Qubino Z-Wave Plus Flush RGBW Dimmer Review

Qubino Z-Wave Plus Flush RGBW Dimmer Review
The Qubino Flush RGBW Dimmer is designed to control your RGB or RGBW LED strips in order to create countless color options. It includes 6 special lighting effects that can be used if your hub allows for enhanced parameters. The device works using z-wave technology and due to its small footprint can be installed virtually anywhere. A Z-Wave gateway hub will be required for your setup and is sold separately. If you haven't purchased a hub and you plan on using the Qubino flush RGBW make sure to read the hubs documentation as it is not supported by all hubs.

The switch is signal repeater, so it will improve your z wave mesh network. The Minimum and maximum dimming levels can be set via parameters. You can also customize the ramp rate, this allow you to change how quickly the lights turn on or off. Four push buttons allow for control of brightness, color, turning on or off lighting effects, and finally allow you to turn off the white output on its own. The dimmer switch saves and restores last status on power failure. Extra parameters allow you to put a timer in the event that you want to automatically turn the lights on or off after a set time. Note that this is just a timer and not a real time clock. If you would like to turn the device on our off at a specific time you can do so with a scene on your hub.

As of this review the Vera Hub does not support the device officially and the only plugin available is not very stable (Vera Firmware version tried: 1.7.3501 with the "RGB Controller" plugin Version:1.34). OpenHab also allows you to install the device however we were not able to operate it successfully even using the latest snapshot release (openHAB 2.3.0 Build #1189).

The installation of the device is extremely simple and can easily be done following the instructions on the Qubino page. Note this device will not work with 120 Volts AC but instead works with 12 or 24 Volts DC. You can control the flush RGBW either remotely through your Hubs graphical web interface, phone app, or through wall switches if wired directly to one.


Overall we were pleased with the product and the response with the smartthings hub. The device currently sells for $53.00. It is packaged in a tiny plastic shell that fits virtually anywhere. We weren't happy that it didn't work with Vera or OpenHab.

View the installation process and see it in action with a smart things hub in the full Video Review.






It is important to note that this device will only work with standard RGB strips and not addressable strips. In short this means that all your LED's will be one color at any given time. You will not be able to make the first five led's one color and the next five a different color.


Get your own Qubino Flush Relay at https://www.thesmartesthouse.com

Qubino RGBW Dimmer Info: http://qubino.com/products/flush-rgbw-dimmer/

RGBW Lights Used in review (Controller was not used): http://amzn.to/2sDNRbM

Smartthings Hub:http://amzn.to/2FcsbWI

Vera Hub: http://amzn.to/2CumDnH

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Z-Wave.ME UZB USB Z-Wave Plus Stick Review

Z-Wave.ME UZB USB Z-Wave Plus Stick Review
Looking for an inexpensive way to get started in home automation? Take a look at the UZB Z-Wave USB Stick.

We gave the UZB stick a try and were pleased with it's performance. We installed it on a laptop and downloaded the openhab software that is available for free. The software can be downloaded from http://www.openhab.org. The UZB stick was found by the operating system immediately upon insertion. We are running Ubuntu Linux for our test so software drivers were not necessary. If you are running windows however you can find the link to the latest drivers on http://www.thesmartesthouse.com. We downloaded the openhab software and configured the UZB as indicated in the manual that was provided in the box. Once we configured the stick and restarted the software we were able to include 4 devices to test our UZB. We installed one GE relay switch, two Zooz Z-wave dimmers, and a Qubino Weather station. At first 3 of the devices were not recognized but it turned out to be the newer devices not having been implemented on the openhab stable release. Once we downloaded the snapshot build we were able to get the devices included. Communication to all 4 devices was a success.

We have tested the device thoroughly for about three weeks now and have not had any failures on communication. The closest device to the hub is about 15 feet away and the farthest is about 30 feet. The inherent nature of Z-wave uses each device as a mesh network to get the best route of communication back to the hub. Our hurdle throughout the test was actually getting to understand how the openhab software works and setting up the devices there. It is not a project for the faint at heart to understand and get openhab working. If you want something simpler, you may want to look into the other software titles mentioned below. Some of these titles offer different interfaces that may suit your need better. Our goal was to build a low cost system that would allow us to use and integrate as many devices into one hub as possible. The Openhab system is touted at being just that. While not the fault of the UZB device the openhab system has a steep learning curve but continues to improve and allow integration of more devices as it progresses to the future. The UZB device stood up to the test and functioned better than we expected.

