Z-Wave Controllers, Hubs & Gateways; the best of Z-Wave Plus (2024)

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Z-Wave hubs and controllers sit at the heart of intelligent automation systems

All intelligent automation systems have a smart controller at their heart. The best of them make that controller a Z-Wave Plus compatible one. The purpose of the hub is to act as a central point for your smart devices. This allows you to control, schedule, automate, and receive information from your smart home no matter where you are.

The most popular automation standard for homes - over 100 million Z-Wave products have been shipped globally - Z-Wave is exceptionally modular, allowing you to keep your costs down as you start your automation system with nothing more than a controller and your first smart device.

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With 17 years' experience selling Z-Wave and designing smart homes, we recommend only the controllers and hubs we'd use ourselves. Some are 'out of the box', brand name experience. Others are controllers focused on letting you build your own custom and private gateway. Some even work with other standards such as Matter and Zigbee. What each controller shares, though, is a tried and tested foundation in Z-Wave Plus along with quality guarantees and warranties that ZWaveProducts.com stands behind. It's why we choose to recommend these hubs and controllers and not others.

Why a Z-Wave controller or hub?

Of course, there are many valuable reasons to invest in the best Z-Wave smart home automation hub and controller technology. The top Z-Wave Plus scene controllers are a fundamental part of any smart, connected home. After all, they enable all the other smart home products in your house to work together, which will keep your home connected even when you are not present. At the same time, the top rated Z-Wave hubs and scene controllers are the first major step to setting up, and connecting your smart home.

Frequently asked questions

Which is the best Z-Wave hub, gateway or controller?

There are dozens of Z-Wave gateways to choose from. Some cost as little as $14 while others cost $1000s. To help you judge which is best for you we've created a guide to the best Z-Wave hubs available. Typically though, there are 2 standards of 'best' options for a Z-Wave controller hub to automate your home. All-in-one: the SmartThings Smart Home Hub is preferred by those looking for an all-in-one hub that is simple to setup (albeit, not without system customisation limitations). Open source: Atrim Stick and Home Assistant os preferred by those looking to customise their automations to precisely their home's needs prefer a combination of which matches free software with local processing and private operation without any cloud hosting or third-party data access.

Are Z-Wave controllers compatible with Zigbee or Matter?

While Z-Wave Plus, Zigbee, and Matter are all different wireless automation standards, it's now possible to use all 3 together in the same home. If using a controller such as the SmartThings Smart Home Hub you'll be able to use Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Matter devices via SmartThings' app. Similarly, using a controller such as Hubitat will allow you to use Z-Wave Plus and Zigbee in a single setup.

If you're interested in running multiple protocols in a single setup, it's worth understanding the differences between Z-Wave and Matter and understanding that Zigbee and Matter are typically considered technically interior to Z-Wave. They're also far more limited in their application; Matter-only hubs are compatible with 37% fewer devices than the likes of the SmartThings controller, for instance.

What is Z-Wave?

Think of Z-Wave as a version of Wi-Fi specifically designed to allow smart home products to communicate with each other in a way that is reliable, secure, and works over a long range without interference. Z-Wave, and its advanced version Z-Wave Plus, differs from Wi-Fi (and other smart home technologies) by using low-power and long-reach signals, enabling communication between devices over a range as great as 1.5 miles without suffering from poor signals and interference caused by other wireless devices in your home.

You can learn more about Z-Wave here.

What are features and benefits of Z-Wave?

  • Easy to install. Z-Wave devices communicate wirelessly, meaning you don't have to renovate your property to run cables between different Z-Wave devices. Installation is typically as easy as plugging a device into an outlet or inserting its batteries and then scanning its QR code via your hub's app.
  • Huge wireless range. In direct communication mode, Z-Wave devices can communicate.
  • Affordable. It's possible to create a Z-Wave automation system at a price far cheaper than other dedicated home automation technologies such as KNX. Unlike other such standards, which require a professional installer to set up, Z-Wave systems can also start small and be expanded. You can start with 2 devices automating your lights and expand, at your own pace and within your own budget, to automate hundreds of devices.
  • Stable. Not only can you consider Z-Wave's wireless technology best-in-class, but you can consider it the most tested. Z-Wave has a long history of automating homes and whole buildings - version 1 of Z-Wave was released in 1999.
  • Security. With its long history, Z-Wave has proven to not only be secure, it's become more secure with each version. Newer, Z-Wave Plus devices feature ‘Z-Wave Security 2' and can offer over 10 separate security and anti-hack functions. In fact, Z-Wave is so secure that 9 out of 10 of the leading security companies in the USA use Z-Wave Plus for wireless automation.

