Home automation is a phrase often used to describe complete control of a home. And for most people, that's exactly what they're looking to accomplish when setting up a Z-Wave network. The challenge with a new setup, is sorting through hundreds of products and reviews to find the best Z-Wave devices.
Fortunately, you don't have to do that. In this article, you'll find some of the best Z-Wave devices on the market as well as suggestions on how to most effectively utilize each device.
While there are many contending wireless protocols, Z-Wave is one of the biggest and most reliable in the automation industry. Not only that, but it also has a very strict set of guidelines, so unlike ZigBee products, you don't need to wonder if a Z-Wave device will work properly with your hub. It just does.
That being said, there is the rare outlier to this, so make sure you check your hub to see if it supports a device prior to purchasing.
So, What Is Z-Wave?
In short, Z-Wave is a wireless protocol that permits appliances in your home to communicate to each other through RF signals. If you are interested in learning about Z-Wave techonology, check out the Z-Wave Alliance.
Quick Tip: Z-Wave History
Z-Wave technology was originally released in 2004 by Zensys, Inc. In the early years of Z-Wave, control and automation were confined to lighting fixtures. As I'm sure you can tell, home automation has come a long way. So far in fact, that there are now well over 1,200 different Z-Wave gadgets available. These devices range from lighting fixtures, to garage door controllers, to flood sensors. The possibilities are endless with Z-Wave!
The Best Z-Wave Devices
Top Pick: VeraPlus Z-Wave Hub
VeraPlus is my favorite Z-Wave hub, because it features a great price, multiple wireless protocols, a very extensive community! This is a great hub for both beginners and experts alike.
What to Look for in a Hub
When looking for a Z-Wave hub, you'll want to look at the following requirements:
- What wireless protocols does it support?
All Z-Wave hubs support Z-Wave (hence the name), but many have other radios in them as well such as ZigBee, Wifi, and Bluetooth. You don't necessarily need those other wireless technologies, unless you have a device in mind that uses one other than Z-Wave. However, it's always nice to have options for the future.
- Are there monthly fees?
With the amount of high quality hubs available that don't charge a monthly fee, choosing one that does makes no sense. You should not pick a hub that has a monthly fee unless you're paying for a service such as security monitoring.
- Is the hub cloud based or does it operate on your local network?
Local network operations are secure and always available, but how much it can handle completely depends on your hardware. Cloud based operations are basically the complete opposite. They can handle a lot more processes, but if your internet goes out, then you won't be able to control anything. It's advantageous to find a hub that uses both the cloud and your local network, because then you get the best of both worlds.
- How is the support and community?
Good support and an active community can make or break a hub. If you run into issues, you want to know that someone will be able to help you solve it. Also, if the community is active, that likely means there are people who will build third party apps to integrate with other programs like IFTTT, Hue, or Nest.
Information About VeraPlus
VeraPlus has a lot going for it in terms of features. It offers four wireless protocols: Z-Wave, ZigBee, Bluetooth, and Wifi, so you can control virtually any device. It can act as a router, so you don't need an extra piece of hardware to create a wireless network. And it also has a great community with fantastic support.
With VeraPlus, you can control your home from your smartphone, your watch, your tablet, or your computer. You can even control it with your voice thanks to the multiple community created Amazon Echo plugins.
What makes VeraPlus my favorite controller, is the fact that you can control everything locally, so if the internet goes out or Vera's servers go down, you can still control your lights, fans, and other Z-Wave devices. It's pretty sweet!
Vera's hardware and software isn't for everyone. If you prefer doing less programming and having more third party apps built in, you may prefer SmartThings. If you want the ultimate in home automation reliability and price isn't an issue, then HomeSeer may be your hub of choice.
There are many different Z-Wave thermostats available today, but none of them offer quite as many features or as cheap of a price point as the 2gig CT100 thermostat. It's definitely the most "bang for your buck" Z-Wave thermostat available!
What to Look for in a Thermostat
- Does it support your hub?
This is by far the most important thing to look for when shopping for a Z-Wave thermostat. If it doesn't support your hub, it's going to be useless for you. The best way to check this is to search the Amazon reviews for your hub name or check the manufacturer's website.
