Power Outlet Questions

(Scott) #1

I am looking to jump on the home automation bandwagon and have a question. I am considering replacing the majority of the outlets in my apartment with GE/Jasco smart outlets. I figure even if I am not using them all as smart outlets having the flexibility to use them as smart outlets would be helpful. One question, if I don’t have the z-wave portion of the outlet included in my z-wave network does the z-wave portion of the outlet default to on (in other words, if I don’t add the outlets to the network will they have two working plug receptacles or just one)? Also are there any other issues I should be aware of with replacing my regular outlets with z-wave outlets?

Any thoughts would be appreciated!


Appliance Outlet that defaults "OFF" when power restored. Possible?
(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #2

Most outlet types default to “on” , and come back up as on even after a power outage. Check the model, as many also have a little on/off pushbutton to control the power locally.

Some plug modules may default to “off” after a power outage.

Of course, the ideal behavior is if they come back up in the same state as when power was lost.

Except for power outage reset, I’m not aware of other issues… As long as the outlets are rated for the current you may need (15amp, 20amp). Local codes may require tamper resistant outlets and/or GFCI which are hard to find in Z-Wave modules.


That’s an ambitious project! And it’s always good to think ahead. As far as in wall receptacles go though, you might want to consider some alternative strategies.

I personally do not replace in wall receptacles with networked devices because you cannot have a networked GFCI receptacle. The code requirements are contradictory. GFCI must be able to cut all power, while a network device must be an always on device so it can hear the next command. Instead, I just use the plug-ins. I’m happy with these.

You will not be able to get networked inwall receptacles that are to code for anywhere that GFCI receptacles are required, typically bathrooms and around the kitchen sink area and near pools.

Also if you do use network in wall receptacles, you won’t be able to use powerline plug-ins for wifi network extension. That may or may not matter to you.

The primary reason why people do go to in wall networked receptacles is so that they can have two in one box, or for aesthetic reasons. These days with available power strips, the two in one box is less important to many people.

So it’s a personal decision, but the GFCI issue is something to be aware of.

(Eric) #4

We did a bunch at our house because it simply made sense as the family is accustomed to how these things work, and it provides minimal disruption and retains the aesthetic for how the house was designed, versus having things hanging off outlets everywhere. We did use the GE/Jasco series as well and has proven very reliable.

That said, I did end up with 6 appliance modules that plugin as kind of a “free agent” thing so I could move them around and repurpose them over time. It wasn’t sensible for us to replace every outlet and light switch so I was strategic about which to use.

All of my outlets are included; after a power outage it comes on with it defaulted to off. I don’t know if that is a function of it coming online, asking ST if it should be on or not, but that is our experience here. HTH.

The other thing is to be careful with any rules in your apartment about making changes…replacement of electrical, in -wall items could be an “issue” depending on the landlord. My old townhouse it was ok as long as he knew I wasn’t going to destroy the house, but each group that I rented with before I built seemed to be particular.

Good luck, I have loved the results here, and so has the family.

(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #5

This would definitely be a bit of a pain for some locations, for a “non-connected” Z-Wave outlet. Similarly, ZigBee light bulbs inherently default to “on” after a power cycle, so that the wall switch can force the light on. So outlets defaulting “off” seems weird, but quite possible.

SmartThings doesn’t do anything automatically upon restore from power failure, but you can install SmartApps for this condition.

Also, it is possible that Z-Wave connected outlets can be sent a configuration packet customizing the default behavior?

(Scott) #6

Thanks for all of the great replies! Very good points as to the need for GFCI and adherance to local codes. As to the GFCI question, I am not replacing any of the outlets in the kitchen or bathrooms so that shouldn’t be an issue. In my research, I did come across an issue with respect to “instant status” feedback. Does anyone know if the GE/Jasco outlets support this function? Do I really need it? What I have read on the internet is contradictory (some say they do, some say they don’t) and it is not clear from the Jasco website.

I have also considered plug-in modules and will likely use those in the kitchen/bathroom.

I sometimes wonder whether I am biting off more than I can chew with home automation, but I think it will be fun to tinker with!

(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #7

Our pleasure, S.

Regarding “instant status reporting”:

This is generally more important on Light Switches rather than outlets. This feature means that if the switch is turned on physically (i.e., a light switch is often turned on “manually” instead of by the automation system), then it is not permitted to tell the automation system it was turned on until polled … unless it has licensed a patent from Lutron. Switches that do have instant status reporting are extra useful because they can be used to trigger additional events … such as turning on remote lights not directly connected to it, or even telling SmartThings to disable “Alarm” SmartApps by changing Mode, etc…

You are much less likely to be pressing the on/off button on an outlet.

I just tested my one installed outlet, however, and SmartThings was instantly notified. I am pretty sure this is a “Intermatic” brand outlet.

I am not sure if “instant reporting” is necessary or helpful in the case of remote activation of the outlet. For example, I suppose “instant reporting” could be used to confirm that the outlet actually responded to the on/off command … but I think this is not called the same thing and may be the default behavior from most outlets, even without the Lutron patent.

I just thought of one other concern for you to consider. Z-Wave outlets are somewhat larger than dumb outlets (although I’m sure this is improving with new models), and require some spare depth in the junction box. I’m in an old home, and this outlet won’t go all the way into the box, so I’m glad it is in a hidden location behind a small table.

(Scott) #8

I just thought of one other concern for you to consider. Z-Wave outlets are somewhat larger than dumb outlets (although I’m sure this is improving with new models), and require some spare depth in the junction box. I’m in an old home, and this outlet won’t go all the way into the box, so I’m glad it is in a hidden location behind a small table.

This has to be one of the most helpful user forums I have been on. It is excellent. The size of the outlets is a concern I have on my list. I will probably order one or two outlets to make sure they fit before I buy the rest of them. It would be pretty frustrating to order all of the outlets only to find that I need to replace all of the junction boxes to make them fit (assuming there is room for a deeper junction box). I can’t wait to get this project off of the ground.

(Scott) #9

So I took the plunge. I went with the GE outlets and they should arrive today. I plan on installing them next week. I have also begun planning out the media closet (where I am going to keep the “brains” of my apartment and home entertainment system) and it is quite daunting. I can see why there are companies that do these projects professionally and charge handsomely for the work. It is hard enough planning how all of the equipment and wires will run, but the real challenge is going to be making it look neat and professional. It will be a bonus if it all works at the end.

(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #10

That’s the advantage of having a media / server “closet”… Unless you are showing it off, it doesn’t have to look great! Label all the wires and ensure cooling and accessibility, but that’s it, right?

Myself, I have an ugly nest of cables and different routers and hubs stuck to the back of a nice piece of living room furniture. That’s sad.