What is Z-Wave: A Key Enabler of the Smart Home

The trend for home automation is going up as time goes by. The number of smart devices is also increasing. So, how do these devices become smart? The key enabler or at the heart of it is communication technology.  In a sense, these devices become smart because they can talk to each other through wireless communication technology. And Z Wave is one of the leading wireless technologies currently used in home automation.

The power that this communication technology brings is providing the world with endless opportunities and possibilities for leveraging device capabilities. Just imagine when these devices communicate with each other without manual and human intervention. It’s like humans talking to each other. It is a boundless opportunity to achieve things we’ve never done before. Now, think about how the future can become because of these technologies.

What is Z Wave?

Z Wave is a wireless communication protocol. It was developed in 2004 by a start-up from Denmark named Zen-Sys. Later, the Zen-Sys was acquired by Sigma Designs in 2008. Z Wave is one of the leading wireless technologies used in Home Automation because it was specifically created for that purpose. It was designed specially to control, monitor, and process the status of devices for home and commercial environments.

Z-Wave is one of the most progressively leading smart home wireless protocols found in countless devices worldwide. It’s the kind of technology that is wireless and doesn’t even hinder your WiFi signals, and runs on low power. Z-Wave technology is operated with our everyday products such as lights, locks, thermostats, and sensors to make the devices’ smart’ for an efficient home automation system. Z-Wave enables these devices to communicate with each other and lets you control the devices from wherever you are. Z-Wave runs at 908.42 MHz in the US and Canada.

Features of Z-Wave

  • Z Wave is a low powered, RF-based communication

  • It uses a wireless mesh network

  • Operates in the sub-1GHz frequency band

  • Will not interfere with WiFi and other technologies operating at 2.4 GHz frequency range like Bluetooth and Zigbee

  • Every node is a repeater

  • Full interoperability – consumers can use different brand products will still work with each other

  • Backward compatibility

What is the Z-Wave Alliance?

In 2005, the Z Wave Alliance was established. As an organization, it is composed of different companies with a common goal. Their goal – develop and extend Z Wave technology to enable smart home and business applications. With this unity, the benefits of Z Wave will continue to grow and allow the smart technology to lean towards getting the best out of the Internet of Things.

With Over 1500 products, the leading brands, members of Z Wave Alliance, have created a diverse ecosystem of smart home automation technology.

The best outcome from this alliance is full interoperability. Through Z Wave, smart devices from different brands will work with each other. In short, customers can use a mix of products created by different brands without problems. So, the biggest winner of this unity is the consumers. With this, consumers can choose which smart devices they can use or which combinations of brands they would like to have. Thus, this is the biggest advantage created by the organization.

The Principal Members of Z Wave Alliance

How is Z-Wave any different from the other Smart Home Platforms on the market?

The following are the reasons why Z-Wave is much efficient when compared to other Smart Home Platforms:

1. Z-Wave is simple and convenient to install. Since it is a wireless protocol, it won’t involve any rewiring efforts.

2. Z-Wave is considerably affordable for its functionality. You can easily get started with nominal investment and effortlessly connect as many smart devices as you wish.

3. Z-Wave is quite reliable. Z-Wave has been in the market for about 20 years now, and it has proven to be the most efficient smart home automation protocol on the market.

4. Z-Wave is a highly secure system as it uses effective encryption and security aspects, making it a much safer choice for smart home automation procedures.

5. Z-Wave is a trusted brand. Some of the leading brands on the market use Z-Wave in their smart home devices. They are as follows:

  • Eaton
  • Fibaro
  •  GE
  •  Jasco
  •  Kwikset
  •  Logitech
  •  Nexia
  •  Piper
  •  Schlage
  •  RCS
  •  Samsung
  •  Trane
  •  Vera
  •  Wink
  •  Yale

6. Z-Wave is a significantly experienced protocol system. There are over 100 million Z-Wave products already in smart homes across the globe.

7. Z-Wave has been the smart home automation leader for a long time. 9 out of 10 popular home security companies use Z-Wave.

8. Z-Wave offers you a lot of choices. With more than 3000 certified smart home automation devices on the market currently, Z-Wave products let you pick amongst the options based on your preferences, such as points, styles, colors, price, functionality, etc.

How does the Z-Wave protocol work?

Z-Wave runs on the 800-900 MHz radiofrequency range. Unlike ZigBee, which runs on 2.4 GHz, which is a high frequency for WiFi, Z-Wave does not exactly face so much trouble from interference issues.

A Z-Wave device’s frequency with which it operates depends upon the country in which it is being used. For instance, in the UK and in Europe, 868.40, 868.42, 869.85 MHz is used, whereas, in the US, 908.40, 908.42, and 916 MHz is used. So, it is essential to be aware that you are purchasing a Z-Wave product specifically produced for your area.

Z-Wave devices are all linked to one another that form a mesh network, unlike WiFi networks where devices have to be connected to a central hub that is usually a router.

