How to build your dream Fibaro home automation system
- By: Ashley Saunders
- January 2021
As a relative newcomer to the smart home market, Fibaro is a Polish-based brand that offers an innovative approach to building a home automation system. As all products are Z-Wave compatible, you can use Fibaro products as part of a discrete system or use them alongside other brands.
As a DIY friendly home automation system, anyone with a screwdriver and a smartphone can install and program Fibaro products. That said, they offer global installations via a network of professional partners.
Their state-of-the-art approach and affordable pricing ensures Fibaro will be here for many years to come.
Since launching in 2010, Fibaro has rapidly expanded across the globe as one of the most advanced wireless smart home systems. Headquartered in Poznan, Poland, their products can be found in over 100 countries.
From the start, all devices were designed around the Z-Wave protocol, allowing them to rapidly cement their place in the market. As Apple introduced HomeKit®, Fibaro set to work ensuring all the devices could be compatible with the Apple HomeKit® protocol.
From the idea of making the home more intuitive to building a product line of DIY friendly smart devices, Fibaro now holds more than 30 patents and 150 industrial designs registered. That said, the mission is unchanged as simplistic is still at the centre of everything they do.
As a smart home system, Fibaro offers devices to control every area of your home, while allowing you to operate the system from anywhere with Wi-Fi. Since the adoption of voice control in recent years, Fibaro has expanded from Apps to work with Google Assistant® and Amazon Alexa®.
Working similarly to both Z-Wave and Lightwave, Fibaro devices use 2-way wireless communication to interact with other devices and the central hub (the system’s brain).
The central hub connects to the internet, allowing you to control the system no matter where you are, so long as you have a Wi-Fi connection and a smartphone or tablet. You can even use voice commands to operate the system.
What makes Fibaro different from the average Z-Wave set-up is the app and website. Both are well-designed and offer a seamless way to control a plethora of devices from the brand and 3rd parties. With in-house software development, each product is rigorously tested to ensure seamless integration.
Many use Fibaro products and multiple other brands, in their Z-Wave smart home as they offer innovative ways to control a range of functions. As a flexible system, building a home automation system is far easier.
Selecting the brain
Fibaro currently offers three different Home Center Controllers: Home Center 3, Home Center 2 and Home Center Lite. As each does something slightly different and you’ll need to select the right one for your system.
Home Center Lite
As the basic hub, the Home Center Lite can pair with 30 to 50 devices and is uses an ARM Cortex-A8 with 128 MB of RAM and 128 MB of memory. It’s ideal for smaller systems or allowing you to control a single function (such as lights or heating) within your home.
As Wi-Fi enabled device, it connects to your router using an Ethernet cable, allowing you to control the smart devices using the website, App and voice commands. That said, it has a five plug-in device limit and only offers cloud back-up.
Home Center 2
Able to control up to 232 Z-Wave devices, the Home Centre 2 offer far more features than the Lite including unlimited plug-in devices, back-ups using the cloud and local USB drive, and has 4 USB ports.
It uses a Dual-core Intel Atom with 1GB of RAM and up to 6GB of memory. Again, like the Lite, it connects to your Wi-Fi router using an Ethernet cable and can be controlled using the website, App and voice commands.
Home Center 3
As the most feature-packed hub, the Home Center 3 can control up to 232 Z-Wave devices and offer multiple methods of operation (Website, App, Voice). Built around Quad-core Arm Cortex A53, the unit has 2 GB of RAM and 8GB storage yet still offers cloud back-up.
It has built-in 2.4GHz Wi-Fi and connects to your Wi-Fi using an Ethernet cable. Home Center 3 is compatible with ZigBee and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).
Unsure which hub to use? Read our comparison of Fibaro Home Center 2 vs 3
As it’s easy to become overwhelmed with options, it’s best to start building your Fibaro smart home system with a single feature in one room, then expand as you feel comfortable. You’ll be able to troubleshoot more effectively this way.
Of course, if you have the budget, then hire a professional installer. Together, you’ll be able to design a complete system that covers every aspect of your home. Plus they will be able to spot and solve problems before they arise.
We recommend building your system around either the Home Center 2 or the Home Center 3. Ideally, you’d place the hub in the centre of your home to provide maximum communication coverage to devices.
