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Choosing Z-Wave & Zigbee Heating Controls

Choosing Z-Wave & Zigbee Heating Controls

Z-Wave & Zigbee Heating Controls cover a vast array of devices from many different categories - sensors, thermostats, TRVs, actuators, etc, etc.

Manufacturers of Z-Wave & Zigbee Heating Controls have different types available designed to do specific roles, this gives you the best product for the job, but can make choosing the right device a little more difficult. You also have the choice between manufacturers to contend with, where some will offer more advanced capabilities and others will offer simpler functionality, often at a cheaper price. Remember that you can mix and match manufacturers on the same system as they are all compatible - more information can be found in our Understanding Compatibility guide.

This guide explains what the different types of device are used for and gives extra details to help select between the manufacturers.

Heating Controls

Adding Smart Control to Heating Systems in order to create a Smart Home Heating System can be complex as it not only depends on what you’re trying to achieve but also on what type of heating system it is (electric, water based, UFH, forced air, etc) and how the heating system was designed in terms of piping, valves, motors, pumps and existing control systems.

If you already have a Z-Wave and / or Zigbee based Smart Home system in place or are planning to implement one for Lighting or Security, then it makes sense to integrate heating control too as this makes for a nice consolidated system.

No matter what the system type is, broadly speaking, Heating Controls are split into several areas - Thermostas, Thermostatic Radiator Valves, Heat Source Controls and Ancillary Components such as temperature & humidity sensors.

Thermostats - Z-Wave | Zigbee

Thermostats are typically used as a reference device to both monitor the room's ambient temperature and to allow manual entry of a setpoint temperature that the room should be kept at.

In a simple system you might only have a single thermostat that directly manages a Heat Source Control, so that the heat source is turned on when the temperature reported by the thermostat is lower than the setpoint input on the thermostat.

In a more complex system there might be many thermostats throughout the home, with each one reporting whether the room that it is located in requires heat or not. In this scenario the Smart Home Controller is typically used to arbitrate these heat demands, amalgamating them together to produce an overall heat demand for the home and then managing the Heat Source Control in response.

Thermostats - things to think about:

  • Physical Installation - Some Thermostats are battery powered and are easy to install, simply site them anywhere - stick them to a wall or sit them on a shelf or sideboard. Others need permanent power and require wiring to the AC main supply so you might need the services of an electrician to connect them up.
  • KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid - As with many aspects of the Smart Home, simpler is often better. It might be cool to have Thermostats with multiple feautures such as motion sensing, humidity sensing, schedules, smart heating algorithms, etc, etc, but ultimately if you're implementing a multi-zoned system where the Smart Home Controller is going to be responsible for managing all the logic then a simpler device might suffice. If all you need is something to monitor the room temperature and allow manually control of the setpoint then a Thermostat with just those features will work out much cheaper, perhaps an important consideration if you need one for every room!
  • Temperature Reading - Some Thermostats report the local temperature back to the Smart Home Controller. While this isn't strictly required, it can be useful in order for the Smart Home Controller to know whether the local temperature has reached the chosen setpoint.
  • Heat Demand - In a multi-zone heating system you will be responsible for creating the logic to control the system yourself in your Smart Home Controller. An important aspect of this is controlling the "heat demand" correctly - it must only supply heat (i.e. be running) when one of the heating zones requires heat, otherwise it might be damaged. For example a boiler might fail if it's trying to heat the water in the system and pump it around the system if there's no open zones! It can be useful therefore for your chosen Thermostat to report its own heat demand i.e. when its temperature is lower than its required setpoint.
  • Schedules - In most cases you'll control the Thermostat directly from the Smart Home Controller, changing the setpoint to suit your required comfort levels, perhaps based on occupancy of the rooms. On the other hand, it can be useful for the Thermostat to have some built in scheduling capabilities as this will allow it to run autonomously based on the schedule that's been set, rather than needing to be controlled by the Smart Home Controller.
  • Radio Availability - When a Thermostat is battery powered, it will spend most of its time with its Z-Wave / Zigtbee radio asleep in order to conserve power. Some devices will only periodically "wake up", for example every 5 minutes, in order to check in with the Smart Home Controller and receive any pending instructions to change the setpoint or update any schedules. Other devices are what's classed as "frequently listening" so will react much quicker, albeit at the expense of slightly shorter battery life.
  • Local Heat Source Control - Some Thermostats are designed with a Heat Source Control built in, they are typically used in a wired system where each room is wired back to a central location, for example a valve manifold system. Each Thermostat is then responsible for managing the room that it's in directly, it will track the temperature against the setpoint and operate its own output accordingly. Back at the manifold the Thermostat output will typically control a valve to allow water to flow, perhaps to radiators or through the under floor heating (UFH) pipework.
  • Information - More information about these issues and other things to consider is available in our Smart Home Heating guide.

