In case you missed it, home automation has finally arrived! For years I’ve been waiting to see a good synchronized home automation controlled come onto the market.
There have been some signs of promise, but not a lot of widespread implementation or adoption. Thankfully, the Vera Lite controller has helped lead the home automation market in a very positive direction.
The technology still isn’t perfect, but there is a lot to like. I was particularly curious to try out the Vera Lite, especially to see how it integrated with other “smart” devices like my Google Nest thermostat. After testing it out over the course of a month, I’m pleased to present my full Vera Lite review below.
Please note: this is a work in progress article and I’m constantly updating it as I find out more about the device, it’s compatibility, and my overall experience (I’m using it in my home as we speak).
Key Features of Vera Lite (Standard Edition)
- Z-Wave Technology: Z-Wave is the core technology that enables the Vera Lite to function in tandem with many other household appliances. Z-Wave allows the user to monitor and control their home remotely, from a PC, tablet, or even a smart phone. Mainstream brands like ADT and Honeywell, utilize Z-Wave to allow their products to “tall” to each other or a central controller like the Vera Lite.
- Plug and Play: While adding a full complement of compatible devices might take some time, the set-up and installation of the VeraLite is pretty simple. It plugs right into a home internet router and utilizes the Z-Wave protocol to control your devices via wireless connection.
- App Integration: VeraLite essentially turns your smart phone into a control hub for your entire home. As such, they have built a user friendly app to help easily manage your devices. I found the app very intuitive and it didn’t leave me wanting anything more. If you want to get more involved with remote automation, you can also pop open your laptop for some advanced features. It’s safe to say that you can effectively manage about 90% of the functionality from the app interface on your phone. VeraLite has both an iOS and Android version with no major differences between the two.
- Control Many Devices At Once: By using Z-Wave, Vera Lite is one of the most powerful home controllers on the market. Z-Wave technology is by far the most ubiquitous, with device control for lighting, locks, security, sensors, window covers, meters, thermostats, and HVAC. You can shop the Z-Wave compatible retail sections (like this one on Amazon) to find the full spectrum of third-party products available for control.
- Custom Alerts: The VeraLite can be programmed to alert you of certain conditions in your home via text or email. There is a lot of flexibility here, depending on your preferences. If text alerts are the best way to get your attention, then you can program VeraLite to alert you in this manner. While the obvious benefit of this feature is enhanced home security, you can also monitor other home conditions such as power usage, when someone leaves/arrives, and even if the lights were left on.
- Competitive Pricing: The VeraLite itself is still worth thinking about before buying, but it’s competitively priced when compared with other home automation tools. It’s on sale at this listing, which a significant cut of roughly 50% from the original list price.
Set Up and Configuration of the VeraLite
You can check out the following video, if you are curious about how extensive the set-up process is:
Vera Lite Pros and Cons
No product is perfect. The VeraLite is no exception. There’s a lot to like and some things to dislike, especially as the “smart universe” is still relatively new.
Pros of the Vera Lite
- Improving User Friendliness: The VeraLite tries very hard to be user friendly. For the most part, it is. The app is easy to use and intuitive. Initial set-up is relatively painless. Configuring one or two devices might not be too difficult, either. However, there are still certain third party “z-wave compatible” products that can require certain workarounds and troubleshooting. You may have to be willing to dig into forums online to occasionally figure out certain special configurations.
- More Affordable Than Ever: When the VeraLite was first released, it retailed for $200. At this price, I was tempted, but it was still a bit too pricey. Coupled with the cost of new devices, it was a bit prohibitive. However, with a budget-friendly price tag, it was a much easier sell. Thankfully, added competition in the home controller market has let to a price war, of sorts.
- Uses Z-Wave: As mentioned many times already, the Z-Wave technology allows the VeraLite to effectively control among the widest arrays of devices on the market for any home controller. There are notable exceptions, but if you are looking for maximum compatibility, you should consider the VeraLite first.
- MiOS App Store: In addition to the base app for Android or iOS, Vera also administers and supports an independent marketplace of apps call the MiOS Marketplace. You can download many specialized apps for specific products. For example, I downloaded their Google Nest thermostat app which enabled me to control my Nest settings through the VeraLite. Nest also has their own native apps, but this helps integrate my disparate “smart home” into a more centralized system of control.
Cons of the Vera Lite
- Requires Technical Know-How or Aptitude: The earliest home automation tools were essentially “for geeks only”. The Vera Lite has helped bring home automation into the mainstream, but it’s still not a “set it and forget it” system. To get the maximum value out of this device, you still need to have either a) some interest in learning and tinkering or b) be comfortable with at least an intermediate level of home electronics already. The way I like to look at it, if you had someone wire your home stereo system, you probably won’t have the patience to learn the ropes of the Vera Lite.
- Not All Z-Wave Products are “Compatible”: Okay, this might be a little deceiving. Yes, all products using the Z-wave technology are “in theory” compatible, but some of them require work-around configurations. Many of the popular devices (see product listing table at the bottom of this page) work like a charm. It’s some of the more obscure items that may have trouble. What is more, sometimes the Vera Lite will install an update that temporarily disrupt service to a certain feature (say, motion sensors, for example). This can cause some headaches and might potentially lead to security vulnerabilities. Which brings me to my next point;
- Security Vulnerabilities: This is an important consideration before installing ANY home controller system. The move to wireless protocols for remote control has – in general – raised some concerns about the ability for malicious actors to use this technology against home owners. For the VeraLite, everything is well protected except for one exception. If you plan on using an IP camera in conjunction with the VeraLite, do NOT enable “port forwarding” to access your camera. Instead, access the camera via your “FindVera” service and disable the terminal login.
Comparison Table: VeraLite vs Vera3 vs Vera Edge
If you dig into the product categories for VeraLite, it can get a bit confusing with regards to how they differ from each other. There are actually important subtleties that might be missed if casually browsing, so I’ve highlighted the various differences between the respective models below:
|Device Management||70 devices||200 devices||220 devices|
|WiFi (built in)||No||Yes||Yes|
|Memory||- 32MB NAND|
- 64MB DDR2
|- 32MB NAND|
- 32MB SDRAM
- 128MB DDR2
|- 128MB NAND
- 128MB DDR2
|Email and Text Alerts||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Warranty||12 months||12 months||12 months|
The Best VeraLite Controller Compatible Devices
As I’ve alluded to previously, the advantage of the Vera Lite is that it has a wide array of Z-Wave compatible devices – from electric sockets to thermostats – that you can control. New devices are being added every day, but I’ve compiled a list of the best devices that are compatible below (updated frequently):
|Z-Wave Product||Brand||Price Range|
|GE On/Off Switch||GE||$$|
|Smart Energy Switch||Aeon Labs||$|
|Touch Screen Deadbolt||Yale Security||$$$$|
The VeraLite is definitely headed in the right direction. It’s not a perfect product yet, but most “smart controllers” leave much to be desired. In comparison, I really enjoyed how this device tested.
There were some kinks to work out with certain devices that had stated Z-Wave compatibility, but in actuality had some issues. On the whole, It worked well enough to be well worth the money.
The VeraLite is now a mature home automation tool. It still needs some polish, but it is passed the “early adopter” phase and ready for a broader tech friendly audience.
I still wouldn’t recommend it for my grandmother, but probably would for my “electronically competent” uncle (if that makes sense… I hope it does). You can check out the listing below for the latest pricing.