Skip to main content

Replacing my Staples Connect z-wave hub

The project began in in December 2016 when I got a three pack of Almond 3 Touchscreen wireless routers.  The routers replaced two Actiontech routers provided by Verizon (one is Gigabit capable for the wired ports the other is not, and a linksys.  The newest of these devices was probably from 2012.

Around this same time The Staples connect that I was using for some home automation became abandonware.  It is still running fine.  The Staple Connect is actually the third staples connect I have owned.  The first was purchased in the spring of 2014 and worked okay, until it stopped working.  Zonoff customer service sent a replacement.  And then in the fall of 2014. I got the Staples Connect Dlink  for nearly free with the purchase of a couple sensors.

So the initial setup of the almond was a terrible experience.
I needed three screens to be able to access all of the features.  The built in touchscreen, the app on my phone and a PC to access the web interface.
The worst part was setting up the second almond.  It just would not find the first almond no matter what I did.  And I did a lot.  It involved killing internet in the house for hours during xmas break with two teenagers whining.  I tried unplugging and powering down many devices so that basically the only 3 things on the network were the Actiontec gateway from verizon, and the two Almonds.  No luck, and a big mess.  Finally I did a factory reset on the first almond, checked for updates and then did a factory reset on the second almond. It worked,=.  So essentially they had shipped something that flat did not work without downloading an update.  

Initial setup aside, I find that the 3 pack of almond 3 have greatly improved the network strength and reliability.  I like them as networking devices.

But I had to push it.   I saw all of the home automation screens and I said let’s do this.  So I purchased for about $30 the Almond Zwave dongle…. Interesting that it was not for sale on the Securifi web site, I had to buy it on Amazon even though it was branded Securifi Almond.  (I should have taken the hint.)  

My Home automation z-wave equipment consists of 2 Schlage Camelot touchscreen deadbolts 2 trane zwave thermostats 3 Dragon in wall switches. 5 GE dimmer modules (Which mostly only come out for the holidays)  and a couple of aeotec flood sensors.

Issue 1 The internet comes into my home in the basement and that is where the “primary” almond is.  The z-wave dongle must be connected to the “primary” Almond.  But the z-wave devices are not in the basement.  

My plan: do the most important things first, that way if it doesn’t work I have less to backout.
So I started by trying to connect the Schlage on the backdoor.  If I couldn't’ make the door locks work then the whole thing fails.  Guess what? The door locks didn’t work.  It wasn’t a clean doesn’t work.  It was a near miss a couple of times.  Once again I tried many things.  I tried connecting one of the GE dimmer modules because it is portable.  Plugged it in close to the Almond for the initial link. It worked.  I moved to within a few feet of the lock, the dimmer still worked.
I contacted support. Schlage said that they do not work with securifi almond.  Almond said they do.  The particular model was not listed on the almond site but others were.

I reconfigured my whole network so that the “primary” Almond was two feet from the door.  Still no luck.  Once or twice I got to a screen that said the device and been found and was being configured.  This led me to the incorrect assumption that the “primary” almond not only need to be powered but also connected to the internet to make the initial connection to the lock.

Wires all over the house and internet disrupted for impatient teenages for another day.  At the end of which the Lock would not connect to either Staples connect or the Almond

A this point I posted a long comment about what I had done on the securifi forums.  I got some helpful info.
For security reasons, the Hub but be the first hop from the lock, no z-wave mesh allowed.
The next day was a warm one for January.  I left everything where it should be and removed the lock from the door and brought it to the Hub….. (this must be why older z-wave systems have remote controls or batteries in the hub)  Now I was able to completely add remove and control the lock.

But time was short and I travel a lot for work so I put everything back on staples connect and left it until may.


Popular posts from this blog

What should my kids study if there won't be any jobs.

So I'm 49 staring at the big 50.  I work in technology, and I am always learning the newest tech, and the newest view of project management, and the newest business models.  So the other day I was trying to decide between listening to a podcast of delving into my companies continuous learning tools, and I just didn't want to do either.

I thought to myself, we never really get any of these things to work properly before we move on to the next thing.  Always learning and changing.  Can't it just stop for a moment and let me catch up?  Of course it won't.  I'm just being 50 and realizing that work isn't going to be a coast for the last 20 years of my career.

But it is also something deeper, and scarier. I am not so sure that the future we are heading to is going to be better than today.  In fact I fundamentally believe that there is a good chance it will be worse.  Automation of both mind work and physical work mean that the 7 billion people currently on the plan…

Once more unto the breach with Securifi Almond z-wave dongle

Sometime in May 2017
Removed lock physically from the door (I’m getting good at this part now) and added it to almond. Put lock back on the door and it worked.  Added codes. It worked. Then it stopped working.  I put the GE module next to it again to try to boost the signal.  No help.  Got busy and left it. A few days later it worked for a few cycles of lock and unlock.
Another learning point: I can reboot a z-wave hub many times without anyone noticing.  But rebooting the “primary” Almond --- not so much. Two teenagers and a wife who has her own consulting business with clients in many time zones. There is never a time when the wifi can be off for an hour without complaints.
I was not sure what was going on.  But now I am. After much trial and error I have discovered that if the Staples Connect is powered on the Almond z-wave dongle has a very limited chance of success.  I believe that in the week where the lock mysteriously worked there were some power outages and the order in which …