Advice on Which Network Type To Use (Z-wave / Matter / Something Else)

TL;DR: I need to replace a bunch of switches so I’m re-evaluating which network to go with. I’ve had some issues with Z-wave and I like the sound of the IPv6 basis of matter.

I’ve had a bunch of my smart switches fail on me in the last week - seems like they had crappy components and were all manufactured at the same time so are starting to fail all at once. I haven’t been super happy with how Z-wave has worked for me and I’ve been considering switching to another network type. HomeAssistant and my dongle ar Zigbee capable, but I went all-in on Z-wave so haven’t used the Zigbee part of it. I’m considering replacing my Z-wave equipment with Matter upgradable stuff as it needs to be replaced and I wonder how people are feeling about the state of Z-wave, Zigbee, and Matter. Given that the consumer electronics world seems to be going all in on Matter and I’m going to be spending a pile of money on new stuff very soon, I’m wondering if whether I should orient myself in that direction, stick with Z-wave, or go another route.

The long story/context:
About 4 years ago I decided to smartify my apartment. After much reading, I decided to go with z-wave and replaced all the switches in my apartment with z-wave switches. For the 8 on/off switches I went with HomeSeer HS-WS200+ and I ended up with with a weird old, expensive Leviton VRE06-1LZ for the dimmer (after trying the HomeSeer one) since it seemed to be the only good z-wave dimmer at the time (IIRC it does “back wave” dimming which meant it was the only dimmer switch that didn’t make my LED lightbulbs buzz when dimmed).

Last week one of my HomeSeer switches died. It’s in this failure mode where it sends a SwitchBinary about every second, but won’t respond to Z-wave commands and the paddle won’t control the load. I tried toggling the breaker to see if a reboot would help, but it didn’t. What it do was cause another switch on that circuit to fail. This is a different failure mode where its status LED just blinks every second. I tried to swap some switches around to get things working better, but each time I needed to turn the breaker off, another switch failed. I now have 5 out of 8 switches failed. I originally found Inovelli when I was surprised and kind of mad at HomeSeer for charging for the privilege of a firmware update, and after these horrible quality issues, I’m done with HomeSeer. I’m also pretty sure the HomeSeer deleted a posting of mine on their forums comparing HomeSeer and Inovelli’s firmware upgrade cost. Inovelli seems to have good customer support so I’m looking around here for replacements.

The SwitchBinary that comes every second is DoSing my Z-wave network. Nothing else works until I remove that switch from my network. This illustrates kind of why I’ve been so unhappy with Z-wave. It seems like the network can only handle about 1 message per second. For example, when that ancient (and mostly terrible except for the good dimming approach) Leviton switch turns on, it does a quick dim up to full and as it does that it sends an update on its dimming level repeatedly. This means that for the next 5-10 seconds after turning on that light, nothing else on my network will respond so whenever I need to turn on a group of lights that includes that one, I have to turn it on last or it’ll be the only one that repsonds. Any chatty device on my Z-wave network seems to massively degrade the responsiveness of my whole house. E.g. I have some devices that periodically report power usage stats and if they happen to be reporting their half a dozen stats, my lights will be slow to respond. One thing that has come up before is that I added all of my devices in secure mode. I guess this is known to cause some problems, but I haven’t been excited about rebuilding my whole z-wave network from scratch and reorganizing all of the automation and I don’t like the idea of an unsecured wireless network in my house.

I can comment on the z-wave side of this.

As a brief history- my first experience with Z-Wave was with a Vera Lite controller, and a bunch of 1st gen Z-Wave stuff (back then it was mostly GE and Leviton). After I outgrew the Vera Lite I switched to HomeSeer, first with HS3, now I run HS4.

There’s been a lot of progress since then. This page goes into some details.
Specifically-- the routing of Z-Wave has gotten a LOT better, it’s very rare that you’ll have to heal/optimize the mesh, and almost unheard of to have to assign a manual route. The speed of the network has increased a bunch in terms of raw data rate from 9kbps to 100kbps. There’s now multiple frequencies it will select from. And S2 doesn’t just improve security, it also improves responsiveness because fewer round trips are required for each message. Older S0 security was bad in that regard, secure messages took a lot of air time.

But, in many cases, the Z-Wave mesh is only as good as the weakest link. On my old network with a bunch of older 300 series (1st gen) devices, I got ‘funkiness’ from time to time. Commands would be delayed or not received at all mainly.

At my newer house I started fresh. Fresh install of HS4, new 500 series Z-Wave stick (best available at the time), Inovelli Reds (Gen2) for most of the switches, no old 300 series Gen1 Z-Wave devices brought over. It works perfectly. Commands are near-instant. Only issue I’ve had was my fault- I accidentially ‘upgraded’ from the HomeSeer S2 Beta Z-Wave plugin to the non-S2 release version. That screwed things up. But other than that, knock on wood.

I can say that with newer devices, I have not had any problems with the network congesting.

So my general suggestion especially if you’re like me and you want security (my understanding is Z-Wave S2 is somewhat more secure than ZigBee), is keep your HA setup, but get a new 800 series Z-Wave stick (or the 700 series can be okay also as long as you get a firmware update- the early 700 series firmware was buggy). Get some of the new Phoenix switches when they hit general availability. Start a new Z-Wave mesh, only new devices (500 series with S2 and above). Ditch the old first gen stuff. I think with that you would be quite happy.

Then again, I have almost no experience with ZigBee. As mentioned, my understanding is that it’s slightly less secure than S2 Z-Wave. It also works in 2.4 GHz so more prone to interference from other devices. But in exchange, you get a wider variety of cheaper devices.

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Zigbee and Zwave are not going anywhere anytime soon so there’s not really a “wrong” choice. Matter does look promising but I do expect there to be some growing pains initially.

For me, I’ve got what I would consider very strong networks for both Zwave and Zigbee.

I do get the occasional lag on the Zwave network where a device may take a few seconds to respond. It’s noticeable when it happens. It’s annoying when it happens. But the device always reponds every single time.

With Zigbee, that few second lag simply never happens. Devices always respond instantly. Until they don’t. And when they don’t, they’ve normally fallen off the network for one reason or another. The main culprits for this in my network are the Ikea Fyrtur blinds. I find about once a month I’m having to rejoin at least 1 blind to the network. Every so often I’ll get an Aqara motion sensor that’s not responding but that’s only ever been a matter of pressing the little button on it and it works again.

Now for Matter there seems to be 2 communication methods. Matter over Thread and Matter over WiFi/Ethernet. Thread in simplest terms seems to be an evolution of Zigbee. Runs on the same frequencies with a few minor (IMO) differences. What I’ve yet to see is if matter WiFi devices will be able to work as Thread routers. If that’s the case, it could be quite significant for those with out-buildings that have a hardwired link back to their home network.

If I were to start over today, as much as I love how solid and reliable my Zwave network is, I would only be looking at Matter devices. Not necessarily those that support it today, but ones with a planned upgrade path like the Blue series. Since I’m not starting over today, I’m just continuing to build out with both Zwave/Zigbee while keeping an eye on the evolution of Matter.


same here

same here

same here. But I’m growing more on the Zigbee side and shrinking on the Zwave side due to the previous two statements. I notice lag in the Zwave devices even though almost all of them are direct connect to the hub (no hops). The zigbee devices consistently respond more quickly