Both Z-Wave and INSTEON are mesh networking technologies designed specifically for the Home Automation market.
But how do they differ and which is best for your application?
INSTEON uses a unique, dual-band mesh network system that sends control signals through your home’s mains wiring (powerline) and the INSTEON wireless network. At the same time all mains-powered INSTEON devices act as repeaters - simulcasting the messages to ensure they get to the furthest reaches of your home.
Dual Mesh Network
INSTEON’s dual-mesh technology uses wireless and powerline to transmit messages, ensuring multiple pathways for messages to travel. Each message is also simulcast (repeated) by all mains-powered network devices - the network becomes more robust as more devices are added.
INSTEON devices communicate across the existing mains wiring and through the wireless network, so there is no extra wiring needed. Devices don’t need to be ‘enrolled’ into the network, each device has a unique ID number and automatically join the network as soon as they’re powered up.
INSTEON devices respond to commands with no perceptible delay, the wireless network has a maximum data rate of 38Kbps with messages typically getting to their destination in less than 0.05 seconds.
Peer to Peer Routing
All INSTEON devices are peers, this means that any device can act as a controller (sending messages), responder (receiving messages) or repeater (relaying messages). This makes routing of signals around the network very simple. Note: only mains-powered devices act as repeaters, battery operated devices do not act as repeaters to save battery-life.
INSTEON devices each have a unique ID code and therefore are secure from external control or eavesdropping. The system also allows messages to be encrypted using a standard such as AES–256 ensuring your network has the maximum security.
Z-Wave is an established Home Automation technology with a huge range of products for all applications.
Z-Wave’s mesh network uses wireless only, it ’understands’ the current status of all devices on the network and can adapt itself to ensure signals are routed in the best possible way to avoid any ‘dead-spots’.
Devices are easily installed into existing mains wiring. However, unlike INSTEON, each device needs to be ‘included’ into the Z-Wave network, this is done by pressing a button on the device which enables the Z-Wave network controller to add the device to the network.
On paper Z-Wave has a slower data rate of 9.6Kbps, but in reality this lower speed makes no perceptible difference to devices being activated.
Z-Wave devices are defined as slaves, routing slaves and controllers, only routing slaves and controllers are allowed to repeat messages. Z-Wave requires devices to understand the network set-up so that they can route messages correctly, this is done using defined ‘Routing Tables’. Routing of messages through a Z-Wave network can become complex and requires careful consideration, especially for larger networks. Note: only mains-powered devices act as repeaters, battery operated devices do not act as repeaters to save battery-life.
Each Z-Wave device has a unique network ID and and each network has a unique identification, Z-Wave has the same security capabilities as INSTEON.
|Wireless Frequency (EU)||868.42MHz||869.85MHz||Powerline (via mains wiring)|
|Maximum number of devices||232 per controller||400 per controller|
|Maximum number of Controllers||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Maximum Range||50m (outdoors) - 30m (indoors)||50m (outdoors) - 30m (indoors)|
|Wireless Data Rate||9,600 bps||38,400 bps||Communication|
|Device Status Report|
|Devices act as repeaters
(mains-powered devices only)
|Simulcasting - devices retransmit message
(mains-powered devices only)
|Device Types||Controllers, Slaves
& Routing Slaves
|Peers - all devices act as
Controller and Slaves
|Devices added to Network||Devices manually
|Socket Styles||UK, Schuko & France/Belgium||UK & Schuko|
|Insert Modules||Relay & Dimmers||Relay & Dimmers|
|Number of products available||100+||15+|
|Number of Vendors||26||1|
For a full comparison of all Vesternet Home Automation technologies, take a look at the Complete Home Automation Feature Guide.
A you can see Z-Wave and INSTEON are very closely matched, the real benefits of each technology can be summarised:
INSTEON, because of its dual mesh technology will enable you to create a more robust, reliable network which doesn't rely on any one communication medium, it is easier to configure larger networks as its simulcast mechanism automatically repeats messages. And, for any network, INSTEON devices are easier to install as they automatically connect to the network at power-up.
However, in most moderate sized homes these technical advantages become less clear cut. By a moderate sized home, I mean a system with typically less than 100 'smart' devices and covering up to ~2,000 m2. In these cases Z-Wave is more equal to INSTEON - wireless communication can be resilient using some common sense techniques, it is rare for Z-Wave to need many repeaters, therefore, routing tables can be kept simple or not used at all.
Z-Wave requires devices to be 'Included' into the network, this is an additional step compared to INSTEON, but this is simple enough and shouldn't cause you any real issues or inconvenience - you only have to do it once!
For most Home Automation enthusiasts the most important thing to consider is the range of products a technology has to offer and does it have all the types to meet your needs. In this respect Z-Wave is the clear winner, it has a huge range of 100+ products available at Vesternet, everything for power, lighting, heating and security.
INSTEON has some great advantages and as the European range expands it will become a fantastic technology for all home automation requirements.
But for now, we still recommend Z-Wave for most types of requirement.
For more information take a look at the full range of Z-Wave and INSTEON products, or take a look at our new Scenarios section for help choosing the right products for common cases such as heating, lighting and security.
Vesternet is Europe’s leading home automation specialist. Whatever your needs, you’ll be able to find just what you’re looking for in our range of Z-Wave, ZigBee, LightwaveRF and INSTEON home automation products.