What is Z-Wave? A Guide to the Popular Wireless Protocol

What is Z-Wave, and how does it work? Find out about the latest and leading smart home technology and why it’s so popular.

Z-Wave is still considered a newer technology and is a promising alternative to WiFi and Bluetooth when setting up home automation devices. With thousands of smart appliances using it, you won’t have trouble finding something perfect for your house. Before making a purchase, it helps to understand Z-Wave and what all these tech words mean.

What is Z-Wave Technology?

Z-Wave is the latest communication protocol that uses low radio waves to allow smart appliances to communicate with each other. Due to its increased security, low power usage, and protection against channel interference, it’s a great alternative to Wifi and Bluetooth for automation options. Z-Wave operates through a mesh network rather than a central hub meaning, the more devices on it, the better the connection!

Z-Wave Devices for Home Automation

With more than 3300 devices using Z-Wave on the market, the choice is yours if you want to use this option. Some of the most popular products are:

  • Smart thermostats
  • Locks
  • Smart lights
  • Smart home security systems
  • Motion sensors
  • Smart remotes
  • Smart hubs
  • Garage doors
  • Smart Smoke detectors

One of the benefits of using Z-Wave frequency is the low power usage. However, its capacity to run more data-intensive devices (such as HD security cameras) is limited, making it better for simpler smart devices like those mentioned above.

Z-Wave Devices have an additional benefit; they are all compatible with each other, meaning that as long as your device is labeled as Z-wave, it doesn’t matter the brand of your smart home equipment.

How Does Z-Wave Work?

Z-Wave creates a wireless connection through something called a mesh hub. Instead of having a central distributor, like a router, each device on the low energy radio frequency (908.42 MHz in the US and Canada) pushes the signal throughout the hub. This combats issues of slow connection or service interruption that Wifi and Bluetooth experience with too many users bogging down their channels.

How Can You Set Up a Z-Wave Network?

The most important part of setting up a network is the hub. The hub becomes the central controller of your smart home system. While some smart devices already have a hub inside them, like many smart thermostats, alarms, and security cameras. In most cases, it’s better to purchase one as a separate product.

Without understanding the hub, you can’t really know what is z-wave. Its purpose is to establish a connection to the internet (usually via your WiFi router) to communicate with your mobile phone and connect all of your devices together wirelessly. The set-up is relatively simple, and of course, smart.

  • Purchase a Z-Wave hub of your choice
  • Connect it to your WiFi router
  • Download the mobile application
  • Detect and connect all smart devices with z-wave options in your home

Connecting To The Hub

Once installed, each Z-wave hub is controlled via a mobile application. It wouldn’t be smart if you couldn’t control everything by swiping on your phone, right?

Through these applications, the best Z-wave devices installed in your home will automatically connect to the hub. Some, however, may need to be found via the network and manually connected through the application.

Perhaps one of the most convenient features of using this technology is that it allows any z-wave device to connect, regardless of brand compatibility.

What is Z-Wave Plus?

Z-Wave Plus is the next generation of the original Z-Wave. This upgrade has lower power requirements and a larger RF bandwidth, moving the possible range between devices from about 40 feet to 60 feet.

Z-Wave plus devices have been included with the ability to “self heal,” often being able to detect malfunctions and fix them autonomously. They now auto-update through the network automatically, and, don’t worry, they are still compatible with regular Z-Wave products.

Z-Wave vs. Zigbee

Zigbee is the competing technology running alongside Z-Wave. Whatever products you can find with Z-Wave in them, you can also find those products with Zigbee installed in American households.

An upside to Zigbee is that it offers a slightly faster connection and supports more devices. It uses the standard 2.4 GHz frequency for communication, which gives it a more extensive range than the Z-Wave range. This perk does, however, come with a catch. Both WiFi and Bluetooth use this channel, making interference and a slowed connection a common problem.

Z-Wave compensates for these issues by using the lower radio frequency extensive range and consequently consumes less power. It does have a slightly shorter range, however, and can’t support as many devices.

Z-Wave vs. WiFi

As WiFi has become a standard technology over the last 20 years, it is easily the most used connection technology for home automation on the market. Due to its availability, using WiFi to automate your home will be relatively cheaper than using newer, more innovative options.

Downsides to the WiFi connection have to do with dependability, as interrupted service can occur due to too many connected devices, or just one of those days when your router doesn’t want to do anything.

Z-wave software, however, was designed to combat these disruptions, resulting in a much more stable and reliable connection. Since many use smart devices for home security systems, automated door locks, and motion sensors, it seems pertinent to have a technology that doesn’t interrupt service. It additionally consumes less power than WiFi, helping your house be safer and more efficient.

What is Z-Wave Hub & What’s in Store for the Future?

A smart hub is a basic requirement for the automation of your home if you choose Z-Wave technology. Buying a high-quality hub, rather than relying on ones that are internal to some of your smart appliances, will ensure best results for connectivity and signal.

The Z-wave hub is synonymous with knowing what is Z-Wave controller. The hub or controller allows connectivity to the internet, your mobile phone application, and your connected devices.

What’s in store for Z-Wave?

Many people wonder what will happen with Z-Wave in the future. The concerns about the usage of this protocol started rising with the talks about the invention of a new technology named Project CHIP. Experts claim that users have nothing to worry about, however, as the number of Z-Wave products on the market rose to thousands in just a few years, and it’s expected that the technology will become even more popular.

Recapping What is Z-Wave

Z-Wave presents a modern way of connecting your smart devices that is more reliable and power-efficient than traditional WiFi devices. It offers a fast and wireless connection between appliances that is growing exponentially in popularity.

Using low energy radio frequencies and a mesh hub approach, Z-wave allows multiple devices to function together on the same channel, strengthening the signal rather than weakening it.

Knowing what is z-wave plus technology gives you the ability to update your current technology and use it with your existing devices.

There are other competitors on the market for smart home automation, such as ZigBee and the traditional WiFi network. Still, Z-Wave seems to have found a sweet spot by staying off the standard 2.4Hz channel, thus keeping your security systems and door locks online at all times without interruption.

When you understand what is Z-Wave, it makes it much easier to make the right choices about what you need when automating your home.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Z-Wave and how does it work?

Z-Wave is a wireless communication protocol designed to connect and control smart appliances in a smart home. It works by using a low-energy radio frequency (908.42 MHz in the US and Canada) to build a mesh hub of devices, allowing for power efficiency and a secure connection.

Is Z-wave better than WiFi?

Whether one is better than the other is a personal preference. WiFi offers a more convenient and cheaper option for home automation, with a downside of possible slow or interrupted service.

Is there a monthly fee for Z-Wave?

There is no monthly fee for Z-Wave products, but that’s not always the case for smart hubs. Some manufacturers produce hubs that will require you to pay a monthly subscription fee to continue using them. Luckily, there are still smart hubs on the market that don’t require additional payments after purchase.

What does Z-Wave stand for?

Z-Wave stands for a wireless communications protocol. Invented by a company from Denmark in 1999, the first letter of its name represents the name of the firm: Zensys. In 2008, Sigma Designs acquired the protocol and then sold it to Silicon Labs in 2018. Still, throughout the sales and new series releases, the name has remained the same.