ZigBee Vs Z-Wave Vs WiFi – Which is Better for Smart Home?

Zigbee, Z-Wave, and WiFi are highly progressive smart home technologies. These are some of the most extensively used wireless connectivity protocols across the globe. 

These technologies can be used by almost every device in the smart home. Still, so many customers are much less familiar with each of them regarding appropriateness and benefits.

ZigBee vs Z-Wave vs WiFi: A Comparative Glimpse

Point of DifferenceZigBeeZ-WaveWiFi
What is it?IEEE 802.15.4-based requirement for a set of high-level communication protocols to build personal area networks with compact, low-power digital radiosMesh network using low-energy radio waves to communicate from one appliance to another, allowing for wireless control of residential appliances and other devicesThe IEEE 802.11 is used for local area networking of devices and Internet access, allowing nearby digital devices to exchange data by radio waves.
Key Features-   Support for multiple networks-   Secure Network-   High-capacity load balancing
-   Long battery life-   Low communication latency-   Indoor as well Outdoor coverage
-   Low latency-   Great battery backup-   Measurable speed and performance
-   Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum-   Efficient mesh network-   A secure method for registering and securing
-   Up to 65,000 nodes per network-   Works all Z-Wave certified products-   Communicates with both 2.4 GHz devices and 5 GHz devices
-   128-bit AES encryption Collision avoidance
CompatibilityAround 2,820 devices3,000+ devicesAbout 250 devices
Frequencies2.4 GHz and 915 MHz908.42 MHz2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
Connectivity65,000 devices, unlimited hops232 devices with a single hub, four hopsAbout 250 devices
Considerations-   It does not use a lot of energy-   It does not use a lot of energy-   Secured network
-   Strong signals-   Strong signals-   Controlled access
-   Open Protocol for all-   Less vulnerable to hackers (as a closed protocol.)-   Easy payment methods
-   A bunch of devices can be connected to the hub-   Compatible with over 1500 products-   Affordable plans
-   Fast communication of data and less inference-   Standardized protocol-   Speed check ability
-   No internet required
Concerns-   Protocol fragmentation, many versions available-   It needs a smart hub to control it.-   It can only connect to devices up to 32m away
-   Low data transmission rate-   Closed system. Only Z Wave can develop the protocol-   Uses a lot of energy
-   Not secured-   Maximum of 232 devices can be connected to a single hub-   Not compatible with many devices
-   Limited range and coverage-   High Prices
Who is it for?-   technology with strong signals-   A secure network-   A secure network
-   high compatibility-   Better speed-   Limited connectivity range
-   access without internet connection-   Wider coverage-   Indoor/Outdoor coverage
-   an open for access to all-   compatibility with multiple devices-   Measurement of performance
-   premium service-   Convenient payment methods

What is Zigbee?

ZigBee is one of the amazing technologies that use low-power communication protocol to support home automation systems.

Zigbee is mainly used for creating limited ranged mesh networks. It is not owned or controlled by any corporation or organization, i.e., any device creator can freely use it.

In 2003, Zigbee was advanced and systematized by the Zigbee Alliance. Similar to Z-Wave, Zigbee is also a low-powered mesh network technology.

Line-powered Zigbee smart devices operate as repeaters, and that usually overcomes any hub to the limited product range.

Zigbee Compatible Products

Zigbee has thrived in the automation industry commercially yet has been a little down-sloped to flourish in the consumer smart home market. Here are some of the more popular applications that can be associated with Zigbee:

  1. Smart Bulbs – Alexa Smart Light ZigBee Bulbs
  2. Sensors – Sengled Smart Window & Door Sensor
  3. Plug-in smart switches – Sengled Smart Plugs, ZigBee Smart Outlet
  4. Thermostats – Zen Thermostat ZigBee Edition
  5. Smart Door Locks – Yale Smart Door Lock

What is Z-Wave?

Z-Wave is a proprietary technology developed by Zensys; A Danish venture established in 2001.

