Buying sensors - Zigbee fix or return and buy Z-Wave instead?

Tags: #<Tag:0x00007f77fec9a630> #<Tag:0x00007f77fec9a3d8>

Short Question - how do I fix Zigbee so it’s usable, or should I return everything and invest in Z-Wave?

Long Question:

I’ve got HomeAssistant working with a handful of Sonoff S31’s to automate air purifiers, radios, and lamps in strategic places where I previously had “dumb” timers.

I’d like to add some other sensors for door open/close and maybe motion detection. If we buy a place, I’d like the option to add on some wall switches (but NOT smart bulbs, just switches).

My initial searches suggested Zigbee may be good for cheaper long battery life sensors, and I may be able to get old Lowe’s Iris door sensors dirt cheap on eBay that would work with HomeAssistant…but I started with buying one sensor on Amazon I can return if I can’t make it work.

I’ve tried buying two different Zigbee door sensors, one didn’t work (wouldn’t pair) the other pairs and works, but only has ~30ft range from the gateway (which is hanging off my home server in a central located upstairs “bedroom”).

This didn’t work:
This works, but has uselessly short range (like 1/3 the length of the house):

I’ve now read some things saying you HAVE TO have at least 1 smart-bulb or Zigbee is unreliable…so I’m beginning to think I need to return this whole mess and buy Z-Wave stuff even though it costs more. It looks like future switches I’d want would probably be Z-Wave anyway.

So, how do I fix this mess, or do I return it and what should I buy instead?

I thought I’d done my homework but it seems I screwed up in spite of that.

They are both mesh networks and will perform better when there are more devices around to create a good mesh.

I don’t know about zwave, but most powered zigbee devices (not just bulbs) can act as routers, delivering more stable connections and extending the reach. I have a few ikea smart sockets in the house, automating lamps or other devices and they route well.

1 Like

Is there a particular model (e.g. from Amazon, WalMart, Lowe’s, Home Depot) that is known to work? We don’t have a local easy to get to IKEA here and it sounds like there’s no real standard for these things to tell what works and what doesn’t?

I’m somewhat new to both of these, I’d heard of the terms but until last weekend I didn’t really understand they’re two separate technologies even.

I use a whole mish mash of stuff from ikea, Samsung, trust, Philips, xaiomi. I don’t know which integration you use but I use deconz and they maintain a compatibility list.

1 Like

Oh neat, yes deCONZ is what I was using to try and set this up. I didn’t realize there was a list available. That will help a lot.

My original thought was to have “simple” sensors be Zigbee (cheaper, less secure, longer battery life) and more complex ones be Z-Wave (when I get to the future time that I want switches and more advanced controllable stuff). To me, it seemed like a good idea - but only if I can get it working reliably.

I don’t think that’s a great idea, you’ll end up with two mesh networks neither of which will have a decent number of devices. So the whole point of meshes will be lost.

My stuff is all over the house, I have multisensors, blinds, bulbs, sockets, door sensors, smoke detectors over 4 floors of a Victorian house (very thick walls), all works fine. For the odd thing I want with more complexity, I use esp32s or esp8266s. In most cases the devices don’t need to be too clever, that’s what hass is for.

1 Like

You can also check Zigbee2MQTT project for the gateway (CC2531 is cheap and works fairly well for an average setup, but there are also CC26X2R1/ CC1352P-2 as entirely different beasts).

Most of the Xiaomi Zigbee end devices are of real good quality and at reasonable prices.

1 Like

If you are planning on doing both Zigbee and Z-Wave (which you can operate together without many issues), you’ll need a radio for both networks. deCONZ (along with the Conbee-II) only works for Zigbee devices. The Nortek HSUSBZ-1 stick has both radios built in (and is the one that I use).

Yes, I was looking at the Z-Wave radio “Aeotec Z-Stick Gen5, Z-Wave Plus USB to create gateway”

I’m still at the point I could return the Zigbee stuff and move to Z-Wave, I’m just not entirely sure what the best way would be to go.

