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What is Z-Wave? Z-Wave technology explained

Our world delights people with push-button pizza ordering and car trunks that open with a…

Our world delights people with push-button pizza ordering and car trunks that open with a gentle kick on the undercarriage. It’s no secret that consumers are drawn to companies that offer these types of dazzling and convenient experiences. 

In fact, 86% are willing to pay more to snag one. But for the most part, our homes have yet to integrate the types of technologies that captivate our attention—and our wallets. What if you could bring these digital incentives into your apartment complex and turn your development into the smart apartments that long-term occupants crave? 

Opening the floodgates on resident-wowing smart features is Z-Wave, a radio frequency that boosts convenience to new and exciting levels. Z-Wave gives your residents full control of their unit from anywhere—they can set their desired thermostat temperature from their train commute home or remotely unlock the doors when their child loses their key. Z-Wave offers technological amenities that improve satisfaction, decrease vacancies, and create a new era of smart homes and smart apartments that reduce resident turnover and boost long-term loyalty. 

What is Z-Wave?

While high-power, data-devouring frequencies like WiFi pulsate on frequencies over 2.4GHz, Z-Wave lives on the quieter end of the spectrum. It’s a frequency that speaks so softly (around 800-900 MHz), that it’s nearly undetectable by the others. But don’t let its quietness fool you: Z-Wave treads lightly but carries a big stick. 

Z-Wave is a vast, low-power mesh network capable of linking hundreds of wireless technologies, each performing tiny, but game-changing tasks. While a typical WiFi network requires each device to make a direct call to a router, a mesh network creates a web of connections capable of zigzagging the signal between light switches and thermostats to reach their base station and receive commands. 

Capable of running for a decade on a battery smaller than a dime, Z-Wave is ideal for “yes/no” tasks—like “lights on” or “lights off” and “door open” or “door closed.” It’s what makes Z-Wave the perfect technology to power home automation devices like smart light switches, smart locks, and thermostats.

Z-Wave vs. Bluetooth vs. WiFi: What are the differences? 

WiFi is a power-guzzling, workhouse frequency that can deliver 8.3 million vibrantly colored pixels to your 4K living room television, while simultaneously downloading 42.3 gigabytes of entertainment (the data equivalent of nearly half the books in your local library) to a gaming console. The volume of sheer data pulsing through this frequency is the reason why WiFi devices need frequent charging or a stationary power source. 

Somewhere in the middle is a narrow frequency known as Bluetooth. Vibrating through the air at 2.45 GHz, Bluetooth is the force behind close-proximity connections like headphone pairing or logging your workouts from your fitness watch to an app. 

Just like a dog whistle is undetectable by human ears, Z-Wave communicates with linked devices on a frequency undetectable by the higher-powered signals like WiFi and Bluetooth that whizz through the surrounding air. This is normally done through a Z-Wave hub somewhere in the unit. The wide open spectrum within the Z-wave range is what allows hundreds of devices to operate on their own independent mesh network. 

What kinds of devices use Z-Wave?

Z-Wave devices are an important key to delighting modern residents. Think of the ways they can bolster the appeal of your multifamily apartment community:

Door Locks

A single resident forgets if she locked the front door on the way out. A simple glance at her phone delivers immediate peace of mind, by letting her know the house is secure. 

Smart Thermostats

Juggling three children, a busy dad on-the-go forgets if he turned off the heat. Unable to run home to check, the thermostat runs high all day, wasting energy and driving up gas and electric bills. With a Z-Wave enabled thermostat, he can set a schedule to turn off the heat once the apartment is vacant and have it ready at the right temperature once everyone is set to return home. If plans change, he can control the thermostat from his phone. 

Smart Sensors

Imagine a vacationing resident returning to a burglarized home. With Z-Wave sensors positioned around the unit, residents can receive a message anywhere in the world, alerting them to unwarranted motion or breaking glass. They can take immediate action, like phoning the authorities or property manager. 

Z-Wave devices not only give peace of mind to residents, but they can do the same for smart property managers. Sensors positioned around a unit can monitor conditions like temperature, humidity, or air quality to detect potential hazards like mold or leaks. Z-Wave sensors can give property managers a heads-up on small issues before they snowball into an exorbitant repair. 


Like the rise of the curtain at the theater, Z-Wave devices can also ‘start the show’. At the push of a button, residents can trigger a set of ‘welcome home’ tasks, like unlocking the front door and turning on kitchen, hallway, and living room lights. Instead of walking into a cold, dark unit, residents are welcomed into a bright and warm home—one they will want to stick with for the long-haul. 

Core features and advantages for home automation

Despite its attractive features, Z-Wave is still in the early stages of adoption. Right now, it’s a dazzling way to attract interest from renters, but soon it will become the norm. Now’s the ideal time to prep your complex before it’s too late. By upgrading your units to smart apartments now, you can take advantage of many of Z-Wave’s future-proofing benefits.  

It can feel like a daunting commitment to select a Z-Wave technology partner—what if a month later something better comes out? What if my residents clamor for an incompatible technology next year?

Innovators, top manufacturers and Industry leaders like IOTAS came together to form the Z-Wave Alliance, a global group dedicated to designing and developing Z-Wave devices that seamlessly work together. By selecting a manufacturer that’s part of this alliance, you become part of an ever-expanding ecosphere that continuously delivers the latest and greatest in smart apartment technology. You can even check out a demo for how Z-Wave works.

Within the Z-Wave Alliance, you’re never locked out of the latest innovations. You’ll always have access to the next cutting-edge, customer-dazzling device, no matter the manufacturer. 

Mix and match devices

Unlike the impossible feat of downloading an iPhone app on an Android phone, all Z-Wave devices speak a standard language so they can easily work together. The Z-Wave Alliance breaks down the technological silos that typically bar device compatibility, so you can mix-and-match devices from multiple manufacturers that fastidiously work together to create your ideal home layout. 

Low frequency means no interference

Despite its powerful applications, Z-Wave likes to keep to itself. Operating on the lowest end of the frequency spectrum, it steers clear of the popular home bandwidths like Bluetooth and WiFi, leaving the Z-Wave frequency wide open to continuously configure future devices into the fabric of your smart home. 

Z-Wave is more than an exciting perk—it’s an alluring way to turn your multifamily apartment community into more than a rental, but a true home. By adding the conveniences that deepen a tenant’s connection to their unit, you can reduce vacancies, increase leasing times, and forge a longer lasting relationship with your residents. 

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