As more and more DIY Smart Home products are coming to market, our clients and potential customers are becoming more and more aware of the various wireless protocols these devices use. Two of the more well-known protocols are Zigbee and Z-wave, both or which are available in a variety of different devices. So the inevitable question we get asked is “which is better for the home automation system in my home?” The answer is that it depends on the application, but there are some basics to get out of the way first about both protocols.
At a very basic level, Zigbee and Z-wave have many of the same features. They both can be used to create mesh networks between a master controller and all the other devices on their network. They both create “self-healing” mesh networks that re-route communication if a Zigbee or Z-wave devices falls offline. They both operate in an open-band frequency range so they are subject to interference from other devices sharing that frequency. They both have a wide variety of compatible products that can be controlled using the respective protocols.
However, they also have some key difference, which area as follows:
- More DIY Smart Home devices use this protocol, unlike professionally installed Smart Home Equipment which tends to use Zigbee
- The Z-wave wireless chips that go inside Smart home devices are only made by one manufacturer, whereas Zigbee chips are made by many different manufacturers
- There is generally only one type of profile, meaning that there is more uniform compatbility across all Z-wave devices
- Z-wave operates in the now largely unused frequency band of 900Mhz while Zigbee operates at the same frequency as some Wi-fi and Bluetooth devices
- Z-wave Master controllers tend to be less robust (and cheaper) than their Zigbee counterparts having less ability to send and receive data
- More Professionally Installed and Programmed Smart Home devices use this protocol, unlike DIY Smart Home Equipment which tends to use Z-wave
- The Zigbee wireless chips that go inside Smart home devices are made by many different manufacturers, whereas Z-wave chips are only made by one manufacturer
- There can be many different types of profiles, meaning that not all Zigbee devices can talk with each other
- Zigbee operates in the 2.4Ghz space which is also shared with Wi-fi and Bluetooth
- Zigbee Master controllers tend to be more robust (and more expensive) than their Z-wave counterparts having a greater ability to send and receive data
Now that we have all the similarities and differences out of the way, which protocol is right for you? Ultimately, that decision will be determined off the following factors:
- Your Overall budget
- Whether you want to install and maintain the system yourself or have someone else do it for you
- How “integrated” you want your home to be
Generally speaking, Z-wave enabled devices are cheaper than their Zigbee counterparts. This is especially true for lighting control. This is partly due to the additional price pressure of more Z-wave devices in the DIY sector (Zigbee devices are more in the pro sector where prices are less known), and partly because these devices tend to have less functionality or less reliable functionality as a result. As an example, you will find many Zigbee Adaptive phase keypad dimmers (a combo devices that acts as a keypad and dims any type of light) but no Z-wave equivalent device. Thus, if price is your primary motivation, Z-wave might be right for you. As another example, the entry level Zigbee-based Control4 controller used to create a Zigbee mesh network will run you $300 plus programming fees whereas a typical Z-wave controller like the Vera Lite controller is under $100.
For the most part, DIY smart home equipment uses the Z-wave protocol and professionally installed smart home equipment uses one of the many profies of the Zigbee protocol. Thus, if you want to program and maintain the system yourself, you are most likely looking at a Z-wave based system. If you don’t want to get involved and just want someone to install a turn-key smart home solution for you, you will most likely be getting a Zigbee based home automation system.
Most of the Z-wave based Smart-home devices out there can control many of the devices in your home, but none can control everything. Thus, you are typically navigating between 2-4 different smart home apps on your phone or tablet to control your whole house. With many Zigbee enabled Smart-home devices, it is possible to control your entire house with 1 app on that same phone or tablet. Thus, depending on what your comfort level is with app navigation, you many want to chose a Z-wave or Zigbee based system as a result.
Still not sure which choice to make? That’s Ok, we are available for more specific questions regarding your Smart Home project at 855-832-4775, or you can find us on the Web at www.technospeakco.com