It sounds like (since I don’t anticipate a huge number of sensors) maybe going 100% Z-Wave would be better, and then I might benefit from the mesh more even though the Z-Wave stuff is more expensive and seems like it may have shorter battery life.

I have a mixture of both, but I have more Zigbee devices because they have always worked for me better than Z-Wave devices. Both networks basically operate the same way; Small meshes are going to have issues with range.

As for “anticipate a huge number of sensors”… I said the same thing when I started with home automation years ago. “Oh, just a few door sensors and maybe a motion sensor or two”… I currently have ~150-ish Zigbee devices now. :smiley: I’ve come up with reasons for sensors that I never would have thought of before.

1 Like

Fully with you on the Zigbee devices working better than Z-Wave. I have under 40 devices in the house now and I am curious on how you manage the mesh for the 150 ones you have? Are you using the bulbs as “routers” or you have some CC2531 set as slaves? Thank you!

1 Like

Bulbs are HORRIBLE for routing (unless you are using a full ZLL profile mesh). For my routing, I use smart plugs placed all over the house (inside and out). For most of my bulbs, I use a Hue hub and a collection of Hue and Ikea bulbs. For the rest of my bulbs, I only use Sengleds as they specifically don’t route or repeat.

I bought the Nortek Zigbee/Z-wave combo. I have had good success with all of the zigbee units and improved performance with z-wave. I am using the Smart Things door sensor. The only problem I have had with it is that the ‘motion’ channel doesn’t report anything. One comment about pairing. I have had some trouble in the past due to the device going to sleep before it fully pairs. Keep them awake.

1 Like

Is there a particular plug that is “good”? I could only find one IKEA one on the “compatibility” list on github available searching models on amazon but reading a bit more it sounds like you then also need at least one “lightswitch” to pair it, even if you don’t want to use any of the smart suff and just want a repeater.

I did find in my search a plug-in Z-Wave extender/repeater device also sold as a 2-pack that supposedly “just works” pairing it to supposedly almost every brand of gateway without any extras and even has a screw to secure it to the outlet so people won’t unplug it unexpectedly breaking the network. That seems like another possible plus for moving to Z-Wave, I haven’t found any similar Zigbee device with such a broad compatibility claim.

If you’re in the US, there are 3 that are really good. The SmartThings outlets are rock solid. The Innr outlets are good because they can repeat for both ZHA meshes and ZLL meshes (meaning they can be paired to a Hue hub to repeat for a ZLL mesh) or they can be paired with HA directly for ZHA repeating. The Centralite 3210-Ls have both Zigbee AND Z-Wave radios in them, so they can repeat for both networks, but they can be a pain to find outside of places like Amazon and eBay.

I would steer clear of the Ikea outlets as the radios they use are subpar and they are CHATTY as hell meaning they will saturate your mesh and create more issues. There’s also the Ikea Signal Repeaters which actually aren’t that bad (I have 4 of them). They are small and weak, so they will only repeat for devices around 15’-20’ max away from them. They’re good if you need to extend your mesh in places like a media center/office type of environment as they can be powered by mains power or a USB port.

I wouldn’t worry about that so much as the whole point of a mesh network is that even if a device or two get turned off and/or removed, the mesh will still continue to function. As for the Aeotec range extender, know that EVERY Zigbee manufacturer makes pretty much the same claim. It’s marketing speak. Basically, any mains powered device (outside of light bulbs) is supposed to repeat by design (you’d be hard pressed to find a mains powered device that doesn’t repeat) as it’s literally in the Zigbee specification. But, because most people don’t read spec docs, companies can get away with marketese and make claims that simply aren’t accurate. For instance, the Ikea Signal Repeater does the EXACT same thing as the Aeotec Signal Repeater does (at a fraction of the cost). The only thing it doesn’t do is secure into the outlet.

  • SmartThings 2018/2019 Smart Outlet

  • Innr’s Smart Outlet

  • Centralite (also known as Iris) 3210-L

Interesting. I don’t see those in the list so, definitely appreciate the links to currently-available working models.

