ZWave vs Wifi for Smart Lighting

mushii

Distinguished Member
There is currently a lot of discussion around smart lighting modules, particularly Shelly Wifi Modules vs Fibaro (or Aeotec) ZWave modules.

Both types of device offer very similar functionality - they allow normal lights, using normal light switches to be either manually controlled or to have 'smart functionality' without either sets of usage compromising the other (unlike Philips Hue (Zigbee) which if the switch is turned off. the smart bulb stops working).

The Shelly modules use 2.4GHz wifi for their smart functionality. They require no hub and are relatively cheap to entry at £10 for a Shelly 1 (Single) smart switch and £20 for a dual switch or dimmer module.

The Fibaro modules use 868 MHz for their smart functionality and require some form of Hub or Controller for them to work, but unlike WiFi modules these devices build a mesh radio network, all talking to one another. They are relatively expensive to market at £50 whether it is a single switch, double switch or dimmer. Plus the cost of a controller (£100+)

Both types of module are pretty much the same size and both are wired in a very similar fashion. So what are the Pro's and Cons

Shelly Pro's
- Cheap to buy (£10 - £20)
- Does not require a separate hub or controller
- Easy to integrate with Google and Alexa
- Easy to use App

Shelly Con's
- If you lose internet connection you lose control of the smart functionality (unless you have a hub)
- Need good wifi coverage
- 2.4 GHz is a a congested part of the radio spectrum
- A lot of WiFi devices on your network will require a better than average router (which will probably cost as much as decent Smart Home Hub)

Fibaro Pro's
- Will form a radio mesh and hence greater range
- Will work even without an internet connection
- Operate in a less congested part of the radio spectrum

Fibaro Cons
- Expensive (compared to Shellys) £50
- Require a hub (£100+)
- Hub is potentially a single point of failure - hub goes down, so do all of the Zwave devices

So which is best ? If you dont want the expense or complexity of installing some form of smart hub, then Shelly wins hands down. If you are working on a budget, Shelly wins hands down (per module cost). If you want offline control, as long as you have a hub, either are great otherwise Fibaro wins. If you are in a built-up area with a lot of 2.4GHz, wifi Fibaro will be more reliable, as the 2.4GHz spectrum is getting more and more congested)

Personally I have the best of both worlds. I run Homeseer as my hub and all of my internal smart lighting is on Fibaro modules, as it forms mesh in the house. As I have Ubiquiti Outdoor Mesh AP in my garden and have really good outdoor wifi, all of my garden lighting is controlled using Shelly Smart modules.

Both are very reliable and both suit my applications very well.
 

Seb Briggs

Well-known Member
As above for me as well at my house, i have both systems but not for any reason except that we generally install Fibaro modules so already had them and have only fairly recently come across Shelly after a disaster with Sonoff.

I use Hubitat Elevation (i also have a Fibaro HC2 but relegated at the moment) as my hub which lets me easily mix the two.

This week I am going to test both Wifi and Zwave modules enclosed in a metal backbox with metal plate to see what affect this has on the signal.
 

Seb Briggs

Well-known Member
Hi All

I have done my initial tests

Zwave Fibaro dimmer 2
Shelly Dimmer 2

Both located in 35mm metal back boxes with Varilight chrome faceplates

Powered by a "kettle lead" and linked to 3 x 6W LED dimmable downlights for ease of testing

My house is a victorian stone built house, i have just one Unifi AC Lite in my office at the moment located at the front of the house on the first floor. I sometimes also have the Wifi turned on the Sky Router with same SSID but not for this test.

My Zwave hub is a Hubitat Elevation also located in the office

Obviously (?) no issues at all bench tested in the office
Excellent signal strength on Shelly

Downstairs back of the house, furthest away from the office the shelly dropped to poor and popped up with a message on the app to indicate this but still worked fine with no noticeable lag.
The Fibaro Dimmer worked perfectly but that didnt come as a surprise as used them many times in worse environments than my house with metal backboxes and plates plus i have quite a few other zwave devices to create the mesh.

