charge.
The NanoMote Quad has four buttons. Each button can either trigger a press or press and hold event on a connected smart home hub. Release events are also triggered after a press and hold event but not after a simple press. This allows a multitude of smart home functions to be controlled from this very small keypad. For example
- Set a specific light scene or toggle a specific light on/off
- Control motorized shades in a room
- Increase or decrease the set point on a thermostat to warm up or cool down the room
- Place the NanoMote Quad on a nightstand and use a single button press to set a whole house good night scene. The scene can turn off all the lights, set back the smart thermostat, arm a connected alarm system in stay mode where all the doors and windows will trigger an alarm if opened but interior motion sensors are ignored, and more.
A child lock is a unique feature of the NanoMote Quad that will be welcome by families with small children. Pressing and holding any button for 10 seconds will cause the built-in red LED to light. Once it is released, you just need to momentarily press the same button again, and the child lock is turned on. Repeating this same sequence of button presses will turn the child lock back off.
As mentioned earlier the NanoMote Quad’s battery can be recharged. When the unit is plugged into a one-amp USB power supply using the included cable, the built-in LED will turn red. Once the unit is fully charged, the LED will change to green. An added bonus is that the internal LIR2450 battery can be easily replaced. As every smart phone owner knows, over time a rechargeable battery degrades and the time between charges diminishes. Unlike most smart phones, a homeowner can easily replace the battery in the NanoMote Quad themselves when this eventually happens.
I tested the NanoMote Quad with a Hubitat Elevation Hub, and it worked seamlessly. It was immediately acquired and the Hubitat was able to act on button presses with little, to no, perceivable delay. I tried using it in a bedroom to silently trigger a goodnight scene and in a living room to control lighting.
While the NanoMote Quad fits easily in your hand to operate as a handheld remote, when I used it as a table-top keypad I found it to be a little awkward to use. Its small size and smooth plastic underside made it a little too easy for it to slide around when you are trying to press a button. I ended up creating a small wooden base for it in my woodshop. It would have been nice if the Aeotec had included a piece of self-stick rubber that could have been adhered to the underside of the device to keep it from so easily sliding.
My only other complaint is that the NanoMote Quad didn’t support double-click events on the Hubitat. This would allow for a third function to be programmed for each button on the keypad.
Aeotec Z-Wave Conclusions
Aeotec clearly focuses on engineering. Their Z-Wave products are well thought out and well designed. The quality of construction is excellent, and they include features that really make sense for the smart homeowner.
I do wish that the instructions included with each of these devices were a little more detailed. For example, to start using the aërQ Temperature & Humidity Sensor you have to open the case and remove a small plastic strip that allows the battery to start powering the device. It isn’t intuitively obvious how to open the case and that isn’t described in the instructions.
Another example is that the instructions for the MultiSensor 6 don’t include any warning that you many not get UV measurements inside a home. I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what could be wrong before I found a note on the Aeotech website about windows potentially blocking UV light. Alternatively, there could just be a link printed on the box that takes you to a much more detailed version of the instructions online. It would save both time and frustration if all the needed information to install and work with each device was in a single place.
If I had to choose a favorite from this group of sensors it would be the MultiSensor 6. It combines together an incredibly useful group of sensors into a single, unobtrusive package that would cost someone much more to purchase individually.