Best Z-Wave Thermostats For 2018 - How to Choose the Right One?

Best Z-Wave Thermostats for 2018

The decision on choosing the best Z-Wave thermostat mainly depends on a few factors: your climate control needs, compatibility of the thermostat with the rest of your home automation ecosystem, and compatibility with your heating and cooling system.

With a wide variety of available Z-Wave devices, it’s not easy to choose the right one.

Our goal is to review the factors you need to look for to find the best Z-Wave thermostat that fits your needs and is therefore best for your home, including the HVAC system setup you currently have.

What Is the Z-Wave Protocol?

Z-Wave is a protocol for communication among devices used for home automation. Z-Wave operates at a radio frequency of 908.42 MHz in the US and 868.42 MHz in Europe. A startup called Zensys developed Z-Wave in Denmark and released it for commercial use in 2004.

Each Z-Wave-enabled device installed in the home creates a so-called mesh network—an interconnected device web that allows commands to travel from one device to another. For example, when the Z-Wave hub sends a command to the device located in a far end of the house, it’s traveling from one Z-Wave device to another until the instruction reaches the device to which the command was addressed.

Most of the Z-Wave devices act as intermediaries, except the battery-powered ones. Those devices use another technology, called beaming, to save power and encrypt signals for security purposes.

What Is a Z-Wave Thermostat?

Z-Wave technology was released more than a decade ago, and it was quite an innovation back then. Today, there are more than 1,700 interoperable Z-Wave-certified products, such as lighting control, security systems, windows, locks, swimming pools, garage door openers, and, of course, thermostats.

Z-Wave thermostats are powered by Z-Wave technology to give you a way to remotely control your home climate. Thermostat manufacturers claim that with the ability to remotely monitor and control your home climate, you should be able to reduce your home's energy consumption up to 10-15%.

Most of the Z-Wave smart thermostats have the following features:

  • Adjust home temperature remotely using most smartphone apps or computers through web access.
  • Set temperature schedule based on time and day.
  • Switch to energy saving mode remotely to reduce heating and cooling costs when nobody is at home.
  • Receive text or email alerts and reminders for maintenance.
  • Connect to other Z-Wave devices and remotely control them (e.g., turn lights on or off).

Benefits of Z-Wave Thermostat

Does Not Require Wi-Fi Network

A Z-Wave thermostat works on a radio frequency similar to the one used by Wi-Fi, but it doesn’t require a Wi-Fi network to operate. Similar to Wi-Fi technology, Z-Wave technology relies on advanced security to ensure there is no data breach in the network.

Z-Wave can operate at much lower frequencies, and with much less power, because this technology sends much less information compared to Wi-Fi. Also, by supporting mesh network topology, adding more devices to the network makes it more robust and extends how far it can reach. With Wi-Fi, on the other hand, each additional devices causes the network to operate slower.

Relatively Wide Choice of Devices

Z-Wave technology is more than a decade old, and there are therefore many devices from which to choose. The Z-Wave Alliance, which supports this technology, consists of 450 members and 1,700 certified products that are all interoperable with each other.

The prices of Z-Wave-enabled thermostats are relatively lower compared to similar Wi-Fi thermostats with the same remote controlling and automation possibilities. For example, one of the best Z-Wave thermostats is less than half the price of the smart Wi-Fi thermostat ecobee3.

Centralized Control

If you already have a Z-Wave device network at home, then after adding a thermostat to the Z-Wave ecosystem, it automatically enables you to control your home temperature from a single point (e.g., smartphone application), along with the rest of your home smart devices.

Technically, you don’t need to worry what the device brand is, because the advantage of this technology is that it will work with any other certified Z-Wave-enabled smart device, no matter the device manufacturer. However, we recommend checking before buying a new Z-Wave-enabled smart device to ensure there are no known issues with connecting it to your existing smart home ecosystem.

If you do not have a Z-Wave-enabled hub at home, then you need to get one, because Z-Wave thermostats, like other smart devices, need a smart hub to be able to work. The good thing is that there are plenty of smart hubs available (e.g., Samsung SmartThings, Nexia and Wink) to connect all the Z-Wave-enabled smart devices that you plan to have at home to create a mesh network. By using a smart hub, you allow your thermostat to be controlled remotely, even when you are away from home.

Saving Money

Most of the Z-Wave-enabled thermostats have features that will help you to save some money on your energy bills. With the motion detection function, the thermostat will reduce energy use when there is no motion detected in the room. You can even check the temperature at home while away or on holidays and adjust the climate whenever you want.

