A bit more on this (from my long ago electrical engineering days, roughly correct I think, but there maybe some more nuances). . .
A typical AC ceiling fan motor uses two capacitors during operation, a “Start” capacitor which is need to give the motor a “kick” and get it rotating, and a “Run” capacitor which adjust power phase to the motor windings. This “Run” capacitor also has the effect of setting the speed of the fan. An optimally sized run capacitor will give you high speed; non-optimal and the speed is slower.
A speed controller for these types of fans changes speed by switching in / out different capacitances to be used as the “run” capacitor. There’s an optimal capacitance that is for the “highest” speed, and less optimal capacitances that set low and medium speeds.
Typically capacitors for these fans are somewhat large devices – for rough scale, about the size of your pinkie from the tip to the first joint - that doesn’t sound too big, but you need several for a multi-speed fan (Start, Run-Low, Run-Medium, Run-High), so they take up space in a casing. It seems that most controllers have settled on 3 speeds being enough, but there is no reason you couldn’t have more speeds - you could have 100 speeds if you had room for all those capacitors, but you typically wouldn’t due to physical size limits.
See my prior post about how capacitors are used in AC fan motors to control speed.
To enable reverse, you need another switch element to which windings get the “start” capacitor and which windings get the “run”. The LZW36 didn’t include this switch (maybe an oversight when the design was being specified) , so it can’t reverse - I’d say that was a missed opportunity. I’d love to see this new canopy module include this feature - it would need a relatively simple / cheap relay to implement - so hopefully it gets put into the specification before engineering starts.
Here’s a wiring diagram for engineers as to how this gets wired in a traditional fan setup:
Am I the only one frustrated by this product announcement?
The LZW36’s are currently going for $250+ on eBay. They were successful, but were EOL’ed for some reason. The R&D was done, the manufacturing was completed. Why not spin that back up?
It was clearly a successful product. I have 5 and want 1-2 more, with the ability to pair multiple canopy modules to a single switch so I can control multiple fans. Seems like something a firmware update could accomplish. This is to go along with ~40 Red Series dimmers and ~10 Red Series switches I already have installed in my house. I’m a fan of the product and the company, but sometimes it seems like the Inovelli team innovates for the sake of innovating and abandoning they current products.
Instead, Innvelli is spinning up a net-new project, with a 6+ month timeline to deliver a product they’ve already developed, but in ZigBee.
We are no longer working with that manufacturer, so either way we would have to create the product from scratch again. They will not release anything to us and will not produce products for us anymore. (Long story, but if you’ve been around you probably know).
Also, the LZW36 has had major defects the entire time it has been released! You are lucky if you are one of the people who did not experience any issues. We only produced 6000 units of this project (probably the lowest amount ever for any of our SKU’s) and I would say at least 50% of them were defective in some way.
The RF module and z-wave switch connection is very finicky. Many people have had issues with them never connecting. The problem was never resolved by the manufacturer since they decided to stop working with us.
We also had issues with people losing the medium speed on the fan after awhile - also a defect never fixed by the manufacturer.
We also initially had an issue where people had units that would make their lights blink. I think we did get that fixed but that was about it. It was a great product but technically failed on a lot of levels.
Also, as far as this goes - I can definitely see how it seems that way. I can assure you though we never make anything with the intention of abandoning it, but we’ve been through a lot of financial turbulence and at one point decided we needed to scale down to the most successful products we’ve made, while also trying to expand to a larger market.
We used to sell sensors, bulbs, plugs, light strips, etc but have had to move away from those things to focus on where 99% of our money is made - which is in switches. That’s why you will now see us innovating in basically only the switch category. You may see other types of innovation again in the future, but when money is so tight we can only innovate and spend cash on the things we know will make us money.
We do look forward to bringing the fan/light switch back - it is easily one of our top selling and most requested products, even though we made so few of them!
I hear you. And it is interesting how we have opposite reactions to the same thing.
The only reason I’m excited about this announcement is my love for the LZW36.
Try to look at it from this perspective: What we love about LZW36 is the concept of a fan and light switch and its design.
If Inovelli can pull this (canopy module) off and give us the ability to pair this module with Project Walt, and Project Walt give us a two button switch with engraved plates, then we will have the exact same concept and look and feel that we love so much with a much superior product (fan and light switch).
And since it has all the reasons to work really well this time, there is less chance it will hit end of life as quick as the LZW36 did.
Yeah agree – from what we’re told, there are a couple of reasons we couldn’t do DC:
There are a lot of different brands that use different parts and have a lot more wires than AC (I know the DC fan I purchased had 6 wires, not including line and neutral) whereas AC just has fan and motor (plus line/neutral) and it would be hard to create a module that worked with all DC fan companies.
The drivers/ballasts are different for each fan company and they need to know how to not only spin the motor, but understand the RPM and positions. Since the methods used to determine these are proprietary, it would be hard to create something that understood those methods.
I agree though, huge opportunity and with more fans going DC, it makes me wonder if I’m crazy sometimes to come out with this product and if I’m the only one who sees the opportunity for retrofits because other smart home companies aren’t making a canopy module. But, I’m willing to take the chance because of the success of the LZW36.
Nice, thank you for the explanation, I think I may get it so bear with me.