Zwave.me states that the UZB firmware offers several extensions and enhancements over its competitors such as backup and recovery function including network topology, optimized transmitting queue handling to speed up transmitting process, firmware update from the OS level in the field, trusted platform module applying strong encryption, extended wakeup notification, and handling to extend battery life time of battery operated devices in the network. All these features and at a quarter of the price of competitors like the Aeon Labs Z Stick. The only feature we found missing was the self-contained inclusion that makes it simpler to include devices into your z-wave network. Other than that the UZB supports -Z-wave backup and restore that is a plus against the Aeon Labs unit.

One of the things we liked most about the UZB stick is that it is so versatile that you can run it on any hardware given the software is available. For instance you can build yourself the exact system we built on a laptop on an inexpensive raspberry Pi device that currently runs at about $35.00. The Raspberry Pi can be set up to be accessed via VNC so there is not even a need to have a designated monitor and keyboard for the device.



Here is the UZB attached to a Raspberry Pi mounted on the wall. The cover was 3D printed using a design by "0110-M-P" allowing for it to be wall mounted, you can find it here if interested.

While the UZB stick performed well and was easy to install, it was a bit challenging to use the open source software openhab2. The UZB uses the Sigma Serial API protocol just like the more expensive Aeon Labs Z-stick only at a fraction of the cost. The UZB by zwave.me proved to be a great little device at a great price.

Get your very own UZB Z-Wave Stick at The Smartest House.

Hardware compatibility with
-Wester Digital My Cloud NAS (Network Attached Storage)
-Raspberry Pi
-Windows / MAC / Linux

Software compatibility with
-Homeseer
-OpenHab
-OpenZWave
-Z-Way
-Indigo
-InControl

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Posted In: Technology

Zooz Z-Wave Plus Dimmer Light Switch Review

Zooz Z-Wave Plus Dimmer Light Switch Review
The ZEN22 by Zooz can be used as a regular switch as well as used in a 3 way configuration. Like any other switch the Zooz dimmer switch allows you to turn on,off or change brightness levels on loads attached to it. Pairing it with your favorite hub the Zooz dimmer switch uses Z-Wave Plus technology which allows you to control and monitor your lights via your smart phone or computer. The convenience is unparalleled to just having a plain old switch. Just imagine brightening the lights to a dim hue in the hallway automatically when you get up to light your way in the middle of the night. Turning on lights as you open your front door so that you don’t come home to a dark house, or just dimming the lights to watch a romantic movie with the wife while never leaving the couch.

This switch is equipped with the newer Z-Wave Plus 500 series chip that allows for lower power consumption while also being more reliable than its predecessors. The Zen22 also acts as a repeater strengthening your Z-Wave mesh network making it and every z-wave device around it more reliable. The Zooz ZEN22 is built well and feels like a solid product. The switch features a blue LED that lights up at night allowing you to easily locate the switch when it is dark. The paddle on the switch also has the Zooz logo printed on it in a light gray.

The inclusion of the device to our Vera hub was fairly straightforward but note that it will work with any smart home hub so long as it speaks Z-Wave. Once your hub is in inclusion mode, you tap the upper half of the paddle three times quickly and the new dimmer will appear on your hub shortly after. The Switch features an air-gap switch for added safety in the event that you need to remove power from the switch temporarily.

This dimmer like most others, requires a neutral wire at the location of installation as this is used to keep the switch on while the load is off. If you do not have one , you will need to get a licensed electrician to install one. Your switch will require the Neutral, Load, Line and Ground when used in a regular installation, the traveler is introduced when used in a 3-way setup. The switch only comes with the installed color paddle in white so you wont be able to change the color if needed. When comparing it to different brands like the popular GE Smart Dimmer for instance, this is a good buy as the cost is usually lower and it offers the same functionality. There is also another advantage to the Zooz switches over its competitors in that it does not require a Z-Wave enabled slave switch, and can be used with a regular toggle switch. This means that you get to save all that extra cash and use the existing switch.

