Creating your own smart home from scratch can be a dizzying experience. There are so many new technologies to add to a smart ecosystem, but you also want to make sure they can all talk to each other. Two of the most popular wireless communication technologies used for home automation are Z-Wave and ZigBee.
While both are incredibly reliable and popular, there are some differences you should know about before choosing the right one for your home. We cover how Z-Wave and ZigBee work, and help you figure out what will serve you best.
Mesh Networks: How Do They Work?
Even if you have just started learning about the home automation game, you are probably familiar with a node. It is the central unit that talks to and controls all the other products in the network. However, both Z-Wave and Zigbee work on mesh networks, meaning each device can talk to each other without having a hub as an intermediary.
Z-Wave and ZigBee devices can perform what is called “hopping”. This is when one device talks to another and skips the need to communicate with the main hub. An advantage of a mesh network means that each connected product acts as a repeater, increasing the required distance between your smart home products.
Similarities between Z-Wave and ZigBee
In many ways, Z-Wave and ZigBee products are alike in terms of performance and functionality. Here are some of the similarities between the two technologies:
- Mesh network: Both Z-Wave and ZigBee use this network instead of Wi-Fi, which has several benefits that allow products to act as a repeater rather than working through a central hub.
- Power requirements: Z-Wave and ZigBee do not need as much power to work compared to Wi-Fi. This means long battery life for these types of products, making them more user-friendly for most renters and homeowners.
- Reliability: Both Z-Wave and ZigBee are considered incredibly reliable. Z-Wave tends to have slightly more range than ZigBee products, but both are generally considered reliable.
- Encryption standards: Both Z-Wave and ZigBee use the same encryption standards as banks: AES 128. This makes it incredibly difficult for hackers to access any of your systems, keeping your home ecosystem protected from threats.
Differences between Z-Wave and ZigBee
While there are important similarities between the two technologies, there are also a few differences you should know about before deciding which one is best for your home smart ecosystem.
- Interoperability: It’s not a word that the average DIYer would know, but it’s an important distinction between Z-Wave and ZigBee products. Z-Wave has a rigorous certification process, which means that every piece of Z-Wave hardware and software sold adheres to the full Z-Wave Alliance, which means they will work together and provide the consumer with a hassle-free experience. ZigBee’s certification process is less stringent, which means it is possible to purchase a company’s hardware that is ZigBee certified while its software is not. While this does not seem to be a common problem, it is something to note when buying a ZigBee product.
- Frequency: Z-Wave and ZigBee operate at different frequencies, which can affect the signal range in your home. ZigBee operates at 2.4 GHz, while Z-Wave has a lower 908 MHz range. So what does this mean for your smart home? The higher the frequency, the lower the range of the signal. While ZigBee may have a higher frequency, it can cause interference in your home and reduce the range in the home to approx. 40 feet. Z-Wave’s lower frequency signal allows for more than double the range of a ZigBee device, which can be important if you have a larger home.
- Configuration limits: Both Z-Wave and ZigBee are mesh networks, which means that each device can act as a repeater and does not have to go through the main hub to function properly. When one device talks to another to reach the intended goal of the user, it is called “hopping”. Z-Wave allows for up to 4 “hops”, while Zigbee has unlimited possibilities in this area. This will only make a huge difference for business owners and should generally not have a major impact on a residential home.
- Supported devices: This is unlikely to make a difference to any homeowner, but ZigBee can support up to 65,000 devices, while Z-Wave can support up to 232. While ZigBee clearly wins in this department, you’re unlikely to even get anywhere near Z-Wave’s maximum capacity anyway.
Products that use Z-Wave and ZigBee
Some products you can buy for your smart home use both Z-Wave and Zigbee, while others only use one or the other. Here are some popular security products that use both Z-Wave and ZigBee technologies.
- Z-Wave and ZigBee: Stay, SmartThings, GE, Honeywell
- Z-Wave: Kwikset smart locks, August Smart locks, ADT Pulse, First Alert Detectors, Vivint Security
- ZigBee: Bosch Security, Amazon Echo Plus, Phillips Hue Lighting, Yale Smart Locks
Z-Wave vs. ZigBee: Wrapping
Both Z-Wave and ZigBee are ideal choices for your home automation setup, whether you are a beginner or an experienced technician. They use little power but provide a secure way to create the exact setup you are looking for in your home ecosystem.
Sometimes you may not have to choose between the two, as there are products that use both technologies. In other cases, however, you need to choose between Z-Wave and ZigBee by researching which factors work best in your home.
Be sure to find out the range you need between devices in your room, what is compatible with the hub you plan to use, and how many devices you plan to use. No matter what “Z” technology you jump to, you can not go wrong with these reliable technologies that provide an extra layer of comfort and security to your home.
This article has been reviewed and approved by Officer Banta.
Officer Banta is the official security expert in the field of home security and safety. As a member of the Biloxi Police Department for over 24 years, Officer Banta reviews all articles before giving his stamp of approval. Click here for more information on Officer Banta and the rest of our team.