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Author Topic: Experience with 3-way and 4-way Z-Wave light switches  (Read 3302 times)


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Experience with 3-way and 4-way Z-Wave light switches
« on: March 21, 2017, 09:37:55 pm »

I'm installing Z-Wave switches in my home.  So far all the wall switches, lamp switches, and power strips I've tried (maybe 15 different ones) all worked immediately with JRiver Engen.   So there has been no hassle there.  The only difficulty I've had is in deciding which Z-Wave switches to use when replacing existing 3-way and 4-way switches.  In general, there seem to be two different methods to do this.  Both require that all existing 3/4 way switches be replaced with some type of Z-Wave switch or other special dimmer switch connected to a Z-Wave switch.   The two methods are:

Wired Installation

With wired installation (I used GE/Jasco switches) it's necessary to install one master Z-wave switch and the remaining switches must be special add-on switches from the same vendor.   In all cases, the existing wires can be used, but now they must be hooked up in a different way.  The installation guide that comes with the GE/Jasco switches is excellent, and completely explains how to do this in a variety of different configurations.  When the installation is complete, all the new switches are now also dimmers, and all brighten/dim lights in exactly the same way.  This is a welcome change from the existing installation, where only one of the switches can be a dimmer.

Wireless Installation

Wireless installation is more flexible.  You can control one or more Z-Wave master switches with one or more Z-Wave add-on switches.  No wires need be shared between any of the switches.  However all the switches now require line power, so some ingenuity may be needed to rewire existing installations.  In the vocabulary of Z-Wave, the add-on switches must "associate to" the master switches.  I experimented with Linear Z-Wave add-on switches.  Each Linear switch may directly control any of up to 5 other Z-wave switches. All Z-Wave configuration can be done using a Z-Wave control system (JRiver Engen preferred) or a handheld controller.  For configuration w/o a control system, Linear recommends the Aeon Minimote handheld controller.   After configuration, all communication is switch to switch, so 3/4 way operation does not require a working Z-Wave control system.

The Linear wireless add-on switch works with switches from multiple vendors, including Linear, GE/Jasco, Aeon and others.  I tried a variety of dimming and on/off wall and lamp switches, and they all worked.  Of course some switches brighten/dim at different rates than others, so it is probably wise to stick with one Z-Wave switch vendor.


It's my conclusion that the wired method is preferred when existing 3/4 way wiring is present.  The wireless method is preferred when adding 3/4 way switches to an existing system (less wiring) or when you wish to control multiple lights from a single add-on switch.   As I understand things, both methods are inherently compatible with any Z-wave control system, or no control system at all.

I made the video below to demonstrate the advantages and disadvantages of the two different methods.  In watching, I hope you will value content above production quality.

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