The one gotcha with this setup is that when you are using that toggle switch in a hallway for instance you will only be able to dim from the side that has the z-wave Zooz switch installed. Other manufacturers will have a slave switch that will allow the dimming feature but they wont be compatible with the Zooz. From the regular switch, you will only be able to turn the light on and off. When used in a 3-way configuration, the slave switch does not need to be a 3-way switch. You can use any regular switch you have lying around.

The manual is written well and is very easy to understand. It features large diagrams that are labeled well. Zooz also offers alternate diagrams for different setups on their website http://www.getzooz.com. Please note that if you are not comfortable with electricity or have any questions about your wiring , you should consult an electrician as three way setups can be tricky to master.

The switch works with LED, Compact fluorescent, and incandescent bulbs. If you are going to be using it with LED’s please note that Zooz states the device functions on loads of greater than 20 Watts which can be rather high for some LED bulbs. If your switch controls various LED bulbs in a hallway, this probably won’t be an issue but you may want to look into it. If the load is lower than 20 Watts it may work but will shorten the life of the switch.

We were surprised by the quality and build of the switch and impressed by its performance. The switches retail for $32.95 at the moment of this writing which is cheaper than most switches in the market today. The fact that you no longer need an add on switch sweetens the deal a bit more. It is important to note however that you wont be able to dim from the end with a regular switch.






Get your very own Zooz Z-Wave Dimmer Switch at www.thesmartesthouse.com

Manufacturer website: http://www.getzooz.com

Specifications
-Model Number: ZEN22 VER. 2.0
-Z-Wave Frequency: 908.42 MHz (US)
-Power: 120 VAC, 60 Hz
-Maximum Loads: 500W Single-gang, 400W Double-gang, -300W Triple-gang Incandescent, 150W CFL or LED
-Wireless Range: Up to 100 feet line of sight
-Operating Temperature: 32-104° F (0-40° C)
-Installation and Use: Indoor only

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GoControl Z-Wave Dimmable LED Light Bulb Review

GoControl Z-Wave Dimmable LED Light Bulb Review
We gave the GoControl Z-Wave dimmable LED Light Bulb a try with out Vera Edge controller and were pleasantly pleased with the results. The Light bulb easily pairs with the controller by simply putting the controller on discovery mode and turning on the lamp. Upon initial power on, the device goes into discovery mode and once paired with the device, it flashes to let you know it is paired with your hub.

The device is ready for use immediate after that. This is one of the easiest devices to pair we have come across. The 100% setting was definitely bright and can easily replace a 60 watt equivalent light bulb. The Go Control delivers a smooth 2700 kelvin rating soft white light that is easy on the eyes. Our initial application was to use this light bulb in a lamp for a children's bedrooms as a night light. Upon our initial installation we quickly noticed that this would not be a good application as a night light as its lowest level at 1% was still rather bright. Once we added the shade on the lamp, it helped out a tad bit but not enough to make us comfortable. That being said we also understand that a night light is not the purpose of this light bulb so we will not knock it for that, we just wish it would dim a tiny bit more.

Overall the light bulb at its current price of 17.99 is more than ideal compared to its alternatives. The device should synch with any other z-wave controller such as the Smartthings hub, Zipato, Home seer, and Wink just to name a few. We tested the bulb for over a month and did have 3 instances where the bulb would turn on at full brightness over night which was deffinitley not desired specially as a night light. After replacing the bulb with another we have not had an issue. Overall if you are looking for a Z-Wave bulb you should deffinitley take a look at the GoControl Z-Wave Light Bulb as it is proced just right.