Some programmable thermostats, such as the VisionPro Z-Wave, can store multiple daily settings (six or more temperature settings a day) that you can manually override without affecting the rest of the daily or weekly program.

Some thermostats will send you SMS, email or push notification alerts when there is maintenance is needed for your heating and cooling system. Timely service will save you money by extending the life of your heating or cooling system equipment.

How to Choose the Best Z-Wave Thermostat?

Compatibility with Z-Wave Devices

If you have a Z-Wave ecosystem at home already, we recommend that you research whether your smart hub does indeed work with the thermostat that you are about to purchase. There are some reports of problems getting devices that are supposed to be compatible to work together.

The best starting point for the research is to read the compatibility description in the documentation of your smart hub and the thermostat you plan to purchase. Additionally, you could get useful insights by reading reviews or visiting forums where people who are already using that thermostat model and smart hub share their experiences. If in doubt, you can always contact the thermostat manufacturer’s support line.

Your Current Heating and Cooling System

The same advice applies to your current heating and cooling system. To make sure installing and using your new Z-Wave thermostat is successful, check the compatibility of the thermostat with your current HVAC system. The best way to do that is to head to thermostat manufacturer's website and check the compatibility or directly contact their support line.

C-Wire or No C-Wire?

C-Wire is a low voltage wire that powers the thermostat. If you are replacing an older thermostat, then your heating and cooling system probably does not have a C-Wire. You can find out if you have a C-Wire by following these instructions.

Before purchasing a thermostat, check if it needs a C-Wire. Z-Wave technology uses quite a low amount of power, and most of the Z-Wave thermostats should be battery-powered and do not need a C-Wire to power the device.

Best Z-Wave Thermostats

GoControl GC-TBZ48 Z-Wave Thermostat

PROS

  • Easy install and setup
  • Works with Amazon Alexa
  • Compatible with most newer HVAC systems
  • Alerts for filter changes or when the HVAC system requires maintenance

CONS

  • Does not have a touchscreen
  • Not a programmable thermostat
  • Does not monitor humidity

The GoControl thermostat is made by Nortek Security & Control, which is one of the most reputable brands for many kinds of Z-Wave smart devices worldwide. Nortek Security & Control is also a member of the Z-Wave Alliance, which means that all of their devices are Z-Wave certified. The thermostat is compatible with most Z-Wave controllers and works with the Z-Wave mobile app, which enables you to control your home climate from anywhere as long as there is an internet connection.

The GoControl thermostat is also compatible with Amazon Alexa. It is quite easy to install and setup. The thermostat is compatible with most new heating and cooling systems. It works well with heat pump HVAC systems in a combination of two-stage cooling and three heating stages. The GoControl thermostat will let you know when you need to change the filters or when the HVAC system requires maintenance.

The thermostat runs up to 2 years on 4 AA batteries or the home’s 24VAC C-Wire. DO NOT put batteries in it if you have connected it to the C-Wire (it will trip the fuses). The battery compartment is on the front of the thermostat, and you don’t need to take the thermostat off the wall to replace the batteries.

The downsides of the GoControl are that the thermostat screen is quite small and does not have touchscreen capabilities. This thermostat is also non-programmable and does not monitor humidity.

It is an excellent value for the price—it doesn’t have very advanced features, but it covers the basic needs. It can be connected to a Z-Wave controller and it works with the Z-Wave mobile application, which allows controlling the thermostat from anywhere.

PROS

  • Easy install and setup
  • Four levels of heating power to save energy
  • Does not require batteries
  • Supports latest Z-Wave Plus technology

CONS

  • Might not work if your heating system has a fan
  • Does not have an option to turn off the heating completely

The Stelpro KI is the only Z-Wave thermostat that we could find that has high-voltage (line voltage) applications. If you have electric baseboard heat or wall convection heaters, then this model is for you.

It uses four different levels of heating power to provide the best comfort and save money. Most other thermostats blast the heating to the maximum until the thermostat reaches the set temperature (or passes it a bit higher). Then they let the temperature drop until the room needs to be heated again, creating an uneven temperature throughout the room.

This Stelpro thermostat evenly heats the room by heating in pulses (not full on or full off cycles), thus heating the room evenly for better comfort and energy conservation.

The thermostat itself is non-programmable. To make it "smarter," it needs to be connected to a Z-Wave-supported hub (e.g., Samsung SmartThings). It allows you to create rules as to how the climate needs to be adjusted by switching between various heating levels.

