Z-Wave vs Zigbee vs Bluetooth vs Wifi

This serves as an overview on the differences between Z-Wave, Zigbee, Bluetooth and Wifi. If you’re looking for the nitty-gritty, in-depth details of the technological sides of each Smart Home language, then boy are you going to be disappointed. This is more for the Home Automation beginners, who are just beginning and wondering… what the heck should I be using as my Home Automation technology?

FOR SCIM READERS: Click here to skip the pro/cons and straight to my recommendation.

Ok, so without further ado, here’s what I’ll be covering in this post:

Z-Wave vs Zigbee vs Bluetooth vs WiFi: The Smart Home Technology Battle

Before I pit one smart home protocol against the other, and break them down in layman’s terms, I figured I’d try to relate to you as best as I can by giving you a sneak peak into my journey into Home Automation.

If you could care less about my journey (I get it, no hard feelings) feel free to click here to head to the Z-Wave section.

When I first started dabbling in Home Automation (and HA Products), I just wanted to solve some common annoyances and just flat out make my life simpler. For instance, I live in Michigan and it gets flippin cold up here… I mean nose-hair stiff cold. While on vacation in Florida, I thought, “you know, there’s got to be a way to turn the thermostat down while I’m down here and then turn it up when I’m a few hours from home”.

onetripOr, maybe you’re a #onetrip grocery bag hero just like myself and there you are, 10 bags on each arm, walking into a pitch black house (dangit, c’mon!). Wish there was a way for my lights to automatically come on when I get home (protip: there is).

What does this have to do with choosing the right technology for your Smart Home? Well, I’m assuming, like me, you didn’t wake up one day and think, “you know… I’d like a Smart Home — let’s see what there is out there”. No, I’m guessing you thought about a Smart Home and then started looking at ideas on how to make your life easier.

The problem is, there are so many brands, companies, products and technology out there — where should you start?

Here are some pro/cons of each of the technologies (Z-Wave, Zigbee, Bluetooth or WiFi) as well as my recommendation on which I think you should go with based on my own usage. Please also note, you don’t have to box yourself into one technology, but more on that later.
What is Z-Wave?

Z-Wave technology actually originated in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1999 and was adopted in the US in 2001. In 2005, a group of manufacturers got together to form the Z-Wave Alliance, in which their mantra is “interoperability”. What that means is that regardless of the manufacturer, brand, product, year the product was created, or version of Z-Wave software, all Z-Wave products will communicate with each other.

In other words, all your Z-Wave products can be friends, regardless of how they look, how old they are, or their country of origin. Isn’t that a world everyone wants to live in?

Alright, now for the pro/cons:

Pros of Z-Wave

  • Interoperability | If you are not brand loyal, then this is the way to go. Make sure, the Z-Wave product you choose is certified. There will undoubtedly be knockoffs out there, so make sure you can find the certification number (note: the Z-Wave Alliance does a great job policing this, but I wanted to throw this out there as a caution).
  • Scale | Z-Wave claims to work with over 1500 products, giving you a wide range to choose from.
  • No Interference with Wifi/2.4GHz bands | Z-wave runs on a separate radio frequency wave (908.42 MHz in the US) than Zigbee, WiFi and Bluetooth which can eliminate the lag you may get if there is a lot of congestion on your WiFi/2.4GHz band.
  • Range | The range can grow based on the number of devices you have in your network. In layman’s terms, the signal, “jumps” from device to device until it reaches the HUB and every device that is alway powered on acts as a repeater.

Cons of Z-Wave

  • Price | Honestly, you get what you pay for when it comes to Z-Wave. It may cost a little bit more than Zigbee and more than likely a lot more than WiFi, but the benefits of the above pros are what you’re paying for.
  • Moving to a different country = Start Over

by Eric Hines Oct 19th 2016

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