The center smart home hub used to control your Z-Wave devices can be connected to the internet. But the devices such as smart bulbs, sensors, etc., don’t have WiFi. They use the Z-Wave network to communicate with the hub. Such connectivity does need to be direct. The mesh network is indicative that the signals jump from one device to another.  

The technical title for this sort of networking system is ‘source-routed mesh network topology. It is also to be noted that only some Z-Wave products can repeat a signal. Some of them transmit their signals. Hence, Z-Wave repeaters are more famous than any other protocol.   

What are the benefits of Z-Wave for home automation?

Z-Wave has several advantages for its users that can be listed as follows:

Z-Wave possesses the ability to combine devices from different brands and manufacturers. Given that all Z-wave devices are compatible with each other, there are over thousands of Z-wave products for buyers to choose from on the market.

Unlike other wireless protocols, Z-wave experiences the least interference and has much fewer disconnections. Each Z-Wave device amplifies the network signals to enable you to form a robust connectivity system.  

Z-Wave protocol also runs on a true frequency, implying low interference than what you receive on engaging WiFi and Bluetooth networks.

Z-wave is a highly secured technology. Although no technology is entirely non-hackable, Z-Wave developers have put the security measures as a major priority. They have used an encryption method similar to those of online banking systems.

Which Z-Wave Smart Home devices work together?

The simplest method to search for products with an authentic Z-Wave logo on them. Z-Wave products are designed to be operable with one another. Currently, there are more than 3000 Z-Wave certified devices in the market that provide buyers with various products and brands for their home automation.  

What does “Z-Wave Certified” mean?

For a product to acquire a Z-Wave logo, it has to check through a laborious certification procedure. The Z-Wave team prioritizes the devices to communicate efficiently with Z-Wave networks during the certification process. So, when unraveling it out of the box, you can be sure that everything works flawlessly together.

These are mandatory steps for every smart home device type to make sure the products and controller operate together. Also, Z-wave has significant security attributes that will provide overall safety.

How many Z-Wave devices can I control?

Z-wave is an extremely expandable technology as it can control from anywhere from a single device to up to 232 devices in a single, smart home network. Z-Wave enables you to create your smart home one device at once by adding more smart home devices according to your requirement.

What is Z-Wave Plus?

Many have heard this new term called “Z-Wave Plus” for some of the latest smart home devices. More importantly, it was a top upgrade to this technology.

Z-Wave 500 series, aka Z-Wave Plus, upgraded the technology developed back in 2004 by adding aspects such as increased range, OTA enhancement, RF channels, and better battery life.

If you’re buying a Z-Wave product nowadays, it will likely be Z-Wave Plus. If you are planning on purchasing a Z-Wave product nowadays, Z-Plus is highly recommended.

The Z-Wave Plus V2 Certification program is the latest version. It consists of an improved S2 security structure and SmartStart, an efficient setup feature that will ensure true plug and play for the smart home.

Z-Wave 700 series launched in 2019 but has been included on devices only recently. This has made things even more long-lasting with about 64% lesser power used, better processing power, and extremely efficient memory.

What is the difference between Z-Wave and Z-Wave Plus?

One of the several benefits of Z-Wave is that no matter the version, Z-Wave products can communicate amongst each other. Z-Wave Plus is the newest certification standard provided, which lets you experience extremely efficient security features and compatibility amongst the products.

Z-Wave Plus has been enhanced for convenient setup and installation. Z-Wave classic is interoperable. Still, it may need physical placing of the smart hub close to the product being added to the network.

What is the range of Z-Wave?

It is generally advised to install a Z-Wave device for every 30 feet or close if you want to receive maximum efficiency. Z-Wave has a range of 100 meters or 328 ft in the open air, but it reduces the range when we build different materials. It is better to line more powered devices to the Z-Wave networks; it is said to act as a mesh to expand the Z-Wave signal.  

The mesh networking in Z-Wave enables a Z-Wave signal to jump through products to reach the required device to be managed. Suppose a particular wall is interfering with the signal. In that case, you can get a repeater or another line-powered device to operate around the wall so that the signal can go on to the final destination. 

Z-Wave technology supports about four hops; hence the coverage will extend, depending on the number of Z-Wave devices in the network. The maximum range with four hops is somewhere around 600 feet or 200 meters.

How can I power Z-Wave?

Z-Wave is an extremely efficient, low-powered wireless protocol. Many Z-Wave devices run on battery, unlike your smart home hub that needs to be plugged in to keep the network running. These batteries usually go on to work for a year or even more. Some devices can be plugged into the wall. There are Z-Wave controllable AC outlets also, which enables you to make your home electrical protocol into a smart one and much more efficient by managing and monitoring energy consumption.

How much would it cost to create a Z-Wave smart home?

Z-Wave has several affordable choices that will help you create an extremely efficient smart home according to your budget.

The cost depends on the number of products you wish to begin with and installing them on your own. Most people start lowkey with particular products and gradually add more devices as they grow to be more familiar with the functionality of smart home automation.

For instance, initializing with a smart hub and a handful of devices such as smart locks and smart lights will cost a few hundred dollars. It is quite easy to connect Z-Wave devices to your network according to your convenience by either expanding them to other rooms or including newer functionality based on solutions.

