When you’re setting up your smart home, there’s one thing that will determine your entire setup, and that’s which protocol you use. The Zigbee vs Wi-Fi vs Z-Wave debate is a common one in the smart home community, and if you’re completely new to the topic you might be seriously confused about what they all mean.
Usually, when you’re shopping for a new device you’ll note somewhere that it will have its capabilities. It might be exclusively made for Zigbee or Z-Wave, or even capable of both, and choosing either of these wireless standards will determine how all of your devices communicate with each other.
Any good smart home needs one of these connections, so as confusing as it can be, it’s unfortunately not something you can just skip over. That’s why we’re here to walk you through what each of them means, their specific benefits, and how people decide which one is going to be the best fit for their home.
Before we can start the comparisons of Zigbee vs Z-Wave vs Wi-Fi, we need to know a little about what each one is. Here’s a quick explanation to help you wrap your head around it and get an understanding of their descriptions.
Some people are more vigilant with their security than others and may feel that their home’s privacy is of utmost importance. Because Z-wave is a closed standard it’s less likely someone can hack into it and change things, like they potentially could with Zigbee.
However, being open source, Zigbee is receiving constant updates and always making new advancements that you just don’t get with Z-Wave.
Both Zigbee and Z-Wave use the same encryption and both state they are completely safe from hacking. Although we can never confirm that anything done online is this secure, their AED-128 symmetric encryption is enough to put your mind at ease.
Comparing the cost of these two protocols can be hard to do, so it’s better to look at the cost of devices that pair with them. After looking at various comparisons, it seems both will end up costing the same when you’re shopping for the most affordable but highly rated smart devices.
If you’re wanting to pinch pennies, Zigbee seems to be the way to save just a few extra dollars, but the difference is seriously small.
There’s no point in having a smart home if all of your devices are going to work at a snail’s pace, so you probably want the fastest. In this sense, Zigbee is the winner with data rates of 40-250 kbps which is a lot faster than Z-Wave’s rates of 9.6 – 100 kbps.
However, Z-Wave features fewer interference rates so the chance of this connection becoming broken is less likely than when you’re using Zigbee.
Setting up your protocol is going to take the same amount of time regardless of the choice. Most people prefer to have an expert do the installation unless they’re comfortable with their own tech skills. Once established, you’ll find that although Zigbee has a slight lead on compatible devices, Z-Wave isn’t far behind.
One issue that Zigbee has is that their device capabilities are split into different areas like Home Automation and Smart Energy Profile.
If you’re trying to make one device from each category communicate, you’re going to have a harder time unless you upgrade to the 3.0 which has unified them all. On the other hand, Z-Wave has been made with strict criteria so all of their devices will work on that system.
There’s no right or wrong answer when deciding on the Zigbee vs Z-Wave debate, but for homes with more than one device, it’s always better to use one of these rather than your Wi-Fi connection. Wi-Fi wasn’t really designed for these types of endeavors and can be slow and not secure, so if you want the true smart home experience then you should avoid it.
The best approach might be to think about what smart devices you want for your home and whether or not you need them communicating with each other. With some background on the setup you’re trying to achieve you can better choose products that meet those standards, so try to think as far ahead as possible.
It’s easy to feel as though you’re lost with all of the technical speak surrounding smart homes, but this is by far the most complex decision you’ll ever have to make. Once you know the connection you’ll be operating on, it’ll only be a simple matter of choosing the right tech to transform your household into a truly smart home.