I’ve found that many people don’t think there is much difference between Z-Wave and ZigBee. Let’s first start off by explaining what ZigBee and Z-wave are. They are very similar wireless technologies that are used for many different home automation devices, from light switches to motion sensors, that allow your hub to talk to these different devices.
Both technologies are usually compatible with most hub’s and both use mesh networking to be able to easily talk to devices that are further away from your hub. But they have one major difference that I don’t think many people consider when choosing one over the other: distance. Z-wave travels about three times further then ZigBee in open air tests. Z-wave is rated for 30 meters in open air cases and ZigBee is rated for only 10 meters. Keep in mind that means that any walls or other objects you put in the way are going to reduce this distance, sometimes very significantly.
Z-wave also uses a frequency around 900 MHz, ZigBee is around 2.4GHz. Anyone that has had to deal with kids driving by their house with the bass of their stereo cranked up knows that lower frequencies penetrate walls and objects easier. This is also the same reason that 2.4ghz wifi signals go through walls much better than the newer 5ghz signals.
The Z-wave protocol also has what’s called “Z-wave Plus”. The Z-wave Alliance claims the following features over top the standard Z-Wave:
Whatever technology you decide to use, stick with one if possible. Because both ZigBee and Z-wave work on a mesh standard, the more devices you have the more stable and easier your devices that are further from your hub will work.