Get your GoControl Z-Wave Dimmable LED Light Bulb (LB60Z-1) on Amazon

Technical Specifications
- MPN: LB60Z-1
- UPC: 093863132995
- Base: Fits standard light socket (E27)
- Bulb Shape: A19
- Max. Illumination Output: 750 lumens
- Equivalent Incandescent Output: Equal to a 60 watt bulb
- Estimated Yearly Energy Cost: $1.09 (based on 3 hrs/day, 11¢Wh; cost depends on rates and use)
- Life: 25,000 hours / 22.8 years (based on 3 hrs/day)
- Color Temperature: 2700K
- Power Consumption: 9 Watts
- Dimming Levels: 1 to 100 Steps
- Input Voltage: 108 to 132 VAC
- Input Frequency: 57 to 62 Hz
- Operating Temperature: 0° to 40° C
- Z-Wave Chip: 500 Series
- Z-Wave Frequency: 908.42 MHz
- Wireless Range: Approximately 130 feet (line of sight)
- Z-Wave Repeater: Yes
- Network Inclusion: Standard & NWI
- OTA Firmware Updatable: Yes

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Posted In: Technology

Qubino Z-Wave Plus Flush 1 Relay Review

Qubino Z-Wave Plus Flush 1 Relay Review
The Qubino Flush mount Relay module is a small device that fits inside a standard electrical outlet box and can be used to make a standard power outlet or switch, a smart device. At the time it is the world's smallest Flush Z-Wave Relay available which is rather important specially when you are dealing with limited space in your electrical boxes. The dimensions are 41.8 x 36.8 x 15.4 mm (WxHxD) or 1.65 x 1.45 x .6 inches and weighs only 28 g.

Relay 1

The nature of this device is that of a relay or an electrical device, typically incorporating an electromagnet, that is activated by a current or signal in one circuit to open or close another circuit. In layman's terms, it turns attached load devices on and off but cannot be used to dim devices. Qubino offers a dimming module that can do just that if it is the desired effect. You can control it either remotely through the Z-Wave network hub application, or through wall switches. A bonus is that it also measures power consumption of whatever is attached to the load side of the relay which can help the homeowner understand the energy consumption of light bulbs, or of any device that is attached.

The Qubino relay also supports the connection of a digital temperature sensor that can be purchased separately. The relay module is inherently a repeater so it will enhance your current mesh and improve the range and stability of each device in your Z-Wave network. It's power consumption is just 0.4 W which is among the lower spectrum of z-wave devices. The device also has some additional parameters that can be used by professionals as seen below. More details on these can be found here but note that we did not use any of these for our test.

Parameter no. 1 – Input I1 switch type
Parameter no. 2 & no. 3 – Input I2 & input I3 contact type
Parameter no. 11 - Automatic turning off output after set time
Parameter no. 12 - Automatic turning on output after set time
Parameter no. 15 - Automatic turning off / on seconds or milliseconds selection
Parameter no. 30 - Saving the state of the relay after a power failure
Parameter no. 40 – Power reporting in Watts on power change
Parameter no. 42 – Power reporting in Watts by time interval
Parameter no. 63 – Output Switch selection
Parameter no. 100 & no. 101 – Enable / Disable Endpoints I2 & I3 or select Notification Type
Parameter no. 110 – Temperature sensor offset settings
Parameter no. 120 – Digital temperature sensor reporting

For our review we took on to installing the Qubino relay behind a recessed outlet that we can use to turn on and off an outlet at a specific time each day.

Relay 1

The Qubino Flush Relay came in simple packaging with just the unit and an instruction manual. The unit is very well built and feels like a quality product when handled.

Relay 1

Relay 1

Relay 1

The terminals while small feel sturdy and are easy to screw down using a small precision screw driver. To turn our outlet on and off, we use a scene in our home automation hub while also allowing the same functionality from our smart homes graphical interface.

The installation was fairly simple and took just a few minutes. We first turned off the breaker to the outlet and from there went on to exposing the wires by removing the existing outlet. After doing this we identified the load (Ot), neutral (N) and line(L) wires. Our line and neutral wire was connected to the Qubino relay as identified in its labels on the first two slots. The screws were fairly easy to fasten but required a precision Philips screwdriver to make sure not to damage the head on the screw. The load wire was connected from the third slot and reattached to the outlet. once everything was connected, everything was put back in its place.

