Smart building devices like apartment smart locks and thermostats run on all sorts of wireless technologies. You can find all types of IoT devices that run on WiFi or Bluetooth — but when it comes to smart buildings, many property managers are choosing another network called Z-Wave instead.
But what is Z-Wave and what sets this technology apart from the rest?
In this post, we go over what Z-Wave is and how it works. Then, we go over its pros and cons. Finally, we’ll help you decide if these devices are right for you.
This post covers:
- What is Z-Wave?
- How does Z-Wave work?
- Z-Wave pros and cons
- Are these devices right for your building?
What is Z-Wave?
Z-Wave is a type of wireless network that smart home automation devices use to communicate with each other and keep a smart building running.
In your everyday life, you’ve definitely used wireless technology to perform everyday tasks — whether that’s listening to music on Bluetooth speakers or connecting to the internet using WiFi. In that same vein, Z-Wave is what many wireless smart home devices use to exchange information.
What are Z-Wave devices? They include:
- Smart home hubs
- Smart locks
But what’s the difference between Z-Wave and WiFi?
Z-Wave was created specifically for use in smart homes, and the devices that use it have benefits like longer battery life and higher levels of security. Meanwhile, WiFi is a wireless communication protocol with high power usage that can use a WiFi gateway to deliver wireless data.
While you might usually encounter Z-Waves in the context of single-family homes, its devices are useful at every sort of property interested in adopting more technology. Commercial, residential, and mixed-use properties of all sizes use these devices to create a unified smart experience.
Watch how ButterflyMX works:
How does Z-Wave work?
Z-Wave works by enabling communication between different devices within a smart building network. In contrast to other wireless networks, Z-Wave communication takes place on a specific, low frequency that allows devices to consume less power. And these devices are specially optimized for smart building automation because they take advantage of an innovation called mesh networking.
In a mesh network, every piece of hardware in that network can exchange information with every other piece of hardware. In essence, this means that every smart sensor and lock that you install function as mini-routers all over your property — which is great for making sure that your entire network is always active. If one lock or sensor fails, there’s no danger of the whole network going down because your devices can always find new ways to route information.
Mesh networking comes with one more benefit. Because each device functions as a mini-router, you can extend the physical range of your network without investing in costly repeaters or modems. Your newly installed device just has to be in the range of one existing piece of hardware, and you’re in business!
Pros & cons
Here’s everything you need to know before you make a decision about investing in these devices.
Benefits of Z-Wave devices
High manufacturing standards
You can’t just call any old lock or sensor a Z-Wave device. Before a manufacturer can market its products with that name, they have to make sure that the product lives up to standards established by the Z-Wave Alliance.
The Z-Wave Alliance is a group of companies who have gotten together and agreed to use the same standards — and they’ve maintained these standards for over 20 years.
Easily integrate products with each other
Even if devices come from different manufacturers, all you have to do is look for the Z-Wave Alliance’s stamp of approval to know that these devices will easily integrate with each other and into your intelligent building.
Because each device is built to the same set of standards, you’ll have no trouble getting them to work together — and you’ll get to experience the benefits of mesh networking with no hassle.
Low power consumption
Many home assistant Z-Wave devices run on batteries, and replacing batteries is a hassle for every property manager. But Z-Wave products are so efficient that their batteries could last as long as 10 years!
Z-Wave devices have to go through a lengthy process before they’re allowed to advertise themselves as such. Manufacturers have to pay for testing, and there are other fees involved as well. Unfortunately, those costs do get passed on to consumers.
Have limited range
Z-Wave’s dependence on low-frequency waves has many benefits, but it comes with downsides.
While a network of this type is strong and resilient, that resiliency depends on devices being close together. What if you have one smart home device that’s farther away from every other device in the network? This might happen if your building has multiple floors or you have a lot of thick, concrete walls. You’ll have to spend more money to wire this distant device or accommodate it.
Are these devices right for your building?
When you buy a Z-Wave product, you can be certain that it will perform to high standards. However, you must also keep their drawbacks in mind.
Every property is different, and each property manager must juggle priorities and budgetary concerns. Z-Wave vs. Wi-Fi or another network is a choice that must be informed by your property’s unique needs, geography, and clientele.
You may find that these devices work great for some areas of your property, but you’d like to depend on a different network, like Bluetooth or Zigbee, for another area.
Don’t worry; there’s a solution!
Z-Wave devices work well with each other, but you can also integrate them with devices that belong to different networks by investing in a hub or controller that’s compatible with multiple network types.
- Z-Wave is a type of wireless network used by smart building automation hardware.
- The Z-Wave device list includes lights, smart home hubs, and smart locks.
- One of the primary benefits of these devices is that they form a mesh network, which allows a network of Z-Wave devices to be more resilient and lets you save money on routers and repeaters.
- Z-Wave devices are held to a high standard, can integrate with each other even if they’re made by different manufacturers, and consume less power than other devices.
- Drawbacks include a limited range and higher costs.
- Before deciding if these devices are right for you, you should consider the needs of your own property — and remember that you can use more than one type of network to manage your smart building.