I’ve got a Z-Wave gateway and one door sensor on the way (ETA Friday) so I may see how those do by themselves before deciding farther. It sounds like being 900MHz Z-Wave also is less likely to have interference from the wireless-soup that runs on 2.4GHz in addition to lower frequencies penetrating more effectively.

If the Z-Wave doesn’t perform sufficiently better without anything to repeat signals maybe I’ll try a few of the plugs you linked and see if I can get a sensor to work across the other end of the house where the other door I want to monitor is located.

I’m using both zigbee and z-wave in my home.

Z-wave is for the light switches (and the odd motion and door/windows sensor I purchased to test).

Zigbee is for sensors, temp/humidity, motion and door/window sensors.

The main reason for choosing zigbee over z-wave sensors is purely cost. Fibaro or Aeotec sensors cost over $100 AUD, whereas the same types of sensors from Xiaomi cost between $10-20 AUD. It’s just purely cheaper to go with zigbee.

I use the Conbee II stick and have a couple of Hue Bulbs that act as routers to help the mesh (these are located in areas such as the storage room and pantry) so they help coverage while the switches are hidden so they’re not physically turned on or off.

The z-wave switches are hard wired to lights, so they all mesh together nicely for coverage.

Overall, I haven’t noticed any difference in reliability between the two types of networks.

That was actually my plan more or less originally.

I have a ton of Acurite 433MHz Temp/Humidity sensors – these in most rooms and these outside I already had (and use a RTL-SDR to receive) so those came in on MQTT. The SDR was around $15 back when I got it, and the temp-humidity sensors are $10-$12 each (sometimes they’re available for much less returned/used). I don’t trust 433MHz for “instant” notification, there’s a lot of traffic but for things that are “ongoing” like weather/environmental it seems most cost effective and a few missed updates won’t matter on that. These just barely have enough range to get from the farthest room to the central receiver.

I planned to use Zigbee for mostly window/door/motion since it looked like some may be available for around $10-$15USD each (or $5 if the old Iris ones worked). The range in my test seems abysmal going maybe 30ft or so, just 1/3 the length of the house (it’s kinda long and skinny down a central hallway).

Then future “one day” I figured I would look at Z-Wave for a couple switches (outdoor lights, maybe bathroom fans to get a timer/humidity based switch action) and perhaps a door lock.

It looks like I can get Z-Wave door/window sensors for around $15-$20USD (maybe this or this but first I’ll try and see how range is at all with a more expensive one that arrives faster and is easy to return) so that’s not a huge markup from the Xiaomi Zigbee ones (I have one of those now for testing, I paid $17USD for it).

The main catch with z-wave is the frequencies. You need to make sure that whatever you buy is the right frequency for your country. The monoprice one you linked to supports the US frequency so although well priced, won’t work for me here in Australia. The eBay one doesn’t say what frequency it supports, even though it’s nominally sold in America, is says WiFi and Bluetooth support in the smart home protocol bit so I wouldn’t trust the listing a whole lot.

Unfortunately Australia is such a small market that we don’t get a huge choice, and pay accordingly. It’s why zigbee is so appealing for us here, because we can buy from anywhere and it will be supported by mesh.

If I may add, the no-neutral Zigbee wall switches don’t do routing either (

For me Zigbee2MQTT with CC26X2R1 (without any router) works flawlessly on a 120 devices network with link quality constantly above 40 (whilst for 30 devices with CC2531 coordinator and 2 routers there have been constant problems, several re-pairings needed, link quality in the same place even falling below 10).

From own testing I have found little differences in reliability or range (that is in a star topology network; although Z* are mesh technologies) between Zigbee, Z-Wave, Wifi (2.4 Ghz only) and 433 Mhz RF for most device types. For open door sensors on full metal frames I had issues with signal absorption, with Z-Wave being more reliable than Zigbee (in fact Z-Wave > Wifi >= 433 Mhz > Zigbee). 433 Mhz devices interfere with some CATV providers in Europe (macroblocks appear each time PIR or open door sensors trigger).

1 Like