How to Install a Zwave System and Test with Alarm.com.

One of the biggest rewards of owning an alarm system utilizing Alarm.com service is the ability to create your own inexpensive smart-home network of Zwave devices. There is, however, a slight learning curve to the installation and troubleshooting. Required steps unique to Zwave (as opposed to 345mhz sensors) are easy to skip, causing frustration down the line. Not only are they easily forgotten, but the issues caused by not following them can be hidden for a time by a partially functioning device. We have all here at suretyDIY suffered the slings and arrows of Zwave malfunctions at one time or another, and so we present a guide to their installation and troubleshooting so your own set up can be smooth and painless.

Before all else: In order to access Zwave devices through Alarm.com, Q79 in programming on your 2GIG Go!Control Panel must be set to (3) Remote Access Enabled. 

  1. The biggest thing to keep in mind when setting up a Zwave network is that it will require a little patience. A few steps are desperately important in each Zwave addition, and should not be skipped—while it might be fine 60% of the time to fudge one of these steps, the installer is often left scratching their head when malfunctions occur.
      • The panel and Zwave device should be within at least ten feet of one another when adding a device. I would recommend keeping about a three foot distance whenever the pairing process is executed. For things like plug-in Zwave appliance modules and door locks, this is likely easy. A 2GIG-PS15Z-2 Plug in lamp module can probably be brought within the necessary distance via an extension cord (or you may even have an outlet close by the panel.) A door lock like the Yale Keypad Deadbolt is battery operated, and can be just held within a few feet. Other devices are a little more difficult.
      • For thermostats and light switches, you do not want to eschew the proximity requirement. The easiest and best solution is to unplug your panel transformer, run your panel off of battery power, remove it from the wall, and walk it around to each device one by one. This may take a little extra time, but it is necessary. It is also not a unique requirement. A Zwave controller such as Vera will require the same proximity while learning in devices.
      • When pairing a device, you should first remove it. This sounds rather counter-intuitive, but Zwave devices, unlike alarm sensors, are linked to a parent device. When a typical security sensor is installed, the panel is instructed to “listen” for its signal. The sensor could then be taken and learned into any number of other systems. Inclusion of a Zwave device pairs it to that system and it can no longer be added until it is first removed. Most of these devices are tested in a network during the manufacturing process. Using the remove device function of your panel will clear the previous network link from your Zwave device.
      • When adding the device, be certain to remain in proximity of the panel while the discovery process occurs. As soon as your panel shows that it has found a device, if you run off to eagerly install it, or if you power it down, you will run into issues. There is still a communication process that must occur for the two to properly link. The necessary time for this to occur is different based on the type of device, but it is typically very quick for lighting modules, but up to a couple minutes for thermostats and door locks. Patience is key. Once your panel displays the proper type of device you just paired, you are ready to move on.
      • When you are done with installation and the devices are in their permanent locations with your panel back on the wall (or back on your desk/bookshelf/nightstand) you must run a Network Rediscovery. See the following video. This Network Rediscovery will map and repair the routes of all those devices you just moved around the house.

  2. Once you have set up your network, keep in mind that the devices will not be immediately available on Alarm.com. It shouldn’t take long, but the equipment will not be visible until all of its information is processed. (A quick side note, if you are logged into Alarm.com during this time, you may want to log out and log back in as updates will typically not be visible on the app until you do so.)
  3. At your panel, check to make sure your Services button on the home screen is not yellow, indicating a malfunction or signal loss within your Zwave network. If you have followed the above steps and your devices aren’t too far away (or you have a large enough network of non-battery operated devices) you should be ready to move on.  If you do notice a malfunction, run a Network Check through your Zwave menu to discover any failed devices.
    • If you have a failed device, note the distance between that device and its nearest neighbor (that isn’t battery operated.)
    • Locks will typically require a bit more assistance from neighboring nodes than other devices for solid communication. If you plan on using locks only and are going to get more than one lock, you will typically want a few Zwave repeaters.
    • Thermostats will only act as repeaters if they were learned in while running on AC power from the HVAC. If you just popped in batteries and held it next to the panel, the thermostat will not help strengthen your Zwave network.
  4. Once you have access to the devices on Alarm.com, you are probably eager to set up all of your automation rules and turn your house into a toy. (I feel this way every time I add a device.) However, again you will want to exercise a little patience.
    • While ultra-reliable, the cellular connection between your panel and Alarm.com can be overwhelmed by sending too much information at one time, particularly when creating schedules, and these rules may not be properly processed.
    • If you are going to create lighting or thermostat schedules in particular, do so one at a time and give a few minutes in between each. These take up the most memory on board your control panel as well as the most data transfer from Alarm.com. Once they are successfully received by the panel, they are stored locally until changed.
  5. Once you have created a rule, allow about 3 to 5 minutes before testing so the rule can be processed and saved at your panel. Honestly, most of these rules will be ready within under a minute of being saved on Alarm.com, but like the proximity rule while pairing your devices above, there’s no benefit to rushing it.
  6. Now, you test. Check that any rule you have created is currently working. Test manual app control of the devices. If everything checks out, congratulations! You’ve just made your home a lot smarter!

For some ideas on automation rules and integrating more devices into the fold, check out the following videos.

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