How many Z-Wave devices are there?

With over 20 years' operation and across 8 separate versions, there are a lot of Z-Wave devices in operation. In fact, over 100,000,000 Z-Wave enabled products have been shipped globally! Of that number, manufacturers have created over 3,500 different devices. Of course, ZWaveProducts doesn't stock them all - we simply stock the best of them, selecting and selling only the products we've tested and which we'd be happy to have in our own homes.

How does Z-Wave work?

Z-Wave can work through simple communication between 2 devices. For instance, a Z-Wave light switch can directly control a Z-Wave light bulb. But most homes won't use such a simple automation network. Instead, they'll use:

  1. A phone or tablet to control devices on demand, whether they're at home or away.
  2. An inexpensive and secure automation gateway to create intelligent automations and monitor the system.
  3. Z-Wave devices to communicate to the hub and then on to the (optional) phone or tablet for remote control and monitoring. Those devices come from dozens of different categories including safety and security, thermostats, and lighting.

Everything in the above configuration operates on a low-power and long-reach wireless frequency. In Canada and the USA that frequency is 908.4 MHz but it's a different frequency for Z-Wave in other countries.

What is Z-Wave Plus?

Z-Wave Plus is an upgraded version of Z-Wave which offers better security, wireless range, and battery performance. Released in 2013, it's also come to be known as Z-Wave 500 series and Z-Wave Gen5. Z-Wave Plus offers up to the following improvements when compared to the previous generation of Z-Wave devices:

  • A wireless range of 492 feet
  • 50% less power use on battery on battery powered devices
  • 250% more data transferable. Of course, it's still not capable of carrying videos or pictures, but that's not what Z-Wave has been designed for
  • A total of 3 RF channels for improved reliability and wireless performance
  • Firmware update features now available to manufacturers to release new firmware for their devices to fix any bugs

You can compare 500 series Z-Wave Plus to 300 series Z-Wave in more depth.

What is Z-Wave Plus v2?

An upgrade to both Z-Wave Plus and Z-Wave, version two of Z-Wave Plus features in 700 series and 800 series Z-Wave devices. Z-Wave Plus V2 offers up to the following improvements when compared to the previous generations of Z-Wave devices:

  • A wireless range of 656 feet in mesh mode and 1.5 miles in long range mode
  • Even lower battery use with some devices able to run for up to 10 years on a single coin cell battery
  • Easier installation with Z-Wave's SmartStart QR code scanning and Network-Wide-Include now mandatory in all devices
  • Improved security with Security 2 now standard and an optional security vault available to manufacturers
  • Firmware update features now mandatory in all devices

You can compare 800 series Z-Wave Plus v2 to older versions of Z-Wave in more depth.

Which version of Z-Wave should I buy?

To best future proof your automation system, we recommend using hub software powered by 800 series, and devices using either 800 series or 700 series. That will ensure that the most important parts of your system use Z-Wave Plus V2. Should you be trying to build a solution for which V2 devices don’t exist, it’s still perfectly fine to use 500 series, Z-Wave Plus devices in your setup; they’ll perform fine.

Can Alexa, Siri or Google control Z-Wave?

Yes they can, even though they don't have Z-Wave built in. When using Z-Wave with a hub, such as SmartThings or Home Assistant with a USB stick, you'll be able to connect your voice assistant with that hub's software. From there, you'll be able to use natural voice commands to control your smart home in the same way that you might use a remote control or a phone app. Voice commands will allow control of individual Z-Wave devices; “Alexa, turn on my bedroom light” could control a single light switch in your bedroom. They'll also be able to control a cluster of devices with commands such as “Alexa, good night” able to turn off all your lights, turn down heating, and ensure that all your doors and windows are locked and secured.

Z-Wave Controllers, Hubs & Gateways; the best of Z-Wave Plus (2024)
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