Z-Wave is an efficient low-energy radio-wave wireless communication protocol created to enable easy communication amongst the smart appliances in your home. Z-Wave is one of the best choices for a communication protocol for home automation.

It is similar to how humans communicate in one language common to each other, just as we are presenting this information in the English language to make you understand by using a similar communication protocol.

So, the z-wave system lets you access multiple wireless devices to interconnect with each other in an easy and reliable mode.

Z-Wave Compatible Products:

Z-Wave can be connected with an extensive range of smart home appliances. The little power consumption ability enables compatibility with a diverse range of battery-powered devices too. Here are some of the more general product categories:

  1. Smart bulbs – Govee LED Smart Light Bulb
  2. Plug-in smart switches – Aeotec Smart Switch 6
  3. Sensors – Aeotec 6-in-1 Multi-Sensor
  4. Thermostats – GoControl Z-Wave Smart Thermostat
  5. Smart Door Locks – Schlage Encode Smart Door Lock
  6. Garage Door Controllers – MyQ Smart Garage Door Opener
  7. Sprinklers – Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller

What is WiFi?

WiFi is a world of wireless network protocols usually required in local areas for networking to enable network access to an extensive variety of devices.

Many confuse the term WiFi as an abbreviation or just some initials, but in reality, a trademark name assigned by a non-profit corporation called WiFi Alliance.

Over 2.97 billion devices have installed WiFi as a protocol every year since 2018. WiFi is a 2.4 GHz network communication standard that has been employed to operate with smart home devices.

It is not a mesh network like Zigbee and Z-Wave technology, so the signals aren’t repeated by the smart devices and are within the direct range of the router to operate smoothly.

A high-quality premium router is a fine choice of investing for better performance.

Wifi Compatible Smart Home Products

WiFi is a technology that consumes a lot of power. Battery-powered appliances, specifically the small unit, will provide a much lower battery life as compared to Z-Wave or Zigbee devices.

WiFi runs with a great range of smart home devices. Some of the prevalent products are mentioned below:

  1. Smart Bulbs – Lumiman Smart WiFi Light Bulb
  2. Thermostats – Home Programmable WiFi Thermostat
  3. Plug-in smart switches – Wemo WiFi Smart Plug
  4. AV Controllers – Smart Home Hub-WiFi Remote Control
  5. Irrigation Controllers – Orbit B-hyve Smart 6 Sprinkler Controller
  6. Light Switches – Kasa WiFi Smart Light Switch
  7. Smart door Locks – WYZE Lock WiFi-Enabled Smart Door Lock
  8. Garage Door Controllers – MyQ WiFi-enabled Smart Garage Door Opener

ZigBee vs Z-Wave vs WiFi: Similarities and Differences

Although Zigbee, Z-Wave, and WiFi are the superior wireless home automation technologies, they can still not be integrated. 

It is quite convenient to create a smart home protocol based on just one of these technologies entirely.

Still, a much more effective approach to an efficient home automation process will be to choose the product that suits your requirements most proficiently and flexibly, linking them together with a multi-purpose hub.

We have rounded up all the necessary information regarding these wireless protocols and critically examined them, keeping in view the diverse needs of the customers. 

We’ll go through every similarity and difference of these technologies so that you make an informed decision.

Zigbee vs. WiFi and Z-Wave have different features that provide their pros and cons. These are:

1. Availability

WiFi is omnipresent because of its operability through a router with 2.4 GHz connectivity, accepted universally. 

Zigbee also has the same 2.4 GHz band, similar to that of that WiFi. The one chip can be used diversely to channelize products across the world, enhancing the manufacturing process.

Contrary to that, Z-Wave products can communicate only in a specific range of government administrative frequencies. 

The Z-Wave products in the USA use a 908 MHz connectivity range, and in Europe, the connectivity range used is 868 MHz. Many more frequencies are accessible in different regions of the world. But most of the producers manufacture only a limited variety of Z-Wave products for Europe and the US.

