So there I was, putting together an order for half a dozen or so of the Fibaro Z-Wave Wall Plug, resigned to the fact that it was the best option for a “metering” wall plug socket in the UK, when I suddenly received news that the Z-Wave product manufacturer TKB Home had released an actual UK version.
Roll forwards to last Thursday and Vesternet received our first batch into the UK to sell (they are going fast too) and by Saturday I had one in my grubby hands for testing
A bit of a let-down really, no sexy packaging like the Fibaro devices, just a plain white box. And with the device taking the familiar shape of most UK style wall plug sockets, it’s definitely no looker either. A single clear On / Off button on the front that houses a LED which shines red when the socket is on and that’s pretty much it for “design features”.
Incidentally the red LED is an improvement on other TKB sockets, which annoyingly by default have a blue LED to indicate off, apparently as a “night-light” feature. This can be changed in the settings so that it indicates on instead, but it’s not possible to turn it off completely. So the red LED signifying on is a welcome change.
Once you’ve seen one socket…..
Seeing that this device is a UK version, it has a normal UK style plug at the rear and has a normal UK style socket at the front. So there’s no need for any of the adapter shenanigans I experienced with the Fibaro Wall Plug. Oh, and it’s an off-white colour…..um….can’t think of much more to say about it really… move along…. nothing else to see here.
Testing the hardware
I mirrored the tests that I carried out with the Fibaro Wall Plug using a kettle and hair dryer with no adverse effects. To be honest, there’s nothing much else to report here either, no flashing LED or other such gimmicks – the TZ88E just gets on with the job in hand without any fuss.
One thing I did note is that if you were using a wall-wart type power supply with the socket, there’s a chance that it could cover the On / Off button somewhat which would make it difficult to operate. But it’s no big deal really as I would think that most people using this type of device will be operating them remotely over Z-Wave from a smart-phone or tablet App or from an Associated device.
What else do I get for my £38?
Nothing. Seriously, this is such a boring device that there’s not much else to report about it.
But, that’s actually a good thing in my opinion. At the end of the day, what do you really need from this type of device? You want it to switch stuff on and off and to report the power being used. And that’s exactly what the TZ88E does. There’s no superfluous extra features to bump up the cost. And that’s reflected in the price, it’s not much more than the standard on / off wall plug socket from the same company, is £17 cheaper than the Fibaro Wall Plug and £6 – £8 cheaper than other makes as well.
Using it with a Z-Wave controller
I tested the TZ88E with both a Vera and a Home Center Lite, but I can’t see a reason why it wouldn’t work with any other controller – it uses the most basic of Z-Wave Command Classes which 99% of controllers won’t have a problem with.
Like some other Z-Wave devices, TKB have thoughtfully included an “automatic inclusion mode” so that when it is initially powered up if it isn’t already included in a Z-Wave network it goes into inclusion mode automatically. This then makes adding devices simply a case of initiating the inclusion process on the Z-Wave controller and turning on the power to the device – it really is that easy.
Once added to Vera and HC-Lite, it shows up in the respective web UI with the instant power consumption shown in Watts on the device icon. HC-Lite also includes the KWH value as well, but this appears to be absent from the Vera web UI, although the data is still available for use in Scenes, logging or Energy monitoring.
In contrast to the Fibaro Wall Plug which has absolutely loads of “parameters” that can be fiddled with and tweaked, the TZ88E has just two. These simply control the frequency that the device sends the Watts and KWH data to the Z-Wave controller.
By default these parameters are both set to an hour, which seems kind of strange, especially for the Watts value which you’d really want to be as near to real time as possible. A quick bit of editing in the Vera and HC-Lite device configuration screens soon sorted that out, after which the TZ88E was sending Watts every 60 seconds and KWH every 30 minutes.
Real world usage
In the Fibaro Wall Plug review I wrote previously, I covered the “ERGY” plug-in for Vera which is a fancy looking Energy monitoring and graphing facility. This is pretty nice, but this time I played around with the Fibaro HC-Lite “Energy Panel” which makes the Vera offering look pretty naff by comparison. I’ll let the photos tell the story here as there’s plenty of settings to fiddle with to view the energy data in a variety of different formats.
Over a period of time I compared the power measurement data from the TZ88E with that of both Current Cost and EDF ECOManager IAM (Individual Appliance Monitor) units, as well as the Fibaro Wall Plug from the previous review. The TKB was easily as accurate as the Fibaro and once again I confirmed all readings taken with a plug-in meter from Maplins.
This was a tricky conclusion to write and in fact I’ve re-written it several times now as my opinion keeps changing. The TZ88E is in stark contrast to the Fibaro Wall Plug – it is a very simple device, does exactly what you’d want it to do and comes at an incredibly attractive price point.
On the other hand, there’s no doubt that the Fibaro Wall Plug is a more capable device with loads of additional features crammed in. But it comes at a cost, plus you also have to factor in the cost of any adapters that you may need to use with it as well.
I have to wonder if I’d reviewed the TZ88E first, whether the Fibaro Wall Plug would have even got a look-in? I may well have been happy enough with the TZ88E and maybe the Fibaro Wall Plug would have been seen as too much of a hassle with the need for additional adapters as well as the higher initial cost?
After a reflective coffee, I’ve decided that I’ll definitely be buying plenty more of the TZ88E in the near future to add to my Z-Wave Home Automation system. This will probably even be in preference to the cheaper On / Off wall plug sockets as the price difference is negligible compared to the benefit of having the power monitoring features.
But, I’ll also be picking up some more Fibaro Wall Plugs for situations that demand the extra functionality that the Fibaro device has – for example the ability to set alarms should a piece of connected equipment like a fridge or freezer fail is a definite plus point.
The Home Automation Insider – Martyn Wendon spent 20 years as an IT Specialist in demanding roles within leading companies in the Gaming, Financial and Retail business sectors. During that time he has tried and tested thousands of products, protocols, systems and settings to gradually refine his own Home Automation setup. Now what started off as a hobby has become his day job and working at Vesternet he’s well placed to bring inside news, reviews and comments from some of the largest players in the home automation industry.