The LightwaveRF Comfy smart home heating starter kit comes with 3 radiator valves and a LightwaveRF Link unit. All looked fairly straightforward out of the box, fortunately my radiators
came equipped with Honeywell TRVs which made attaching the LightwaveRF ones really simple. That said there are a myriad of conversion attachments supplied so no worries there.
Being a true geek however, I didn’t start with the valves I went straight for the networky connection. Pluged the LightwaveRF Link box into my router and power and watched as the lights flashed in all their glory. No idea what they were doing it was time to consult the rather straight forward manual. No mention of any web interface it seemed the first step was to download the smartphone app. No problem, it seems most of the vendors head this way, after all its fairly easy to discover a device on a network with an application but not via a web browser (hmm, why hasn’t someone developed that?). App installed I’m ready to configure the gateway, but oh what? I’m presented with a login screen. One of the first rules of IOT broken I can’t control the device without having an internet connection, or at least set the device up – not a great start especially for those who value privacy. Further into the tests I tested whether internet connectivity was required to control the valves once the initial setup was completed, it wasn’t but an annoying red light would flash on the gateway.
After signing my life away I quickly followed the simple onscreen instructions to pair the device with the app, presented with the message afterwards that local link was detected and all commands would be sent locally – that was kind after having to sign my life away. The brief introduction within the app is painless and useful guiding me through the basic functions of getting going, the app looks pretty straight forward and pleasing to the eye too.
I then ventured to my first radiator about 3ft from where the gateway was positioned, screwed the device on and inserted a couple of batteries. The valve went through the motions to calibrate the motor, presumably some kind of learning exercise to find the length of the pin it was to control on the tap of the radiator, this took around a minute to complete. Having previously tinkered with a standalone programmable valve and being disappointed in how noisy the motor was, I wasn’t overly surprised to find that the motors in these valves were much the same. Probably something that can’t be helped but having small children I would probably be reluctant to have a programme move the motors at any point throughout the night, maybe I’m being over cautious and further testing is be needed. That said I’m quite excited about the prospect of having the whole house heating be specific to utilised rooms, and also balanced based upon current temperatures.
Pairing the devices with the gateway couldn’t be simpler, from the Android app I selected the heating tab and clicked the plus sign which then told me to press the link button on the valve. Hey presto I have a display. Ok hold on, when I said simpler I didn’t mean simpler – earlier I said I set up the Link unit before the valves, setup the app then had a mooch around. Well the first thing I was presented with is the “Rooms” tab in the app. Thinking that a radiator would be part of a room I added all the rooms which would contain a valve for this test. I then proceded to add a valve to a room, but no. I knew that LightwaveRF was previously around in lighting, but it seems that heating is a later addition to the portfolio and also currently just a bolt on the the application to “get it out there” as it is completely seperate under the application (at least on android anyway). Still the configuration is all under a tab in the main screen so its not difficult to find or configure.
During the pairing process a name for the device is requested, once this is entered in and pairing is completed the device is then listed under the given name with a nice guage and informational display. Pressing on this entry takes you into a screen which allows the draggins of the guage to select a temperature, after which about a second later the valve then begins to turn to the location it requires. Manual operation within the App is pretty slick and the feedback is also very good. Underneath the manual selection tools is a calendar looking section, albeit very cramped looking. This calendar, days on the left times on the right, allows you to set specific schedules for the valve setting temperatures for times of the day. A really good idea just not brilliantly executed within the app even on a large 6″ display, I believe this is where a web interface would be perfect. Back to the manual – visit lightwaverf.com it says for the web app, which turns out (after reading up where the pin is displayed) to only work with previous incarnations of the link device, disappointing.
Happy with the installation of the first valve I ventured from the Study into the lounge, literally across the hall, and fit the second valve. I proceded to pair the device but had absolutely no luck, swapped batteries and valves (even took the valve off completely to make sure it would pair closer to the gateway). While my router isn’t positioned centrally in the house which resulted in the Link box neither being so, I presumed if it were pairing would be less of an issue. However, taking into account that the majority of households have a router near the TV or at least the lounge this would be an issue for most. I experimented around the house finding that it wouldn’t pair if it was on the same side of the house as the lounge, this would be where a mesh network such as ZigBee or Z-Wave would triumph. Relegated to the West wing (OK my house is nowhere near as big as you are thinking right now) I proceded to pair the remaining two valves, again without issue. Interestingly the furthest away valve seemed to refuse to report battery information back to the gateway. Valves were positioned in the study, the hallway and a bedroom above the study.
Setting a simple schedule and varying temperatures, low in the hallway, high in the study and normal temp in the bedroom I found the valves responded really well. Unfortunately I could tell they were responding as I could hear them slowly moving the motors into the desired setting. Once they were set, however they would only move should the room temperatures vary enough. What I was unsure of was how accurate the temperature readings were due to them being so close to the radiators themselves, although manual compensation of a few degrees could probably be added without issue. The other scenario which bothered me was the fact that a thermostat was in place in my house, if it were taking temperature readings from a room with a valve which closed at a particular temperature which resulted in the thermostat report a lower temp than desired there could be a scenario where they would end up fighting it out. This would need to be seriously calibrated, or (as I’m sure is the plan) the LightwaveRF boiler switch be introduced, this made the Starter kit experience feel a little incomplete, but I suppose being a starter kit its the gateway drug.
Looking at the prices of the other elements to the setup – boiler switch, wireless thermostat (would this be needed) and more valves they all seemed reasonably priced but the fact that I struggled with signal strength across my house I would be reluctant to invest further.
All in all the LightwaveRF Comfy experience was pretty reasonable, initial setup was extremely simple although I felt the need for a login was a serious failure. Taking the Philips Hue system, you only need an account to benefit from the online features this should be the connected device approach. The fact that the lighting and heating parts were obviously seperate in the app made the system feel less joined up. I couldn’t find a hint of zoning or grouping of heating devices where this seemed in place for lighting and would surely be beneficial. The included manual was extremely simple to follow and was only let down by the false information around the web app. The majority of modern devices tend to not include a written manual, but in this case it was useful. It feels like this device suite is in its early infancy and it will be interesting to follow as to whether the system improves in functionality, the consolidation of heating and lighting within the app is a must also. Fortunately all the devices shortcomings are in software not hardware therefore could be resolved, but the question is will they be?
Simple pairing of devices
Useful Manual which is straight forward
Control only via smartphone app
Needs internet for setup
Annoying red flashing light if no internet was available
No local web interface to control or configure via
Manual contained wrong information about web app