Published on June 3rd, 2009 | by Greg0
GE, Z-Wave, and Magic Lighting Control
OK, it’s not really magic. And it’s kind of GE- the name is “used under license” to Jasco Products Company. But it is Z-Wave, the remote control scheme that allows you to control lights and small appliances throughout your house. We’ve looked at some similar items before.
This time around, we’ll briefly recap the Z-wave idea. Similar to X10 and other home automation setups, it’s a set of devices that plug in to or replace switches, outlets, even thermostats, allowing you to then use any Z-Wave remote control to manage the various devices. As with other compatible remotes, Jasco/GE’s Home Theater Remote is easy to setup, with onscreen menus, timed events, and the ability to dim those lights that have that feature. You can also setup lighting schemes, allowing you a simple way to turn on or off all or some lights in a room or set of rooms.
This remote goes a little farther, and allows you some advanced options, like dim rates- not easily visible, but nice nonetheless. We were disappointed in the lack of rechargeable batteries, and the fact that the four AAAs required were not included. We also didn’t love lack of dedicated buttons for various home entertainment pieces- menus are helpful, but a bit inefficient. Luckily, common tasks are handled appropriately. The backlighting is quite nice, and the library of built-in TVs, HDTVs, receivers and other equipment is fairly large, with a learning feature that can quickly get the remote up and running on most setups. The remote feels pretty sturdy, and looks pretty nice, meaning you can replace your others without much worry.
Make sure that you buy the right modules, or already have some- the Fluorescent Light and Appliance Module is fairly self-explanatory, but it’s easy to accidentally choose the Wireless Lighting Control Lamp Module instead and then have trouble with your fluorescent lights. Also, their modules are larger than many other brands and may cover up the entire outlet- but offer both a Z-wave controlled and an uneffected outlet to make up for it. We also tried their Dimmer Switch, which is actually pretty easy to install- 2-wires, a couple of screws, and you have an instant Z-wave light with dimming both on the switch and from your remote. The LED is a nice bonus, allowing you to easily find the switch in a dark room- one tester wished more light switches had these. They only come in one color for the moment, so make sure that you are OK with white.
We weren’t able to try them, but GE/Jasco offers many other compatible items, including a outdoor lighting control module and in-wall outlets and switches. Prices on everything range from $60 for the modules and $65 for the Dimmer Switch to $100ish for the Home Theater Remote Control. These prices are around average for the devices, and we hope that they can come down a bit in price eventually to make them more widely available. Until then, impress your guests- magic lighting controls!