- Does it require a C-Wire?
Most smart thermostats require a C-Wire to operate, because they need constant power. That being said, some have a battery backup built in, so they can operate with a C-Wire. You'll just want to be aware of what your purchasing prior to making the purchase.
Information About 2gig CT100
The CT100 features a very slim profile, multi stage heating and cooling, and seamless Z-Wave integration. It's the complete package at an extremely affordable price!
Whether you want to change from heat to cool, from fan to off, or you want to pre-cool your home prior to your arrival, the CT100 can do it. If you have a Z-Wave hub, I highly suggest getting a Z-Wave thermostat, because it can drastically increase your energy efficiency.
When it comes to Z-Wave thermostats, you have a lot of options. After all, there are many different home automation manufacturers out there and they pretty much all make thermostats.
The Honeywell YTH8320ZW1007/U is a well reviewed, top-notch Z-Wave thermostat that offers a very large touch screen, a special wire saver mode that let's you avoid using a C-Wire, and a built in messaging system, so you can know when you need to change the air filter or when your furnace needs maintenance.
If you're looking for something a more high end, you could get a Nest or Ecobee. Neither of those thermostats feature a Z-Wave chip, however, they are both smart thermostats, so many hubs do support them via a third party app.
Top Pick: Schlage Connect Deadbolt
Schlage is a top name in the world of locks, so it's no surprise they offer a fantastic Z-Wave deadbolt. The Schlage Connect Camelot Z-Wave Deadbolt offers Ansi Grade 1 security, a built in alarm, and easy entry via the touchscreen, key, and Z-Wave interface. Schlage spared no expense on this deadbolt and it shows!
What to Look for in a Lock
- Is it secure?
The most important thing to look for in a lock, whether Z-Wave or not, is security. If the deadbolt in question doesn't offer enough security to your home, it's useless. When shopping for a Z-Wave deadbolt (or any deadbolt for that matter), look for the following phrase: "ANSI Grade 1." This is the highest residential grade security a lock can have. ANSI Grade 2 is fine as well, however, I wouldn't suggest getting anything that has an ANSI grade of 3.
- Does it offer multiple unlocking methods?
It may seem silly to look for a Z-Wave lock that also offers manual key entry, but it's important. If your Z-Wave hub dies or your wireless network goes out, you still want to be able to enter your home. That's why you should looks for a lock that offers multiple methods of entry such as key, Z-Wave, bluetooth, touchscreen PIN, or even biometric entry.
- Does it offer additional features?
Many Z-Wave deadbolts come with other features built in such as alarms, touchscreens, bluetooth, and more. None of these are 100% necessary for your lock, but they're nice to have. I use the alarm feature on my Schlage lock to go off if the lock senses forced entry. So far, it hasn't ever gone off (thank goodness), yet it's nice to know I have that extra security on my door.
Information About the Schlage Connect Deadbolt
Every smart home should be secure and the best place to start your security is at your entry points: the doors. Over the last few years, there have been several different Z-Wave door locks available from multiple manufacturers that feature top residential security and a heap of other features, however, the lock that we like most is the Schlage Connect Deadbolt.
This deadbolt has everything from a built in alarm, to a touchscreen, to great battery life. Not only that, but Schlage offers fantastic support and a great warranty on all their locks.
About 10 months after I purchased my Schlage Z-Wave lock, the touchscreen stopped working. It wasn't a huge deal, since I rarely used it, but I did want it to work should I ever have needed it. So, I called up Schlage support and explained the issue to them. After a couple questions, they set up a replacement shipment and within two business days I had a brand new lock! They didn't even require that I send in my old lock, which was nice because I didn't want to have to deal with shipping. Schlage support is top notch!
There are a few big names in Z-Wave locks: Schlage, Kwikset, and Yale. All three offer fantastic offerings like Yale Real Living Keyless Touchscreen or the Kwikset 99140-003 SmartCode Deadbolt. Those along with the Schlage Connect lock, all offer fantastic support, great security, and simple Z-Wave integration. You simply cannot go wrong with any of these locks.