Thermostats - Z-Wave product choices:

Secure Wall Thermostat with LCD Display Secure 7 Day Programmable Room Thermostat Heltun Heating Thermostat Heatit Thermostat Z-TRM3 Heatit Thermostat Z-Temp2 MCO Heating Thermostat
  • Setpoint Control
  • Local Temperature Reporting
  • Local Display
  • Local Control
  • Built In Schedules
  • TPI Algorithm
  • AA Battery Powered
  • Sleeping device, minimum wakeup time 5 minutes
  • Dimensions: 120 x 100 x 26mm
  • Device(s):
  • Setpoint Control
  • Local Temperature Reporting
  • Local Display
  • Local Control
  • Built In Schedules
  • Floor Sensor (optional)
  • Modes
  • AC Mains Powered
  • Switched Live Output
  • Maximum Load: 16A
  • Power Metering
  • Dimensions: 89 x 89 x 37mm
  • White or Black Colour Option
  • Device(s):
  • Setpoint Control
  • Local Temperature Reporting
  • Local Display
  • Local Control
  • External Sensor (optional)
  • Floor Sensor (optional)
  • Duty Cycle Algorithm
  • AC Mains Powered
  • Switched Live Output
  • Maximum Load: 16A
  • Power Metering
  • Dimensions: 87 x 87 x 51mm
  • White or Black Colour Option
  • Device(s):
  • Setpoint Control
  • Local Temperature Reporting
  • Humidity Sensor
  • Local Display
  • Local Control
  • AA Battery Powered
  • Power Metering
  • Dimensions: 85 x 85 x 25mm
  • White or Black Colour Option
  • Device(s):

Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) - Z-Wave | Zigbee

In a water based heating system, Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) control when hot water is allowed to flow into a radiator based on the TRV's setpoint temperature. When the ambient temperature is lower then the setpoint, the radiator valve is "Open" and water flows through the radiator. When the setpoint is reached, the valve closes, stopping the water flow and allowing the radiator to cool.

Some TRVs have complex algorithms that regulate how quickly the temperature changes, this reduces the chance of over-shooting the setpoint and wasting heat. Some TRVs also report the actual ambient temperature to the system, these can be used in place of a wall thermostat, but the temperature readings may not be very accurate as they are positioned very close to the hot radiator!

Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) - things to think about:

  • Physical Installation - If you already have TRVs on your radiators then this will be as simple as swapping over the "head" i.e. removing the existing manual control head and replacing it with your chosen Smart device. On the other hand, if you don't already have TRVs fitted then you'll need to have that carried out first, likely by a plumber since the heating system will need to be drained down so that the existing valves can be changed.
  • Temperature Reading - Some TRVs report the local temperature back to the Smart Home Controller. While this isn't strictly required, it can be useful in order for the Smart Home Controller to know whether the local temperature has reached the chosen setpoint.
  • Heat Demand - In a multi-zone heating system you will be responsible for creating the logic to control the system yourself in your Smart Home Controller. An important aspect of this is controlling the "heat demand" correctly - it must only supply heat (i.e. be running) when one of the heating zones requires heat, otherwise it might be damaged. For example a boiler might fail if it's trying to heat the water in the system and pump it around the system if there's no open zones! It can be useful therefore for your chosen TRV to report its own heat demand i.e. when its temperature is lower than its required setpoint and it is "open".
  • Schedules - In most cases you'll control the TRVs directly from the Smart Home Controller, changing the setpoint to suit your required comfort levels, perhaps based on occupancy of the rooms. On the other hand it can be useful for the TRV to have some built in scheduling capabilities as this will allow it to run autonomously based on the schedule that's been set, rather than needing to be controlled by the Smart Home Controller.
  • Radio Availability - Since TRVs are typically battery powered devices they will spend most of their time with their Z-Wave / Zigtbee radio asleep in order to conserve power. Some devices will only periodically "wake up", for example every 5 minutes, in order to check in with the Smart Home Controller and receive any pending instructions to change the setpoint or update any schedules. Other devices are what's classed as "frequently listening" so will react much quicker, albeit at the expense of slightly shorter battery life.
  • Separate Thermostat - While a TRV will work standalone to manage the water flowing to your radiator based on its own temperature sensor and setpoint temperature, most rooms benefit from a separate Thermostat sited closer to where people in the room will most likely be located, for example on the sofa or in bed. A separate Thermostat allows the system to then control the TRV based on the temperature reading and setpoint from that device, rather than the TRV which is likely not positioned in an optimal location.
  • Mounting Position - Make sure that the TRV is capable of being mounted to your radiator valve, some valves require the TRV to be mounted horizontally, some require them to be mounted vertically. This can impact the temperature sensor accuracy, local control operation and the ability to read any local display.
  • Information - More information about these issues and other things to consider is available in our Smart Home Heating guide.

Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) - Z-Wave product choices:

Fibaro Heat Controller
  • Setpoint Control
  • Local Temperature Reporting
  • Local Controls
  • Built in Schedules
  • Open Window Detection
  • Optional Remote Temperature Sensor
  • Horizontal mounting recommended unless the oprional remote temperature sensor is used.
  • Reports heat demand
  • Rechargeable Battery via micro-USB
  • FLiRS device, instant reaction time
  • Dimensions: 51 x 71mm
  • Device(s):

Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) - Zigbee product choices:

POPP Smart Thermostat
  • Setpoint Control
  • Local Temperature Reporting
  • Local Display
  • Local Controls
  • Open Window Detection
  • AA Battery Powered
  • Almost instant reaction time
  • Dimensions: 55 x 90mm
  • Device(s):

Heat Source Controls - Z-Wave | Zigbee

Heat Source Controls typically replace your existing heating controller / timer and allow your Smart Home system to control when the heat source (typically a boiler) is On or Off. Usually this is in response to a "Heat Demand", so for example if several rooms in your home require heat (the temperature is lower than the setpoint) then the Heat Source Control will turn on in order for those rooms to be heated. Or, if the hot water tank temperature is low the the Heat Source Control ontrol will turn on in order for the tank to be heated.

With electric based heating, your "heat source" isn't usually a central system like with water based heating, it's typically per room using a heat mat, hot air blower or an electic panel heater. In these cases the "Heat Source Control" can be as simple as a plug-in socket!

Heat Source Controls - things to think about:

  • Heat Source Control Type - It's important to match the Heat Source Control to the type of heat source that you have, for example if you have a Combi boiler, you will need a single-channel Heat Source Control, if you have a Y-plan or S-plan system boiler then you will probably need a 2-channel Heat Source Control, one for the radiator system and one for the hot water system.
  • It's just a switch? - Dedicated Heat Source Controls will offer things like local control override switches, status LEDs, etc. But ultimately their only job is to "switch" an input into your heat source, so in many cases a simpler device such as a Z-Wave or Zigbee module will do the same job.
  • Switched Live / Dry Contact - Some heat sources will require a simple Switched Live input signal whereas others will require a dry-contact input signal, so make sure to choose the right control device.
  • Multiple Channels - Your heat source might just need a single input, to indicate that the radiator system needs heat, or it might need two inputs, one for the radiator system and one for the hot water system. Sometimes the heating system will be very complicated, using multiple different "zones" that each require an individual heat demand input. In these types of system it's common to use a Heat Source Control that has many outputs so that it can control all of the separate heat demand inputs on the system.
  • Electric is Simple - As mentioned above, for electric based heating you'll typically be controlling a single heat source per room directly, so in these cases you'll need to make sure your chosen device is suitably rated. For example an electric panel heater might be rated at 2kW so you'd need to make sure the device is rated for that - we usually recommend leaving some headroom so that you're not running the device at its maximum rating for prolonged periods.
  • Information - More information about these issues and other things to consider is available in our Smart Home Heating guide.

