Is ZWave really better?

I am trying to create a very basic home automation setup that I want to easy to replicate. Some lights (light switches, not Hue like), thermostat, motion / door / window sensors, and a camera.

The thermostat and camera are going to be on wifi with my HA.

Now for the light switches and sensors, I am entering into the ZWave territory. So far, this has been a pain point for me.

  1. ZWave protocols are some kind of voodoo language. I have to trust existing packages and HA implementations - or dive deep and become a voodoo expert
  2. Pairing devices is like black magic. It should work. Often it doesn’t. If it fails, reboot, unpair, reboot, pair, scream, reboot, unpair, reboot…
  3. Some devices don’t automatically work out of the box. Once again, I have to become a ZWave expert.

Seems like all of this may be alleviated if I could use wifi based devices.

  1. I am already using wifi based devices, so I shouldnt be concerned too much about connectivity issues. If wifi has issues, my HA will have issues.
  2. APIs are easier to read and comprehend and debug. No ZWave incantations to parse.
  3. Also the connections are direct. They don’t have to be discovered and communicated through a ZWave sub system.

This is my conclusion so far based on my experience.

The “pro” for ZWave seems to be that it is kinda the standard (other than ZigBee) for light switches and sensors - probably comes from the industrial automation world. But is something better because everyone uses it?

Thanks for any illumination on this matter.

1 Like

I use WEMO switches (IP based), and they have been flawless.

1 Like

I use zwave dimmers/door sensors/thermostat/lights without issue. Major plus is that zwave is ultra low power so you can have battery powered devices that last years. As far as I know all wifi smart devices need to be attached to the mains because of the wifi power overhead.

Their were a few quirks here and there, but nothing that wasn’t figured out quickly by the community here.

I also have a WeMo switch that has worked flawlessly as well, but the variety of wifi devices seems pretty limited to Belkin and some thermostats (nest etc)

My 2¢…

1 Like

If your question is. Is zwave the best (as in most reliable and stable) solution for light switches? Then no. Ra2 is probably the best.

But I think there are other things to consider like $$. I don’t use zwave or ra2 but thought I’d chime in. :slight_smile:

If I was to do everything over I’m not sure what I would use.

1 Like

That’s a fair point @bbrendon . For my question the qualification of good was “reliable / stable and easy to set up”. But I think after a certain point, the power consumption and cost start becoming serious concerns.

In terms of devices, I am particularly interested in light switches and motion sensors for home use.

@azeroth12, thanks for the comparison between ZWave and Wifi. The limited availability might be an important constraining factor …

I am ok with quirks here and there, but if I try to pair a device and nothing happens, I really have nothing to start framing a question for the forums.

Also the issue of not having control over device id assignments bothers me.

I don’t think you’ll find them from the same brand. Usually motion sensors are panel companies and lights are someone else. If you got the IoT route, then anything is possible :slight_smile:

If you find an IP light switch that is affordable and attractive then that is the simplest way to go. The only caveat is that you have to have wifi range to all of your house.

Motion sensors are more complex because they often need to be located in places that are not near a power supply. Running a wifi based box on batteries is not realistic - wifi just wasn’t designed for that.

First off, there’s no need to reboot your HA system. At most, you may need to restart the HA software to get the full name for the new device showing correctly - but only once it’s all working.

Secondly, it should work. The only time I’ve had trouble was when I needed to factory reset the device first. If you’re having problems with a particular device and Z-Wave controller, it’s worth starting a topic here so others can help you.

As for your first point, nah. I’ve deliberately only bought devices supported by Open Z-Wave. As such I’ve not needed to understand anything about Z-Wave, though I’ve learned for my personal interest. You’re right though, not all devices are supported. Fortunately you can help fix that when you come across such a devices.

Anything that only supports Central Scenes though, that’s currently not supported. Those devices are, as far as I know, always remotes/buttons though, and a search will often shed light (as will reading the manual).

You’ve got 2 things already - the Z-Wave controller (manufacturer, model, and possibly version), and the device (also manufacturer, model, and possibly version). You should also have the relevant lines from your OZW_Log.txt file, and details of what you did, and what the lights on the device did (or didn’t do).

Thanks for the detailed response @Tinkerer. I feel a lot better now - more in control and with all the replies so far, I don’t feel like I need to be failing in a vacuum. I will post specific questions in separate threads.

