Initial questions from a beginner

Hi there.

I am going to install HA on a RPi3, this weekend, and am hoping to get to grips with things with a few initial projects.

Just a few initial questions, before I buy anything:

  1. Which protocol should I look for, when buying sensors? My first couple of purchases are going to be a smart light and some smart electric sockets and I want to make sure that I get the most appropriate ones?

  2. Can I use something like Amazon Echo/Google Home with Home Assistant?

A couple of ideas that I had were the playing of a dog barking, if anyone came close to the premises, and also the ability for me turn on lights via voice (as well as via my phone). I needed something, therefore, with a speaker and a microphone. Can the Echo/Home be used for this or is there some other device I could use instead?

Thanks in advance.

  1. Zigbee
  2. Yes

To expand on those:

  1. Zigbee is a 100% local protocol. You have no issues with cloud services failing, manufacturer’s changing things, etc.

  2. You can use those for voice control with HA, and with Google also as a media player (so you can use it for voice announcements). Alexa has a custom component that mostly works.

You can absolutely do what you’re looking at - it’s one of the simpler options to be honest.

1 Like

Brilliant - thanks so much.

So I should really go with Google, rather than Amazon, for the smart speaker?

One other quick thing, if I go for Zigbee sensors - how do I control them via my Raspberry Pi?

With a ZigBee USB stick, personally I use the ConBee II for around 4 years now, rock solid with 70+ devices.

1 Like

Thank you - all starting to make sense now (I really could not understand how the Pi could connect to Zigbee if it only had Wifi).

I’d personally suggest Google over Amazon, but it’s largely personal choice.

As for Zigbee, buy a CC2652 based stick (see here for some). The ConBee II is great with deCONZ, and more hit and miss with ZHA or Zigbee2MQTT. Some people have success, some have frustration until they replace it.

1 Like

Perfect, thank you - getting really excited about the possibilities of all this and the only real way to have a go is to buy a few bits and start testing.

Sorry to be a pain, but can you recommend any particular stick from the list that you provided? I am also in the UK, in case it is relevant.

My initial plan is as follows (just to get me going):

I have an external bulb, outside my front door, that we turn on and leave on all night.

What I really want is the ability to have a smart bulb automatically come on, on a low setting, when HA predicts that the sun is setting.

However, I also want the bulb to temporarily brighten whenever someone approaches my front door but then return to the low setting.

Can you recommend any Zigbee bulbs and proximity sensors that would do the job?

I shall also need a few smart switches or power strips as well - can you recommend any in particular?

Sorry for offering up my shopping list, like this.

Hopefully, once I get something up and running, I can be a bit more self-sufficient.

Totally doable with Home Assistant.

I can recommend the Philips hue bulbs and motion sensors, they are a bit pricey, but totally worth it in my opinion. I have my hue bulbs for more than 8 years now and not a single one of them had to be replaced. The hue motion sensors are the best, search here in the forums there are a lot of threads about motion sensor recommendations.

1 Like

Brilliant - I shall be sure to check those out. Thank you.

Out of interest, may I just check what USB stick you are using to connect to the bulbs/motion sensors?

As I said above I use the ConBee II. The one that Tinkerer posted is also an excellent option.

1 Like

Depending on how much you want to tinker, look up Rhasspy

1 Like

I ended up with the HUSBZB Zigbee USB stick, and it’s been flawless for over 3 years now. I use straight ZHA (the native Zigbee integration built in to HA.) Again, zero complaints. I know there are reasons to go with Zigbee to MQTT and other options, but to me the fewer components I can get away with the better.

The one caveat I’ll add is that I don’t use dimmer or color-changing bulbs. I scan these forums for Zigbee issues and they always seem to relate to those types of devices. Of course I don’t read the threads which don’t apply to me, so I can’t comment on how bad the problems are or which bulbs tend to have the most.

I also try to avoid third-party cloud solutions, and I haven’t implemented any voice controls. I know I’m the outlier here but I’d rather peck at my phone to turn a light on or off than talk to a server at some large corporation.

I will say that the automations you’re talking about are exactly what HA does best. I have lights go on or off based on time and/or a certain number of minutes before or after sunset. You’ll have fun setting up your presence detection and dimming.

1 Like

Here is my response to someone else’s post asking about what devices to get… well, actually they were not happy that the devices they bought didn’t work with HA… but the recommendations are the same.

1 Like

I also haven’t implemented any voice control and probably never will. First my native language is not supported by any solution, second as you said I don’t want to talk to any large corp server and finally in my opinion a well designed smart home doesn’t need voice control, it should do the stuff automatically. For me voice control is just to show off to friends.


People seem found of their Nortek HUSBZB-1, and always seem to recommend it without knowing where the OP lives. Be advised : the Nortek HUSBZB-1 Z-wave part only works in North America.


It’s also an older generation of chipset for both Zigbee and Z-Wave. If you already own one, great. If you don’t, regardless of where you live, it’s no longer a good choice.

1 Like

Hi everyone.

Apologies for the delayed response on this - got distracted by boring work stuff.

I am still yet to buy anything for my new set up and have a few further questions if that is ok.

Tinkerer earlier stated:

I’d personally suggest Google over Amazon, but it’s largely personal choice.

As for Zigbee, buy a CC2652 based stick (see here for some). The ConBee II is great with deCONZ, and more hit and miss with ZHA or Zigbee2MQTT. Some people have success, some have frustration until they replace it.

Are deConz, ZHA and Zigbee2MQTT further dubdivisions of Zigbee?

These are integrations; which combined with the Coordinator you choose, will receive the Zigbee communication. You will use ONE of these integrations to add devices to your network. Also; some devices work better with a certain Coordinator / Integration.

Have a look here, Database of Zigbee devices compatible with ZHA, Tasmota, Zigbee2MQTT, deCONZ, ZiGate and ioBroker

Welcome, and happy automating.

1 Like

Thanks so much for this - there is certainly a lot more this than I originally thought.

So, just to be check my understanding:

  1. Zigbee is an example of a co-ordinator (Z-Wave is another example).

  2. deConz, ZHA and Zigbee2MQTT are all examples of integrations.

  3. Some Zigbee devices only use certain integrations.

  4. As mentioned above, certain Zigbee USB sticks work better with certain integrations but not with others.

Is that an accurate summary?

  1. Zigbee and Z-Wave are communication protocols. The coordinator is your USB stick and will receive information from your Zigbee devices.

  2. Correct.

  3. Some devices may work with all integrations and others might be difficult to pair.

Have a look at which devices you want to purchase. Find a coordinator and integration that are confirmed working with your intended devices.

1 Like