What Is Z-Wave?

Z-Wave logo


Z-Wave® is a mesh networking technology developed in 1999 to create a standard for wireless radio frequency (RF) communication for home devices. The key to the technology is that Z-Wave products are designed using a family of low-cost, low-power RF transceiver chips embedded with Z-Wave. Since all Z-Wave enabled devices use the same chip family, they communicate using a common communication protocol.

Z-Wave communication is modeled after computer network protocols and is designed to afford high reliability. Z-Wave devices also act as signal repeaters, re-broadcasting signals to additional devices on the network.

Z-Wave Operating Characteristics

Z-Wave devices don't use the same frequency as other home devices like wireless phones, which typically operate at 2.4 GHz. The frequency used by Z-Wave varies based on country; however, in the United States, Z-Wave operates at 908.42 Mhz. This means Z-Wave devices won't interfere with other household devices.

It also means that Z-Wave devices have a greater signal range. The range of a Z-Wave device is influenced by a number of factors, first being the presence of walls in the vicinity. Typical reported ranges are around 30 meters (90 feet) indoors and 100 meters (300 feet) in the open air.

Extending the normal range of these products is possible simply by adding more Z-Wave devices to the network. Because all Z-Wave devices are repeaters, the signal is passed along from one to the next and each time it is repeated, another 30 meters (approximately) of range is gained. Up to three additional devices (hops) can be used to extend the signal before the protocol terminates the signal (called a Hop Kill).

About Z-Wave Products

Z-Wave products enable a wide variety of devices to communicate including those related to lighting, appliances, HVAC, entertainment centers, energy management, access and security control, and building automation.

Any manufacturer wishing to create a Z-Wave enabled product must use authentic Z-Wave chips in their product. That enables their device to properly join Z-Wave networks and communicate with other Z-Wave devices. In order for a manufacturer to label their product as Z-Wave certified, the product must also pass a stringent conformance test to assure it meets standards for operation and is interoperable with other Z-Wave certified devices.

When purchasing any device for your Z-Wave wireless mesh network, ensure the product is Z-Wave certified. Numerous manufacturers across virtually all home product categories currently make these products including Z-Wave Alliance members like Schlage, Black & Decker, iControl Networks, 4Home, ADT, Wayne-Dalton, ACT, and Draper.