What is Z-Wave, and when do you need it?

Updated 3 months ago 6 minutes

Z-Wave (Plus) is a term that pops up a lot in the world of smart home. It’s used by many brands to power sensors, modules, plugs, remotes and many more smart devices. So what is it exactly, and when do you need it?

In short, Z-Wave is a wireless smart home technology. Like Wi-Fi, but created specifically for home automation, and operating on a different wireless band. It is managed by the Z-Wave Alliance, where smart home manufacturers gather to evolve the standard.

As it’s made specifically for smart home, Z-Wave offers some advantages over Wi-Fi or other wireless technologies for home automation. That’s why quite some companies use the technology, and why it’s one of the six wireless technologies in Homey.

Z-Wave at a glance

  • Wireless technology designed for smart home
  • Works on the 868MHz-band (EU) or the 908 MHz-band (US)
  • Alternative to Zigbee
  • Standardized wireless protocols, so devices from different brands can talk to each other
  • Uses mesh networking
  • Long range, especially combined with the mesh network
  • Secure through the use of encrypted signals
  • Low power usage / long battery life
  • Premium technology
  • Requires a Z-Wave hub, like Homey

Pros and Cons of Z-Wave

Z-Wave is a popular technology for smart home, because it offers some distinct advantages over other wireless technologies like Bluetooth, Zigbee or Wi-Fi.

For starters, it has a standardized protocol. This means all devices ‘speak the same language’, making them easy to integrate with each other, and with Homey.

Next to that, communication between devices is always two-way: devices confirm commands given to them. This makes Z-Wave devices very reliable. It makes sure devices never miss a command, and allows your sensors to dub as a smart security system.

Another advantage is the fact that Z-Wave uses a different wireless band than Wi-Fi and Bluetooth do. This ensures a very good range in homes – even through walls. It also makes sure Z-Wave and other signals do not disturb each other. No matter how busy the Wi-Fi is around your home, Z-Wave devices will have no issues connecting.

Z-wave sensor Fibaro Motion Sensor
Z-Wave’s size and power-efficiency allows for beautiful, small devices like this motion sensor from Fibaro.

The technology also requires very little power. It allows very small devices like a Fibaro Motion Sensor to run on a single battery for years.

Mesh networking

And last, but definitely not least: Z-Wave is built as a mesh network. Mesh networks allow all the devices to talk to each other and repeat commands. In practice, it means range and reliability of the whole network improve with every device you add.

Z-wave mesh network with Homey as controller
Mesh networks like Z-Wave allow devices to talk to each other and relay commands


Every technology has its trade-offs. For Z-Wave, this is mainly its price. The reliability, range and standardization it offers are not for free. Z-Wave is a premium technology, with a premium price. If you’re shopping on a budget, you’re often better off with devices using Zigbee or 433MHz technology. Still, a Z-Wave system remains a lot cheaper than wired systems like KNX. In general, a sensor, module or switch will set you back around 50 bucks.

Also, you cannot connect devices directly to your phone. Your phone does not feature a Z-Wave antenna. So you always need a smart home hub or Z-Wave Controller to connect with Z-Wave devices. Luckily, Homey includes Z-Wave, so if you have Homey you have nothing to worry about.

Homey Z-Wave hub controller
You need a hub like Homey to connect to Z-Wave devices

Z-Wave vs Z-Wave Plus

So what’s the difference between the Plus and non-plus version of Z-Wave? The addition of ‘Plus’ means the device has a newer generation of the technology inside. This often means the device has a better range and battery life than non-Plus devices.

Plus-devices can also pair with each other with an extra layer of security. This makes it even harder for people to listen in on your sensors and switches. Regular Z-Wave devices and those on Z-Wave Plus can seamlessly work together, so you never have to worry about that. Of course, Homey comes with the newer, better and more secure version, Z-Wave Plus, inside.


To sum up, Z-Wave is a powerful, energy-efficient and premium smart home technology. It’s widely used for both alarm systems and home automation by prominent brands like Ring, Fibaro, Yale, Aeotec, Danfoss, Alarm.com and Homey.

These brands all make attractive devices which you can often install yourself. With its reliable wireless technology and mesh networking, Z-Wave is thé premium choice to automate your home.

Smart home lights work with Homey

Getting started with Z-Wave

Building a Z-Wave setup is quite easy. As it is a wireless technology, there’s obviously no wires to install. To get started, you just need a Z-Wave hub, like Homey and a device, for instance a Fibaro Wall Plug. The technology builds the mesh network itself when devices are added to Homey. There’s no need to enter passwords or SSIDs like with Wi-Fi, and the devices figure out the optimal routes for commands and messages themselves.

Now, Z-Wave is a great technology, but not the whole world runs on it. There are several other wireless technologies out there powering Smart Home. That is why we recommend to stay versatile with Homey.

Homey is not only a Z-Wave controller, but can also control devices on your Wi-Fi, and via Bluetooth, Infrared, Zigbee and 433MHz signals. All these technologies may not mean much to you, but basically they are all the ways to wirelessly control devices. And with Homey, you can control them all.

Homey smart home hub

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