Like the backbone on which smart homes operate, Z-Wave controllers allow you to operate everything from sprinklers to alarm systems through your wireless network instead of a pile of remote controls.
Here are a few additional things you can do with Z-Wave tech:
- Dimming and turning on and off lights
- Arming your security system and controlling your security cameras
- Operating your shades and drapes
- Controlling your fans, A/C, and heating
- Operating individual power outlets
- Locking and unlocking your doors
- Controlling irrigation and sprinkler systems
With some Z-Wave tech, you may even be able to feed your pets. Some people program their own Z-Wave devices. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a tech-wizard to use one, and in this article, we’ll show you how.
If you’ve been reluctant to invest in Z-Wave and home automation, concerned that it’s a trend or more trouble than it’s worth, we’re here to say that you don’t know what you’ve been missing. Up next are the 10 best Z-Wave controllers and a bit about how to use them, including a Z-Wave Hub, Raspberry Pi, and the best Z-Wave USB stick.
Our Top Picks
If you’re new to Z-Wave tech, here’s where to begin:
|Best Z-Wave Controller: GE 45603 Z-Wave Controller |
Compatible with a long list of Z-Wave hubs, the GE 45603 is the best Z-Wave controller in our ranking.
|Best Z-Wave Garage Door Controller: GoControl/Linear GD00Z-4|
With a 100-foot range, the best Z-Wave controllers for garage doors is the GoControl/Linear GD00Z-4.
|Best Z-Wave Scene Controller: GoControl WA00Z-1|
For the most advanced home automation, choose the best Z-Wave scene controller, the GoControl WA00Z-1.
|Best Z-Wave Sprinkler Controller: RainMachine Touch HD-16|
Next-level your home irrigation with the best Z-Wave sprinkler controller from RainMachine.
|Best Z-Wave Fan Controller: GE Enbrighten Z-Wave Smart Fan Speed Control|
With full-home coverage and voice control, the GE Enbrighten is the best Z-Wave controllers for fans.
|Best Z-Wave Controller Hub: Hubitat Elevation Z-Wave Hub|
Offering local processing and secure data storage, the best Z-Wave controller hub is the Hubitat Elevation.
|Best Z-Wave Controller Raspberry Pi: Z-Wave.Me RaZberry2|
For serious techies, build your own Z-Wave controller with the Z-Wave.Me RaZberry2.
|Best Z-Wave USB Controller: Zooz Z-Wave Plus S2 USB Stick ZST10|
Z-Wave Plus capable, the best USB controller for your smart home setup is Z-Wave Plus S2 from Zooz.
|Best Z-Wave Controller App: Almond Smart Home App|
The Almond Smart Home App offers the benefits of Z-Wave with the convenience of an app.
A Closer Look: Best Z-Wave Controllers
From A to Z, take a closer look at each Z-Wave controller we reviewed:
1. GE 45603 Z-Wave Controller
The best z-wave controller overall
Brand: GE | Outlets: 2 | Ports: 2 | Hub Required: Yes | Price: 💰💰💰
Outlets: 2 Ports: 2 Hub Required: Yes Price: $79.99
Many choose Z-Wave controllers to turn on and off the lights in their home, or to control other types of appliances from their computer or mobile device. We selected the GE 45603 as the best Z-Wave controller because it features both an always-on, pass-through AC outlet and a Z-Wave enabled outlet. The controller also allows for timed events — like scheduling your lights to turn on while you’re on vacation at a pre-specified time, just as one example.
The controller is compatible with all Z-Wave certified gateways and Z-Wave certified remotes. However, it does require a Z-Wave hub. Luckily, it’s also compatible with a broad range of hubs, including SmartThings, Alexa, and Honeywell, among many others. For all these reasons and more, the 45603 is the best Z-Wave controller not just for lights, but also home security, according to reports, pairing easily with home security systems like ADT.
- Easy to operate with Alexa
- Plug ‘n’ play, works in duplex wall outlet
- Controls a 1700-watt, dual-boiler espresso machine
- Bit large
2. GoControl/Linear GD00Z-4
The best z-wave controller for garage doors
Brand: GoControl | Range: 100ft | Z-Wave Device Compatible: Yes | Hub Required: Yes | Price: 💰💰💰💰
Looking to automate your garage door with a Z-Wave controller? For this purpose, the best Z-Wave garage door opener controller is the GoControl/Linear GD00Z-4. With a 100-foot range, the Go Control/Linear works well for garage doors because it’s compatible with all sorts of garage door openers, including sectional garage doors. Also notable, the frequency of the garage door position sensor is 345 MHz, which is on the upper-end of available frequencies.
