If you are in the process of integrating smart lights in your space, chances are you have come across the term “Z-wave” or “Z-wave plus” and may have wondered what it’s all about. Z-wave is a form of advanced wireless technology for home automation, and many smart light makers are beginning to integrate it with their products, like dimmer switches.

Z-wave dimmer switches are fast changing the way users interact or control their home lighting system. With the inclusion of Z-wave, users can manage their home dimmer switches remotely and over a more secure and comprehensive mesh network compared to their Wi-Fi counterparts.

In this article, we will review how Z-wave dimmer switches work, their benefits, upgrading a Z-wave dimmer device, and some of the best Z-wave dimmer switches in the market.

How Do Z-Wave Dimmer Switches Work?

Z-wave technology is quite similar to Bluetooth technology, but the difference lies in that Z-wave connects devices through a hub (like SmartThings) rather than connecting directly to each other.

Once a Z-wave device is linked to that hub, you can control it through that hub or often through a smartphone app. So, you can connect all the Z-wave compatible smart devices in your home to the hub and control them from a central location.

For example, say you want to control your dimmer switch. You would simply select the device on your smartphone through your hub’s mobile app and choose your desired settings. One benefit of Z-wave technology is that all this occurs without interfering with your home’s existing Wi-Fi network.

Benefits of Z-Wave Dimmer Switches

Z-wave dimmer switches offer plenty of advantages, including:

Affordability

With most smart device manufacturers beginning to include the Z-wave protocol in their smart home devices, there has been a massive “wave” of Z-wave dimmer switches. Currently, you can get a good quality Z-wave dimmer switch for as low as $30 on Amazon.

Ease of Installation

Since Z-wave dimmer switches are wireless, installation and setup are pretty straightforward, and you don’t need to drill holes. However, some level of technical knowledge is required when setting up Z-wave with 3-way communication.

Interoperability

Most smart device makers offer Z-wave support, and with over 90 million Z-wave devices nestled in homes today, you can easily integrate your Z-wave dimmer switch with existing Z-wave devices. Also, since Z-wave dimmer switches work using a mesh network, you can control your device without interfering with your home’s Wi-Fi.

Remote Control

Z-wave devices can be controlled from anywhere in the world as long as you are connected to the internet and a Z-wave hub. So, you can manage your dimmer switch while at the office, school, or even 1,000 miles from home.

Reliability

Z-wave technology is well established and has been providing excellent support for almost 15 years. Aside from this, the mesh network offers you excellent and direct communication without interference from your existing connection protocols. More importantly, the Z-wave dimmer switch uses the AES-128 encryption system, which provides greater security.

Top Z-Wave Dimmer Switches on the Market

The following are some of the highest-rated Z-wave dimmer switches on the market today:

Honeywell UltraPro Z-Wave Plus Smart Light Dimmer Switch

Compatible with all certified Z-wave gateways like Ring and SmartThings, the Honeywell UltraPro allows for seamless integration with your existing Z-wave smart devices and hubs.

The Honeywell UltraPro also comes with a wireless and remote feature, which makes it easy for you to control and schedule your lighting system manually or wirelessly.  

It is easy to install and can work with your existing in-wall switch wires. It is also compatible with LED, halogen, CFL, and incandescent bulbs. The Honeywell UltraPro retails on $29.99 on Amazon.

GE Enbrighten Z-Wave Plus Smart Light Dimmer

Enjoy the convenience of voice control with the GE Enbrighten Z-Wave Plus Smart Light Dimmer. This Z-wave dimmer is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant via a certified Z-wave hub, making it easy for you to control your lighting using a voice prompt.

It also comes with a 3-way ready feature that allows you to interlink your dimmer with a multi-switch setup and up to four switch add-ons. It’s very easy to install and can replace any standard in-wall switch with a dedicated neutral to enable multiple dimming options. It is currently compatible with LED, incandescent, halogen, and CFL bulbs.

Finally, the GE Enbrighten Smart Light Dimmer features Z-wave Plus technology, which works perfectly with older devices with Z-wave (more on Z-wave Plus later).

Cooper Wiring Aspire RF Smart Dimmer with LEDs

While GE is recognized as a top reputable brand, Cooper Wiring is a worthy alternative. Installing a Cooper Wiring Aspire smart dimmer is also easy and only requires that you replace your existing manual dimmer switch with it to be able to control your dimmer switch remotely or manually.

With the Aspire, you can create a 3-way virtual remote that allows you to interlink multiple devices and locations without the need for wiring. It also features seven different LED lights that will enable you to see the physical switch even in the dark.

It works with LED, incandescent, halogen, and CFL bulbs with a dimming delay timer of four seconds.

Upgrading to a Z-Wave Dimmer Switch

Upgrading your current dimmer switch to a Z-wave alternative may seem pretty straightforward, but most homeowners choose to hire a professional for installation due to the electrical knowledge required. However, if you decide to take on this home improvement task on your own, make sure you follow these steps:

  1. The first step to installing your new Z-wave dimmer switch is to shut off the power at your circuit breaker or fuse box. Double-check the power is off by switching a light switch on and off.
  2. Remove the wall plate of your current dimmer as well as the mounting screws. Carefully remove the switch, taking care not to accidentally disconnect any wires.
  3. Once removed, you will notice three terminals on the sides of the switch (line, load, and ground terminals). Make sure you label each terminal/wire with tape accordingly. It’s recommended that you also take a picture of the wires and the terminals they’re connected to with your phone for later reference.
  4. After labeling the wires, carefully remove the wires from the back of the switch.
  5. Now it’s time to install your new Z-wave dimmer! Use the disconnected, bare copper wire to connect it to the ground terminal of your new switch. The labeled “load” wire should be connected to the load terminal of the switch, and the “line” wire to the line terminal accordingly.
  6. Next, look for neutral white wires that should still be inside the wiring box. (They are usually connected with a wire nut, which looks like a cap.) Remove the cap that connects them. Take the neutral splice wire (usually included with smart dimmer switches) from the new switch and connect it to the other two wires. Screw the cap back in place over the now three connected wires.
  7. Connect the new white wire to the dimmer switch’s neutral terminal.
  8. Before placing the new switch and its wires back into the box, make sure the arrow found on the plate of the switch is pointed up. Then push all the wires back snugly into the box. Avoid pinching them to ensure the connection stays intact.
  9. Screw the mounting plate back onto the box and install the face plate. You can now turn the power back on to see if the new dimmer switch works.

As you can see, installing a Z-wave dimmer can be complicated, so again, it is best that you hire a professional electrician to handle the installation process when possible.

Final Thoughts

When making your home smarter, one of the decisions you will have to make is choosing which wireless protocol to implement in your home. While Z-wave devices have their shortcomings, it offers you multiple smart home benefits. There are several Z-wave compatible dimmer switches in the market, each offering unique advantages.