My Zigbee journey from Deconz to Z2M

TL;DR – Started with Deconz, moved to Z2M, wouldn’t look back. Z2M 100% recommended over other options.

I’ve been a user of Home Assistant since about 2017, but it was only last year that I decided to go down the Zigbee route. I did my research and decided on a Raspberry Pi running the Deconz SD card image and the ConBee stick. HA detected it on the network as soon as I installed it and I was able to pair an Ikea bulb with it easily. Using VNC to access the pi to view the Deconz backend was a bit clunky but it worked. The web interface wasn’t amazing but did the job of adding devices to then be managed in HA.

As time went on and I added more and more devices I started to see odd issues that took a bit of fiddling to work out. For example, I moved the Ikea blinds from the Tradfri hub to Deconz, and they did NOT play well. No battery info, no position info, and would occasionally just stop responding. I gave up on these after a while and just left them as manual (as I’d sold the Tradfri hub in the meantime!).

Deconz did the job, but I kept seeing people raving about Zigbee2MQTT. Because I had some Tasmota devices, and Frigate set up, I already had MQTT up and running happily.

I did some more research and saw that devices that weren’t well supported in Deconz seemed to be in Z2M. I started digging into the Z2M docs and saw that the ConBee wasn’t great without the exact right firmware, and I also didn’t want to burn down the existing Zigbee network (and subsequent failure of automations and therefore WAF), so I ordered the SONOFF ‎ZBdongle-P from Amazon.

Because my HA install is virtualised I kept with the RPi setup, and used the ser2net setup to connect the new stick. This was really easy to do, and meant that I could install Z2M as a HA addon instead of on the Pi (which was still running Deconz).

Adding devices to Z2M was as simple as it was in Deconz. Allow pairing and tell the device to start pairing (for example the Ikea lights turning them on and off 6 times). This is where the difference started to show.

I am blown away by the Z2M interface compared to Deconz. There’s far more information, it’s easier to work with and see the different settings available for each device, firmware updates are easy to understand and apply, and it even shows a thumbnail picture of the device you just paired!
The ikea blinds work perfectly. They show their height, respond well, show the battery status, all the stuff that was missing in Deconz.

Deconz groups devices into lights, switches, sensors. Everything goes into one of these categories. Z2M has a single list which oddly I find a lot easier to use. The mapping is clearer to view than the Deconz map, and the fact that it’s all now integrated into the HA interface is another bonus.

If I was to start this whole process again, or recommend a setup to new Zigbee users, I would 100% lean towards Z2M. It’s powerful, flexible, easy to use, and nicely integrated.