Relay 1

Here you see the qubino flush relay mounted behind our outlet ready for a faceplate. As can be seen the installation is clean and the unit does not occupy much room in the electrical box.

Relay 1
When first turned on the Qubino Flush Relay Module enables the inclusion mode for 5 seconds, in order to take advantage of the feature we started the inclusion mode on our Vera hub just prior to flipping the breaker. The Qubino was found and configured within 15 seconds. It was probably one of the quickest inclusions we have ever performed on our Vera Home Automation Hub. The device worked flawlessly and allowed for remote control of the outlet as expected. We simply love this little device mostly due to its size and functionality. The unit retails for 49.95 at various outlets like the The Smartest House or Amazon.

You can find more information on the Qubino Relay

Get your very own Qubino Z-Wave Plus Flush 1 Relay at www.thesmartesthouse.com

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Posted In: Technology

Qubino Z-Wave Weather Station Review and Installation

Qubino Z-Wave Weather Station Review and Installation
The Qubino Weather Station enables you to set up your z-wave hub in a way that will allow your smart devices to respond to climate events and changes. It has been the missing link that can help help you create all climate-related scenes in your smart home. The weather station kit includes a USB key, a user manual, and two thermo-hygrometers for the purpose of gathering temperature and humidity data. Also included is an anemometer which is just the fancy scientific name for a wind sensor as well as a separate rain sensor.

The sensors transmit all collected data to the Weather Station USB Key by wireless RF in different frequencies for different regions. The wireless radio frequency (RF) has a range of up to 100 meters in an open area while the z-wave range is up to 30m indoors (depending on building materials).

The USB Key just converts the telemetry it gathers from a wireless RF signal to your Z-wave network. The unit is capable of gathering the 10 measurements by default. It receives data for temperature, wind chill, velocity, wind gust, wind direction, humidity, rain rate and battery level for each Sensor. It is designed to act as repeater in order to improve range and stability of z-wave network as well. It is important to note that at the time of this review, the Qubino Weather station is only supported by HomeSeer, SmartThings Hub ( With a required custom device handler), Zipato Zipabox Smart Home Controller, and the Zipato ZipaTile Home Automation Controller. Our tests were all conducted with a Smarthings hub, if your hub is not mentioned, you may want to check with the manufacturer for support. Many manufacturers such as Vera will add support if enough users want the feature. The kit comes with pre-installed batteries, upon initial installation you must open all the units by removing the screws with a Philips head screwdriver and discarding the clear plastic tab that protects your unit from wasting batteries while in its packaging. You must do this on all sensors. Our YouTube video goes over much of the detail of the installation so make sure to watch it as things get a little tricky. The inclusion of this module to your z-wave network is a little cumbersome specifically on the smarthings hub but at least it does support which we can't say for the Vera for instance. Our weather station came from thesmartesthouse.com which offered a link to the Smart Things Hub custom device handler that is required for installation. Note that for standard devices such as light switches this step is not required so this differs from a standard z-wave device installation.
It is pretty neat that you can use the Qubino weather station to see weather data at home from anywhere in the world. The weather station can be used to trigger scenes that can close the shades and turn on the AC if its too hot outside. It can turn up the heat if its too cold. You can also set up scenes to disable your z-wave controlled sprinklers if it has rained recently. Overall we really enjoy the weather station and our only wish is that more hubs would support it. Take a look at our video for more details and a close up look at the working unit.






Get your very own Qubino Weather Station At www.thesmartesthouse.com

Correction: Our video states that the weather station is $200.00 but really retails for $239.95. They happened to have a sale the week the review was created.

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RAD Garage Storage Heavy Duty Bike Hoist Lift Review

RAD Garage Storage Heavy Duty Bike Hoist Lift Review
Chances are you are looking for some genius idea to get your bikes organized in your garage that won't break the bank. We too were on this challenging task and recently came across the RAD Garage Storage Heavy Duty Bike Hoist Lift.

RAD Bicycle Hoist




We were pleased with the product and would recommend it. The RAD bicycle mount is going for about $14.00 on Amazon at the moment. Upon installation, the hoist delivered its promise of being able to hoist the bike with no issue. That being said, we made some minor modifications to allow us to use it in a more comfortable fashion.

