The latest developments in home automation allow you to control almost everything about your home environment with the touch of a button—from turning on your coffee machine in the morning to adjusting your thermostat at night. Three big players in home automation are Z-Wave, ZigBee, and Insteon, and each company has its advantages for different types of users. Which one should you choose? We’ll help you!
What you need to know about home automation
Z-Wave, ZigBee, and Insteon are types of wireless home automation protocols. While Z-Wave and ZigBee are two smart hub-based systems, Insteon doesn’t require a smart hub. A smart hub acts as a middleman to connect your smart home devices to the internet. Instead of each device connecting separately to your internet, they all connect to the hub.
As for whether it’s better to have a hub or not have a hub, it doesn’t really matter. The hub doesn’t make your system any faster or slower. It’s more about the type of equipment you want and what other products you want it to integrate with.
What are dual mesh and single mesh?
Dual mesh networks use both radio frequency and power lines, while single mesh use only radio frequency. This means a dual mesh network acts as a repeater, receiving and retransmitting every command you give. Doing so strengthens your network and executes commands more quickly. Single mesh networks, on the other hand, will pass the signal to the next until it reaches its final destination, which extends the range of the system and uses less power so it won’t use up all the battery juice.
Dual mesh is better for larger systems (100+ devices), so if you plan on having more than 100 devices attached to your system, we suggest a dual mesh system. Single mesh is better in the sense that it has a simple routing pattern so there is no need for several repeaters.
Insteon works off a dual mesh network and ZigBee and Z-Wave work off single mesh networks. Which means if you plan on having a large home automation setup, Insteon is better, but if you plan on having a smaller setup, ZigBee or Z-Wave is better.
Can you really just press one button?
You betcha! The home automation world uses what’s called scenes. Scenes are specific settings that can be set with the push of one button. Instead of adjusting the temperature, turning lights on/off, and turning the coffee pot on in the morning, you can set a scene with all of the settings preset. When you wake up in the morning, press the “morning” scene, and when you go to bed press the “goodnight” scene (or whatever labels they have). Z-Wave, ZigBee, and Insteon all have scenes.
Z-Wave allows you to use your smartphone, tablet, or computer to create scenes to save energy costs, secure your home, look after your loved ones, and just be more comfortable. Z-Wave is used widely by home security companies, so finding equipment or systems that are compatible with Z-Wave is fairly easy. That’s why it’s our top home automation pick in this article.
Z-Wave lets you design your home’s automation exactly how you want with multiple options for lights, locks, switches, thermostats, and more. Devices like Amazon Echo and Apple Watch are also Z-Wave compatible. Z-Wave allows up to 232 devices on one network, so you’ll be all set for automating your home.
- Most widely used by security companies
- “Shut down” button for when you leave your home
- Receive alerts if there are troubles at home (water, fire, alarm, sensor triggered, etc.)
- In business for more than 10 years
- Many equipment options
- Easy to use
- Greater range at 100 feet compared to ZigBee’s 35-foot range
- System can get expensive
- Relatively slow data transmission rate, up to 100 Kbps (ZigBee and Insteon’s are up to 250 Kbps)
Who is Z-Wave ideal for?
Z-Wave is ideal for the person who has a basic understanding of home automation and technology. If you want to secure your home with simple-to-use equipment, Z-Wave is the way to go. Z-Wave works with popular brands, so you have many options to choose from when it comes to picking your equipment. You can install Z-Wave on your own, or you can hire a professional. You can also browse z-wave products here.
ZigBee is a wireless language that can be used with your smartphone to adjust your home automation devices. ZigBee was initially designed to be used by companies but expanded to residential use, which is why we recommend you have more technical knowledge since the setup and use of it can require more work than Z-Wave. For example, I consider myself to be pretty tech savvy but found myself overwhelmed when looking at ZigBee’s lineup of products. I’ve never seen some of the equipment ZigBee offers, and I found myself confused at how to install and use them.
ZigBee boasts a battery life of over seven years for its sensors since they consume very little power. In comparison to Z-Wave, ZigBee has a faster data transmission rate. This means the equipment can execute your commands faster. The downside is some users have stated that ZigBee devices don’t always communicate seamlessly with those made by other manufacturers.
- Great battery life
- Device makers include big name brands like GE, LG, Logitech, Philips, and Samsung
- Faster than Z-Wave
- In business more than 10 years
- Only a 35-foot range
- Doesn’t specify how many devices are supported
- Some issues communicating with third-party devices
Who is ZigBee ideal for?
ZigBee is best for those who have technological experience. If you want to customize your system to your preferences and install it yourself, ZigBee is for you. You can browse zigbee compatible devices here.
Insteon is relatively new to the home automation field, so it isn’t compatible with as many devices as Z-Wave and ZigBee are. Insteon is not only a home automation protocol, but it also has its own line of equipment which includes sensors, dimmers, light bulbs, cameras, and more. This is different from Z-Wave and ZigBee, who don’t make their own devices and instead connect to products from other companies. Even though there aren’t many hubs or products that “speak” Insteon, we could see more pop up in the future. Insteon is also the only one of the three protocols that integrates with the Nest thermostat.
- Unlimited network size
- Doesn’t need a hub (unlike Z-Wave and ZigBee)
- Every device acts as a repeater, which relays messages to the other devices
- Adding more devices doesn’t slow the system
- 150-foot range, larger than Z-Wave and ZigBee
- Faster than Z-Wave
- Compatible with Nest thermostat
- Only 200 products to choose from
- Doesn’t specify how many devices can be used without a hub
Who is Insteon ideal for?
Insteon is great if you’re looking for equipment that is aesthetically pleasing and doesn’t require a hub. If you want to fill your home with gadgets and have a lot of devices, Insteon is for you. To browse Insteaon products, go here.
Home automation devices available
Below is a list of some of the most popular home automation equipment and whether or not it’s available from each brand.
Z-Wave, ZigBee, and Insteon support the following equipment:
- Motion sensors
- Smoke & CO detectors
- Door locks
- Water leak sensors
- Smart switches
- LED bulbs
ZigBee does not support garage door sensors, but Z-Wave and Insteon do.
Our top 10 home security winners and home automation
The comparison table below shows our top 10 security companies ranked and which types of home automation they support.
Best Home Security Systems 1-5
Best Home Security Systems 6-10
Start automating your home now
Z-Wave, ZigBee, and Insteon all offer similar features, but what sets them apart from one another is the number of devices you can have on one network as well as what products you can use with each one. We suggest you make a list of the items you want in your home automation system and then look to see if they’re compatible with Z-Wave, ZigBee, or Insteon.
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Which home automation system do you like the best?