Is it possible to add smart home tech to my existing house without tampering with the walls and add new wiring?

Z-Wave is wireless technology. Though you might need to utilize your house’s existing wiring for replacing the previously regular thermostats or lights with smart ones, there is certainly no need to add any additional fresh wiring.   

What are all the Z-Wave smart home products that are available?

Z-Wave has a huge line of smart products available globally within highly popular brands, enabling you to form an ultimate smart home for yourself.

Devices such as smart indoor/outdoor lights, smart door locks, a multitude of smart sensors, smart thermostats, smart window coverings, smart outlets, smart garage door controllers, and much more are hitting the market. All these devices communicate with one another with your hub’s help to make sure your home is running as “smartly” as you wish.

Z-Wave has every product that comes to your mind while thinking of comfort. There are several products to control your water supply in case of a leak. Turn your lights on/off to make it look like you are home, even when you are not. There are also conveniences of sending you alerts if there is smoke detection or check on your dog while you are away. There are countless methods to operate a smart home.

How to pick the right Z-wave product?

The great thing about Z-Wave technology is that they have a wide variety of products available from popular and trustworthy brands. But then, how do you infer which one is best for you? The first thing you need to think about is the problem you want to solve. Would you like a warm home, a well-lightened home without even leaving the lights on all day?

For this, you will need a smart thermostat, a compatible one, and some connectible smart lights. Further, you will need to look for various smart devices’ designs, whether they match up to your smart home system or do you prefer that design personally. After you decide these things, you will have to analyze every device’s capability and functionality to make sure they do what you need them for. While you evaluate their functionality, do search the manufacturer’s website.  

What are a hub, gateway, and controller?

All the three terms mentioned refer to hardware that will act as the brain of your smart home. This product usually comes in various forms. For instance, your WiFi router, think of it as a hub. Now, this router provides a WiFi network within your home. Similarly, a Z-Wave smart controller/gateway/hub provides the Z-Wave functionality within your smart home and manages the commands given by you.

Smart z-wave hubs are available in various forms, i.e., as simple as an alarm used for home security purposes, as handy as a stand-alone device, a thermostat, and whatnot. While the most common amongst all is the stand-alone hub, all of them are highly efficient.

Will Z-Wave work in a large house?

No matter what the size of the house is, Z-Wave works on a network called a mesh network. One Z-Wave device will convey the signal to another device until it reaches the final desired device. Each device in your smart home works as a signal repeater. The more devices you have, the stronger your smart network will be.

For instance, if you wish to lock your smart lock by sending a signal via your smart home app, it will send that message directly to the hub. The hub will further send that message from one device to another until it reaches the lock. Once the door lock receives the message to be locked, it will comprehend and do so immediately. After the door lock has locked itself up, it will send a message to the hub through devices connected to your network and then to the app. The app will, after that, send you an alert notifying you that your house has now been locked and is secure.

What does remote access mean?

Remote access refers to the control that you can have on your smart home from wherever you want. This is just one of the several benefits of smart home automation- access and control your home from anywhere you want.

It lets you control your smart home from your store or even when you are on vacation with just the tips of your fingers.

Is Z-Wave a secure protocol?

Z-Wave is a completely secure wireless protocol. It comes with a unique identifier assigned to every device in the network. This ID is different for every hub so that your neighbor’s smart hub can’t access your devices.

When a significant level of security is required, i.e., for door locks and other security devices, Z-Wave has an efficient grade of security features that uses AES128 efficient encryption similar to those security levels used by leading banking systems to protect the financial information.

Today, most hubs support Z-Wave AES encryption and are needed on all hubs with the Z-Wave Plus mark on them.

How does a Z-Wave smart home work with one app?

Z-Wave is pretty simple to use, and given everything in a single app, you’ll be able to control your smart home from wherever you want. Several devices to manage promptly to have an app, even more, to get things done even more efficiently. From a thermostat and smart lights to a smart doorbell, with Z-Wave smart home, you’ll be able to control all your Z-Wave devices via a single app.

Where can I find Z-wave?

Almost all the essential home security and home automation producers feature smart home accessories that will support Z-Wave efficiently. To begin with this, you need to create a Z-wave network. This will require a Z-Wave hub that connects the whole system to the internet.  

Z-Wave hubs might also be created into other devices of yours. For others, you will need to purchase a hub separately.

In ADT’s home security packages, the digital control panel also functions as a Z-wave hub

The digital control panel in ADT’s security packages operates as a Z-Wave hub. Similarly, Vivint Smart Home Security, in its smart hub, also supports Z-Wave.

The Samsung SmartThings Hub is one of the most popular and lead-selling stand-alone hubs. It also enables a connection of devices across several platforms such as Z-Wave, WiFi, and ZigBee.

Once the hub is in the ideal location, you are free to automate your home with all the Z-Wave compatible home automation devices you want, from light bulbs and dimmers to smart outlets, thermostats, outlets, and much more.