Z-Wave Flood Sensor
Top Pick: Fibaro 857934005140 Flood Sensor
The Fibaro Z-Wave flood sensor is a fantastic sensor that can sense leaks, temperature, and tilt. It's an amazing little device that can do so much! If you want to monitor your sink, your sump pump, or even your water heater, this is the device to do it!
What to Look for in a Flood Sensor
- What sensors does it include?
All flood sensors sense water, however, being able to sense temperature and tilt is very convenient.
- Does it have a built in alarm?
This isn't a requirement, but it's nice to have an alarm built in because then there will be multiple notifications if there is a leak.
- Can it run on battery or does it need to be hard wired?
The importance of this will depend on your situation. Many of these sensors feature a battery, but the ones that can be hard wired help to make sure your device doesn't die without your knowledge.
Information About the Fibaro Flood Sensor
Fibaro offers some of the best Z-Wave devices around. From motion sensors, to door sensors, to LED controllers, they're products are top notch. Fortunately, they're flood sensor is no exception.
When water is sensed, not only does the sensor notify your hub, which in turn notifies you, but it also sets off a loud internal alarm and changes the LED colors so there's no way you can miss it. And if it senses an actual flood, it will float, so you can ensure it will notify you instead of die. It's quite a resilient little sensor.
The only down side to Fibaro's flood sensor is the price. It's close to double the price of other Z-Wave flood sensors, but it also features more internal sensors than the others as well. If price is an issue, I highly suggest checking out the Aeotec Z-Wave Water Sensor or the Everspring Z-Wave Sensor. Both sensors are some of the best Z-Wave devices out there and are very great additions to any smart home!
Z-Wave Lights and Dimmers
Top Pick: Linear WD500Z-1 Z-Wave Dimmer
Linear WD500Z-1 dimmer switches are great switches! In fact they're so great, that I wired my whole house with them because of how affordable they are and how well they work with my hub.
The reason I like them so much is because each switch features a small green LED on the bottom to help you find it at night and complex scenes (such as multi-presses) are easy to create with them.
What to Look for in Z-Wave Lighting Fixtures
- Do your current switches have neutral wires?
Z-Wave switches require neutral wires, so they can have constant power. it's similar to how Z-Wave thermostats require a C-Wire. Many older homes do not have neutral wires, so the other option for lighting would be to get Z-Wave bulbs or switches that don't require a neutral.
- Which type of Z-Wave lighting control should you get?
In our opinion, the best type to get are dimmers. That's because they can control your lights anytime, anywhere via manual presses or your hub. Z-Wave bulbs on the other hand, con only be controlled if the switch is on. If someone accidentally turns off the switch, you will not be able to control your bulbs until you manually turn your switch back on. However, if you don't have neutral wiring in your home and you want to control your lights via your hub, Z-Wave bulbs are still a good option. Just make sure everyone in your home knows not to touch the light switches anymore. 🙂
- Do you need a three way switch?
Three way switches are even more tricky, because they have a special wire called a traveler wire that connects multiple switches together to control a single set of lights. There are some Z-Wave switches that would work for this like the Linear WD500Z-1 and the Linear WT00Z-1 slave or the GE 45613 Three Way Kit. If you have a three way switch in your home, it's important to install a Z-Wave three way kit instead of a standard Z-Wave switch, otherwise it won't operate correctly.
Information About the Linear WD500Z-1 Dimmers
Linear is a big name in the lighting industry, so it's no surprise that they make some of the best Z-Wave devices around. If you need quality Z-Wave dimmers in your home, these are what you want.
These switches can handle 500 watt loads and they can fit in a standard J-Box, so compatibility with most any home should be no problem (assuming you have neutral wires in your J-boxes).
As I mentioned earlier, when Z-Wave was created it was primarily used for lighting control, so there are hundreds of different Z-Wave lighting fixtures available. A couple of the best ones are: GoControl's Z-Wave Dimmable LED Light Bulb LB60Z-1, the GE12722 Z-Wave Wireless Switch, and the Leviton DZS15-1LZ Decora Z-Wave Switch.