Overall I wouldnt be concerned about using either in metal backboxes

In fact i suspect you are more likely to have issues with zwave if the distance is far with stone walls and not so many devices to repeat the mesh, as hopefully your Wifi has been designed with multiple access points to overcome this so wouldnt be an issue with Shelly Wifi Dimmer.
With Zwave you can add Zwave repeaters though in my experience a standard Fibaro module (say a relay) wired in place strategically, even if it isnt doing anything, is better than the repeaters i have used.

Not totally scientific but hopefully gives you all a heads up.

Seb
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
Seb,

thanks for taking the time to test and TBH real world > Purely Scientific for testing. I 100% agree and concur with your findings based on my domestic setup.

I think that ZWave on its own with its 10mW maximum power compared to WiFi's 200mW is far less likely to penetrate thick walls without the benefit of mesh networking. More power (WiFi) means being able to 'shout louder' as @mickevh would say, compared to Zwave's 'chinese whispers' relaying the message quietly, via multiple people to get to the same end point.

The downside to both is that shouting louder is great, unless lots of people are shouting louder, then it gets confused. Whereas one error or break in the chain of relaying the message, from point to point, can result in total message failure. Hence ensuring you have enough 'people' or relays in your Zwave chain to work efficiently.

Great work and thanks again.
 

Harkon321

Well-known Member
With regards to Z Wave mesh, do all Z Wave products pass the signal along the mesh or only products of the same ilk?

i.e. Would my Hue Light bulbs act as a repeated for a Fibaro dimmer?
 

Seb Briggs

Well-known Member
Hi
With regards to Z Wave mesh, do all Z Wave products pass the signal along the mesh or only products of the same ilk?

i.e. Would my Hue Light bulbs act as a repeated for a Fibaro dimmer?

All/most Zwave mains powered devices should act as a node in the mesh for repeating the zwave signal (battery powered generally dont to save battery life)

Hue Light bulbs arent zwave so will not
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
All will relay except battery powered devices as it would drain them too quickly. The whole point of ZWave is that it is an encrypted open mesh standard, so all Zwave devices talk to one another. All my modules are Fibaro but my USB Zwave stick is Aeon Labs, Aeotec

LOL Seb and I must have posted almost at the same time.
 

Harkon321

Well-known Member
Hi


All/most Zwave mains powered devices should act as a node in the mesh for repeating the zwave signal (battery powered generally dont to save battery life)

Hue Light bulbs arent zwave so will not

Forgot they were Zigbee, sorry. Thanks for the response though. Food for thought.
 

Seb Briggs

Well-known Member
Dump them, pet hate of mine is where the smart technology is built into the bulb, a light switch turned off suddenly makes them very dumb

Saying that i do have some Zwave bulbs but that was because previous house was rented but will be swapping them out for Fibaro or Shelly dimmers
 

Harkon321

Well-known Member
I'm quite happy with my set up. Think it really depends how you use the technology. To rubbish the whole technology based on your own needs is a bit over reaching. This isn't a Hue vs ZWave etc thread but happy to have the debate.
 

blicky_1

Well-known Member
Well I started off with X10 (remember them?) controlled via early version of Homseer on RS-232, this was around 20 years ago before WiFi was a thing at home! Totally unreliable but was cool when it worked.

The last 5 or so years I have used Z-Wave with no issues whatsoever (Vera Edge Controller, Fibaro Dimmers, TKB Modules) never have to touch the thing it just does what it does (and works without an internet connection)

I have never used Wi-Fi devices but would be worried on the reliability along with more devices hanging off the network. 868 MHz is proven technology and is also used in the intruder alarm market.

I guess you get what you pay for?
 

Seb Briggs

Well-known Member
I'm quite happy with my set up. Think it really depends how you use the technology. To rubbish the whole technology based on your own needs is a bit over reaching. This isn't a Hue vs ZWave etc thread but happy to have the debate.

was meant light heartedly
 

Seb Briggs

Well-known Member
I am an installer and have been for around 10 years so certainly not just based on my own needs , as mentioned I have some Zwave bulbs myself.

Its the granny factor that puts me off devices that can be isolated with a simple mistake . I’m aware there are ways around this
 

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