Welcome to our best Z Wave controllers reviews feature. If you’re shopping for a controller to operate all those fancy new ‘smart home’ products or you’re still trying to figure out what exactly a z-wave controller is, you’re in the right place. The best z-wave controllers will up your home’s IQ significantly making it look like a home worthy of an Ironman movie.
Smart home automation is becoming more popular as manufacturers get, well, smarter. These products are easier to install, use, and simply make domestic life better. You don’t need to be an engineer to figure this stuff out anymore. What’s more, you can reduce electricity usage, automate home lighting, and bulk up your home security. Then to control everything you use a handy dandy z wave controller. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to live that Z-Wave lifestyle.
On this page, our readers will find information about what exactly a z wave controller is and what they are capable of. You’ll find out which devices will work best for your home, why z wave home automation is pragmatic approach, and what you can expect to get feature-wise from different price ranges. In our best z wave controller reviews section, you’ll find a list of the best z wave controllers currently available.
7 Best Z Wave Controllers of 2016
Welcome to our best z wave controller reviews section. If you’re looking for more information about what Z-Wave is exactly and how controllers fit into that picture visit our informational sections further down the page.
Mi Casa Verde home automation is one of the biggest names in the business. Their Mi Case Verde Vera Lite is the most popular z-wave controller available. A simple set up process, intuitive user interface, universal compatibility with over 600 devices, and zero monthly fees it is clear why it is a favorite. The Vera Network can be accessed through any device such as a smart phone, tablet, or computer.
If you dig Samsung products, the SmartThings Hub is definitely the way to go. It is even easier to install and get up and running than the Mi Casa Verde Vera Lite. The only downside is that techies and tinkerers won’t appreciate that it doesn’t have as many customization features.
Nevertheless, when you get the SmartThings Hub you’re buying into the Samsung ecosystem. The cool thing about that is Samsung manufacturers a bunch of sensors, cameras, and outlets and other smart devices that tie into the SmartThings Hub perfectly. Plus each of these products comes with the expected Samsung polish so you know they are going to function well. All of Samsung’s smart device line-up sports a clean white color, an aesthetic akin to an Apple product.
This is the the one that does it all. If you love to play around with electronics, programming, and technology you will really enjoy this unit. It costs an arm and a leg, but you can do a ton of cool stuff with it. There is an advanced automation engine inside the HomeTroller-SEL powered by an Intel Processor. This enables you to create events and what they’ve called “scenes”.
If you find you like a certain lighting, blind, and temp setting for a particular room you can preset this scene to activate it whenever you are in the the mood. This is the best z wave scene controller available right now hands down.
This unit is pretty comparable to the Mi Casa Verde VeraLite. It will unify control of major brands such as Kwikset, Nest, and Philips Hue but you need to be a little more careful and check each product to ensure compatibility. It works with about 300 products whereas the VeraLite is compatible with over 600.
GE makes some great smart home products, and their lighting control module is no exception. This doesn’t technically fall under a fully featured Z-Wave Controller, but it is excellent option if you are just getting started in home automation and want an easy set up.
This Z-Wave controller works as the others in our list, communicating wirelessly over an encrypted broadband network to other z wave compatible devices. The Nexia Bridge is capable of controlling over 200 Z-Wave products at the same time so you’ll have plenty of room to grow your home system as you please. You can control your Nexia Home Intelligence system through an online account via PC, tablet, or smartphone. Keep in mind a monthly subscription of $9.99 is required.
This is technically not a z wave controller, however if security is your main goal, it is difficult to beat the Piper Smart Home Security System with Night Vision. This bad boy lets you set up 180 degree live (or recorded) video that you can playback on your smart phone or tablet. It is compatible with nearly all Z-Wave wireless accessories and fits into a z wave system seamlessly.
What is Z-Wave?
At its core, z wave technology is a wireless communications protocol. Z wave allows smart home gadgets to communicate with each other without interfering with other frequencies like your wireless internet. Like 802.11 Wi-Fi is a communications protocol, however z-wave operates in the 900MHz band instead of the 2.4GHz band Wi-Fi protocol uses. Perhaps all the technical stuff sounds boring, but the things it allows you to do are pretty cool. Z-Wave tech allows devices and sensor-enabled objects to talk and respond to each other. Plus, this technology isn’t only for the Wall Street mansion owners; the Smiths across the street, the Joneses next door, and even you can afford it. Don’t let those Joneses with their false humidity and cheery smiles get ahead!
Z-Wave has become such a big deal that a global organization has came about dubbed the Z-Wave Alliance. You can check out their website at z-wavealliance.org. Unfortunately, we have had no reports of their members having secret gatherings or wearing capes flying about installing z home tech into every home. But they are a real thing and they do in fact exist. If you want a comprehensive list of z-wave manufacturing companies and products their website is a good place to do some research. With a list of over 250 companies and 1000 z-wave products you can spend plenty of time on there. If there is a Z-Wave Alliance logo featured on the product, you know it will be good to go with any z-wave system regardless of the brand.
