Simply the best Z-Wave controllers available.
Without a doubt, the Fibaro Home Center Lite and Home Center 2 are the best Z-Wave controllers on the market. They are not cheap (neither is a Ferrari), but I believe they are worth every cent. If you are looking to get into Z-Wave home automation, then the controller you choose is not where I would be looking to save money - It is going to be the "brains" of your Z-Wave enabled smart home - it needs to work perfectly, be reliable and of course... be powerful. Fibaro Home Center ticks all of these boxes, and more.
A question we often get asked is... "What is the difference between the Fibaro Home Center Lite and Home Center 2?".
It's a good question, so let's take a look...
Home Center Lite
Home Center 2
|Graphical Scene Editor|
|LUA Based scenes|
|LUA Based Virtual Devices|
|Virtual Devices (HTTP)|
|Voice Control (Lili)|
|Voice Over IP|
Home Center Lite
Home Center 2
|Processor||ARM Cortex-A8 (720MHz)||Intel Atom (1.6GHz)|
|Dimensions (LxWxH)||90 x 90 x 33mm||225 x 185 x 44mm|
Home Center Lite
Home Center 2
|Battery Back-up Module||Built-in|
So what do these differences actually mean?
At first glance, the Home Center 2 seems to have a lot more features than the Home Center Lite - which in some ways it does. Don't be fooled though, the Home Center Lite is a very capable Z-Wave controller that may handle everything you need for your home automation setup. It is important to identify if the additional features Home Center 2 offers are important to you - and worth the extra money. So let's go through them one-by-one so you can make an informed decision...
Graphical Scene Editor
Firstly… what is a “Scene”?
Very simply - with reference to home automation – a 'scene' is usually a number of smart devices that can be triggered to perform individual, preset tasks as a ‘group’.
This ‘group’ of smart devices can be told to perform their respective tasks in unison to create a ‘Scene’.
As an example… You could create a “coming home scene”. In this scene, you could have your exterior lighting turn on (only if it's nighttime of course), set your thermostat to the perfect temperature, turn on some interior lighting and turn on the coffee maker.
In the example above, we have a number of smart devices working together - all performing individual, predefined tasks to create a coming home scene.
We could trigger the above scene to automatically run at a certain time of the day. Or we could activate the scene by pressing one button in the Fibaro app on our smartphone – or our smartphone could automatically run the scene when it detects you are close to home.
Scenes can be very simple (as above) or they can be very complex. You can add what is known as “conditional formatting” to your scenes (possibly better known as “IF-THIS-THEN-THAT”). In the coming home scene above, we actually included “conditional formatting”. We only turned on exterior lights if it is nighttime – IF (night) – THEN (turn on lights). Conditional formatting gives scenes a great deal of power and intelligence. However they are only as good as the information we assign them – in other words, we need to put in some effort if we want our home to be a truly smart home.
Fibaro is heavily reliant on scenes – as it should be. Lucky for us, they have made it easy to create scenes (even complex ones) using their “drag-and-drop” graphical user interface. Here is an example of how you could create a set of scenes that controls the watering of your garden - only under the right conditions of course...
Scene 1: "Rain"
If raining: close roof windows - turn garden sprinklers OFF - set "it rained" variable to 1
Scene 2 "Turn garden sprinklers on at 6:00 am"
Each day at 6:00 am check if "it rained" (user defined variable): If not ("it rained" variable = 0) - turn the sprinklers ON.
Example Scene 3 "Reset variable"
If "it rained" and 12 hours passed from that time: set "it rained" variable value to 0
Both the Home Center Lite and Home Center 2 use the same interface to create scenes. The clever and intuitive way Fibaro have designed their interface makes it easy to create simple or complex scenes and it's one of the many things that sets it head-and-shoulders above other home automation controllers.
LUA (pronounced LOO-ah) is a powerful, fast, lightweight, embeddable scripting programming language. LUA allows users (you) to create more complex control scenes than may otherwise be supported by Home Center's Graphical Scene Editor. The Home Center (both Lite and 2) Scene Editor is very powerful on its own and really doesn't lack much in functionality, however LUA compatibility brings new possibilities to the Home Center 2. LUA support is probably the most important difference between Home Center 2 (supported) and Home Center Lite (not supported). It would be worth your time to investigate LUA a bit more (Google is your friend) before deciding on which Home Center to purchase.
Although, this decision may be easier than you think... if the thought of "programming" sends cold shivers up your spine (and you have a social life), then LUA functionality may not be for you! If this is the case, don't worry, both the Home Center Lite and Home Center 2 will allow you to "program" your Z-Wave network to work just the way you like it with a very easy (and not at all scary) graphical user interface (with drag-and-drop simplicity), know as the Graphical Scene Editor (see above).
LUA Based Scenes
As discussed in LUA Programming above, LUA Scenes are also scripted “programs” that you write yourself. The Fibaro Graphical Scene Editor (shown above) does a great job of making it easy to create complex scenes, however if you are comfortable with “coding” your own scenes in the LUA language, it can actually be easier to create complex scenes in LUA. In very rare and extreme cases, LUA may be the only way to create the exact, very complex scene you want.
Again, I stress… LUA support is the biggest difference between the Home Center Lite (not supported) and the Home Center 2 (supported). So it is worth taking some time to think about the value LUA support holds, or doesn’t hold, for you.
Virtual Devices (HTTP)
Fibaro includes support for devices and products that are not Z-Wave based – these are known as Virtual Devices. These devices are usually controlled over your home’s IP network. Most smart TVs can be controlled over IP – this means that both the Fibaro Home Center Lite and Home Center 2 could control your smart TV by adding it to the Fibaro System as a Virtual Device.
You could also include the iTach Flex IP (or WiFi version) so you can control all of your audio visual equipment from the Fibaro System. You could also include control of your audio visual equipment into a Fibaro scene… Create a “movie time scene” which would dim your Z-Wave lights and turn on your AV equipment (added as a Virtual Devices) to the correct inputs and modes to watch a movie – all with the press of one button.
LUA Based Virtual Devices
Now, what if you would like things to work the other way? Perhaps you would like 3rd party systems that support LUA to control your Z-Wave devices and scenes through Fibaro Home Center – you can only do this with Home Center 2.
Voice Control (Lili)
Similar to Siri in iOS (Apple iPhone etc), Lili is a voice recognition and response program built into the Fibaro Home Center 2. Lili will allow you to control your Z-Wave network via voice commands from your smartphone - Lili can also respond to your commands. I wouldn't go as far as to say this is artificial intelligence, Lili won't talk to you about philosophy! However this is a really nice feature that you may find important - I certainly like it.
Voice Over IP
The Fibaro home Center 2 supports VOIP (Voice Over IP). This handy feature allows you to talk over an IP network. As an example, you could integrate your home's intercom system (provided it too supports VOIP) with HC2. I wouldn't call this feature a necessity, however you may find it useful.
As you can see, although the chart above seems to lean heavily in favour of Home Center 2 when compared to Home Center Lite – this is only the case if the extra features offered in Home Center 2 are important to you. If you would like a system that is easy to use and configure – then Home Center Lite may be perfect for you. If you value LUA compatibility, then the decision is easy – Home Center 2 is the way to go. It's your choice...
I hope this overview helps make your decision easier. We are always here to help if you have any questions or need more information. As always, leave a comment below, particularly if you can offer other readers some real-world experiences with Fibaro Home Center.
All the best,