2. Interoperability

Most WIFIs are interoperable and especially those which use similar networking protocols. Very few manufacturers offer organization-specific integrations. Multinational ventures like Google and Amazon provide their WiFi integration such as smart speakers, etc.

Similarly, all the Z-Wave products are also interoperable, certified by a single organization, Sigma Design. The precise certification procedure ensures that all of these products are compatible with the entire Z-Wave ecosystem. 

The broad scale of interoperability has assisted Z-Wave in rapidly increasing its industry adoption. The current market estimate shows that there are over 3,000 Z-Wave certified devices available.

On the other hand, Zigbee has gone through a great deal due to its inefficiency in the contrivance of interoperability standards. Zigbee did go through a lot of fraudulence, mostly in the initial years. 

The Zigbee Pro standard was developed in 2007 to enable interoperability and avoid all kinds of fraudulent practices. Zigbee 3.0 devices now have remarkable interoperability.

3. Computability

Among the three advanced technologies – Zigbee, Z-Wave, and WiFi, WiFi is the only one supported by the three major platforms: Apple, Google, and Amazon.

Users can connect to a multi-tech hub too to get more flexibility and efficiency. It is quite simple to incorporate WiFi devices with many companies as it is a very popular technology.

ZigBee is supported by a wide range of multi-tech hubs such as SmartThings and Vera. Furthermore, a lot of open-source programs are compatible with Zigbee devices. The computability of Zigbee is surely lesser than WiFi devices. 

On the other hand, Z-Wave is supported by nearly all home software programs and multi-tech hubs. But Google and Amazon smart speakers do not support Z-Wave. 

4. Reliability

Reliability is an essential aspect for any technology to be efficient. Zigbee, Z-Wave, and WiFi are even more important to discuss the reliability of these technologies as they are fairly different from each other. 

Zigbee and Z-Wave are relatively lightweight protocols compared to WiFi. Therefore, Zigbee and Z-Wave experience much less data redundancy.

It benefits WiFi as a lightweight protocol that enables the devices to transmit very little data compared to a WiFi device. 

This also results in the long battery life of the Zigbee vs. Z-Wave products. A WiFi sensor runs on heavy power, draining the batteries much sooner than Zigbee or Z-Wave, with low-power sensors.

The fault tolerance of Z-Wave and Zigbee is low. Usually, a Z-Wave network does not have enormous traffic that can raise issues. Still, it will interrupt the entire network if there’s excessive traffic due to its lower fault tolerance.

Functionally Differential Aspects

All the protocols are wireless

Initially, one should be aware that all three technologies are wireless connectivity protocols and radio-powered communication.

Both Z-Wave and ZigBee are Mesh Networks

Z-Wave and ZigBee are low-energy, mesh networks that let devices communicate without WiFi. Nevertheless, Z-Wave and Zigbee protocols need a separate receiver somewhere on the WiFi network to transmit signals amongst devices.

Not Every Protocol is Equal

ZigBee features an open protocol which means that it is accessible to all, and nobody owns it. 

On the other hand, Z-Wave is a premium brand. It is a proprietary protocol, which means that the products using it will be much more expensive as the manufacturer will have to pay a license as well to use the protocol on their product.

ZigBee Allows More Flexibility

Z-Wave comes with certain restrictions, such as a maximum of 4 hops between the controller and the destination device. Also, only a maximum of 232 devices can be connected to one single hub.

Contrary to this, ZigBee doesn’t have restrictions on the hop limit, which means connecting up to 65,000 devices.

Z-Wave Offers a Better Range

Both ZigBee and Z-Wave assist you in creating a mesh network to enable communication amongst the devices in your smart home. 

But you must consider that Z-Wave is much more efficient in terms of range. ZigBee offers a maximum range of 60 feet, while Z-Wave provides a maximum range of 550 feet apart from devices, which is a huge difference.