Chairman of the Alliance, Mark Walters has followed through on the promise to put interchangeability first. He promises, “With Z-Wave consumers know they can interchange products from different manufacturers, and the communication and product functionality will still be there.” The Alliance even sponsored a trip into the Himalayas, where Mariusz Malkowski Skype’d in live to an Expo show floor in Denver once he made the summit of Cho Oyu at 26,906 foot peak. Presenting live in -40 degree weather, he pulled out his Z-Wave controller and manipulated lights, deadbolts, and temperature on a thermostat. Definitely some clever marketing tactics, but you have to admit it is pretty cool that it still works in such a remote location.
While you can accomplish most of what z-wave technology does with 802.11 Wi-Fi, it doesn’t really make sense to go that route anymore. The 900MHz provides superior performance to 802.11 and receives less interference then devices operating at the lower frequency. On top of that, 900MHz penetrates walls and objects much more easily. With older RF networks, interference can become a big issue and even lead to crashes. Z-Wave solves all that, creating a robust meshed network between all z-wave enabled devices — optimally sending and receiving data to each other.
Depending on the system, z-wave devices can be controlled with a wireless keyfob, wall mounted keypad, or through a smart phone/tablet/computer app. The cool thing about controlling things with an app is that you can run things from anywhere in the world you have an internet connection.
Things you can do with z-wave tech:
- Dim, turn on/off lights
- Arm security system, control cameras
- Manipulate shades and drapes
- Control fans, A/C, and heating
- Operate individual power outlets
- Lock/unlock doors
- Feed pets
- Control irrigation & sprinkler system
What is a Z-Wave Controller?
A Z Wave controller lets you control all the devices running on the z-wave wireless communication protocol via the internet. That is why z-wave controllers are also known as a Z-Wave Gateway or central control device. An analogy would be a standard remote for a TV, Blu-Ray player, or cable box but for your smart home. Instead of requiring a separate remote for each smart home product, all you need is the one Z-Wave controller. A Z-Wave controller will become the brain of your house, the central hub in which everything communicates with. The best z wave hubs are essentially plug and play these days. Of course, to get started with z-wave technology home automation you’re going to need at least 2 devices such as a thermostat and a controller. From there you can add additional dimmers, locks, security features, and more. Keep in mind, when people talk about “z wave fan control” or “z wave light control”, they are usually talking about a z wave controller talking to the corresponding device.
Two of the clear winners in the z wave controller category is the Samsung SmartThings Hub and the Mi Casa Verde VeraLite. SmartThings Hub is for you if you like hitting the easy button and the plug and play route. If you lean towards enjoying tinkering with technology and gadgets then the VeraLite is for you, it enables you to have a lot more customization and even script events that will trigger when certain variables are true (such as all the lights turning off at a specific time at night).
DIY home automation with z-wave is quickly becoming a reality. You don’t need to pay for custom equipment and for a bunch of professionals to come install it, nor an outrageous monthly fee. For the tech savvy (or those people willing to put a little time into learning things) you can do some pretty badass stuff with the right z wave controller and supporting smart home products. Keep rooms the right temperature at all times, dim the lights and drop the shades and drapes during the evening, have all the lights turn off and security system turn on at a desired time at night, all with touching a few commands on your smartphone. When you think about it, you’ll actually end up accumulating a lot of saved time by not having to do all this stuff manually everyday. Plus, you’ll increase your home’s efficiency — reducing your carbon footprint and utility bills. That’s the whole point: making monotonous, simple tasks even easier.
Home Automation 101
If you’ve done any type of home automation project you probably know the home automation is constantly and rapidly changing. New start-ups, company mergers, and new technologies seemingly pop up in the news everyday. CEO’s were fired, new product launches turned out to be flops, flagship models were succeeded by newer models every few months, etc. For awhile there, things were pretty rocky with a lot of products that didn’t work very well or needed a rocket scientist to get it installed and keep it running. About 2-3 years ago a lot of people saw home automation as a scam or were too much hassle to deal with. In 2016, a lot has changed thankfully and the current state of the market is much more stable.
The Z-Wave controller market may still be a bit overwhelming at first glance, but there are some clear winners that work for most smart home set ups. These controllers are top notch and ready to be the center component of the majority of home automation systems. Pairing different protocols can still be a little tricky, but with a little online reading you’ll be up and running no problem. Z wave devices that are all compatible with each other is much easier though.
What to Know Before Buying a Z Wave Controller
Much of your decision will be made up by how many devices you need to control. On top of that, consider how many different home automation protocols you need to combine. That will really help you narrow things down once you have those two things figured out. Lastly, you should decide how much freedom and versatility you want in terms of customization. If you want cutting edge technology and you’re the type of person that wants the very best and ultimate control over your home, then obviously you’re going to pay a pretty penny.
Things get pretty simple if all of your smart home devices are z-wave compatible. You will be happy to hear that most any z-wave controller device is going to work for you. Plus, set up is going to be a piece of cake. If you have compatible z wave products across the board you can pretty much pick out a controller whose design of the product and corresponding app you like the most. If you don’t have any smart home devices and are still in the research phases, you’re in a good place because starting from scratch will enable you to get devices that are all compatible for the ultimate set up.
If you’re just looking for a user interface software to control existing smart home and automation devices, you may want to check out the openHAB project at openHAB.org. This is an entirely free option that is developed in Java and open source. Programmers will love being able to tear open the code and see how all the building blocks work.