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ZWAVE Explained

ZWave: Create a smarter home

ZWave logo

1. About ZWave

ZWave is the name of the wireless signal for wireless control of devices in your home, office, holiday home or even properties which you rent out. ZWave products add intelligence to wherever they are installed.

There is so much that you can do with ZWave, but some examples are:

  • Automatically switch on/off lights when movement is detected, or a door is opened or closed, or ambient light is at a certain level;
  • Create a wireless alarm system and get information about your house when you are away;
  • Detect water such as a bath over flowing, or a local flood;
  • Detect smoke;
  • Control your home entertainment system;
  • Control your heating - you can control the central heating as a whole as well as control the temperature in each room individually;
  • Control your hot water;
  • Obtain and log energy readings;
  • and many more possibilities. All remotely controllable by a smart phone / tablet / laptop.

The ZWave protocol was developed by a Danish company called Zen-Sys. Today it is an Open Standard. By the end of 2009 there were more than 200 big and small companies associated to the ZWave Alliance. ZWave alliance co-ordinates all issues regarding ZWave. 

2. ZWave frequency

ZWave transmits on the sub 1Ghz signal. This provides a significant advantage because lower frequencies have fewer problems with obstacles compared to signals with higher frequencies such as WiFi. Also there is much more traffic on higher frequencies Unfortunately the frequency differs per country due to local regulations. This is why American ZWave products do not work in Europe

2.1 ZWave frequencies around the World

Region ZWave frequency
Australia 921.4 Mhz
Brasil 921.4 Mhz
CEPT 868.4 Mhz
China 868.4 Mhz
Hong Kong 919.8 Mhz
India 865.2 Mhz
Japan 950 951-956 Mhz
Japan 920 922-956 Mhz
Malaysia 868.1 Mhz
Mexico 908.4 Mhz
New Zealand 921.4 Mhz
Russia 869.0 Mhz
Singapore 868.4 Mhz
South Africa 868.4 Mhz
United Arab Emirates 868.4 Mhz
United States / Canada 908.4 Mhz

The maximum transmission power for ZWave devices is  25mW.  With a good antenna, a range of 200 metres can be covered (if unobstructed). ZWave devices can be equiped with 3 kinds of antennas, external antenna, wire antenna and antenna on the circuit board, although circuit board antennas have a maximum range of 100 metres.

2.2 ZWave obstacles which decrease range

Material thickness Decreasing Range
Plasterboard < 10 cm 10 %
Glass (with coating) < 5 cm 10 %
Stone < 30 cm 30 %
Pumice < 30 cm 10 %
Concrete < 30 cm 20 %
Red brick < 30 cm 35 %
Reinforced concrete < 30 cm 30..90%
Ceiling < 30 cm 70%
Outside wall < 30 cm 60 %
Inside wall < 30 cm 40 %
Metal wall < 1 mm 90 %
Aluminium coating < 1mm 100 %

Keep at least 30cm away from other transmitters like WiFi routers, computers, microwaves, etc.

3. ZWave network routing

In a simple wireless network, wireless components communicate with each other in a direct way. This means they have to be able to see each other.

Figure : Simple network without mesh-technology. One wireless module (no.4) is out of reach.

The ZWave protocol uses 'Meshed Network Technology'. This means that the ZWave signal is repeated via neighbouring modules to finally get to the intended ZWave module.
Note : Only mains powered modules will provide this meshing technology as the batteries within battery powered ZWave modules would be drained unnecessarily.

ZWave Meshed network technologie

Figure : Meshed network technology : Module 4 can be controlled since modules 3 will forward the ZWave signal.

Routing has a maximum of 4 repeaters. If you move the ZWave unit after inclusion it might be wise to 'heal' the network in the controller. Most ZWave controllers have the option to do this.

4. Bi-directional signals

In contrast to other wireless home automation systems ZWave uses a bi-directional protocol. This means that when a ZWave command is sent to a device, the ZWave device will give feedback whether the signal is recieved and executed. On all the devices the actual status will change and be displayed. When you switch off the light on a smartphone it will also be displayed on a tablet or webbrowser. 

5. ZWave device and network types

ZWave has 2 sorts of network types:
- Controllers (Mobile and static controllers)
- Slaves

The biggest differerence between a ZWave controller and a ZWave slave is the ability of the ZWave controller to build a network and maintain it. Mobile controllers usually work on batteries and are mobile (like a remote control), static controllers usually work on mains power and are in a fixed position.

5.1 Mains powered and battery powered ZWave modules

The way a ZWave module is powered makes a big difference to the way the module communicates within the network. A mains powered module will always be awake and will respond immediately to commands. Battery powered modules will go in hybernate mode and wake-up after a (changeable) sleep time. 

5.2 Multiple Controllers

In a bigger network (> 230 modules) multiple controllers can exist. A static controller takes care of configuration and management, while other controllers can execute tasks.

5.3 Types of ZWave modules

Within a ZWave network there are different types of ZWave modules. Some send commands to other controllers whilst others will report status and environmental data (sensors) whilst others will execute tasks (actors)

Typen ZWave apparaten

6. What is ZWave Plus

ZWave Plus™ is a new certification program designed to help consumers identify products that take advantage of the recently introduced 'Next Gen' Z-Wave hardware platform, also know as 500 Series or 5th Generation Z-Wave. Z-Wave Plus certified solutions feature a selected set of extended features and capabilities that enhance the end user experience and make Z-Wave installations even faster and easier to install and set up.

Z-Wave has led the market in interoperable smart devices for the home since the first Z-Wave product was certified in 2004. With the introduction of the Next-Gen, Z-Wave 500 series hardware platforms, Z-Wave saw its ecosystem bolstered with new capabilities, including increased range, extended battery life, Over The Air upgrading (OTA), additional RF channels and more -- all of which are fully backwards compatible with existing Z-Wave products.

6.1 ZWave Plus Features

  • 50% improvement in battery life
  • 67% improvement in range
  • 250% more bandwidth
  • Three RF channels for improved noise immunity and higher bandwidth
  • New Plug-n-Play Network-wide Inclusion feature
  • Improved self-healing and fault tolerance with Explorer Frame feature 
  • Standardized method for Over the Air firmware updates (OTA)
  • Improved product information capture for product certification database 

6.2 What is the difference between a ZWave and a ZWave Plus product?

Z-Wave Plus products make use of the latest advancements in Z-Wave technology. These advancements provide for longer battery life, faster operation, better RF coverage and easier installation. Classic ZWave products may take advantage of some of these newer advancements but are not required to use all of the latest technology. It is important to note that there over 20 million classic ZWave products in use every day and these products meet the needs of most applications satisfactorily.

6.3 Will ZWave Plus products work with classic ZWave products?

Yes, ZWave Plus products are fully backward compatible with classic ZWave products.