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X10 vs. Z-Wave

Z-Wvae vs X10Which is best - Z-Wave or X10?

Those who love high-end technology are often faced with the conflict between what they really want (desire) and the reality of what they can afford (budget). But it doesn’t have to be that way. Choose the right technology and you may be able to get exactly the type of system you want for the money you can afford.

In this article we’re going to take a look at the two most common technologies used for home automation.

The more established technology is X10, which has been around since the 1970s. It does a good job, but thirty-years is a long time, and to be honest it’s showing its age. New technologies like Z-Wave have over come X10’s shortcomings and added a whole host of useful features.

Both X10 and Z-Wave are able to manage your home energy systems efficiently – say goodbye to the red standby lights, and hello to power On and Off. If you want your house lights to come on at a certain time, you can, and if you want your TV to do the same, it will.

However, the two systems have very different price brackets, before choosing one, it’s important to look at the long-term plan. Will the system be able to grow with your requirements or is a basic system all you’ll ever need?

Also, remember that you get what you pay for. A cheap system may save you money today, but could cost you much more in the long run.

You may find the cheap system can't keep up with your growing requirements, meaning you have to install a complete new system – effectively paying twice!

The X10 Option

X10 carries signals over the domestic mains power wiring, enabling control of ordinary light switches, mains outlets and pendant lamp holders. It’s possible to control these locally as normal, but also control them from keypads, radio and infrared remote controls, timers and computer interfaces.

Like Z-Wave, it can operate as an energy saving system, bringing intelligent management to your home’s lighting and heating systems. It can also increase security; by giving the impression the house is occupied, even though you’re out. Lights can be programmed to turn On/Off at set or random times, or even the blinds and curtains can be opened or closed. It’s also possible to control groups of lights or appliances from a single switch point.

As all controllers and appliances are connected to the same mains wiring system, X10 is able to determine which device to direct a control signal to, by using a ‘house code’ and a ‘unit code’. The house code was intended to allow adjacent houses to use X10 without interfering with each other – there’s always a risk that houses in the same neighbourhood share a connection to the power distribution system, therefore signals can ‘bleed’ from one to another, which wouldn’t be a good thing!

Finally, X10 can control up to 256 devices, which sound a fair number - but its competitor, Z-Wave, can control an unlimited number of lights and appliances.

The Z-Wave Option

Z-Wave is a much more secure and flexible system. Its wireless devices can be located exactly where you want them and as there’s no need to change your home’s wiring, you don’t need an electrician. As long as you can use a screwdriver, most Z-Wave devices can be installed in less than 3-minutes.

A Z-Wave network can have an unlimited number of devices; each one can only be controlled by that network’s controls – so there’s no ‘bleed’ through to neighbouring networks.

With its mesh network, it covers all areas of the home, as the radio waves travel easily through walls, floors and furniture, making connectivity 100% reliable. Each Z-Wave module can act as an RF repeater and commands can route through up to four devices. This enables the network to automatically adapt itself to your home, giving the system a maximum range of 400ft.

Currently there are more than 650 Z-Wave compatible devices available and, unlike other technologies, they all work together, regardless of which manufacturer’s products you buy. Components include sockets, switches, remote controls, and Internet Gateways that provide you with sophisticated control of your network and secure access to it from anywhere in the world (via your PC).

No matter how simple your first system is – it can be expanded to keep up with your demands.

Design – Electrical components needn’t be ugly

Being part of your home, you want your home automation system to be part of the design. Like with most things, you get what you pay for and most X10 products are quite frankly cheap and ugly. The new sleek Z-Wave devices have a better build quality and are designed to blend into the stylish modern home.

Good Communication

Both X10 and Z-Wave devices have to communicate their instructions to the appliances they’re operating. Due to the way X10 works, there can be dead spots where appliances don’t receive their instructions. When a command doesn’t reach an appliance, you wouldn’t necessarily know, as there is no two-way feedback. If a light doesn’t come on, it’s pretty obvious. But if it’s the heating, which needs time to build up, you wouldn’t know the command was lost until you’re sitting in the cold.

However, a Z-Wave system features two-way communication, every command is confirmed back to the controller. If a fault occurs, the system adapts, resends the command or raises an alert that something’s wrong.

This system of feedback and mesh-network technology make Z-Wave very robust, it’s not prone to dead spots or interference from other appliances. X10 on the other hand does suffer from interference, which can make it unreliable or unpredictable. To correct this you can buy extra filters – but this soon adds up and in the end you would have probably been better off buying Z-Wave in the first place.

Sounds good so far – but is this going to cost a fortune?

If you make the right decision, home automation can be a fantastic long-term investment, saving money on your energy bills as well as being a great way to protect your home.

It’s possible to pick up cheap, old wireless X10 home automation kit, but how much do you have to add to it before it costs the same, if not more, than Z-Wave?

Z-Wave is more expensive than X10. But it’s a modern technology that offers advanced features, reliability, security and future upgradability - things that the thirty-year-old X10 can’t match.

With an entry level Z-Wave starter kit costing just £153 you can easily and affordably start using the best in home automation today.

Summary of Features...


Feature / Issue



Communication Method

Power Line using existing wiring in your home to transmit commands.

RF (radio frequency)


Uses simple bit patterns on the powerline to transmit ON/OFF commands to devices. No checking is performed on the data.

Uses data packets similar to Ethernet. Each packet includes a check for reliable transmissions.




Installation Size

1 - 3 rooms

Whole House


No extra hardware required for installation. System may be installed by the end use

No extra hardware required for installation. System may be installed by the end user

Maximum devices



Interference Frees




1x - No acknowledgement of transmitted commands. If a command is lost, the controller such as the PC is not aware of the missed command.

100x - All commands are acknowledged by the destination. The source controller will re-try the command until it succeeds. Commands may be re-routed through other modules to avoid range issues. Unaffected by powerline issues or other electrical devices in the home.

Mesh Network



Firmware Upgradable



Device Status Polling



Remote Device Diagnostics




More information about Z-Wave is available in our Resources section.

Or take a look at the biggest range of Z-Wave products in Europe.


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