EnOcean is well known low power wireless standard and as a technology it is being integrated into wide range of home automation solutions, either as an integral part of the smart home ecosystem, or as an standalone wireless technology used for some sort of dedicated remote control (blinds, garage door, remote wall switch, …). It has been there for years already, I am personally using it since the very start of my smart home integration. It was heavily advertised by Loxone as their primary wireless solution until the launch of their proprietary technology called “Air”. Multiple products branded as Loxone HW were using EnOcean standard.
EnOcean is very interesting technology, even from today’s perspective.
- It uses very little energy, many sensors are designed to harvest solar energy, push-buttons are using the kinetic energy from your push to to feed the low power electronics, so it doesn’t need any battery (and any wire) to operate.
- Like any other wireless standards, EnOcean allows some actuators to act as signal repeaters, increasing the area coverage.
- The solution is not tied to a specific manufacturer. There are interesting components made by multiple producers.
More technical details can be found on https://www.enocean.com/en/technology/radio-technology/
- It’s wireless, so do not expect similar reliability as with wired devices
- Loxone still supports this standard somehow. On the day when I was writing this post the EnOcean extension was still in stock, which is the one I am using at home as well. But surely a day will come when this extension will become discontinued, and then in the event of any unexpected failure, there is nothing to keep my EnOcean wireless devices integrated with Loxone. This will be pursuit with the Air technology being pushed as the only and proper Loxone wireless “standard”. Unfortunately closed one, so no other makers can offer you any devices except Loxone.
My story with EnOcean
I had to install two EnOcean actuators right after I finished the wired installation in my house. An this all because of wrong cabling done on two places. One for motorized sun awning and the other for one particular window blinds. I tried to solve this using two Flush-mount Venetian blinds GreenNet EnOcean Aktors from OPUS. These devices are quite nice and small enough to fit standard installation box. But even when I enabled the repeater mode on these (off on default), I was struggling with the signal coverage. I need to admit that both devices were almost on the outside of the walls of the house (blinds box), so I had to experiment with better antenna connected to the Opus devices.
And yes, I do have external antenna connected to the Loxone EnOcean Extension to improve the signal. Finally, I had to wire the motorized sun awning differently (to improve reliability that was really problematic in that part of the house), and the only external actuator is used for one of my blinds. Maybe this has something to do with the thick brick walls with insulation and reinforced concrete ceilings that block the radio signals, and in other construction types this may be fine.
Apart from the actuators I already mentioned I am also using few EnOcean push-buttons. Two of these were planned from beginning. One on a glass surface where cables won’t be nice, the other in the bathroom close to the bathtub where due to the safety regulations standard cabling couldn’t be done. These are mostly working fine, as all of these are indoor and have quite good signal distance to the EnOcean extension. But isolated and random transmission gaps can occur.
One interesting situation can happen here. The way the EnOcean push-buttons works is that it sends one command/data block on the button press, and another (different) command/data block on the button release. This way Loxone can identify long press similarly to the wired push-buttons. A corner scenario can happen, when the first data of the button press are received but the button release signal is not received (due to some electromagnetic noise, interference, etc.). What happens then is that Loxone still thinks that the user is holding the push-button pressed, which in my default light control block means dimming. The dimming completes to the end position, so the light might get off, which no one would probably notice as something unusual. But then if the same light control block gets some input from other push-buttons or input sources, the behavior is strange, because Loxone still thinks that someone is holding the EnOcean push-button and lights behave strange, until you re-press that wireless button and both push and release commands are well received. Normally I wouldn’t write this paragraph about something so unrealistic to happen, but when this happened for the first time, I thought that my config or miniserver has gone mad, because the light scenes in the room behave really crazy and I was unable to switch all lights of there 🙂 Loxone could have fixed that with some timeout for the button release, but I doubt this would be high user impact scenario to deserve a fix.
I am still using EnOcean as the only wireless technology that is integrated into Loxone. I haven’t had a reason to switch to the Loxone’s proprietary “Air”, which according to my friend’s experience provides better signal coverage (mostly due to its mesh network design). But I cannot compare myself and I don’t think that any of the technologies is trouble free. There are numerous posts about window and water leak Air sensors battery drains, which is other aspect of going wireless.
Most of the EnOcean input devices are battery free, which is a huge advantage. There are PIR sensors with small solar panel (I have not tested), and there is interesting selection of products made by NodOn. I have ordered the battery free magnetic push-buttons for some kids appliances, but they also do remotely controlled sockets and many other stuff.
The rubber push-button, which they call EnOcean Soft Remote, is small four button wireless remote. It is magnetic, so it can be placed on metal surfaces (but the magnet could be a bit stronger in my opinion), glued to a permanent location, or used as a portable remote. It has no battery, it uses the energy of your push to generate the signal. This is great, but be prepared for a slight stiffer touch compared to a battery powered remote switches. This is not a criticism, it is just to understand where the energy is coming from.
Most of the other wireless stuff for any systems are battery powered. And that’s for sure great advantage when planing and installing a new system (no wires, it is wireless – quick and cheap), but can turn into a big hassle when replacing batteries everywhere in the house every 6 or ? months. There are really crazy things these days made, for instance remote doorbell with camera and motion sensor, that is battery powered and you need to take it down and recharge at home every time the battery is empty.
Avoid wireless if you can go wired
When planning a smart home solution my advice would be to not rely on any wireless technology. The most (if not all) of the devices should be wired. Use wireless only if there is no other choice, if you do any last minute/additional modifications, or expand or retrofit a system with no option to go wired. There are situations where wireless makes sense, but remember that wireless solution is never as reliable as cable, mainly due its possible interference with other things in (and also outside) the house, battery powered devices that you will need to take care of on regular basis (battery drain), keeping aside the impact of permanent exposure of human organism to electromagnetic radiation.