Are you saying that the fan has these capacitors built into it (in the 3-Speed case, there are 4) and the switch itself would somehow tell the switch which capacitor to choose from?
So, if we put 5 capacitors in the canopy module (Start, Run-Low, Run-Low-Medium, Run-Medium-High, Run-High), how would the fan interpret which capacitor to run based on the canopy module?
Sorry, my marketing, non-engineering brain is trying to comprehend!
Again, help me out here (sorry, I’m trying, I really am) – how would the canopy module be wired in here to make this work? I’m understanding the switching part of the schematic, but I’m getting confused how the module would make this happen.
Also, at the fan, it looks like you have 3 separate wires outside the line/neutral/ground. In all fans I’ve tested, there’s typically just a motor and light wire. What is the third wire in this diagram?
It looks like @Courtney_Inovelli did a great job answering this – I’m happy to expand on it if you’d like and trust me when I say I share your frustration. Nothing like flushing $100k+ worth of tooling, engineering fees, certifications, etc down the toilet.
I loved the LZW36 and wish we still had it as well. Unfortunately, as Courtney mentioned, our manufacturer changed strategies and only wants to work with the Ring’s of the world and basically told us to pound sand.
Would it not be possible to have a canopy module that can learn RF commands instead of dealing with the wiring? Or even incorporate the rf into the actual switch itself if there were space… seems like that would be easier then having to worry about wires… just keep things the way they are electrically, but just duplicate existing remote commands… THIS is what id much rather have.
I understand that if you use the existing remote, then there is the possibility of things being out of sync. But i wouldnt even use the remote if i had this switch. I would use the switch or smartthings app…
Im asking for a module that can just “learn” an existing remotes controls… like a harmony remote, or even the bond bridge.
Like… hear me out… the canopy adapter only is for power for the module itself… so only a neutral and hot.
This zigbee canopy module can learn RF commands from an existing remote controller… picture a bond bridge that you tuck into the canopy.
Then have the fan+light switch connect to the hub through zigbee aswell… then do the actual controls through routines… or if the module and switch could connect directly through zigbee aswell without a hub, that would be cool too…
Another concept which would be better
If i remember correctly, the issue with the lzw36 was that the canopy would lose connection with the switch because they would talk to eachother like that… but what if maybe instead, lets get rid of the canopy module all together… no module in the canopy, and squish an rf learning module inside the switch itself.
No relays in the light switch. You click the fan button, and it sends a remote command.
Again, these are for DC fans… not ac.
300-450mhz rf sender + receiver built inside the fan+light switch. No physical relays. This can also be easy for ppl without neutral because the system would need to be on all the time anyways to receive remote commands.
As I understand it, the capacitors would be in the canopy module. The fan motor doesn’t interpret anything - it is a dumb device and can only react to what is connected to it --= i.e., the “start” and a “run” capacitors. The canopy module chooses which of its capacitors to attach to the fan motor as the current “run”. So, for example, if the canopy module could present 5 different capacitances as the “run” capacitor, there would be relay modules or other switch devices within the canopy to correct the right one for the right selected speed. At least that’s how I understand the operation.
Yes that. My fan has no external switches. No reverse switch, no pull chains. Stock its fully controlled by the remote it came with. Installing the LZW36 is awesome, and I am willing to give up reverse for its features. But clearly somehow they are doing reverse from the canopy module.
I have an extra LZW36 that I intended for another room… looks like I should sell it now…
I would like to suggest dual controllable lights. My fan has an UPPER and LOWER light each controllable separately. I could give this up by tying the leads together, but it would be nice to have dual light control
I agree this would be great - I replaced my kid’s ceiling fan with a DC unit because it was the best enclosed option I found to put adjacent to a bunkbed, and didn’t realize until it was installed how much automation it was going to eliminate from her room. I had to change out the smart light switch for one able to handle motor loads, and turn everything off and back on and let her do the rest with the remote.
The technical challenges are significant though; off the top of my head, they include:
Fitting an additional antenna in the switch.
Include the “learning” functions in the firmware.
Come up with a way to program the learning through multiple automation system.
You lose synchronization if someone touches the stock remote.
If the switch is installed in a metal box you may have trouble reaching the fixture.
For comparison, Bond avoids a lot of these: by building a hub rather than a switch, they avoid #1 and #5. Configuring the hub via wi-fi and their own app addresses #2 and #3. #4 is probably still an issue, unless they’re listening for a signal from the remote and updating status accordingly, which Inovelli could also do.
Connecting a Bond bridge (or Broadlink, I think?) to your HA system and using a Project Walt controller (or any other automations) to signal it would be a much more straightforward approach; it’s probably what I’ll do when I find myself with an extra $100 to play with.
You could take this beyond just the multi-button switches. Take your choice of 2-1 and install the matching protocol’s canopy module. Put the canopy module in smart bulb mode, put some smart bulbs in your fan so you can take advantage of adaptive lighting, then use double tap up for fan low, triple tap for med, quad tap for high. Double tap down for fan off.
Having a standalone canopy module opens up so many options. Somebody could even have the module up there with no switch connected and just control it from their phones or through automation. And since Hampton Bay stopped producing their version, there’s really not anything comparable on the market right now.