Z-Wave and Beyond – What is Z-Wave & Everything You May Know!

If you have heard about Z-Wave and still not sure what it is and its benefits, then this article is for you.
Here, we’ll discuss everything about Z-Wave that you need to know about.

This article will help you to understand what the Z-Wave actually is, its functions, Z-Wave products, and their uses.
Let’s get started!


What Is Z-Wave?

To make your life easier and your home smarter, Zensys brought to life Z-Wave in 1999. Since then, it has received tremendous popularity and has surpassed its competitor, Zigbee.

Now it’s the technology that allows devices at your home to communicate with each other. This one employs radio wavelengths to connect all the devices.


How Does Z Wave Work?

Z-Wave uses a radio wavelength of 800-900MHz to connect the smart devices at your home. Together they all contribute to making a mesh network, which allows you to avoid interference.

Well, simply put, Z-Wave is something similar to Bluetooth but has a bigger range. And it is more energy-efficient than Wi-Fi. And as Z-Wave is a mesh technology allowing a variety of devices to connect and communicate wirelessly with each other, therefore, it has a strong network.


What Is Z-Wave Plus?

What is Z-wave Plus and benefits.

Well, everything has become more efficient due to improvements in technology, television, laptops, phones all have become thinner, smarter, and simpler to use.

Similarly, since its conception in 1999, Z-Wave has gone through several transformations, and its latest development is known as Z-Wave Plus (Series 500 Chipset).

It offers an enhanced battery life (by 50%), increased range by 67% and bandwidth by 250%, better ability to self-heal, updated Over the Air (OTA), and much more. 

Further Read: Z-Wave vs. Z-Wave Plus – Worth upgrading?


Who Own and Control the Z-Wave?

Z-Wave was developed by a Danish company called Zensys in 1999 as a more affordable alternative to Zigbee. Around 2005, Z-Wave’s technology became popular in North America, and so it was adopted by 5 companies, and they formed the Z-Wave Alliance with the aim of increasing usage of Z-Wave technology.

In 2008, Z-Wave was bought by Sigma Designs and sold to Silicon Labs in 2018. It is interesting to note that as smart homes became popular over the years, the number of products using Z-Wave increased, as well. In 2019, there are more than 3,000 Z Wave products, which are Z-Wave interoperable devices produced by various companies.

Z-Wave Alliance now not only provides Z-Wave certified interoperable devices but also cross-brand solutions for its users.

What Z-wave Products and devices are available?


What Z-Wave Products Are Available?

Below, we’ll talk about the products that are available for Z-Wave technology. According to Z-wave officials, there are more than Three thousand Certified Z-Wave products are available in the market.

Whether you need a Smart Hub depends on how many devices you want to control. If you use products from different brands, a phone is not enough to control them. What you need is a hub that ties all the devices together.

Unfortunately, no single hub with universal control over products exists, so you need to find the one that suits your needs. For INSTEON products, you need INSTEON Hub made by the company itself. It is not compatible with many products.

Due to technological development, you can also choose automation hub that supports multiple protocols such as Wink Hub 2 or Samsung SmartThings Hub that supports ZigBee, Z-Wave, Kidde, Philips Hue, dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Honeywell, Ring, etc.

There are also hybrid hubs that work as a Wi-Fi router as well as a hub.

  • Smart Lighting

Well, you can summon light with just a command using Smart Lights. You can control the lights with an app from Apple or Android phones. Not only brightness but the hue of light bulbs (of colored LEDs) can be changed with just a tap or a voice command.

You can set the mood for different occasions with different lighting. Also, you can have it switched on and off by setting different triggers. You can also use Smart Switches as an alternative to light bulbs and control lights already installed in your house.

  • Voice Control

Technology should be accessible to everyone regardless of disability. Hence, voice control is one of the most important technologies at the moment and is integrated into everything from a smartphone to virtual assistants such as Alexa.

With voice control, you can do just about everything, sending texts, choosing emojis, searching for information on the internet to control lights, thermostats, etc. in your house. Most smart home products now come integrated with voice control, in addition, to control with an app.

  • Smart Locks

Losing your key is not going to keep you out of your house anymore.

Smart Locks nowadays offer you facilities such as unlocking the door with an app on your phone, or some even allow you to give unique codes to your family and friends for additional safety, or unlock the door just by touching the lock (Kwikset Kevo) on your door. 

  • Smart Doorbell

Now, you no longer need to open the door to see who rang your doorbell. Smart Doorbells with cameras allows you to ignore all annoying salesman.

You can get Smart Doorbells from Ring or Nest and connect with the cameras from their company and keep an eye on who comes and goes in your house, get alerts from motion sensors on your phone, and saves recordings in the cloud so you can access it later.

