Insteon vs. Z-Wave


Insteon enables simple, low-cost devices to be networked together using the powerline, radio or both (dual-band). All Insteon devices are peers, meaning that any device can transmit, receive or repeat other messages without requiring a master controller or complex routing software. Adding more devices makes an Insteon network more robust, because Insteon devices repeat each other’s messages by simulcasting them at precisely the same time, so with more devices the Insteon signal gets stronger. Using this unique and patented dual-band technology, Insteon signals travel further without interruption than any other technology resulting in 100x more reliability than single-band networks.

There are now millions of Insteon nodes in use around the world in many different products, including dimmers and switches, handheld and tabletop remotes, thermostats, sprinkler controllers, energy monitoring devices, sensors and low-voltage input/output interfaces. Insteon networks easily connect to other, larger networks, such as LANs and Wi-Fi. Many different user interfaces, including smartphones, PCs and third-party controllers, can manage an Insteon network. Applications running on such devices not only can talk to Insteon products, but can interoperate with cameras, sensors and other devices using different networking protocols, including TCP/IP, ZigBee and Z-Wave.

Insteon is the only home control technology that uses both wireless and your home's powerlines to create a robust network that can easily handle common household interference from microwaves and WiFi or signal blockades like concrete, masonry or steel studs. With Insteon, every device can repeat messages across the network, eliminating the bottlenecks that occur when a single device fails in a routed network.

There are three fundamental differences between Insteon and all other command and control networks:

  • Insteon is a dual-mesh network (two uncorrelated media)
  • It uses both wireless and your home's powerlines to create a robust network
  • Insteon propagates messages by simulcasting
  • A broadcast-like system, Insteon can address hundreds+ of nodes simultaneously and without complicated and expensive signal routing
  • Insteon utilizes Statelink
  • Ensures forward/backward compatibility with old, new and future automation devices by placing the onus of compatibility


Z-Wave is a wireless home automation protocol that runs on the 908.42MHz frequency band. It’s relatively new in terms of home automation protocols, but has grown quite rapidly in the past few years. The group behind it, the Z-Wave Alliance, now boasts over 1,000 different compatible devices, giving you a wide range of options when it comes to automating your home. One of the key features of Z-Wave is that it utilizes a type of network called a “mesh network,” which essentially means that one Z-Wave product will pass the signal along to another until it reaches its intended destination. This relay system greatly extends its range. It’s also extremely low power, which is ideal.

Intended for wireless home control applications, Z-Wave radio networking is designed for relatively few nodes (232 maximum, but manufacturers recommend no more than 30-50) that communicate on average every 5 to 15 minutes. Z-Wave messages are variable length, with a payload averaging 4 to 6 bytes. Message latency requirements are relaxed to 200 milliseconds or more. Z-Wave has design goals similar in some respects to those of Insteon:

  • Low-cost
  • Low power
  • Reliable
  • Easy network installation
  • Easy association process
  • No ongoing network management
  • Product interoperability

Compatibility and Differences

Insteon Compatibility with Z-Wave Insteon and Z-Wave radios are invisible to each other because they both use narrowband FSK radios but on different frequencies. The situation is similar to two different FM radio stations at different points on the radio dial. In the U.S., Z-Wave radios are tuned to 908.42 MHz while Insteon uses 915.00 MHz. In Europe Z-Wave uses 868.42 MHz and 921.42 MHz in Australia. Insteon uses 869.85 MHz in Europe and 921.00 MHz in Australia, so there is no interference. Insteon and Z-Wave radios do not interfere with each other. This allows Insteon and Z-Wave devices to co-exist in the same or neighboring networks and even to interact with appropriate interoperable network control devices.

The main differences between Insteon and Z-Wave are:

  • Insteon is dual-mesh, Z-Wave is radio only
  • Insteon propagates messages by simulcasting, Z-Wave routes messages
  • Insteon uses backward/forwards compatible Statelink commands, Z-Wave commands must be understood by the responder
  • Insteon devices are peers, Z-Wave has network controllers and slaves
  • Insteon requires no separate network enrollment step. Insteon Uses Both Powerline and Radio Communications

Comparison Table

Maximum Theoretical Network SizeUnlimited232
Maximum Practical Network Size1,000s30-35
Physical Layer 1RFRFtd>
Physical Layer 1 Frequency915MHz915MHz
Physical Layer 2Powerline-
Physical Layer 2 Frequency132KHz
Mesh EnrollmentAutomaticProcedural
Operate W/O Hub
Compatibility Classes (Less Is More)1>1
Forward & Backward Compatible
Scenes Without Delay
Message PropagationSimulcastRouted
Network ConfigurationFull MeshPartial Mesh
Controller FailureRemote Access FailureComplete Network Failure
Mobile DevicesAutomaticBreakdown
Initial ProductsFully SupportedObsolete
Physical Interoperability
Brand InteroperabilityNot Assured
Messages Acknowledged
Unique Addressing
Error Detection
Error Correction
Collision Avoidance