The difference between Z-Wave and ZigBee



In the world of home automation, we often refer to the “languages” that smart home appliances and devices speak, with two of the most common being Z-Wave and ZigBee.

Basically, this “language”, or technology behind each, allows smart home devices to communicate with each other, so here’s a quick rundown of the difference between Z-Wave and ZigBee.

Quick explainer

In order for smart home appliances and devices to operate and perform tasks, they need to be able to talk to each other, relaying information about their state or the environment in which they are operating.   

So, for example a sensor gauges the temperature and communicates with the heating or cooling system to alter the climate of a room.  Rather than relying on standard Wi-Fi which sends this information back to a single router, both Zigbee and Z-Wave are mesh systems that allow information to hop from one device to the next using very little power.

Effectively this means if one device drops out, the system can remain online by finding an alternative route. In the smart home this is particularly beneficial, eliminating lag and congestion, and the system becomes stronger as more devices are added, with more information paths available.

One key difference between Z-Wave and ZigBee is the frequency at which they operate. Z-Wave operates at the low frequency of 921.4 MHz, while ZigBee operates at 2.4 GHz.

The lower frequency of Z-Wave sees it transmit less data, but allows it to overcome obstacles like walls and structures. ZigBee operates a little faster because of its higher frequency, but is more prone to interference.

So, what are the other differences between Z-Wave and Zigbee, and the advantages or disadvantages of each?


Supporting up to 232 nodes, Z-Wave is a closed system owned by Sigma Designs. Basically, that means the Z-Wave technology is owned and operated by a single entity yet utilised by hundreds of device manufactures who are licensed to use this communication method.

There are some major advantages to this:

Interoperability – You can expect any device with the Z-Wave logo to communicate with each other.

Security – Every Z-Wave network and all Z-Wave devices have unique IDs that are used to communicate with your hub. This adds a layer of security to smart home operation.

Z-Wave benefits at a glance

  • Interoperability
  • Mesh network
  • Low power consumption
  • Reliable and secure
  • Simple installation
  • Greater communication range
  • AES 128 Bit Security Encryption

Z-Wave drawbacks at a glance

  • Limited to 232 nodes (devices)
  • Limited to 4 hops from the control hub to the end device
  • Connection rate of 100KpS


Unlike Z-Wave, Zigbee is open technology, which means no-one owns it. Zigbee can be used by any smart home product manufacturer without a licensing issue.

That also means there is little control over how that communication technology can be employed and means not all Zigbee devices will communicate freely with each other.

In the smart home, this is an important consideration. You need to be sure all your devices will speak the same language to work as a truly automated home. To ensure your ZigBee devices talk to each other, keep an eye out for Zigbee Home Automation certification.

ZigBee benefits at a glance

  • Scaleable – supports up to 65,000 devices
  • No limit on the amount of hops between devices
  • Higher speed of communication (40 – 250 Kbps)
  • AES 128 Bit Security Encryption

ZigBee drawbacks at a glance

  • Walls and obstructions can reduce its transmission strength
  • Lack of interoperability

About Lera

Lera Smart Home Solutions is a leading installer of smart home technology in the greater Sydney region. Our team boasts over 20 years’ experience in IT networking, programming and the electrical industry.

We have sourced the most reliable and cost efficient solutions from around the world to provide the very best in smart home solutions, and work with our clients to understand their needs.

You can learn more about transforming your house into a smart home here, or contact us directly for further advice.