ZigBee and Z-Wave Use Way Less Power Than WiFi

ZigBee and Z-Wave are much more efficient in terms of power use as they are low-power wireless protocols, whereas a router experiences significant power consumption. 

WiFi routers running on the 2.4 GHz band might ramp up to 150 feet indoors and 300 feet outdoors.

This is one of the major reasons most smart home creators opt for the other two technologies instead of WiFi. Some of the ZigBee or Z-Wave devices can operate on a single battery for years.

Great Security on All Three Protocols

WiFi, ZigBee, and Z-Wave have 128 Bit AES encryption. Hence, yodon’t need to stress security actions as long as the configuration is performed efficiently.

ZigBee Doesn’t Require a Physical Connection

Contrasting to Z-Wave, ZigBee is considered to be less secure as it doesn’t need any physical button to be pushed before connecting to a device. This, however, isn’t such a huge concern as long as the configuration is performed efficiently by an expert.

The Z-Wave vs Zigbee vs WiFi: Price Comparison

To present a price comparison, we’ll analyze and find the most affordable home automation protocols popularly advertised in the market currently.

We will design the following price comparison with all three wireless protocols for each specific product and then proceed to do a comprehensive discussion for WiFi installation separately. 

We have primarily targeted the most generally purchased device types for a smart home environment as the basis for our comparison study to focus on a general consumer level.

Most buyers will end up purchasing that will support all three protocols. Also, the devices are from popular brands; hence, manufacturers don’t have great differences in the attributes, keeping the prices more or less similar.

The Price Categories: Z-Wave vs. Zigbee

We have already listed above the devices that can be purchased for compatibility with each protocol. 

Each respective category, as aforementioned, will now be represented in a price comparison or buyer choice:

Smart Thermostat

Thermostats work great with Z-Wave as well as Zigbee. As for Zigbee specifically, the ‘Zigbee’ part is an actual plug that comes as an addition to the device, which is quite handy.

Nevertheless, these are sold as a combo and support Zigbee, hence why there is no winner in terms of pricing difference.

Smart Plug

The smart plug comparison is somewhat diverse. We researched our first mark of difference in the price. Even though they start from $10, the most affordable Z-Wave plug is still 50% more expensive compared to its ZigBee counterpart.

Smart Hubs

When it comes to both a Z-Wave hub and a Zigbee hub, you will be able to purchase one hub that will operate with both protocols. 

We will recommend giving a shot at the newest Z-Wave and Zigbee hubs on the market. The Wink Connected Home Hub version 1 is still the most affordable category, which is popularly known to be best suited for Z-Wave.

Signal Repeaters

We know that a plug is not precisely a dedicated signal repeater, yet it acts like one. 

There was no actual noticeable price difference when we created this list.  Although if we base efficiency as a factor, then Z-Wave has received some great reviews than ZigBee, with Signal Repeater compatibility.

Smart Garage Doors and Doorbells

A garage door opener with a smart garage lock system costs $30-$100 on average. Smart doorbells average $60-$200. They usually make up the same cost in both the protocols, unless brand pricing is revised, although Z-Wave has premium products with generally higher market rates than ZigBee.

Smart Security Camera

At around a $15 difference in favor of Z-Wave, these are the most affordable wireless protocol compatibility choices. 

But it is noticeable that Z-Wave cameras require a $9.99 subscription and are bound by Nexia Home’s ecosystem. Still, it was the finest option we were able to find for a dedicated Z-Wave certified camera.

Smart Light Bulb

Smart light bulbs generally cost between $10 and $20 each. When it comes to the best smart lighting solutions on the market, ZigBee compatible lights are cheaper than those Z-Wave lights

We will suggest sticking to a particular lighting ecosystem and not care as much about the protocol. Still, it is quite clear that there is no noticeable difference in the Zigbee and Z-Wave prices when it comes to single light bulbs, as they are equally compatible with all.

Choose Based on Price

If you are on a tight budget and want to go just for the affordable products, Zigbee will save you a couple of bucks. 

