Kickstarting your Z-Wave smart home: The best hubs, switches, sensors and more

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Best Z-Wave Devices

With the wide range of smart home platforms currently on the market, opting to center your home’s automation around Z-Wave may not be your first thought. But adopting Z-Wave over alternatives like HomeKit and Alexa has some serious perks that are worth considering for anyone contemplating a more in-depth smart home. 

Why choose Z-Wave?

In a lot of ways, Z-Wave is like stepping up to the big leagues of home automation. The platform boasts a wide range of devices that are all directly compatible with each other. So while you may need to hack together your security camera in order to add HomeKit support, everything from light bulbs, light switches, sensors and smart deadbolts all work together with Z-Wave.

And not only is Z-Wave compatible with a wide range of its own devices, but also with a variety of other accessories and systems. That means that you’ll be able to pair your smart home’s gadgets with Alexa, Google Assistant, other accessories from SmartThings and Wink as well as many other platforms like HomeAssistant.

Other benefits include more reliable wireless performance than Wi-Fi traditionally offers, increased security and significantly longer battery life compared to other platform’s devices.

Smart Hubs |

The first step in designing your Z-Wave smart home is choose a hub which will act as the controller for all your devices. Headlining the compatible hubs is SmartThings’ option. The $90 hub sports features like app-based control, support for Samsung’s own line of sensors and accessories, a built-in ethernet port and more alongside its Z-Wave Plus compatibility. SmartThings is also compatible with Alexa, Philips Hue via the built-in Zigbee support and many other popular smart home devices out there.

Wink is another popular option for Z-Wave smart homes. Since releasing its second generation hub that adds Ethernet, Wink has become a much more reliable option for those wishing to kickstart their setups. At just under $100, it has many of the same features as SmartThings like Z-Wave and Zigbee compatibility but also Bluetooth and more. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference of which you prefer, but I’ve found Wink to be reliable from my own experience.

Our top pick however is the Aeotec Z-Wave Plus Z-Stick. This hub pairs wonderfully with systems running HomeAssistant and from my past year of experience, has been an incredibly reliable Z-Wave controller. It’s priced at $45, making it a more affordable way to dive into the platform if you don’t need the added features of SmartThings or Wink.

Note that you will need an additional computer and software to take advantage of Aeotec’s option, but for many who enjoy customization and tinkering, this option is the way to go. One of the biggest perks here is that connecting to your devices is entirely local, so if the internet goes out there’s no need to worry about controlling your home.

Lights |

In terms of smart lighting, our top pick is always to adopt the Philips Hue system, but if you’re looking to create an entirely Z-Wave setup, we recommend the Monoprice Z-Wave Plus RGB Smart Bulb at $32. This LED Light Bulb sports a solid color range and brightness at its price and is a reliable option from our limited testing. 

Smart Plugs |

Smart plugs are the most ubiquitous Z-Wave accessory on the market that come in a variety of form-factors at different price points. While I don’t have any recommendations from personal experience, options from Aeotec, GE and Monoprice should all be reliable additions to your smart home.

Sensors |

Like any other smart home platform, there are a variety of sensors you’ll be able to outfit your home with. Luckily, alongside making Z-Wave hubs, Aeotec also has its 6-in-1 multisensor that combines motion, temperature, humidity and more into a single form-factor. I have a few of these around my house and similarly to the Aeotec Z-Stick, have rarely had any issues to speak of. They sell for just under $60 at Amazon

Another recommendation is the Monoprice Door and Window sensor which sells for $23. The accessory is great for automatically turning on lights when someone enters a room or monitoring your home while away. Monoprice has a large list of other Z-Wave accessories on the market that are some of the more preferred options out there.

Light Switches |

For Z-Wave compatible light switches, there’s no manufacturer better than GE, who’s lineup of smart devices is filled with solid options at a variety of price points. At under $37, our top pick would be the GE Z-Wave Plus Smart Light Switch. It features a built-in Z-Wave range extender and is certified to work with all three of the hubs we previously recommended. 

For those looking to expand their setup with even more options, the fantastic thing about Z-Wave is that you won’t have to worry about whether or not a specific device is compatible or not. As long as it’s Z-Wave certified, it doesn’t matter if you pick up a smart lock from Schlage or a smoke detector from First Alert.

As always, be sure to let us know your Z-Wave accessory recommendations in the comments below!

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