When it comes to your smart home, you need all your automation products to talk to each other seamlessly while not messing up your streaming video or web surfing.
There are a couple different wireless languages that allow for seamless monitoring, environment controls, and strong remote control signal strength. We’re here to help you choose the best with our technology battle, Zigbee vs Z-Wave.
Both technologies are designed to let your home automation hub speak with gateways and remotes, but the subtle differences between the two systems can make your choice much easier to make.
What is Zigbee and Z-Wave?
These protocols let you control your smart home by sending signals to control light dimmers, cameras, and the like. These two technologies are wireless protocols that let home automation products from different manufacturers talk to each other. They allow you to control these devices, doing everything from checking security footage to setting temperature controls.
The signals put out by the home automation hub can travel through walls, just like your wifi, only they move at a different frequency so as not to disrupt your wireless internet devices. Depending on the system, you can control your smart home remotely from your phone or from an approved control device.
The Z-Wave home automation protocol uses a 908.42MHz frequency band, a lower radio frequency level than many other wireless products. Zigbee, on the other hand, uses a typical 802 wireless communication standard on the 2.4GHz band, which is a common band for many products.
Zigbee’s frequency and protocol is closer to your internet wifi signal, which means there can be more interference with wifi or other wireless devices in your home. Because Z-Wave uses radio frequencies, it keeps the home automation network away from other wireless signals, allowing for a stronger signal and more reliable communication.
Zigbee vs Z-Wave Signal Strength
Both devices use a similar “mesh network,” where one device passes the signal along to another device, like a relay race. The mesh network system allows for greater signal strength with both types of communication, Zigbee and Z-Wave. Basically, the hub can send out the signal to the closest device, which will then pass it onto the other device that’s farther out so that the signal goes through one wall instead of too, for example.
The mesh network can turn a signal strength of a few feet into one that can span hundreds of feet. The mesh also repairs itself if one device fails, with the signal going to another nearby device.
Zigbee vs Z-Wave Security
Both Zigbee and Z-Wave use a high level of encryption also used in major banks: AES-128 encryption. Zigbee has recently come under fire for being open to hackers, with a simple door lock being opened in a control test. Z-Wave has extra security built into the protocol, as each device is given an unique ID that only allows it to speak with the approved hub device. That way, not only do Z-Wave products have an extra layer of security, but a neighbor’s hub can’t control your home automation system.
While Zigbee is an open source wireless language, Z-Wave is proprietary, meaning it only talks with Z-Wave approved devices from manufacturers in the Z-Wave Alliance. Many great home automation products use Z-Wave, so you have plenty of choice.
Zigbee partners with many manufacturers as well, but the connections aren’t always high quality. Z-Wave connects seamlessly with devices from various manufacturers with a strong signal. In theory, Z-Wave can accept 232 devices in one network, while Zigbee can accept up to 65,000. Of course, in practice, most people aren’t going to have more than 200 automated devices in their family home. That smaller network allows for greater signal strength, too.
Cost of Z-Wave & ZigBee Devices
In general, a product using Zigbee protocols can be lower cost because it is an open-source system. However, because they’re not certified by the creators of Zigbee, the signal can fail and the devices will not always talk to each other efficiently or to the hub.
Many Z-Wave products, like dimmers or thermostats can cost a little bit more. With Z-Wave, all products are certified by the Z-Wave Alliance, so you know they’ll work, even though they generally cost more. After all, you do get what you pay for, even in smart homes. You don’t want to trust your comfort and your safety to a cheap product.
Ease of Use
While it sounds better to have an open source product like Zigbee, having a proprietary product like Z-Wave can make things easier when it comes time to build your home automation system.
Every product has the Z-Wave logo on it, and they’re (more often than not) easy to install by a layman or avid DIYer. Zigbee products, on the other hand, were developed for commercial use, and often take a user with much more technical expertise to install and operate. If you don’t want to tweak your home automation system or deal with technical aspects, a Z-Wave system is often the better choice.
Upgrading your home to a smart home is a fun and rewarding project, but you want to choose the products that will improve your life, not give you a headache. When you need to make a decision about Zigbee vs Z-Wave, consider all the factors, not just cost. Of course, you could always just get a hub that supports both technologies.
That being said, in the Z-Wave versus Zigbee tech battle, Z-Wave wins out in terms of power, reliability, ease of use, and compatibility. You may spend a little more with Z-Wave products, but they will work seamlessly to give you the smart home you want.