Dedicated Heat Source Controls - Z-Wave product choices:

Secure Boiler Receiver Secure Boiler Receiver Two Channel Secure Countdown Timer Switch Aeotec Smart Boost Timer Switch Heatit Z-Water
  • Single Output
  • Local Controls
  • Dry Contact Output
  • Fail Safe Timer
  • Max load: 3A
  • 230V AC Mains
  • Dimensions: 86 x 86 x 37mm
  • Device(s):
  • Single Output
  • Local Boost Timer Controls
  • Switched Live Output
  • Fail Safe Timer
  • Battery Backup
  • Max load: 16A
  • 230V AC Mains
  • Dimensions: 83 x 83 x 47mm
  • Device(s):
  • Ten Outputs
  • Four Analog Inputs
  • Dry Contact Outputs
  • Fail Safe Timer
  • DIN Rail Mounting
  • Max load: 5A per output
  • 230V AC Mains Powered
  • 24V DC Transformer Built In
  • Dimensions: 83 x 83 x 47mm
  • Device(s):

Other Heat Source Controls - Z-Wave product choices:

Fibaro Switch 2 Qubino Flush Relay Heltun Quinto / High Load Switch Heatit ZM Single Relay Aeotec Smart Switch 6 Fibaro Wall Plug
  • Single and Double versions available
  • Power Monitoring
  • Auto-Off Timer
  • Max load Single: 8A
  • Max load Double: 6.5A (per channel), 10A total
  • Additional switch input (Single)
  • No dry contact - switch output is AC mains only
  • 230V AC Mains Only
  • Must have Neutral
  • Dimensions: 42 x 38 x 20mm
  • Device(s):
  • Single and Double versions available
  • Power Monitoring
  • Auto-Off Timer
  • Max load Single: 10A
  • Max load Double: 4A (per channel), 8A total
  • Additional switch inputs (Single)
  • Dry Contact version (1D Relay) available
  • Omron Relays for ultimate reliability
  • Optional Temperature Sensor
  • 230V AC Mains and 24V DC
  • Must have Neutral (230V AC Mains)
  • Dimensions: 42 x 37 x 16mm
  • Device(s):
  • Single (High Load) and Quintuple versions available
  • Power Monitoring
  • Auto-Off Timer
  • Max load Single: 16A
  • Max load Quintuple: 5A (per channel)
  • Optional NTC Temperature Sensor Input (High Load Switch)
  • Dry Contacts (Quintuple)
  • 230V AC Mains or 24 - 48VDC
  • Optional DIN Mount Available
  • Must have Neutral (230V AC Mains)
  • Dimensions: 50 x 50 x 26mm
  • Device(s):
  • Single (High Load) Output
  • Power Monitoring
  • Auto-Off Timer
  • Max load: 16A
  • Additional switch input
  • 230V AC Mains
  • Must have Neutral (230V AC Mains)
  • Dimensions: 46 x 45 x 25mm
  • Device(s):
  • Small form factor
  • UK & Schuko Fitment
  • RGB LED for Notifications
  • Power Monitoring
  • Auto-Off Timer
  • Integrated USB Charging
  • Range Tester Feature
  • Max load 13A (Resistive) (UK)
  • Max load 2500W (Schuko)
  • 230V AC Mains Only
  • Dimensions: 56 x 56 x 58mm (UK)
  • Dimensions: 43 (diameter) x 65mm (Schuko)
  • Device(s):

Ancillary Components - Z-Wave | Zigbee

Ancillary Components cover many types of devices and are typically dependant on what type of heating system you are attempting to add Smart control to and of course what you are trying to achieve.