Z-Wave Fan Control
Top Pick: GE 12730 Z-Wave Smart Fan Control
GE offers quite a few different Z-Wave devices that can control everything from lighting to outlets to fans. All of their products receive rave reviews, so it should come as no surprise, that their 12730 fan controller is one of the best in the industry. This device works similar to a dimmer switch, but instead of controlling multiple levels of a light, it can control multiple speed settings of a fan.
What to Look for in a Fan Controller
- Is it designed to control a motor?
This may seem like a silly requirement, but it's not. If the switch isn't designed to control a motor such as a fan, then it will not work. In fact, it may even be a safety hazard. Z-Wave light switches and Z-Wave fan controllers cannot be used interchangeably.
- Does it control speed?
Some fan controllers can only turn your fan on (high speed) and off. This works well for a bathroom fan that can't change speeds, but for a bedroom fan, I would suggest getting the GE smart fan controller mentioned above.
Information About the GE 12730 Fan Controller
I could write an entire article on GE's best Z-Wave devices because they have so many, but I'll settle on just writing this short segment on their 12730 fan controller for now.
This controller is designed to work with virtually every Z-Wave hub out there, so compatibility should not be an issue. It also features the ability to add on extra switches if you have a fan wired in a three, four, or five way. You simply cannot go wrong with this device!
While the GE 12730 is an impressive Z-Wave fan controller, it's nice to have other options such as the Leviton VRF01-1LZ, which is a bit higher end. Another option is the Enerwave ZWN-RSM2, which could be used to control a fan and a light, or even the GoControl WS15Z-1 which could be used for a bathroom fan.
You have a few options that are very promising when it comes to fan control, you just need to decide what works best for your home and wallet.
What to Look for in a Smoke Detector
- Does it only detect smoke?
Most smoke detectors now include carbon monoxide detectors as well, so while you may not care about this additional sensor, I highly suggest you buy a Z-Wave detector that includes carbon monoxide sensors. Most of the time, the dual smoke and carbon monoxide sensors are not much more than the standard smoke detectors and if it ever detected carbon monoxide in your home, it could save your life.
- Is there a silence button?
Whether from a burnt piece of toast or a small grease fire, I'm sure you've all run into a situation where you wish you could silence your smoke detectors. Thankfully, many of them include silence buttons on the unit and on the hub interface.
Information About the First Alert Z-Wave Detector
The First Alert 2-in-1 Z-Wave Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector is a superb unit that is very reliable. It features an easy to use silence button (on the app and the actual unit) if mistakes are made in the kitchen, a 7-year warranty, and a long battery life. In addition to that, it can be hooked up in virtually any home since it is battery powered, not hard wired.
Top Pick: Aeon Labs ZW056 Doorbell
Z-Wave control over a doorbell has long been sought after and thanks to Aeon Labs it's not just a dream anymore. This little doorbell is an amazing little device that can be set up in multiple ways. You can even have it notify you if a scene runs or something happens to your house. For example, if a door opens, you can have the "chime" tell you that. It's a fun device that can be very significant in your home.
What to Look for in a Doorbell Sensor
- Does it work with your hub?
One of the biggest issues with these doorbells is hub integration. That is the primary reason why they receive such bad reviews. I suggest checking with the manufacturer to ensure your hub is supported prior to purchasing.
- How much range does it have?
Another thing to look for is the range of the unit. Make sure the distance between the chime and the switch are enough for your home.
Information About the Aeon Labs Doorbell
There are very few doorbells in the Z-Wave realm and frankly the ones there are, do not have great reviews. It's actually quite disappointing that such an important part of a home, something, virtually every home has, has pretty much been abandoned by Z-Wave manufacturers. I'm not sure if it's because they have to withstand harsh whether or if it's just a "not enough profit" type of situation. Either way, it's unfortunate.
Anyway, despite the indecisive reviews on the Aeon Labs Z-Wave Doorbell, we here at Z-Wave Zone love it. It's a fantastic little device that solves such a simple problem: knowing when someone is at your door. You can set it up to say a custom command, such as "Someone is at the door" or "A package has been left for you" or you can have it chime as normal with your favorite sound or song. It's very customizable and it would make a superb addition to any smart home!