First off, the installation manual is not the most friendly, it is one double sided sheet with a few images but not very clear instructions. Basically it tells you to attach to a hoist in your ceiling but doesn't really tell you how to find them.
We would recommend a stud finder which would add to the cost but if you have one then you are golden. The screws that come with the hoist are absolute garbage as they strip too easily. We wouldn’t use them to hold our bicycles and ended up using tapcon screws because we had a box of them laying around. The actual pulley system is pretty good considering the price and honestly you can't build one yourself any cheaper if you tried. It is a solid piece of metal and has a decent construction. The locking system is very basic but functional if installed correctly. The rope that comes with the system is made of braided vinyl, it is plenty long so you shouldn't have any issues there no matter how tall your ceilings are. In a while when the rope starts to deteriorate we will replace it with a nice Paracord Rope.

After installing the RAD hoist we started to lift up the first bike, and noticed that the hook that attaches to the rear seat was slipping off. We didn't feel too comfortable with it so we came up with this brilliant idea to use 18" Husky Hang-All Velcro Straps found at the Home Depot.



In order to complete our idea we removed the hooks from the RAD Hoist and replaced it with the 1/4" x 2" Stainless Eye Bolt and a nylon Nut to make it harder for it to come loose.



With these modifications, we feel this is the ultimate bike hoist and although its a little more expensive, it is worth the extra money. The modified hoist ended up costing about $25 dollars per bike. Here is the finished hoist with modifications and two hanging bikes. Note that these modifications are not necessary, and only provide for more convenience. Below are some images of the modified hoist.









The Good
- Cheap bike hoist system
- Helps clean the clutter


The Bad
- Screws should be stronger
- Hook system is hard to use on bikes that don't have a cupped seat that the hook can grab on to
- Subpar instructions

Get your own RAD Bicicle hoist on Amazon.

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Posted In: Tools

Frog Pod Bath Toy Scoop by Boon

Frog Pod Bath Toy Scoop by Boon
If you have little ones in the house, you probably have what feels to you like hundreds of bath toys in the shower. For my wife and I it got out of hand so we were looking for a solution to keep things a little tidy. We found this frog in our local toy store and gave it a shot.

We installed it in the bathtub and quickly found it to be a blessing in disguise. Sure it looks like an innocent little frog but this guy is capable of converting into a scoop that can help with the clean up routine after the kids shower. More than that the kids think its fun to use and end up using it as a toy as well. The Boon Frog Pod sticks to the wall using a double sided tape. The tape is good for a while but after about 6 months we ended up having to replace the tape with another 3M tape because the frog came crashing down off the wall. We feel we were being a little aggressive with he frogs capabilities but still it should be expected usage. We typically hold three bottles with shampoo conditioner and bath gel on top plus all the small toys inside.

Frog Pod Boon Shampoo


Frog Pod Boon Scoop


Note that the frog is not made for large toys but instead made for smaller items. The frog pod is rather large at dimension of 19" x 16.5" x 7" inches but we feel its a good size to hold smaller toys. Any smaller and it just wouldn’t be worth it.

The Good
- Holds plenty of small toys
- Makes extra space for shampoo bottles
- Clings to the wall and doesn't require space.
- Holds toys that while allowing for excess water to drain out & avoid mold

The Bad
- Tape didn't last very long
- Rather large footprint

All in all we liked the frog pod and would recommend it, your kids are also sure to love it. Get your very own Frog Pod on Amazon.

We also like to note that there are at least two versions of the Frog Pod. The older one pictured here allows for the storage of bottles above while the new one eliminates that and leaves a larger toy container with a slightly smaller footprint. Both are still available for sale although the older one is getting tougher to find.

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Amazon Echo Review with demo using HA Bridge

Amazon Echo Review with demo using HA Bridge
The Amazon Echo is a hands-free speaker you control with your voice. It can connect to your bluetooth devices like your phone or tablets for the purpose of streaming audio. The echo is capable of playing music, giving you the latest news, sports scores, and weather, among other things. In a way its like Siri or Google now but not as refined in some aspects.