Those who’ve used the GD00Z-4 to control their garage door openers call it easy to install in about 30 minutes, adding that it’s easy to connect to networks like Wink. Unfortunately, it’s not compatible with Alexa, but there are some very reasonable security reasons for that. As in, who wants a burglar to be able to stand outside their garage and shout, “Alexa, open the garage door!”
We especially like the programmable function, so you can set it to close at a certain time, and you can fall asleep comforted by the fact your garage door is shut, whether you forgot to close it or not. The GD00Z-4 does require a Z-Wave hub.
- Effective door tilt sensor
- Easy to pair with SmartThings
- Can open garage door from inside house using routine
- Some long-term durability issues
- Door closing warnings a bit too loud
- Not compatible with some newer doors
3. GoControl WA00Z-1
The best z-wave controller for lighting
Brand: GoControl | Range: 100ft | Z-Wave Device Compatible: Yes | Hub Required: Yes | Price: 💰
A Z-Wave “scene” allows you to daisy-chain multiple devices together to pre-program a sequence of events like turning on your lights and your stereo, giving the impression that you’re home when you’re out of town, or to simply pre-program some mood lighting for your next date night. The best Z-Wave controller for this purpose is the GoControl WA00Z-1. With a 100-foot range, the WZ00Z-1 wirelessly controls dimmers, switches, and bulbs, fitting over any existing wall switch.
It’s powered by a 2-piece standard CR2032 lithium coin cell battery with a long life. Those who’ve used it to “make a scene” say it accommodates up to four pre-programmed ambiances. Each button on the device, we found out, can be associated with a scene, and you can cycle through the pre-programmed scenes with a single tap versus a longer press. Some do find the installation a bit non-intuitive, however.
- Nice “slim” profile
- Pairs well to VeraLite
- Great scene controller for the price
- Requires a smart light bulb
- Bit slow to respond to single taps
- SmartThings compatibility receives mixed reviews
4. RainMachine Touch HD-16
The best z-wave sprinkler controller
Brand: RainMachine | Zones: 16 | Alexa Compatible: Yes | Cloud Independent: Yes | Price: 💰💰💰💰💰
Many people these days use Z-Wave to control their sprinklers, and the Touch DH-16 is our pick for the best Z-Wave irrigation controller on the market. Offering up to 16 zones, the Alexa-compatible controller allows for smart scheduling and real-time weather adjustments to save water. Also notable, the HD-16 is WaterSense certified, and some rebates may be available.
Other things we liked about this Z-Wave irrigation controller include the free weather data from services like NOAA, among others. And since the controller is cloud-independent, all data is stored safely and securely. You can operate the unit from almost anywhere, we learned, even on vacation. Those who’ve used the Touch as an irrigation controller say it was easy to install, helps their lawn look great, and even helps reduce their water consumption. Best of all, the unit will still water on schedule if it loses its internet connection.
- Water savings justify price
- Zones can group together
- Individual zones can be named
- Wi-Fi required for weather updates
- Loses internet connection too often for some
- Single-button winterization function would be ideal
5. GE Enbrighten Z-Wave Smart Fan Speed Control
The best z-wave fan controller
Brand: GE | 3-Way Ready: Yes | Alexa Compatible: Yes | Hub Required: Yes | Price: 💰💰💰
If you’re looking to keep yourself cool with a Z-Wave fan controller, look no further than GE. Their Z-Wave smart fan speed controller is 3-way ready and compatible with both Alexa and Google Assistant. The Enbrighten does require a hub, but it works with a longlist of Z-Wave certified units, including Honeywell, Homeseer, and Vera, among many others. It’s also capable of operating both indoor and outdoor fans, and it seamlessly integrates with multi-switch setups.
Those who’ve used Enbrighten to run their fan say it allows for fan control from bed using a smartphone or other device, meaning no more getting up in the middle of the night to turn your fan on or off, or to simply adjust the speed. This Z-Wave controller for fans is also easy to install and simple to use, others add. With the Enbrighten you schedule your fan to turn off or on, or to switch speeds. Pretty convenient, and given its Alexa-compatibility, choosing Enbrighten means your fan now accommodates voice commands.
