If you’ve got a Z-Wave network in your Home Automation system and looking for a smart outdoor plug you’ve probably come across the GE Z-Wave Plus Outdoor Smart Plug Switch. Today’s review will be looking at this smart plug and how it performs within Home Assistant.
This review has no affiliation with GE, I bought the plug for myself and decided to review it.
The GE Z-Wave Outdoor Smart Plug is a single smart plug controllable by a Z-Wave controller. The main selling point for this smart plug is that it’s rated for outdoor use. So if you have some outdoor lighting, a fan or any other appliance this smart plug can be safely used. This does come with a couple of caveats though. The smart plug must be 3 feet above the ground and shouldn’t be exposed directly to rain or immersed in water. It also should only be used with a GFCI outlet. So while it can be used outside, those are some things to consider for your setup. Additionally, it is only rated for 32-104 °F (0-40 °C), so it might not make sense to use this to control something critical if your temperature regularly is outside that range. I did not test how the plug performs out of that range.
The plug comes with some mounting holes that would make mounting this device easy. The package includes a wall anchor and screw for mounting purposes.
The device also comes with a rubber seal that can cover the plug when not in use. Giving it good protection if you just use it during certain parts of the year. If you’re using this for something like holiday lights you can keep the plug mounted in place, but know that dust and other debris won’t get in during the rest of the year with the seal closed.
Finally, a physical button in the plug provides a local override. I always like devices that give a local option for accessing the device so that if for some reason my Z-Wave network is down or my controller isn’t working I can still use the plug as intended. I found the button to be a little hard to use though, having to really press hard to register a button press.
The plug uses Z-Wave Plus to communicate to other devices in your Z-Wave network. Their marketing material documents support for the following Z-Wave hubs: SmartThings, Wink, ADT Pulse, Trane, Vivint, Nexia, Honeywell, HomeSeer, Harmony Home Hub Extender, Vera, Connect and Iris. I’ve had success using this on Home Assistant via OpenZWave as well. Because the device is powered, it acts as a built-in repeater, strengthing your Z-Wave mesh network. Their manual also claims the antenna reaches up to 150 feet, but I suspect this will vary greatly depending on the interference of other devices and building materials in your home.
There are a couple of downsides about the plug that you should consider. Like I mentioned previously, there is a limited temperature range the plug is rated for so you’ll want to consider what application you have for this plug, and if there is any concern it doesn’t work during certain temperatures. Also, the cord length is quite short (around 8″). The plug must be plugged directly into the outlet, not through an extension cord. May not be a concern for you but wanted to make note of it.
I would also have liked to see some sort of status LED on the device so you can tell if the switch is on or off locally. The plug also doesn’t come with any power monitoring features, so you’ll need to look for another plug if that’s a requirement. Finally, the physical button on the device is hard to press. You kind of have to press it “just right” to get it to trigger. This could be because of the weatherproofing required for the device.
One major concern all Z-Wave users have is “does the device perform an instant update”. A good sign is when a device lists the “Association” or “Hail” class as supported by the device. In our case, the plug mentions the “Association” class in it’s manual.
If you look at the device in the Z-Wave Product Catalog, you also see that the Association class is listed under product command classes.
While that is great, how does it actually perform? For my testing, I use the Aeotec Z-Stick Gen 5 device which controls my Z-Wave network of 15 devices. This testing was all performed with Home Assistant 0.91.4. I first tested with the device about ~25 feet from my hub, going through one interior and one exterior wall. Being only 25 feet away, it was considered one hop from the Z-Wave stick controlling my network.
Here I am pressing the physical button on the outdoor plug. As you can see Home Assistant is updating instantly with the switch status.
Next, I tried the reverse, clicking the switch in Home Assistant and measuring the lag to change state. Overall, the plug seems to respond instantly to the controller.
I also wanted to try the device a bit farther from my hub. I moved it into my kitchen so that it would be 2 hops away (1 hop to a light switch and 1 more to the plug) from the Z-Wave controller. Once I rehealed the Z-Wave network, I reran the same tests to check if the status update was still happening fast enough. I started again by testing how fast the plug updated when pressing the physical button.
Finally, here I am testing two hops away by clicking the switch in Home Assistant. You can see the lamp light goes on instantly still.
Overall, I was very happy with the performance of the plug. Even when moving the device a couple of hops away from the controller it seems to instantly update as well as report its status. There are a lot of factors that go into your Z-Wave network performance, but this device seems to behave well. You shouldn’t need to enable polling on the plug to get updates when someone physically presses the button on the device.
Overall the integration with Home Assistant is fairly straightforward if you have other Z-Wave devices. Pairing is easy, click the “Add Node” button from the Z-Wave management screen in Home Assistant and then press the manual button on the plug and it should be added to your Z-Wave network. Once the association is made, you can rename the entity in Home Assistant and it should automatically appear in your “Switches” group. Mine is going to control some lighting in my outdoor courtyard, in Home Assistant it ends up looking like this:
There are no configuration options for the switch, so there is nothing else to configure within Home Assistant. Overall, it’s a pretty easy device to include and Home Assistant (which uses OpenZWave) seems to have good support for the device.
All in all the GE Z-Wave Outdoor Smart Plug is a great device if you need to control lighting or an appliance outdoors. There are a few things to consider when comparing against other outdoor plugs, like cord length and operating temperature. Overall though the device has a robust industrial design and good Z-Wave performance, so it should integrate nicely into your Z-Wave network.