Many SmartHome devices connect via Wi-Fi, which is fine if you only have a few of these devices installed. However, if you’re planning on decorating every room in your home with a smart home, be careful with Wi-Fi.

There is nothing wrong with Wi-Fi-based SmartHome devices, but the more you install in your home, the more your Wi-Fi network gets loaded. If you are just starting out and are still slowly building up your smart home, then you have nothing to worry about. However, if you ever plan on adding smarts to every switch, outlet, light bulb, and every other device in your home, you might want to use something other than Wi-Fi, and here’s why.

Wi-Fi has its limitations

Wi-Fi certainly seems like a magical technology with limitless possibilities, but it’s not invincible. It has limitations that you must consider.

Linksys Router

A Wi-Fi router can theoretically support up to 255 connected client devices. But, although 255 devices can be connected to the router, this is even close to practical. Not only will all of these devices compete for bandwidth on your single internet connection, but all of your Wi-Fi devices will interfere with each other to the point where nothing gets a good wireless connection.

Of course, you will probably never get to the point where you have so many devices connected to your home network. But if you convert every switch, socket, and light bulb into a Wi-Fi-enabled, smart version, you might be very close to hitting that 255 number, depending on the size of your home. And that’s not even counting your phones, laptops, streaming boxes, and more.

Wi-Fi 6 may solve the problem of congestion when hardware supporting this new standard arrives later in 2019, but you’ll still be dealing with a device limit. The fewer devices you have, the better.

Stick to Z-Wave or ZigBee for lights, switches and sockets

Philips Hue and Wink hubs

It’s perfectly fine to stick with Wi-Fi for smart home devices like the thermostat, video intercom, voice assistants, etc. (Plus, you don’t have a choice since most of these devices are Wi-Fi only). However, if you’re going to cover your entire home with smart bulbs for every single light fixture, it’s better to use a different wireless protocol like Z-Wave or ZigBee.

RELATED: What are SmartHome «ZigBee» and «Z-Wave» products?

For starters, these protocols do not affect Wi-Fi, which reduces overall congestion. Also, since Z-Wave and ZigBee devices require a hub to which they are all connected, the number of devices on your network is greatly reduced. So even if you install 20 Z-Wave switches in your home, they will all be connected to your one SmartHome hub. Your Wi-Fi router sees this as one device on your network.

Lutron Caseta Hub

For example, you can buy 20 of these Kasa light switches from TP-Link, each of which connects to Wi-Fi individually and is treated as 20 separate devices on the network. Or you can buy a Lutron Caseta kit that comes with a hub and switch and then 19 additional switches. They don’t use Z-Wave, but a proprietary radio frequency. However, even if you have 20 devices installed, your network only sees them as one device because the hub is the only thing that connects to your router.

If you only have a few devices, don’t worry

Belkin WeMo Insight Switch

While I still recommend using Z-Wave or ZigBee for small things like switches and sockets, it’s not that hard if you just equip your home with a small handful of SmartHome devices — maybe a switch here and there, or whatever some smart lights just in your bedroom.

Also, for the average consumer who may not know much about SmartHome, it is much easier to set up Wi-Fi based devices. But as you get more experienced and expand your smart home, you’ll find that hub-based devices are the way to go for a lot of small things, and many companies make it easy to set up hubs and connect devices to them.

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