What is Zigbee and how does it work?

If you’re browsing through smart home devices, you’ll likely see that some of them have the Zigbee logo on them. But what is zigbee? And do you need to get a smart home network?

So, before you start building your smart home, here’s a primer on Zigbee and how it allows your smart home devices to communicate with each other.

What is zigbee?

Many companies create different devices for your smart home. For example, you can buy Philips Hue smart lights, Amazon smart speakers, and the best smart dimmer switches from different brands. However, how do you make sure all three devices work well together?

This is where Zigbee comes in. Zigbee is a low-power wireless smart home protocol. It allows many smart devices, such as smart switches, smart plugs, smart bulbs, and even smart devices, to talk to each other.

Since Zigbee is a protocol, different companies can get their Zigbee certified smart devices. Therefore, even if you use smart devices from different brands, you are sure that they can talk to each other – you are not limited to one brand when building your smart home.

Because of its low power consumption, some manufacturers prefer Zigbee over other communication protocols, such as Bluetooth Low Energy or Wi-Fi. Furthermore, it is secured with 128-bit symmetric encryption, which helps ensure that your smart home is not exposed to unauthorized access.

More than that, the Zigbee protocol forms a mesh network, ensuring that all of your devices can communicate with each other, even if they are not within the range of the Zigbee hub. However, a Zigbee-powered network requires at least one hub to act as an intermediary between your router and other Zigbee devices in your home.

How does zigbee work?

When you first install your Zigbee device, you must make sure that you have a Zigbee hub for the smart home with which it will communicate. A Zigbee hub will create a Zigbee network, which allows all Zigbee devices to connect to your smart home network, such as Google Home, Amazon Alexa, or Samsung SmartThings.

However, unlike your Wi-Fi, which requires your device to be within range of your wireless router or access point to connect, Zigbee networks have peer-to-peer connectivity.

For example, let’s say you put your Zigbee hub in your living room. If you have a Zigbee smart switch in your garage, but it’s out of range of your Zigbee hub in your living room, you don’t need to install another hub. Alternatively, install the Zigbee smart switch between your garage and the living room, such as the kitchen, allowing it to extend your Zigbee hub to the former.

Zigbee easily creates a smart home network in your home by creating a mesh network. Each Zigbee device can also act as a router, eliminating the need for multiple Zigbee hubs or access points. This system differs from Wi-Fi, which requires a new access point or network router once part of your home is out of range.

So, if all the switches in your home are Zigbee smart switches, they effectively add a Zigbee router in every room. And if one Zigbee device fails, all other devices connected to it will connect to another Zigbee router in range, ensuring a strong smart home network.

How Zigbee Smartens Old Houses

Smart switches that connect directly to your Wi-Fi network (thus eliminating the need for a Zigbee hub) use more power than Zigbee switches. If your home has a neutral, the smart switch will use that to turn itself on without drawing power through the light bulb that controls it.

However, the smart switch will have to draw power through the light bulb if your home does not have a neutral line. Since the Wi-Fi module requires much more power than Zigbee systems, the power it pulls through the light bulb will be enough to power it.

To fix this, you can place a capacitor between the hot (live) wire and the ground wire to bypass the bulb. However, this requires additional and specialized work. Although you can easily do this for just one switch, it can get tedious and expensive if you’re planning to make all your lights smart.

This is why it’s easier to set up Zigbee smart switches for homes that don’t have a neutral line.

Wi-Fi vs Zigbee

Even if your home is modern and has a neutral wire, you may want to consider using the Zigbee protocol for your smart home. That’s because Zigbee uses less electricity — between 50% to 90% more efficient than Wi-Fi, according to Report from C&T RF Antennas.

It also relies on mesh networks, ensuring that your Zigbee device is connected to all other Zigbee devices within its range. This ensures that even if a Zigbee connection node fails, your Zigbee smart devices will still work as long as they can find a connection to your Zigbee hub.

However, it should be noted that battery powered devices cannot act as a power saving node. This means that it can only communicate with other Zigbee devices for its purpose – it cannot transmit messages to other Zigbee devices connected to it.

Moreover, Zigbee devices also have low bandwidth. It can only handle 250 kilobytes per second, making it only suitable for short periods of instruction.

What are the usual Zigbee devices?

Aside from smart switches, battery powered sensors and switches are usually the best apps for Zigbee devices. Due to its low power consumption, it can make devices that do not require high bandwidth (such as sensors) last for months between charges.

But if you have a device that requires more data, such as smart devices, smart scales, and security cameras, it probably won’t work on the Zigbee network.

Use Zigbee as the backbone of your smart home network

Zigbee is an excellent solution for building your smart home network. With the Zigbee protocol, you will have a powerful and reliable smart home, ensuring that you can reliably control your smart devices wherever you are.

So, if you are converting your old home into a modern smart home, consider Zigbee switchgear and other low-power smart devices. However, no matter which system you choose, you should plan your smart home well before buying. This way, you won’t face any surprises when installing your new smart devices.

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