If you connect a smart hub to the internet and you have installed the smartphone application, you can set up your home climate remotely from the mobile app.

The downsides of this thermostat are that it does not work if the heater has a fan. Also, it cannot turn the heating completely off; the current lowest temperature that can be set is 41oF.

PROS

  • Easy install and setup
  • Programmable for 7 days with up to 4 schedules per day
  • Large 4.3” touchscreen
  • Sends reminders on heating and cooling system maintenance

CONS

  • Requires C-Wire

The Trane XR524 Z-Wave Thermostat is Z-Wave-certified for use with all leading home automation systems, such as Nexia Home Intelligence and Amazon Alexa.

This thermostat works with many brands of HVAC equipment and supports multi-zone systems. It is programmable for 7 days with up to 4 schedules per day, providing climate automation possibilities for your home to save on energy consumption.

Trane XR524 might also save you some money on maintenance and extend the life of your HVAC system by sending filter and maintenance reminders.

The device is compatible with any conventional 24-volt control heating or cooling system, and it is reported to be easy to install.

It is quite easy to use the 7-day programmable thermostat, which can support multiple zones. As noted, Trane XR524 will also help you to keep up with the required maintenance schedule and extend your HVAC’s lifespan.

PROS

  • Sleek design
  • Simple and intuitive controls
  • Fully customizable from the smartphone application
  • Uses Z-Wave Plus technology
  • Ability to integrate with other Alarm.com products
  • Can be used with C-Wire or batteries

CONS

  • Requires Alarm.com account
  • ​Needs smartphone app to program climate schedules

The Alarm.com Z-Wave-enabled smart thermostat has intuitive and straightforward controls. The front of the thermostat has a simple screen and only three buttons. Compared to other Z-Wave thermostats, the design is quite sleek and modern, following the trend of smart Wi-Fi thermostats.

The unique feature of this thermostat is its full integration with the Alarm.com Smart Home Security system. This integration allows it to utilize the security system sensors placed in your home to monitor the temperature, enabling it to make smarter decisions on its own for better comfort and energy savings.

This thermostat uses Z-Wave Plus technology, and it can be integrated with any Z-Wave hub. It is also Amazon Alexa-compatible with voice control. Without the connection to the smart hub, this thermostat is not programmable; you will need the smartphone application to customize climate settings and program the temperature schedule. Also, the Alarm.com account is required to be able to use the thermostat.

The thermostat is compatible with most of the popular HVAC systems. The Alarm.com Z-Wave thermostat can be powered by batteries or a C-Wire.

The Alarm.com smart thermostat is a modern, sleek-looking device and a good fit if you are looking for a Z-Wave smart thermostat. It requires an Alarm.com account to use, and it does integrate with the Alarm.com Smart Home Security system to utilize all the available sensors in your home.

2gig CT100 Z-Wave Programmable Thermostat

PROS

  • Good price
  • 7-day programming possibilities, with weekdays and weekends
  • Ultra-bright display with touch screen possibilities
  • Easy installation and setup

CONS

  • Does not support Z-Wave Plus technology

The 2gig CT100 Z-Wave thermostat most likely will not win any design awards, but it has some good features for the price. The design of this thermostat is a basic one, but the ultra-bright screen is really good, and it also contains touchscreen capabilities.

This thermostat is 7-day programmable, and scheduling possibilities are quite flexible. You can set a different schedule for each day or set custom schedules for weekdays and weekends. You can also use a smartphone application to control your home climate remotely, overriding the schedule when necessary.

The CT100 is designed to be compatible with a GoControl Z-Wave hub, but in practice, thermostat users are reporting that it works well with Samsung SmartThings and Vera smart hubs as well.

The thermostat can be powered either by a C-Wire or batteries. It has a two-year battery life per the manufacturer.

If you are looking for an affordable, easy to install, setup and use thermostat, this one for you. The ultra-bright display with a touchscreen feature is a pleasure to use.

Conclusion

Z-Wave technology was introduced more than a decade ago, and has become quite popular. There are more than 1,700 Z-Wave-compatible device models available on the market, including thermostats.

Z-Wave thermostats have a few advantages. They don't require a Wi-Fi network and provide a centralized way to control your home climate together with other parts of your smart home ecosystem (e.g., locks and lights). Z-Wave thermostats will help you to save some money on energy bills by providing a remote way to manage your home temperature, and most have built-in energy-saving capabilities, such as scheduling the temperature based on the time and day.