You may not be able to control global temperature, but at least at home, it is a child’s play. Thermostats from Honeywell or Ecobee brand’s Pro series allow you to adjust temperature any way you like at any time of day.

Furthermore, you can place additional sensors throughout your house to see what the temperature is in all of the rooms. You can switch them off with a touch before you leave and be energy efficient and reduce electricity bills.

  • Smart Fan Control

You can transform the way fans work at your home with Smart Fan Control. And you can connect it with your thermostats as well as motion sensors so it will automatically start when it senses the presence of someone or shut off when they leave.

With multi-speed controls, you can also control whether you want the fans to be slow or fast. And you can do all these with a touch or your voice without breaking a sweat. 

  • Smart Sensors

To make your dumb home ‘smart’ and more efficient, why not install Smart Sensors? Motion sensors, humidity sensors, air quality sensors, window sensors, water leak sensors all can help turn your home a safer and more efficient smart abode.

Best of all, most sensors now come with a long-lasting battery and integrated with virtual assistants such as Alexa or Google assistant.

  • Smart Alarms/Sirens

To keep safe all you deem important, install Smart Alarms in your home. These alarms come in forms of heat alarm, smoke alarm, motion sensors, panic buttons, etc. and can alert you in case of a break-in. You can set schedules and sync these devices with other devices in your home for a more integrated experience. 

  • Smart Garage Door Openers

Gone are the days of opening garage doors manually, with a clunky remote or even panicking whether you have closed the garage door. Now with Smart Garage Door Openers, you are safe as well as free of hassle.

Now you can replace your garage keys with an app on your phone, which will alert you if you have forgotten to close the door, let you monitor via camera, share access to your garage with family and friends, or scheduling the time for opening and closing the door automatically. 

  • Smart Power Outlet

Forget the traditional plugs and turn to Smart plugs, which allow you to control devices that are plugged on it. So turn on the lights or start the coffee maker without forgoing the comfort of your bed or couch.

  • Smart Switches

Z-Wave Smart Switches looks like traditional switches but allows you to turn it on with just your voice or an app. Many have sensors to turn on and off when it senses the presence or can turn itself on or off according to your preferred schedule.

  • Smart Window Coverings

While traditional window covers are excellent, they don’t raise or lower themselves when you ask them to, but Smart shades do. Smart Window Coverings comes with built-in motors so it can raise or lower itself according to your set schedules.

Nowadays, some even come with sensors that allow the window blinds to adjust themselves in accordance with light outside and some sync with Smart Home Systems such as Apple Homekit or with virtual assistants such as Alexa and Google. So you can control them remotely with your phone or just your voice.  

  • Smart Water Management

With ever-decreasing natural resources, conserving water has become an important aspect of daily life. Not only is a water leak damaging for your property, but it is also a waste, as well. With Smart Water Management devices, you can be aware of any potential water leak and instantly shut off the water system to prevent flooding.

  • Smart Home Security System

Just putting cameras is not enough for security nowadays. For full security measures, you can also install Smart Sensors, indoor motion sensors, Smart Alarms/ Sirens from companies like SimpliSafe, which monitors your house for break-ins.

If you want to monitor your house personally, companies like Abode will allow you to do so, as well as distribute emergency services link so you can be assured of safety without paying additional monthly fees.

  • Smart Garden Products

If you don’t have the time but still want your garden to be evergreen, use modern tech to become better at gardening. From robot lawnmower, Smart Sprinkler systems to soil moisture sensors, don’t just rely on your green thumbs to become a better gardener.


Expert’s Z-Wave Home Automation Guide before Setting up Your Smart Home with Z-Wave!

Simply put, a lot of thought needs to be given to every single aspect of your home. It is quite a challenging task because there are quite a few protocols, a variety of brands and a multitude of products, and multiple apps/programs you need to install to control all the smart home devices in your home.

Fortunately, Z-Wave has been designed in a way that will lessen your stress while bringing control of all the devices to your fingertips. By using mesh technology, Z-Waves 2,400 plus products (regardless of manufacturer or brand) can easily communicate with each other throughout your home.  


Z-Wave or Z-Wave Plus?

The first thing for you to decide is whether you want Z-Wave or Z-Wave Plus in your home. Z-Wave is easy to install and offers wireless, mesh technology, which will become stronger as more and more devices are added.

Z-Wave Plus is the latest version of Z-Wave, which offers extended battery life (by 50%), increased range by 67%, and bandwidth by 250%, better ability to self-heal, updated Over the Air (OTA) and much more. 

After deciding on the protocol, here are some ways you can upgrade your home with Z-Wave devices:

  • Bedroom

Let’s get started with the bedroom. It’s where you relax after a long stressful workday. Why not make waking up in the morning a joyful experience?