As I mentioned above there aren't many Z-Wave doorbells. In fact there are only two that I know of: The Aeon Labs doorbell and the Nexia Home Intelligence DB100Z. Both of them are very solid choices, so it really comes down to preference and hub support. Alternatively, you could also use a wifi doorbell such as Ring or Skybell, but make sure you check to see if your hub has a third party app supporting either of these prior to purchasing.
Z-Wave Energy Monitoring
Top Pick: Aeon Labs DSB28 Energy Monitor
Aeon Labs has a strangle hold on the Z-Wave energy monitoring market, but that's okay because their products are absolutely exceptional. This home energy monitor is the second generation model, which improved on everything that the 1st gen lacked.
What to Look for in an Energy Monitor
- Is it monitor your whole home or only one device?
There are a few different types of energy monitors, some monitor your whole home and others only monitor one or two devices. Personally, I think it's advantageous to have both so you can see the energy one specific device uses and hoe much energy your whole home uses.
- Does it fit in your space?
Some of the best Z-Wave devices, especially energy monitors, are quite bulky. Make sure you have enough space where you plan to put it, before you buy it and find out it doesn't fit.
Information About the Aeon Labs DSB28 Monitor
The Aeon Labs DSB28-ZWUS is an excellent whole home energy monitor that can give you very accurate readings. Aeon Labs released it's first version of the energy monitor to mixed reviews, however, this second gen improved upon the first in every way.
Gen 1 only monitored amps (you were supposed to supply it with your approximate voltage). Gen 2, on the other hand, monitors Amps, Volts, and power factor, making it significantly more accurate. Gen 1 also ran on battery power or via USB, whereas gen 2 runs on the mains.
Z-Wave Door and Window Sensor
Top Pick: Ecolink DWZWAVE2-ECO Sensor
The DWZWAVE2-ECO from Ecolink is a wonderful door sensor and window sensor that integrates with virtually every Z-Wave hub. It's one of the best Z-Wave devices out there thanks to it's small form factor and easy setup. I use these sensors all over my home, because of how affordable they are.
What to Look for in a Door/Window Sensor
- How big is it?
Most door and windows sensors work exactly the same, so the biggest thing to look for is size. Will it fit on your door frame? Does it fit in or stick out? The measurements of pretty much every door and window sensor can be found on Amazon.
- Does it come in the color you need?
Some sensors come with many different colored face plates to blend in with your frame. If you have a door frame that isn't white, you'll want to make sure you get a sensor in the correct color.
- Does it offer additional features?
Certain door and window sensors like the Zipato Multi-Sensor include additional sensors such as motion, light, and temperature. This isn't a necessity by any means, but it's nice to be able to avoid having to purchase more sensors.
Information About the Ecolink DWZWAVE2-ECO
This door sensor from Ecolink is not fancy like Zipato's with multiple sensors built in, but it works very well at what it does. It's small, affordable, and comes with multiple methods of installation (screws and adhesives). This sensor was designed to work with SmartThings, Staples Connect, Vera, HomeSeer, Nexia and Piper. It may even work with other Z-Wave hubs, but you'll want to verify with the manufacturer prior to purchase.
Z-Wave Garage Door Sensor
Top Pick: GoControl/Linear GD00Z-4
The Linear all-in-one garage door controller is a one of a kind system. Really, it doesn't have any competition, so it's no surprise that it's our top choice. That being said, it is a very high quality unit with great reviews, so they are doing something right. If you want to control your garage door and you don't want to jerry rig it together, this is what you want.
What to Look for in a Garage Door Sensor
- Does it work with your hub?
As I mentioned, there aren't many Z-Wave garage door openers available, but if you decide to look around for one and find one not listed here, make sure it's compatible with your hub. I'd hate for you to install a device for it not to work.
- Does your hub have a garage door plugin?
Regardless of whether you use the all in one system or you jerry rig it, you'll need a plugin to control your garage door.
