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A smart home with Z-Wave: everything you need to know

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We’ll tell you everything you need to know about Z-Wave, a universal protocol for your smart home. What products are there, how do you manage everything and what are the benefits?

When you start with a smart home, you probably think mainly of smart products such as doorbells, lamps, door locks and thermostats that you use as a basis. But, you can also set up your smarthome based on a protocol, which gives you more options to expand your smart home and is also more flexible in the applications. In this article we look at the Z-Wave protocol, a standard with which products in the house can communicate with each other.

What is Z-Wave?

Let’s start with the answer to the question of what a protocol is. Simply put, this is a universal standard that specifies how people, parties or products must communicate with each other for fast, streamlined and efficient communication and transfer of information. Z-Wave is a protocol aimed at the smart home and enables fast, stable and efficient communication between products that are Z-Wave compatible.

Z-Wave makes it possible for two devices to communicate with each other. No intervention of a router or other device is required for this, as the Z-Wave network is a stand-alone network. It is also a mesh network, which means that the signal from one device is continuously sent to two other devices. This creates a stable and (unlimited) large network in which all devices continuously communicate with each other. The more devices in the network, the more stable and larger the network can become. In addition, all Z-Wave communication works both ways: devices confirm commands given to make sure the information has arrived. Finally, the protocol uses the low 868MHz band, which makes communication easier through walls, among other things.

In 2013 a new version of the protocol was released called Z-Wave Plus. This version of the standard offers an even more stable connection and a longer range. In addition, the energy consumption of products that use Z-Wave Plus is lower. However, you can mix products with and without the Plus version.

Z-Wave in a smart home

Z-Wave is a universal standard and can therefore be used for various applications, but we mainly see the protocol in the smart home. There are now hundreds of manufacturers engaged in the development of products that are compatible with this standard. At the time of writing, there are approximately 2,500 Z-Wave smart home products for sale and that number is still growing daily. You can now go to the store for, among other things, built-in modules for lighting and sun blinds, door locks, sensors, weather stations, thermostats and even skylights.

You can not think of it that there is a smart Z-Wave variant on the market, and in addition, the standard is brand-independent, so you cannot be found at one manufacturer. To guarantee quality, new devices are certified by the Z-Wave Alliance. Finally, these products are generally affordable, especially because there is so much choice and you can therefore shop for products that fit your budget and application. All this makes Z-Wave a very interesting standard for the base of your smart home. But, if you want to use Z-Wave, you don’t just need the compatible products themselves.

A Z-Wave controller

Setting up a Z-Wave network in your smart home is easy. The products communicate with each other and it is a closed network which makes linking easy. However, a so-called controller is required to control the products. This controller, also called a gateway, can send commands to the Z-Wave products, can receive signals from the products, offers options to automate products and have them cooperate with each other, and gives you the possibility to connect all products with you. smartphone (or other device). The controller is therefore the gateway to all Z-Wave products and the only product in the network that must connect to the internet so that you can also access it on your smartphone.

Today you will find various controllers on the market that can act as a gateway to your Z-Wave products and thus give you access to your network. The most famous controllers are those from Fibaro, Homey(Athom) and Zipato. You can also buy Z-Wave expansion modules for controllers (software) such as Domoticz that you can run on, for example, a Rasberry Pi. The only requirement for the controller is that it supports Z-Wave and can therefore communicate with your products in the house. The functionality per controller and per software package can vary a lot, but basically all controllers offer the possibility to link (register) compatible devices in the house and then create scenes or scenarios with which you can automate your home. For example; the sensor in the bathroom sees someone soon and lets the controller know. The controller gives the built-in module for the lighting in the bathroom a signal that the lighting can be switched on.

Of course, the controller also offers you the possibility to operate the linked devices remotely, with your smartphone. You can also switch the lighting on or off manually, with your smartphone. Finally, you can also use sensors and other products to monitor things. The Z-Wave products also provide communication in the direction of the controller. For example, you can use a smart plug to see exactly how much power that one device uses.

Is there more than Z-Wave?

Z-Wave is not the only universal standard for communication between devices in your smart home. There are more standards that are used for this, including ZigBee (known from the Philips Hue lighting), bluetooth, WiFi, radio frequencies and even infrared. Combining multiple protocols in the house is possible, but it depends on your controller. The controller must support the different protocols and can therefore make them work together seamlessly. An example of a controller with which multiple protocols can be used is the Homey from Athom . Even if you use Domoticz software, for example, you can expand yourself to support multiple standards.