October 16, 2023
Z-Wave devices are all interoperable. This means that technically, any Z-Wave enabled device can successfully communicate with another Z-Wave device, exchanging messages using wireless signal. Regardless of the brand, chip version, or product type, they work together seamlessly. Or do they?
Z-Wave is known for its promise of interoperability. It implies that you don't have to worry about adding new products to your Z-Wave network, they will just work. It's a claim similar to the one Matter has been making. There is a big difference between interoperability and compatibility though.
While interoperability ensures that all of the devices use the same command classes and can talk to one another on the back-end, compatibility allows us users to control and monitor these devices from the UI of our choice. In other words, the way devices are recognized by your system and display in the app or web UI depends on their compatibility with that hub.
There are systems that have more advanced interfaces and will recognize almost any Z-Wave device out of the box (like the Z-Box Hub), some that require special drivers and integrations (like SmartThings or Hubitat), and others that are limited to a small pool of device types by design (like Z-Wave alarm panels). So how do you know which hub works with which device? And where to look for the information? We answer these questions below to help you navigate the complicated landscape of smart home compatibility.
There are a few device types you won't have to worry about at all. As long as they are Z-Wave certified and you have a Z-Wave controller, they will be recognized for what they are and you'll be able to control or monitor them without any issues. These include:
While you'll be able to control and monitor the status of these devices on almost any certified hub, you may not always have access to advanced functionality of your device. For example, the interface of the app or web interface, may not allow you to change advanced settings (parameters) or set up direct association between products. It's worth checking with your service provider, what type of device and automation features are offered, especially if you're still deciding on the best smart home system for you.
You'll want to verify that the device you're about to purchase is supported by your Z-Wave hub anytime time you're shopping for something more sophisticated than a simple switch or plug. Z-Wave sensors can be very helpful in automating our living space, making it more comfortable and efficient at the same time. But many systems out there won't recognize smart sensors correctly. So how can you tell whether the product you're about to buy will actually work with your hub?
When browsing The Smartest House, you have multiple ways to check if a device is supported by your hub. These include filtering your search results, referring to the "Works with" section in the product description, or the "Shop by hub" tab. You can learn more about all these helpful tools and discover more tips in this compatibility guide.
If you're searching on other websites, always try to locate any notes about compatibility and hub support. Product reviews may also give you a fair idea about which systems work with the device you want to buy. But it's important to remember that issues with inclusion or product performance do not mean a device is not compatible. Finally, you can get in touch with your Z-Wave system's tech support team to verify compatibility.
If you have a professionally monitored alarm system, there's a good chance your panel has Z-Wave inside. That means you can technically add home automation devices to your system. As mentioned before though, not every Z-Wave product will be recognized by your panel just because it's Z-Wave enabled.
As a general rule, don't try integrating any Z-Wave sensors or advanced controllers to your alarm system. Don't expect to have access to any advanced settings or complex automation scenarios either. Most traditional alarm solutions will only allow you to add smart switches, smart plugs, maybe a thermostat or a connected door lock. That's about it. If you're looking for a full blown smart home system, you'll need to explore open Z-Wave hubs instead.
Ring Alarm provides a little more flexibility and while you can join Z-Wave sensors to the system, they won't be included in the professional monitoring part of the service. It's also not built for automation so any smart rules would need to be programmed in your Alexa app, limiting your options to device types that are both recognized by Ring and Amazon Echo.
DIY smart home hubs are usually much better about supporting a wider range of products. They'll typically offer access to advanced settings and even direct association between Z-Wave devices that can help with speed and reliability. But there's often a catch to this "open" approach.
Many popular solutions like SmartThings or Hubitat will require custom device drivers to expose all of the features of Z-Wave devices. Even though direct association is a certification requirement for all products, neither SmartThings nor Hubitat give users access to this feature in their interface out of the box. This needs to be accomplished through driver workarounds. Same goes for any new features or setting changes when a firmware update becomes available - they need to be manually added to the integration.
If a hub follows the Z-Wave specification, it should have no problems recognizing any Z-Wave device for what it is, without any special integration process or custom code. If it's a 700 series Z-Wave device or newer, it will also report the labels for all of its advanced settings to the hub, making it much easier to customize your product. The Z-Box Hub is a great example of such a system. Z-Wave is fully implemented on the back end and front end of the platform. The user has easy access to advanced settings, direct association, and even firmware updates straight from the hub's intuitive web interface.
There are currently no smart speakers with a built-in Z-Wave chip. That means you can't connect a Z-Wave device directly to a smart speaker. But you can use a Z-Wave enabled hub to act as a bridge between your Z-Wave product and smart speaker. Almost all DIY smart home hubs offer some form of integration with Google Home or Alexa.
Smart speakers don't recognize all types of connected devices yet but you'll be able to turn your smart switches and plugs on and off with voice control to interact with your lights more easily. You should also be able to trigger presets and scenes from your connected smart home via voice, as well as control the temperature in your home. Here's a guide on how to connect your smart speaker to a Z-Box Hub to give you an idea on how simple the process is.
While it may seem that it's easy to get lost navigating Z-Wave compatibility, you're still in better off integrating Z-Wave devices from different brands and generations than with any other protocol. There are quite a few sophisticated solutions that support the majority of Z-Wave devices so you can really focus on choosing the right products for your needs. Z-Wave has been building on the premise of interoperability for 20 years now and it will remain in the lead for a while.
As long as you keep the compatibility aspect in mind when shopping for your next project, you should be able to avoid any disappointments. Setting your expectations right is a big part of it too so research the capabilities of your current system first. You may want to consider an upgrade to an open controller sooner than later in the game to maximize flexibility and keep your smart home as private as possible.
Share your notes and experience with Z-Wave compatibility in the comments section, we want to hear from you!
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September 11, 2023
Some of us are excited about Matter, some of us are dismissive, some of us are anxious. What does it mean for my Z-Wave gear? Will my smart home system become obsolete or incompatible with devices from my favorite brands? There’s a lot of uncertainty behind Matter’s promises and not many details about how Z-Wave will play into the new landscape. In this blog post, we take a closer look at how Z-Wave and Matter can coexist and interact in the future.
March 22, 2023 3 Comments
Let’s take a closer look at the first Z-Wave focused hub for US and Canada. We will uncover its primary benefits, UI features, how to use the Z-Box mobile app, and what sets the system apart from other hubs available today.
As we often tell our customers, there isn’t one perfect smart home platform to solve it all. The Z-Box Hub is no exception. What makes it unique is its focus on easy access to advanced automation functionality while keeping the key data and processes off-cloud.
May 05, 2022 3 Comments
Insteon just became another smart home company to shut down their services. Overnight, the platform’s servers were disconnected, leaving their customers without a functional smart home. SmartLabs, Insteon’s mother company, claims to have sold over 5 million connected devices; that’s a lot of sensors, switches, and controllers that became orphaned. Does it mean that all of this hardware is now completely useless?
It turns out that there are ways to salvage your Insteon products and continue using them, at least to some extent, on other platforms who stepped up and provided integration for this protocol. However, these workarounds are less than user-friendly and will require more time and possible frustration around a system that’s no longer backed by any official support. What’s the alternative and is it even worth it to have a connected house these days?