Information About the Linear GD00Z-4 Controller
The GoControl/Linear GD00Z-4 garage door controller is a very nice garage door device that comes with everything you need to automate your garage door. You won't need to remember if you closed the garage door anymore and you can even have it open automatically when you come home. It's a pretty fantastic device!
The alternative to the Linear GD00Z-4 is somewhat of a jerry-rigged method. What you need is a GoControl Z-Wave Isolated Contact Fixture Module to control the motor on your garage door AND a tilt sensor OR a door/window sensor to check whether the door is opened or closed. Once you install those items in your garage, you'll also need a plugin to control them, which your hub hopefully offers.
Z-Wave Motion Sensor
Top Pick: Ecolink Z-Wave Motion Sensor
The Ecolink Z-Wave Motion Sensor provides a great compromise between price and quality. It's a bit bulky compared to some other motion sensors, but it's very accurate and it works well.
What to Look for in a Motion Sensor
- Is it pet immune?
This is kind of a gimmicky phrase, since pets come in all different sizes, but if it features a pet immunity, then there is a way to adjust the sensitivity, which is good.
- How often does it sense motion?
On high quality motion sensors, you can adjust the motion sensitivity to extreme values, so they sense motion every second or even faster. It's nice to be able to adjust the sensitivity for motion sensors in different rooms, especially if a certain room receives a lot of traffic.
Information About the Ecolink Motion Sensor
Ecolink's motion sensor is a fantastic value that offers a lot of features such as pet immunity, quick sensing, and easy setup. This motion sensor has three settings: Test mode which can sense motion every 4 seconds, Pet 1 which is good for small animals such as cats and small dogs, and Pet 2 which is good for large animals like Golden Retrievers. These motion sensors are wonderful for both simple and complex smart homes!
If you want a higher quality motion sensor, we highly suggest the Fibaro FGMS-001 Z-Wave Motion Sensor. This sensor can be customized in virtually every way imaginable, however, it's also one of the most expensive options out there. Another option is the Aeotec MultiSensor 6 which features 6 sensors in one.
Z-Wave Outlet Control
Top Pick: GoControl WO15Z-1 Outlet
GoControl is top name in the Z-Wave world as you've probably noticed in this article. Their outlet is one of the best Z-wave devices out there, because it's easy to install, it's easy to setup, and it just works. Not only that, but it looks like a standard outlet, so most people won't even know it is a Z-Wave outlet unless you tell them. And on top of that, it's affordable, so you can buy multiples of them without breaking the bank.
What to Look for in a Z-Wave Outlet
- How many outlets are Z-Wave controllable?
Most of these outlets only have one Z-Wave controllable switch, so if you need more than one make sure to do your research.
- How many watts can it handle?
These outlets are usually used to control lamps and other types of lighting, so making sure the outlet can handle the wattage form your devices is paramount. If it cannot handle it, it could damage your device or outlet. It could even start a fire.
- Will it fit in your J-Box?
Z-Wave outlets tend to be a bit bigger than standard outlets since they feature a Z-Wave chip. Make sure it will fit in your junction box or it won't be very useful for you.
Information About the
The GoControl WO15Z-1 Z-Wave Single Wall Outlet is a spectacular little device that can control up to 600 watts. It only has Z-Wave capabilities out of one receptacle, but you can extend this with a surge protector if desired.
The second most popular types of Z-Wave devices outside of lighting controllers are Z-Wave outlets, so there are is lack of them. A couple of popular outlets are the GE Z-Wave Wireless Lighting Control Duplex Receptacle and the Leviton DZR15-1LZ Decora Z-Wave Receptacle. The GE and GoControl Receptacles are the cheapest and most similar, but if you need to control up to 1800 Watts, the Leviton outlet is the best Z-Wave device for you.
Now that you've made it through this exhaustive list of the best Z-Wave devices, here are a few non Z-Wave devices that can make great additions to any smart home as long as your hub supports them.
As you can see, this post features some of the best Z-Wave devices available today. That being said, I understand that everyone's smart home is different, so if you want a personal device suggestion, feel free to leave me a comment and I will find you the best Z-Wave device for your situation.
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