You can wake up to your favorite music or sleep some more in the weekends by adjusting the thermostat to your preferred temperature or shunning the sunlight by drawing the window covers. The products ideal for use in the bedroom are Smart Lighting, Smart Thermostat, Smart Window Coverings, and Smart Speaker.

  • Living Area

Don’t want to move from the couch? With Smart Lighting, Smart Doorbells, Hub Extender, Fan Control, Smart Window Coverings, you can dim the lights or cover the windows while binging on your favorite TV show.

Just because the doorbell rang doesn’t mean you have to get up, you can see who is at the door in a video of a Smart Doorbell. And with a Hub extender, be assured that all of your commands will be fulfilled without interruptions.

  • Entryway

Worried about security? Smart Camera Doorbells allow you to see who is at your door, who arrived or left or was the package you were waiting for delivered.

For further security, you can install Smart Lock, which comes with 30 different codes which you can give to your family members, friends and colleagues, dog walkers, etc. and you will get a notification on your phone every time a code is used. This way you will know who has been to your house.

  • Kitchen

This is considered to be the heart of the home. And this is where your entire family comes together every day. Someone is always going in or coming out of the kitchen, but do they always turn off the lights?

Install Smart Motion Sensors and Smart Light Switches and sync them so that after detecting motion, the light can turn itself on and off when no motion is detected.

Also, save energy by programming the kitchen appliances to prioritize energy-saving with Smart Energy Management and enhance the security of your home by installing Smart Smoke detector and Smart Sensors to detect any leaks or smoke because being prepared is better than being sorry.

  • Bathroom

This is where you let your inner singer shine or energize yourself to face the day, but you also want to be environment-conscious and want to conserve water as well as ensure that your bathroom is safe from leaks.

You need to install Smart Water Management and Smart Sensors, which will allow you to manage the amount of water used and be aware of any potential leaks that may harm your bathroom.

  • Garage

You can install a garage Door Opener, Garage door tilt sensor, Z-Wave Fixture Module, and security system all to ensure that your vehicle is safe and sound.

  • Garden

Z-Waveknows that your garden plays an important part in your life, as well.

So it has made available Smart Garden products to make sure your comfort and convenience aren’t limited to just your home but extends outside to your garden. Z-Wave hub, such as FIBARO adapts to weather conditions and saves water during rainy seasons and spreads extra water during hot days.

Whereas PlantLink will let you know exactly how much water is needed in the soil for your garden to thrive.

  • Backyard

Don’t just focus on securing the front yard but also install Smart Home Security System, Smart Sensors, and Smart Alarms/Sirens to ensure that you and your family are always safe and sound.


What are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Z-Wave?

The formulation of Z-Wave technology provides its users with a plethora of advantages.

  • Adaptability

Any smart devices can connect with Z-Wave and immediately start communicating with each other, so it easily adapts with each and every smart device.

  • Wireless

Z-Wave is a wireless technology, and so there is no need for you to actually attach one device with another with a bunch of additional wires. You can do the installation by yourself as there is no need for any construction. All the devices need for communication amongst themselves is to be within 50-100 feet of each other.

  • Installation Is Easy as Pie

You do not need to have any building or technological knowledge to be able to install Z-Wave devices to make your home smarter. It also allows you to install devices at your own pace.

For example, you do not need to install lighting, heat, or motion sensors all at once; you can install them whenever you want without worrying about paying contractors to install it for you.

  • Interoperability

Z-Wave is not only smart for your home; it is smart technology in itself because of its interoperability. It allows you the freedom to choose from a variety of products from hundreds out there, made by different manufacturers, and yet Z-Wave allows them to work altogether.

  • Efficiency

Z-Wave devices such as a thermostat, heating control, motion and temperature sensors are all battery operated, but saving energy is an utmost concern. Hence, devices have been designed with batteries to last one year or more in order to optimize the energy efficiency of devices. 

Furthermore, ZWave devices emit significantly lower electronic smog (discharge of wireless signal) that is harmful to human health. For example, devices such as light dimmers, sensors, socket modules, etc. emit almost 4000 times less electronic smog than a cell phone.

  • Signal Range

Devices typically operate from 868.42-908.42MHz. So, there is no fear that it would interfere with your other wireless technologies such as WiFi, microwave, phones, etc.

  • Security

You must be worried about security as technology can be used to disarm other technology. With this in mind, Z-Wave employs AES-128 to provide a secure network to its users.

Learn more: Z-Wave S2 Security Framework.

  • Range

As technology has improved significantly since the appearance of Z-Wave in 2000, the range of these products has increased, as well. The usual range of signals of these thermostats is 100 meters outside and 50 meters inside the home.

And what’s more interesting is that you can increase the range as well as a network of Z-Wave simply by adding more of their products because this is a mesh technology (all Z-Wave devices can communicate and send information amongst themselves).

