LightwaveRF is a UK based company specialising in home automation / smart home products. In comparison to other smart home companies, LightwaveRF seems to sit a bit in the middle ground of products they offer. There are a lot fewer sensors than Smartthings but a lot more sockets and switches to fully integrate home automation features into your home. It appears to be a less thorough system than Z wave but also easier and cheaper to implement.
The LightwaveRF focusses on 3 main areas Lighting, Power and Heating, and then you will obviously need a control unit. LightwaveRF was kind enough to provide a couple solutions from each section plus a control unit so we can test their system.
The control unit, called the LightwaveRF Link is the brains of the operation and is essential to any Lightwave setup you may be considering. Luckily it is quite cheap at just £65.50 on Amazon, in comparison, the SmartThings hub is £100 and the Z Wave Home Center Lite by Fibaro is £225.
The Link attaches to any standard wireless router with broadband access and allows you instant control of your lighting, electrical and heating devices anywhere in the world that you have an internet signal!
Some of the features of the link that are advertised by LightwaveRF are:
- Control your Lighting, Power and Heating from anywhere with your Smartphone, Tablet or another Web-enabled device
- Set heating and lighting routines that fit in seamlessly with your lifestyle
- Set lights to switch on to appear at home when you're out or away
- Monitor Energy from anywhere using your Smartphone, Tablet or any other Web-enabled device with LightwaveRF's Energy Monitor.
Set up is very easy you simply plug it in and connect it to your modem using an Ethernet cable.
Setting up the App is quite easy, I had no major issues with it and everything worked for me. It is worth noting the Android App doesn’t have the best reviews so it is possible other people’s experiences won’t be as good as mine. In comparison, setting up a Z-Wave system seems a lot more complex, while SmartThings has reasonable reviews for their app and the overall look of it is more polished.
The lighting range is basically a range of dimming switches that can either be controlled via the App or manually on the switch themselves. The retrofit dimmers utilise existing wiring circuits and back boxes (35mm minimum recommended) allowing for quick and easy installation.
You have a few colour options, a plain plastic white version or a chrome finished option which comes in stainless steel, white, chrome, and black.
The switches I was supplied look fantastic and they are easy to install. A 1 gang Wireless Controller will set you back around £20, in comparison a Z Wave complete unit will cost from £32 for an ugly white switch, or £72 for a glass switch 2 button. Other Z wave products are even more expensive, and SmartThings does not have a switch solution (as it is Plug and Play).
You can also buy LightwaveRF enabled bulbs which allow you to control the bulb directly (if the switch is on), which will obviously make implementation even easier. Without the various sensors, LightwaveRF does have reduced functionality compared to Z Wave.
This seems to be where LightwaveRF shines in comparison to other products, which is probably due to the fact they are a UK based company.
The LightwaveRF sockets are proper sockets that you can install into your wall giving a seamless appearance to the installation. Every other solution required ugly adapters that plug into the existing socket itself. Granted adapters will be easier to install, but changing a plug socket is already quite easy, and you will have fewer issues with bulky adapter blocking the way of the socket, or getting knocked out, or just generally not looking attractive. Also, SmartThings charge £44.99 for a single socket adapter vs £27.50 for a dual socket with LightwaveRF, this would make SmartThings very expensive to implement if you plan to use its sockets throughout your house.
The smart heating system by LightwaveRF is quite thorough. There is a boiler switch, thermostat, radiator valves, magnetic triggers and electric switches which are used for electric radiators.
As you might imagine the boiler switch is used to directly control the boiler with the thermostat providing the smart temperature control and then the TRVs being attached to the radiator for direct radiator control. All pretty standard. The magnetic triggers are an interesting addition, which can be attached to window or door frames and when they are open, they will automatically instruct LightwaveRF TRVs to turn down the radiator temperature.
The heating system does work as expected but again it is up against stiff competition. The smart heating market has taken off in a big way in the UK the past few years and we currently have Next, Tado, Heat Genius, Hive and many more systems. Many of these systems are arguably better than the LightwaveRF heating system by itself as the provide intelligent heating control rather than having to manually set it up. Also both Nest and Heat Genius should work with the Z Wave protocol depending on which controller you use.
LightwaveRF should work out cheaper to implement than the other smart heating systems, Tado and Nest are both £200 to buy vs £100 basic installation of LightwaveRF. Heat Genius is the only system to integrate TRVs, and the basic price of that is a staggering £250 + £60 per TRV.
My biggest issue with the LightwaveRF range of products is the complete lack of sensors which could then be used to provide triggers for your home automation. The particular example I have been looking at for myself is the Z Wave Motion and Multi-Sensor by Fibaro, this offers motion detection by PIR, light level detection and temperature sensing all in one small slightly strange looking enclosure. I am quite security conscious, so while remotely controlling lights and sockets is great, I would love to be able to detect movement within the house. You can obviously then control lighting or other devices based on this movement. I haven’t actually used any Z-Wave or Fibaro products so I can’t say how good the system is, it is also prohibitively expensive for me at the moment.
As LightwaveRF uses a proprietary communications protocol then you will always be stuck with LightwaveRF, so if they don’t add sensors to their range then tough luck. They do have a magnetic trigger which can be used in conjunction with heating so it is possible they will add more sensors in the future.
LightwaveRF has the best option in the UK for plug sockets, every other system uses horrible adapters which is a major issue for me.
In conclusion, it is hard for me to say if LightwaveRF is the best home automation solution, as I haven’t tested them all. It seems to fit in the centre between the easy to set up SmartThings system that costs a little more, and the vastly more complex Z-Wave system that costs a lot more.
What LivewaveRF does, it does well. I love the plug sockets and lighting solution. Even the heating solution should fit most people’s needs. So if you think it fits your needs then I have no problems recommending it.
A reader has kindly pointed out there are some basic sensors offered by LightwaveRF, they are just not listed on their website. There is the Passive Infra-Red with product code JSJSLW107SS, but I am unable to find a website with this in stock. Then there is the dusk to dawn sensor for light levels (JSJSLW801) which is available from Smartshop for £14
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