You might want to start in your living room with lights or power sockets. Adding power sockets is easier as Fibaro sells a plug-in and play devices. Whereas for lighting control, you’d need to install a Dimmer Unit behind each light switch.
After a week or two, then roll out that feature to the next room and keep adding a new room every few days. Next, repeat the process with a new feature. You’ll find after a few weeks that you’ve managed to automate a chunk of your home and are well on the way to building a smart home.
Creating your Fibaro smart home
With nearly 50 products in the range, there are plenty of options available for you to build your ideal smart home system. Let’s have a look at the key areas you might want to control and how Fibaro can help you.
Chose between attractive plug-in-and-play devices or retrofittable modules to turn your sockets smart. Unlike some brands, the plug-in sockets are unobtrusive and have safety built-in to prevent kids from being harmed.
The lighting modules can double as smart power sockets, allowing you to turn your existing socket smart by installing a module in the backbox.
Control your lights by fitting dimmer modules in the backbox. Keep your existing switches, but turn them high tech. Several different dimmer modules are available, and installing one takes a few minutes.
Control your radiators using retrofittable TRV valves with built-in battery and charge using a USB cable (like the one you use for your phone). You can control individual radiators or the whole system, allowing you to reduce your heating bills as you only heat rooms you’re using.
One of the top reasons for installing home automation is security and Fibaro doesn’t disappoint in this regard.
An impressive range of sensors is available including motion, door/window, flood Carbon Monoxide and smoke. These enable you to monitor what is happening at your home around the clock.
Improve your security with the Fibaro Intercom, which has two-way audio and a 180-degree HD camera, night vision and two relay outputs (for controlling gates and doors). It has built-in storage to record video and audio when your not home, and even acts as a doorbell!
The Fibaro range also includes a relay module, which can help automate and control blinds/curtains, gates and garage doors.
Home Cinema and Media
While there aren’t any specific products aimed at turning your home cinema set-up into a smart one, there is a universal control called Smart Implant, which can interface with most devices to allow for smart control using Fibaro. It also has a built-in temperature sensor.
You could, of course, use other Z-Wave enabled devices to control your home entertainment set-up. But more on that later!
As we’ve mentioned, you can control a Fibaro system using their website or App (available in the App Store and on Google Play). That said, they offer a range of unique options including The Button, Swipe, and a key fob.
The Button allows you to activate pre-programmed scenes such as turn everything off when pressed on your way out. You could use it in a cinema room to lower the screen and blinds and turn on the AV equipment.
Swipe works just as it sounds. You can use Swipe control different preset scenes based on how you move your hand past it. It can also display photos, allowing it to blend into your home yet with a single gesture, it can activate multiple things. Easily the coolest product in the range!
The key fob offers six programmable buttons that can control up to 30 different actions. It has built-in safety to ensure only you can operate your smart home system, great if your keys go missing.
You should expect issues as you would with any home automation system. As the system uses wireless communication rather than wires to pass messages, you’ll likely experience drop-out, even if very rarely.
As new products entering the market and old Z-Wave chips being discontinued, there will always be the need to update software and devices. Fibaro has had some past issues with software releases. Some users have had to reprogram their system or restore software to a previous version.
It’s worth mentioning that as a Z-Wave compatible system, even if you can technically add 3rd party devices to the system, this doesn’t mean they will play nicely together. So you’ll need to research device compatibility before buying devices.
They do offer great support over the phone, email and have a very active forum, which is a great learning resource. And of course, they are on social media and willing to help there too.
Can I use …?
There are various ways to the two can communicate and work together. That said, you might want to pick between Lightwave vs Z-Wave as both are their own beast.
In case you haven’t been following, Fibaro is a Z-Wave ready system. So, you can easily pick from thousands of devices to integrate into your system.
As another Z-Wave enabled system, you can seamlessly use Samsung SmartThings devices with a Fibaro system.
All Fibaro products work with Apple HomeKit by design. So you should have no issues getting the two systems to communicate.
Amazon Alexa / Google Home
The future of Fibaro
With such an innovative range of products available, it’s hard to predict what Fibaro will do next. It wouldn’t be farfetched to imagine them releasing another tablet-sized control option, a Swipe 2, if you will! Nor would it be that improbable for them to launch a range of audio products.
That said, as long as they continue to offer fantastic, well-design products and software, Fibaro will be here to stay for a long time. Their journey has just started, and we await their next move with bated breath! It’s sure to be exciting!