Despite its many advantages, Z-Wave has some disadvantages, as well.

  • Limited Transmission of Signal

All your devices connected to Z-Wave must be situated within 300sqft. If devices are beyond that, devices may not be able to receive commands from the main hub due to loss of signal. Hence, you will need to install more devices, and this will increase your costs exponentially.

  • Technological Know-How

Although you do not need to know how to install Z-Wave devices as it is quite simple to install. However, you do need to know to keep the devices connected to Z-Wave safe from hackers as it works on radio frequency, and its wireless nature makes it accessible to everyone.

  • Limited Speed of Communication

The speed of communication goes up to 100kbps, which is quite less than Zigbee, and also due to a slower speed, devices communicate based on small data, which means greater monitoring and controlling is necessary.

  • Tree Topology

If you are not familiar with this concept, you need to become acquainted with it as Z-Wave only supports tree topology structure.


Alternatives of Z-Wave Protocol

Alternative protocols of Z-wave

There are several alternatives to Z-Wave out there. If you are not satisfied with Z-Wave, there is ZigBee, INSTEON, Universal Powerline Bus (UPB), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth to choose from.

  • ZigBee

It is similar to Z-Wave in that they are both wireless and use mesh technology. And it has more devices that are compatible, around 2,500 devices from 400 members in ZigBee Alliance. 

ZigBee has a slight edge as more popular and renowned smart home brands are associated with ZigBee. ZigBee uses very little power, and the ZigBee products are powered by a battery that lasts for years as they consume very little power.

If you have decided to go for all the best smart home brands and want a faster connection, then ZigBee, maybe your best choice.

  • INSTEON

While ZigBee and Z-Wave both are wireless and boast mesh technology, INSTEON differentiated itself from the pack by having dual mesh technology. So, not only the device can communicate using INSTEON’s unique radio frequency, but also the electrical wiring.

In case the radio frequency ever gets interrupted, devices will automatically transmit data through the electrical wiring. INSTEON devices are forwards and backward compatible, and so even old INSTEON devices can work perfectly fine once it is connected to the central hub.

Every time an INSTEON product is installed to its central hub, each and every device transforms into a repeater and thus enhances the signal.

INSTEON also makes its own products, unlike Z-Wave or ZigBee, and offers around 200 products. If you want to use all of your old devices, dual-mesh, and reliability, INSTEON is ideal for you.

  • Universal Powerline Bus (UPB)

UPB, as the name states, uses electrical wirings to transmit data to devices and so does not need a host or a central hub as it allows peer communication. UPB uses pulse-position modulation to communicate with other UPB devices.

The advantage of UPB is that no extra wiring is necessary as it uses existing electrical wiring. Also, it is less expensive and is reliable and allows two- way communication amongst peers.

  • Wi-Fi

You can also make use of the Wi-Fi you have at your home. So you can avoid any extra cost of installing wires or a central hub. You can simply connect devices with your Wi-Fi password.

The problem with this sort of connection is that more devices that you have connected with your Wi-Fi, the slower will be the response of the smart home devices. Also, it requires a lot of power and so might drain the battery of other networked devices faster than other systems.

  • Bluetooth

Another wireless technology is Bluetooth that is already used by some manufacturers in light bulbs and smart door locks. Unfortunately, Bluetooth can only be used for short-distance communication, but it is a technology-based on secured encryption. Its wireless feature, combined with the simplicity of use, indicates that more smart home products will have Bluetooth in the future.


Conclusion

To sum up, technology has advanced to a point where you can save yourself from menial tasks such as switching on lights or manually closing garage doors.

While you still can’t get the house shown on The Jetsons or Back to the Future II, multitudes of smart home devices of Z-Wave will simplify and secure your home life significantly.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here we have some of the most commonly asked queries regarding Z-Wave products and devices:

Do I need a hub if I want to use Z-Wave?

Yes. In order to maximize the output of your devices, you need to have a Z-Wave certified hub to be able to set up schedules or control the devices remotely.

How can I control my Z-Wave devices?

It can be controlled by your smartphones or tablets that are connected to a Z-Wave hub such as Hubitat, Samsung SmartThings, or Wink.

Can I use my old Z-Wave products or replace them with newer versions?

If you want to enjoy features unavailable in your current home devices but Z-Wave products are backwards and forwards compatible and so can be used without needing to be replaced by a newer version.

Do I need any specific Z-Wave app to control my devices from my phone?

Well, it depends on the model of the Z-Wave hub you are using. You do need a Z-Wave hub to control your devices from your phone and to know which one to install, refer to the manual of your hub or call the manufacturer of your hub.

How many devices can I add in my Z-Wave network?

In total, you can add about 232 devices, including the main controller in your Z-Wave network in a single home.

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