As with any technology, home automation is constantly evolving. Z-Wave technology was originally created as a way to control lighting in businesses, but it has now grown into something much more robust.
As would be expected, this means that hubs, sensors, and other devices have also been upgraded with better chips, faster performance, and longer battery life. And now, thanks to Z-Wave Plus, home automation is improving again!
What is Z-Wave Plus?
Z-Wave Plus, aka Gen 5, Z-Wave 500 Series, or 5th generation Z-Wave, is the next generation Z-Wave communication protocol. It features improvements across the board in terms of network strength, battery life, installation, and more.
You’ll also see new stickers with the Z Wave Plus logos on them, which means that the products they’re on are certified to by the Z-Wave Alliance to use the new 500 Series protocol and take advantage of all the new upgrades.
In addition to all that, the 5th generation Z-Wave offers extra RF channels for stronger communication, OTA (Over The Air) upgrading capabilities, and greater range, just to name a few of the new capabilities.
Why use Z-Wave Plus?
If you’re a home automation aficionado, you know that Z-Wave offers some unique advantages over other smart home communication systems. But you might not know that Z-Wave is getting bigger and better with the new 5th Generation, making it jump even farther ahead of the competition. Let’s look at some of the IRL (in real life) ways Z-Wave Plus can make your home smarter and save you money.
- Easier Installation
Plug-n-Play network-wide inclusion means that you can more easily get new Z-Wave Plus devices integrated into your network. Since they’ve also upgraded their product certification database, your installation should be smoother, which saves you both time and money!
- Stronger Network
The improved smart home Z-Wave mesh network is also self-healing so that your devices work seamlessly and the higher fault tolerance means that your whole network won’t go down if one little light switch fails. The network range is also greater at 150 meters of clear sight, so you can stretch your network much farther!
- Faster Performance
The higher bandwidth allowed by the next gen Z-Wave, means that everything talks to each other faster and more efficiently. It also has 250% more bandwidth this time around, which is a real boost to power.
- Better Range
When your Z-Wave network consists of a larger area, you'll need less smart home devices to automate your home. Having to buy less smart home devices saves you money up front, and you also save money over time because Z-Wave Plus also means longer battery life - up to 50% improvement on many devices.
- Easy Updating
OTA firmware updates mean that you spend less time fiddling with your hub and your devices to get everything up to speed. It also allows for faster installation on the front end because everything can get fully updated easily and quickly. The Z-Wave Alliance has also upgraded their product information capturing technology, so that new products are easily added into their product database.
- Better Tech Support
Because everything updates easily and smoothly, this means that all Z-Wave Plus devices are registered in the database and connected so that you can get help with all your smart home devices when you need it. Whether you go through the manufacturer or your service, you can rest easy knowing that your tech support person has all the information on your Z-Wave Plus device.
- Backwards Compatibility
This is a huge one! Do you still have old, but perfectly good, Z-Wave products installed in your home? Don’t freak out! You don’t have to buy all new Z-Wave Plus certified products. The “old” devices are now called Z-Wave Classics, and they’ll work just fine even if they can’t take advantage of all the new capabilities.
What Z-Wave Plus Products Should You Buy?
If you’re looking for the latest and greatest products, you know you have to upgrade your Z-Wave devices to the new 5th Generation products. But where do you start? Sure, they’re backwards compatible, but how do you get the advantages of the new system fast? Don’t worry, here’s a mini buying guide to next gen Z-Wave.
The most important thing to remember with new generations of smart home technology (or any tech for that matter) is to start with the controller when buying next gen devices.
You have to buy a Z-Wave Plus enabled hub to take advantage of all the new capabilities like the OTA updating and plug-in-play features. Even though Z-Wave Plus devices are backwards compatible with Classic Z-Wave devices, you won’t be able to use those devices if your hub doesn't support Z-Wave Plus.
Cameras are some of the hardest working devices in your home automation network, so they need to be the strongest. After getting a Z-Wave Plus controller, the next devices we recommend buying are cameras and major locks, like the garage door and front door.
Certain improvements to the 500 series are very useful for security, such as greater range and longer battery life in motion sensors. These new devices also come standard with strong AES-128 encryption, so they're secure.
Keeping your home comfortable is a major focus of a lot of home automation networks, so it makes sense to upgrade your HVAC system to Z-Wave.
Gen 5 sensors can gather more information about temperature, light, and even humidity and more quickly send it to your hub. Next gen smoke detectors also keep you safe, and the improved battery life can be crucial in those devices.
Z-Wave LED bulbs and switches are super easy to use with Gen 5 chips, and there’s lots of next gen lighting options available to make sure that your whole home is fully integrated.
LED lighting strips can set a mood when integrated into a scene, and LED bulbs can be set to go on and off when you choose. While it may seem frivolous to upgrade your lighting to Z-Wave Plus, the improved range and better control make it worth it.
Do you need to upgrade all of your devices to Z-Wave Plus? Absolutely not. That being said, if you're looking for new devices, I would suggest choosing a Z-Wave Plus device over a standard Z-Wave classic device, as they add a lot to your home automation system!