- Useful in triple-digit temps
- Connects easily to smartphones
- Once you try it, you’ll be hooked
- Control 2 fans max
- Doesn’t work with lights
- Too much learning curve for some
6. Hubitat Elevation Z-Wave Hub
The best z-wave controller hub
Brand: Hubitat | Zones: 16 | Local Data Storage: Yes | Cloud Independent: Yes | Price: 💰💰💰💰
At this point, you’ve likely read the term “Z-Wave Hub,” since many Z-Wave controllers in our list require you to have one. But what exactly is a Z-Wave Hub? Here’s what you need to know: a Z-Wave Hub is a bit like a router for all your Z-Wave enabled devices. Unless you’re super techy, that’s about all there is to it. With 16 zones, the best Z-Wave controller hub on our list is the Hub Elevation.
The hub is cloud-independent, meaning all your data is stored locally, which we liked. Otherwise, hackers may find out when you plan to be out of town. With the new Z-Wave 700 chip, this Z-Wave plus V2 certified hub also offers SmartStart device inclusion and S2 wireless security. Those who’ve used Elevation for their Z-Wave hub call it the most solid platform they’ve tried, with excellent device management, local processing for the most part, and excellent Lutron radio support and built-in dashboard functionality.
- Presence integrated
- Third-party developer support
- A breeze to automate everything
- Local access only
- Not for beginners
- Product from a relatively new startup
7. Z-Wave.Me RaZberry2
The best z-wave controller raspberry pi
Brand: Z-Wave.ME | Frequency: US | Enhanced Functions: Yes | Raspberry Pi 4 Compatible: Yes | Price: 💰💰
Ask a Z-Wave nerd (and we say that with affection), and they’ll tell you that the best devices to make your own Z-Wave controller software are the series of small, single-board computers called Raspberry Pi. This means that with the right gear and a little know-how, you can make any device Z-Wave compatible. But first you’ll need the best Z-wave controller for Raspberry Pi, or the Z-Wave.Me RaZberry2.
Odds are if you’re interested in programming your own Z-Wave controller, you have a pretty good grasp on how this works. If a simple Z-Wave controller is all you’re after, go ahead and keep scrolling. But otherwise, this US-frequency Z-Wave transceiver is pluggable to the GPIO interface of Raspberry PI, with transceiver firmware running on the Z-Wave transceiver chip. In addition to a long list of tech specs, the Z-Wave.ME is simply a well-built module, according to reports, with better range than previous models.
- Extremely powerful
- Works with HomeKit
- Awesome documentation
- Not for the casual DIY’er
- Some devices mysteriously excluded
- Razberry OS image from z-wave.me recommended, rather than generic NOOBS or Raspbian OS
8. Zooz Z-Wave Plus S2 USB Stick ZST10
The best z-wave USB controller
Brand: ZOOZ | Hardware Interface: USB | Dedicated Computer Required: Yes | Raspberry Pi 4 Compatible: Yes | Price: 💰💰
Without a hub, it is possible to run your Z-Wave devices from your personal computer. That is, of course, so long as you have the best Z-Wave USB: the ZST10 from Zooz. Compatible with Linux, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000 operating systems, this USB stick is the first with the S2 security protocol. Also notable, the new Z-Wave pairing method is supported.
Even though you do need a dedicated personal computer (PC, laptop, or Raspberry Pi), as well as home automation software, the S2 works with most Z-Wave software, including Home Assistant, HomeSeer, Domoticz, or OpenHAB. OTA firmware updates are also supported, and so, too, are all the most current Z-Wave library commands. Fans of the stick call it a very capable device at the right price.
- Takes seconds to install
- Best with Home Assistant
- Helps switches react quicker
- Some inclusion issues reported
- Thick — blocks out parallel USB slots
- Not much customer support, some say
9. Almond Smart Home App
The best z-wave controller app
Brand: Almond | Apple and Android Compatible: Yes | Parental Controls: Yes | Wi-Fi Triggers: Yes | Price: Free
Android and Apple Compatible: Yes Parental Controls: Yes Wi-Fi Triggers: Yes Price: FREE
When it comes to a Z-Wave controller, isn’t there an app for that? Turns out, there is. The best Z-Wave controller app is the Smart Home App from Almond. Compatible with both Apple and Android with Wi-Fi trigger accommodation, the app works with Almond+, Almond-2015 and Almond 3. There’s a convenient Wizard with detailed instructions to help you get started and scene management from your Alexa.