The key thing I’ve found is that if there’s an active, supportive, community then as long as you can stay calm things should work out.

The other thing is to ensure you understand how mature a product is, or isn’t, and understand what that means. For example, HA is still early in it’s life - some way from version 1.0. That means you can, and should, expect that things will change rapidly, which sometimes means things break, or no longer behave the way it used to. It also means though that new capabilities will turn up regularly.

HA has been so good to me so far that I did get a bit complacent :slight_smile:

I haven’t had any trouble with any Zwave devices yet using home assistant and my aeon labs zstick gen5. I had a TON of trouble when i tried to use homegenie initially as my ha server.
Gocontrol or monoprice for door/window switches,garage sensor and motion sensor.
GE zwave light switches. Cheaper to control a set of lights rather than each light individually.
I even have a hd pro outdoor amcrest cam feeding images into HomeAssistant but thats wired into the network.
I haven’t once had to inspect the zwave protocol. My advice would be experiment with some brands, find one that works and stick with it.

I have learned that whenever adding a Z-Wave device to my network, first run “Remove Node” on the device and then “Add Node.” This has produced incredible results for me thus far.

As for WeMo devices…I cannot stand them. I quickly ditched them after finding that they were the cause of my Home Assistant hanging indefinitely on shutdown.

1 Like

I’ve got to second the “no real problems” and also the “when it doesn’t work, just exclude and pair again.” ALL the problems I’ve had were related to upgrading the hub which seemed to regenerate the network ID requiring me to exclude, rejoin, and rename. The last time was when I replaced a “maker” hub with a Wink for completely unrelated reasons to frustrations. A pain, but endurable.

The point is that, for me, ZWave just seems to work as designed, and there is one, singular, and simple way to solve to solve almost every problem. I’m a techy and sort of get all the differences;

  • the mesh network should work for many more years than your wifi tech with less frustration
  • not on your wifi means its more secure and doesn’t add to your wifi traffic
  • not on your wifi means 75 things that don’t stop you from changing the password like you really should! Or need to be fixed cause you changed your password.
  • the hub seems to be more important than the devices; it can be the most powerful, limited, and frustrating thing… all at the same time.
  • the simplicity of the basic fix is remarkably understated.

So, we should cheer up; the main trouble (pairing doesn’t seem to work) and the normal solution with zwave was stated in the first paragraph which I’ve never seen ANY device documentation do. According to Einstein, being able to explain reflects a good understanding. No need to develop skills or buy tools to go deeper. Just share in the forum’s, cheer up, and move on.

What would be great is tools that used “nothing happened” to suggest “Try unpairing the device?” Without driving you to Google “What’s wrong?”


1 Like

I had to laugh when I read “black magic” as I have had the same feelings sometimes by trying to insert Z-wave modules.

I have been recently building a z-wave network with Aeon Stick Gen. 5 and have currently

  • 5 Fibaro roller shutters
  • 1 Fibaro light switch (can work without neutral)
  • 1 sensative strip door sensor (difficult to install)
  • 1 Vision door sensor

and I still need to integrate 3 light switches, 1 roller shutter, 1 flood sensor and 1 door sensor.

Installation has been much more complex than was expected, partly due 1/ technical issues (e.g. no neutral in certain locations), 2/ my inexperience (made me miss 4 nodes) and 3/ sometimes unclear documentation (e.g. strip).

But once the nodes have been included, the Z-Wave network has proven to be rock solid.

1 Like

Zwave protocol and Zwave devices need to be looked at separately. The Zwave protocol, especially Gen5 with S2 security is solid. There is a learning curve to understand the architecture of Zwave; but most of the time that curve is only needed when you are tinkerer and want to get under the hood. What is important to note is the Zwave Alliance is very strict about certifying devices that wish to place the Zwave stamp on their product. These standards prevent some of the wild west, non-standardized builds that other communication protocols are affected by. Keep in mind, the Zwave stamp maintains the level of protocol required for communication is met, not the quality of the hardware itself, leading to my next point.

Not all zwave hardware is created equal. There are a lot of devices emerging that are “slapped” together. You truly get what you pay for when dealing with end devices, Zwave, ZigBee, Wifi, shop smart; but stay away from the bottom of the barrel.

1 Like