How does wireless home automation work – A Quick Overview

Well and Booster Pump Automation.

Well and Booster Pump Automation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


When we ask how does wireless home automation work? We have to be aware that there are a number of different systems out there that create similar results, but with different means of technology.

Modern day home automation technology uses wireless and wired signals to send signals over the air and sometimes through house wiring using a standard protocol to communicate with devices or receivers. These devices will then register the signal and then respond to the command i.e. dim lights, turn on heating, show security camera view etc.


Different Technologies

Two of the most common methods of controlling a home are ZigBee and Z-Wave, both of these technologies use a mesh network. This essentially means that the message can get to the network in a number of ways rather than by just one.


Devices connected to the network are given a code. When a command comes through a controller the message is sent via the shortest possible route to the device. In the case of Z-Wave the devices are mixed between controllers that initiate messages and ‘slaves’ – these can only take or respond to messages and this in turn saves network memory. ZigBee uses a similar manner of functional and reduced function devices in its network too.


INSTEON is another increasingly popular option and uses both wireless networks and also electric wires to create dual mesh network. This means that if one area is interfered with, it will then take another. This system uses a peer network, which means all devices pick up and then in turn broadcast the message until it is performed. So, the more devices there are; the stronger the network.

Larger Installations

Different installations provide different strengths and you should base the system you choose on the size of the installation, as well as your hopes for the future as regards home installation.

Larger installations should use systems that support a variety of devices and nodes and also have strong and far reaching signals. In such a case mesh based technology is often preferable. These create the most reliable networks. It is also important to choose a dual mesh or single mesh network if there are a lot of obstacles in the area that may disrupt signals.

Smaller Installations

Simpler installations don’t require such comprehensive solutions and lower priced wireless options such as LightwaveRF can certainly be suitable. These retrofit switches and dimmers and offers simple functionality for less. It doesn’t offer mesh support and are limited in the number of devices they can control, though do cost substantially less and can still offer good results in the case of smaller installations.

Home automation is an exciting and also practical addition to any home and can make your home a greener, easier and more functional place. Obviously, each need is different and so is each technology. However, now that you have an overview of how it works you can make a better decision for yourself.

This article was contributed by Dave Bell, Founder and Director – Vesternet.

Erin Emanuel