With Almond, you can also manage your Wi-Fi networks, work with most Z-Wave enabled devices, monitor who’s on your network, and control your Nest thermostat and control Philips Hue Lights, among other devices. Users say the Almond is exactly what consumers want in their home automation system with excellent supports, which is exactly what we want to hear. So, too, are reports the app offers an easy-to-use interface.
- Simple, one-click settings
- Monitors home security system
- Easy management of network devices
- Almond router required
- Can’t reboot router under LAN connection
- Doesn’t not combine actions with Android, some say
What is a Z-Wave Controller?
Finished reading the best Z-Wave controllers reviews? In our next section, we’ll address just a few frequently asked questions from those who are new to Z-Wave technology.
In our article, we reviewed a broad range of devices doing very different things and handling different aspects of what Z-Wave controllers have to offer. For this reason, we included each product in our ranking based on very different criteria. But generally speaking, a Z-Wave controller lets you control all the devices running on the Z-Wave wireless communication protocol through your Wi-Fi or wireless internet connection.
A common comparison for a Z-Wave controller (sometimes called a Z-Wave Gateway or a central control device) could be something like a standard remote for a TV, Blu-Ray player, or cable box. Except this one is for your smart home and all wrapped into one. Sometimes they’re nothing more than a smart light switch; other times, they’re more complicated than that.
But trust us when we say that this is consumer-level tech: no IT degree required.
In short, choosing the best Z-Wave controller means instead of having a separate remote for each smart home product, all you need is one Z-Wave controller. It acts something like the brain of your house, or the central hub from which everything communicates.
Although these days most Z-Wave hubs are essentially plug ‘n’ play, to get started with Z-Wave-powered home automation, you’ll need the following: at least one thermostat and a controller. From there, you can add the following:
- Additional dimmer
- Security features
And keep in mind, when people talk about “Z-Wave fan control” or “Z-wave light control,” they are usually just talking about a single Z-Wave controller talking to those corresponding devices.
What to Know Before Buying a Z-Wave Controller
If you’re still undecided about adding Z-Wave tech to your home appliances, consider the following: Much of your decision will be made up by how many devices you need to control, from a number of lights, to fans, or even how many sprinklers in your home irrigation system.
Before buying a Z-Wave controller, it’s also important to consider whether or not you’ll need to combine different home automation protocols, sometimes called “scenes,” such as dimming and turning on different sets of lights at a predetermined time for security purposes. Keeping these two things in mind will really help you narrow things down.
Here are some additional things to consider:
Some Z-Wave controllers offer little customization, while others offer a lot. How much freedom and versatility in terms of customization you’re after will make a big difference in which Z-Wave controller is right for you. But of course, nothing comes for free. If you want cutting edge technology, or if you’re the type of person that wants the very best and ultimate control over your home, then you should be prepared to pay a little extra.
Z-Wave Compatible Home Devices
Whether it’s for lights, fans, alarms, or sprinklers, the best Z-Wave controllers won’t do you much good if the device you’d like it to control isn’t Z-Wave compatible.
If your devices are compatible, setting up a Z-Wave controller is pretty simple, and most any Z-Wave controller will work for your purposes.
If you already know your devices are Z-Wave compatible, you’re in luck, most any Z-Wave controller will work for you. But if you’re still researching, be sure to pick out your Z-Wave compatible device before choosing a controller. The last thing you want is to spend the money on a controller, only to find out it won’t work with your device.
For serious DIY-ers with some computer know-how, check out the openHAB project at openHAB.org. Entirely free, developed in Java, and open source, openHAB lets professional and amateur programmers alike get underneath the hood, tear open the code and see how Z-Wave and the building blocks of smart home automation really work.
For more information about Z-Wave technology, consult the Z-Wave Alliance for a comprehensive list of over 250 Z-Wave manufacturers and about a 1000 products.
For this guide on z-wave controllers, our team spent 5 hours researching the most popular options from over 50 brands and manufacturers big and small. We then read about forty-five user reviews (both positive and negative) to discover what shoppers thought about each z-wave controller. After comparing this data, we narrowed our list down to the top 9 on the market. You can count on this research to guide you to a mindful purchasing decision.
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