Zigbee vs Z-Wave vs WiFi

I’ve got a mesh of devices that span from the early days of X10 (one last device I think), Insteon (lots of devices that I’m phasing out) and Z-Wave (which I’ve been using to replace Insteon).

Im wondering which one folks tend to believe is the best to use. I’ve been happy with Z-Wave but as my network grows I am seeing lots of problems with Z-Wave slowness, and I have decided to explore Zigbee since they have more selection of energy monitoring outlets that Z-Wave has. There is also the question of WiFi.

What do you find most reliable and scalable? Zigbee uses more power but is faster and I think as more bandwidth than Z-Wave. Before I sink a few thousand dollars into replacing all the rest of my Insteon with Z-Wave I figured now is an excellent time to consider other technologies, such as Zigbee and WiFi.

Your input is valued!

Rule #1: Avoid Wifi :wink:
It’s power-hungry, and 99% of the time, you are tied to some kind of cloud that might or might not be supported by HA, but which are always a privacy nightmare, and which they might decide to shut down or make you pay for at any time.

Not sure about ZWave vs. Zigbee.
I understand ZWave is more reliable because each device must be certified, but that makes those more expensive.
Anyone can create zigbee devices, so that make them dirty cheap, but some “white label” devices tend to be “creative” with their implementation.

5 Likes

I was asked this question several times too and in my installation I have Wifi and Zigbee so far.
I looked into ZWave because as far as I can tell the radio is working on different frequencies and those tend to have a better penetration inhouse and so a better range. So I would love to use it but there have been several drawbacks IMHO.
First there is the device availability and price. I wasn’t able to find as much devices using ZWave compared to Zigbee and if they have been bigger and much more expensive.
Second I have my HA running in a VM on a Proxmox server located in a different house across our court. I can’t change that and I also have no intention to. So it is not easy or really impossible to add real hardware to that machine which then also has to communicate with other devices which are not in that area. So I need satellites which act as a host in between the real devices/sensors and HA. And for ZWave I didn’t find an easy to implement solution that can be hosted away from HA.

With Wifi that is no problem, my whole home (two houses, a court, stable) is covered by Wifi but I also recommend Wifi just for line powered devices like plugs, lights, stuff like that. For me that means all devices using an ESP with esphome which have a constant power supply.
For battery powered sensors I use Zigbee and an RPi with Phoscon/deConz as a host and a Raspbee module. This has a direct integration in HA and setup was really simple. Those devices are available literally everywhere, cheap and also can the mesh can be extended with powered devices like plugs.

I also have a LoRaWAN appliance running Chirpstack on an RPi for specialised sensors really far away and another RPi zero with and rtl_443 radio, but those transmit data to HA by MQTT.

3 Likes

I have both Zigbee and Z-Wave. Power usage on the end devices is broadly similar (some Zigbee devices last longer on batteries than some Z-Wave devices, and vice-versa).

  • Zigbee has more bandwidth than Z-Wave
  • Z-Wave will get a bit more range between devices (though in reality this is rarely likely to matter)
  • Z-Wave is a standard with compliance testing so device interoperability is something you can take for granted
  • Z-Wave is also more expensive as a result

I started with Z-Wave, and will likely keep Z-Wave long term as there are some devices that there’s no good Zigbee alternative for - like the Sensative strips.

However, with Zigbee sensors being a fraction of the cost of Z-Wave ones when I wanted to fit a sensor on every external window I bought into the Zigbee world. That has required a bit (ok a lot) more effort on my part, but I’ve also replaced some of my Z-Wave devices with cheaper, more responsive, Zigbee ones.

4 Likes

Completely disagree. 95% of my devices are on WiFi, it’s solid as a rock. You do however need to choose your devices somewhat carefully.

I had a brief try of Z-Wave a few years ago and didn’t like the experience. All my light switches, bulbs and plugs are now WiFi and less essential devices such as temp sensors and motion sensors are either Zigbee or RF433.

1 Like

Which works for you may not be what works best for others.

I avoid WiFi devices like the plague. Wifi was never designed for IoT, and consumer grade network gear wasnt designed to handle hundreds of nodes… Of yoi do go WiFi makensure you picm ESP devices that are capable of being flashed and run locally. Otherwisyou loose the power of local processing.

For Zigbee and ZWave you’ll need to determine which works best for you. For me I run both but ZWave is more reliable. This is because where I live WiFi signal is saturated and it affects zigbee.

Both zigbee and ZWave arr low power mesh networks

Both strengthen the mesh by adding repeating nodes (basically any line powered device)

Zigbee uses the 2.4 ghz rf band to communicate and the frequency is universal. Which means if you find a Zigbee device you dont need to worry if it will communicate but the zigbee frequency range is shared with 2.4 ghz wifi which in certain configuration will interfere. You may have to engineer the frequencies around each other.

ZWave frequency is unique per country. It does NOT share wifi or most other bands. It generally is therefore less susceptible to typical interference but it also means that you must pick devices designed for your country.

6 Likes

Sure. Just search for “Tuya” on this forum to be convinced of that :joy:

1 Like

I didn’t say I had any Tuya devices, did I.

Don’t cast WiFi in general into the same basket as Tuya products, that’s not accurate.

Could you please give me example of what you have that is not power hungry and/or not cloud-based and/or with open protocols?
Happy to be proved wrong…

MQTT plugs, switches and bulbs (all local), TP-Link (local polling), WeMo (local push), Yeelight (local push).

Yeelight:

TP-link/Kasa:

Exactly the kind of stuff that can happen anytime, as I suggested above…

EDIT: Wifi/MQTT bulbs? Never heard of those. What are they?

Z-Wave and Zigbee can be killed with an update along with any number of any other integrations, as has been shown on numerous occasions also. Nothing is faultless or without the possibility of a breaking change, but making broad statements like “Rule #1: Avoid Wifi” is patently false .

My experience with the WiFi products I have listed, over a number of years has been 99.9% uptime. I have also used LIFX and Flux products without issue.

I’m not concerned with power usage from a bulb or switch so much, so didn’t make any comment about that from the start. YMMV

Light bulbs - they make lumens, like the sun, but inside :wink:

2 Likes

Funny :wink:
I meant what kind of system / product uses Wifi + MQTT to control bulbs?

There is quite a difference between a open-source software bug and a company voluntarily closing a way for having local control of the stuff you bought.

Sorry, but I stand on my Rule #1 (besides DIY like esphome, ofc)

Anything with an ESP chip in it that can be flashed to run tasmota or esphome

Arf, yeah, of course. DIY is something else.
You just have the inconvenience of power-hungriness and non-mesh networking, then :wink:

I have no issues with non-mesh devices, and you don’t need to DIY bulbs to get WiFi+MQTT.

Shelly cloud, then :joy:

:man_facepalming: They work locally, without the cloud, over MQTT. Do some reading my dude.

Whatever, pal. You’re happy with WiFi, stick with it.
I doubt anyone else on this forum would recommend WiFI over zigbee or zwave, which is the OP question.

Thanks for all the great information and debate! I didn’t realize so much wifi was cloud dependent (other than ESPHome of course), I always assumed they were 100% local, with the exception of specialized devices.

I’ve read that before and one of the reasons I posed the question, I have a pretty strong Orbi mesh in my home and wondered if they would be stepping on each other.

That was one of my thoughts about Zigbee, as my Z-Wave network grows it seems to be choking more often and I wondered if Zigbee might offer some relief for that.

That’s not the first time I’ve read that, both here and other places. It seems to be somewhat common for advanced home automation users.

I literally laughed out loud when I read this! I’m a connoisseur of snark, this is an awesome zinger!

1 Like