The echo has seven microphones that feature far field technology so it can hear you from across the room—even if you are playing music.

The build quality of the device is nice, there really isn't much too it, it looks like a Pringles chips can wrapped in black plastic. There are only two buttons on the unit and a rotating volume control on top with a light ring for visual feedback. It is aesthetically pleasing to the eye but can easily be missed if it is off to a corner. The Echo must be plugged in to an electric outlet to work and cant be dragged from room to room without taking the power supply with you. It does not have an auxiliary out so you can't connect it to your media center or external speaker big bummer for us.

You can easily manage your Echo with the free Alexa App on Android, or iOS platform as well as most desktop browsers. From there you can connect services you already use such as Pandora, or Spotify. The echo also comes with support for Amazon Music, Prime Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn.

From the App you can also set your home and work locations for traffic updates, and also news or sports scores you would like to hear on your flash briefing.

You can also create shopping lists and to-do lists. These items will show up on your Alexa app so no matter where you are they will be available to you.

You can set timers and alarms On the Amazon Echo, and all of these can be managed via the Alexa App as well. There you can change things such as alarm tones by picking from a predefined list.

The Alexa App is also where you discover and enable third-party Alexa skills. There aren't too many and we weren't really impressed by them but we imagine that they will get better just like the Google Play store did when it first began. The one skill that we can find a real use for was the metronome but that's only if you are a musician.

One of our favorite features is the connected home. By default the echo can control devices from WeMo, Philips Hue, SmartThings, Insteon, and Wink by just searching for them. We however don't have any of these as our main controller is a Vera Edge hub which is similar in nature to the Smrart Things hub. Luckily we found a developer on github that had created a home automation bridge that makes the echo think devices on the Vera are Philips hue devices and with that we are able to control our devices. You can get that info here https://github.com/bwssytems/ha-bridge. Note that this is not for the faint at heart and will require some work. This is the feature that we feel makes the Echo most valuable.

You can also lower the volume, raise the volume by just asking. And this is a tool the entire family can use like helping kids with homework or getting conversions for recipes in the kitchen.

You can even use apps such as if this then that to give you even more control of your devices.

If you want to stop Alexa from listening you can hit the mute button at any time and she won't hear a peep.

We feel that the Echo is a device full of promise, the voice recognition is amazing and very accurate. The built in functions are somewhat limited but we can see these getting better in the future. We feel that the Amazon commercials make Alexa seem smarter than she really is. If you don't set her up via the alexa app lots of things just won't work.

Alexa only knows where you live and work so you cant really ask her things like how is the commute from American airlines arena to Miami international airport ...
At the moment there is no open API which is a bummer for developers, other than that we find it is a cool toy and somewhat helpful assistant.

The Amazon Echo goes for 179.99 on Amazon. There is also a new Amazon Echo dot now that goes for 89.99 and the only thing missing from this one is the speaker but it features an auxiliary port that allows you to connect to external devices.

For the full review and some demo's of the actual Amazon Echo see our You Tube Video Review below.






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Orbit Max 8-Pattern Nozzle Review

Orbit Max 8-Pattern Nozzle Review
If you are looking for an excellent quality nozzle for your garden hose, look no further. The Orbit Max 8-Pattern Nozzle is sure to tickle your fancy. The Orbit Maxgarden hose nozzle has a solid uni-body construction with only two moving parts. There really isn’t much to go wrong with this nozzle. We have been using the Nozzle for over a year at a minimum once every weekend for gardening, cleaning the patio, and cleaning the pool pump primarily but this nozzle has withstood the test of time. We liked it so much in fact, that we replaced all our nozzles with the Orbit Max.

The Orbit Max has a smooth thumb-control lever that adjusts the on/off as well as the flow of water you need for the job. The nozzle is very comfortable to hold and operate for any size hand. We love the different patterns and toughness of this product. Although we wouldn't go throwing it around on purpose, the design allows for much punishment to the nozzle without affecting performance.

Below are a few pictures that illustrate the 8 different pattern sprays.

















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