Nevertheless, there is not much of a noticeable price difference between products supporting each of the two protocols.

Which One Should You Go for - Zigbee, Z-wave or WiFi?

The features, benefits, and shortcomings of Z-Wave, Zigbee, vs. WiFi are relatively different from one another. 

This can be pretty complex for buyers to land on an appropriate choice amongst them. However, you can pick the best smart home wireless technology once you consider the following aspects:

  • If you wish to purchase a bunch of smart home devices simultaneously, then Z-Wave is the most suitable choice to go for. This will also result in spending a significant amount of money buying other affiliated products and hubs to connect as Z-Wave devices are all interoperable. Moreover, a greater number of devices purchased will make your mesh network much better, enabling your network to be much more reliable and efficient.
  •  Similar to Z-Wave, ZigBee devices also create mesh networks, but it is significantly different. If you have ZigBee devices from various brands, some of them will create entirely separate mesh networks that tend to disturb the entire ZigBee mesh.
  • WiFi is entirely distinct from Zigbee and Z-Wave. It does not create any mesh networks. There are two main ways of using WiFi devices.
  • First, you can purchase all the WiFi products and then use those by connecting them to either one or all of them, i.e., Amazon Echo, Google Home, or other smart home technology. This technique is considered one of the most uncomplicated and user-friendly processes of operating smart home devices. Nevertheless, the security aspects aren’t that effective.
  • Second, you can run WiFi devices by operating them only in local communication. But it needs technical understanding for employment because of which the later process is improbable to be implemented by most smart home producers.

Setting up a wireless communication system amongst smart home devices is a daunting process. It makes things challenging for those who wish to pick the best wireless communication protocols for efficient home automation.

When we talk about Z-Wave and Zigbee, both protocols require hubs, which makes them pretty complex to implement, mainly if you use different brands’ devices.

WiFi is comparatively the easiest technology available because it does not require a hub. All you need is to install a device, connect it to the network, and start accessing.

Hence, everyone should critically analyze their requirements, comfort, and the type of smart home device they want to install before making any decision.

Z-Wave Vs Zigbee – FAQs

Does Google home use ZigBee or Z-Wave?

Not really. The Google Home is not compatible with Z-Wave or ZigBee; hence it cannot work. 

You won’t be able to link with any other device that already works with ZigBee. While you cannot use Google Home with Zigbee or Z-wave, you can still connect Hubs to set up a communication pathway between them. 

Is Alexa Z-Wave or Zigbee?

Alexa only responds to WiFi and also ZigBee only if you have the Echo Plus model. Alexa does not support Z-Wave for now. 

This means your Z-Wave switch or plug cannot communicate directly with your Echo Plus.   

Although you can connect a smart home hub as a linking bridge for your Z-Wave devices and your Alexa, this way, you get a better functioning smart communication system that is both efficient and simple to operate. 

Does Philips hue work with Zigbee or Z-Wave?

Yes, at some level. It does work with SmartThings as well as Wink with built-in Z-Wave radios. 

However, the mode of interaction with SmartThings and Wink is the web services that link Phillips’s hue with such automation hubs via the cloud services and not through Z-Wave Communication Protocol.

The Phillips hub and other light bulbs manufactured by Phillips are all compatible with ZigBee. 

However, Philips Hue doesn’t communicate with other non-Phillips devices via ZigBee. The only cloud enables communication with other devices. Whenever you see ‘Philips Hue works with,’ such compatibility is possible through a cloud-based communication system.

Do you need WiFi for Z-Wave?

A remote and some light bulbs, i.e., the very basic networks, can work without the internet. 

Many Z-Wave pathways won’t be able to communicate with Z-Wave devices without an internet connection. 

Different protocols have different power transmission ratings.

Z-wave operates low-powered items except for the battery-powered ones to act as a signal repeater offering a much more efficient coverage compared to a single point connection such as WiFi.

You shall face no trouble when the entire house can be covered by one WiFi hub. Both possess a similar bandwidth and similar range.