Ancillary Components - things to think about:

  • Temperature & Humidity Sensors - These work well as part of a multi-zoned heating system - by allowing your Smart Home Controller to monitor the temperature of individual rooms and zones you can maximise the efficiency of your radiators. They can also be used in a wider context of environmental control, for example monitoring tanks and pipes to ensure your boiler is operating efficiently or to create graphs and reports of monitored temperatures in order to learn how your home reacts to heat and cold.
  • Motion Sensors - These can allow your Smart Home Controller to adapt the heating logic based on occupancy of rooms, perhaps turning off the radiators in rooms that aren't in use.
  • Contact Sensors - Optimising your heating system is often the best way of savng money on your energy bills, Contact Sensors allow your Smart Home Controller to lower the setpoint in areas where doors and windows have been left open to avoid wasting heat!
  • Information - More information about these issues and other things to consider is available in our Smart Home Heating guide.

Temperature & Humidity Sensors - Z-Wave product choices:

Aeotec aërQ Temperature & Humidity Sensor Secure Temperature Sensor Secure Temperature & Humidity Sensor Philio 2-in-1 Multisensor Sensative Comfort
  • A tiny Humidity and Temperature Sensor with smart Air Quality measurements - calculates dew point and warns against mould growth environmental conditions.
  • Temperature Sensor
  • Humidity Sensor
  • Battery Powered
  • Dimensions: 35 x 35 x 18mm
  • Device(s):
  • A sleak Humidity and Temperature Sensor - ideal for discrete wall mounting for optimal positioning to monitor room temperature and humidity.
  • Temperature Sensor
  • Humidity Sensor
  • Battery Powered
  • Dimensions: 28 x 35 x 95mm
  • Device(s):
  • Tiny Sensor strip for temperature and ambient light level and it's almost invisible when mounted - integrated battery gives 10-year battery life.
  • Temperature Sensor
  • Light Level / Lux Sensor
  • IP43 Outdoor Rated
  • Paintable
  • 10-year Battery Powered (not replaceable)
  • Dimensions: 195 x 15 x 3mm
  • Device(s):

Temperature & Humidity Sensors - Zigbee product choices:

Frient Smart Humidity Sensor
  • Simply and stylish temperature and humidity sensor - offering up to 5 year battery life from standard AA batteries!
  • Temperature Sensor
  • Humidity Sensor
  • Battery Powered
  • Dimensions: 70 x 70 x 21mm
  • Device(s):

Motion Sensors - Z-Wave product choices:

Fibaro Motion Sensor Aeotec MultiSensor 6 Aeotec TriSensor Philio Motion Sensor Philio MultiSensors
  • Tiny Motion Sensor that also monitors temperature and light levels - ideal for lighting, heating and blind control.
  • Motion Sensor
  • Temperature Sensor
  • Light Level Sensor
  • Vibration Sensor
  • Orientation Sensor
  • Battery Powered
  • Dimensions: 44mm (dia)
  • Device(s):
  • Versatile 6-in-1 Sensor - the best all round Z-Wave Sensor available as it offers so many features in one device.
  • Motion Sensor
  • Temperature Sensor
  • Humidity Sensor
  • Light Level Sensor
  • UV Sensor
  • Vibration Sensor
  • Battery or 5V USB Powered
  • Z-Wave repeater (when powered from USB)
  • Recesssed Mount Available
  • Dimensions: 40 x 45 x 45mm
  • Device(s):
  • Budget friendly 3-in-1 Sensor focusing on motion, temperature and light level - excellent for lighting and security applications.
  • Motion Sensor
  • Temperature Sensor
  • Light Level Sensor
  • Battery Powered
  • Recesssed Mount Available
  • Dimensions: 40 x 45 x 45mm
  • Device(s):

Motion Sensors - Zigbee product choices:

Aeotec SmartThings Motion Sensor Frient Motion Sensor Pro Frient Motion Sensor Basic Aduro Motion Sensor
  • The Aeotec SmartThings Motion Sensor is a multi-function device offering motion sensing along with temperature and light readings - an all round sensor suited to many security and environmental monitoring applications.
  • Motion Sensor
  • Temperature Sensor
  • Light Level Sensor
  • Battery Powered
  • Dimensions: 56.6 x 50.2 x 55.7mm
  • Device(s):
  • Like the Aeotec, the Frient Motion Sensor Pro also has motion, temperature and light reading capabilities - by using standard AA batteries it claims a 3 year battery life!
  • Motion Sensor
  • Temperature Sensor
  • Light Level Sensor
  • Battery Powered
  • Dimensions: 70 x 70 x 21mm
  • Device(s):
  • A basic, no frills device to get the job done - budget friendly option to suit simple security monitoring and automation tasks.
  • Motion Sensor
  • Battery Powered
  • Dimensions: 70 x 70 x 21mm
  • Device(s):
  • Like the Frient, this is a simple device to get the job done - a bit on the large side but with a decent bracket allowing 120 degree positioning.
  • Motion Sensor
  • Battery Powered
  • Dimensions: 57 x 42mm
  • Device(s):

Contact Sensors - Z-Wave product choices:

Fibaro Door & Window Sensor 2 Aeotec Door / Window Sensor 7 Aeotec Door / Window Sensor 6 Aeotec Recessed Door / Window Sensor 7 Sensative Strips Door / Window Sensor Philio MultiSensors
  • Versatile Door / Window Sensor available in multiple colours with an integrated Temperature Sensor - allowing it to also monitor temperature for your heating or freeze protection.
  • Contact Sensor
  • Temperature Sensor
  • External Sensor Connections
  • Available in different colours
  • Battery Powered
  • Dimensions: 71 x 18 x 18mm
  • Device(s):
  • One of the smallest contact Sensors available featuring unique Tilt Sensor to detect tilt angle - perfect for monitoring open / close / tilt windows or for up-and-over garage doors.
  • Contact Sensor
  • Tilt / Angle Sensor
  • External Sensor Connections
  • Battery Powered
  • Dimensions: 71 x 19 x 18mm
  • Device(s):
  • Very small triangular Sensor that fits in the corner of a door or window - includes a rechargeable li-ion battery with a 6-month time between charges.
  • Contact Sensor (dual edged)
  • Paintable
  • Quick Mount Frame
  • Rechargable Battery
  • Dimensions: 71 x 72 x 9mm
  • Device(s):
  • A truly invisible sensor that can be recessed into the frame of a door or window - Smart Home as it should be, hidden and out of sight so as not to affect the aesthetics of your home!
  • Contact Sensor
  • Battery Powered
  • Needs to be recessed
  • Dimensions: 64 x 19.2mm
  • Device(s):

Contact Sensors - Zigbee product choices:

Aeotec SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor Frient Entry Sensor Pro Frient Entry Sensor Basic Aduro Contact Sensor
  • The Aeotec SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor is a multi-function device offering magnetic contact sensing along with gyroscope and vibration functions - an all round sensor suited to many security applications.
  • Magnetic Contact Sensor
  • Temperature Sensor
  • Vibration Sensorr
  • Gyroscope Sensorr
  • Battery Powered
  • Dimensions: 43.8 x 51.9 x 13.7mm
  • Device(s):
  • Features a magnetic contact sensor and temperature function - by using standard AAA batteries it claims a 3 year battery life!
  • Magnetic Contact Sensor
  • Temperature Sensor
  • Battery Powered
  • Dimensions: 76 x 26 x 17mm
  • Device(s):
  • A basic, no frills device to get the job done - budget friendly option to suit simple security monitoring and automation tasks.
  • Magnetic Contact Sensor
  • Battery Powered
  • Dimensions: 76 x 26 x 17mm
  • Device(s):
  • Another simple device - no need for complicated devices to carry out simple tasks like alerting when a door is opened!
  • Magnetic Contact Sensor
  • Battery Powered
  • Dimensions: 60 x 40 x 13mm
  • Device(s):

Mix & Match Discount Kits

Getting Help and Advice

Hopefully this guide has helped clarify what options are available, what the different Z-Wave & Zigbee Heating Controls do, and shown the comparison between manufacturers. If you need any further help or advice, contact Vesternet and we will do our best to answer all your questions.