To Zigbee or not

This is exactly why I purged all Zwave. Most of mine was older, so I just shut down what I was using, and tossed everything else. If it’s not Zigbee, it’ll be Wifi.

Tough call. I am not sure I agree with you that it is realistic and useful to say Zigbee and Wifi only. As a smart person once told me … ‘Life sucks and then we die.’ :wink:

For example, I have found that inexpensive bluetooth BLE temperature/humidly sensors are the best way to monitor these attributes through out houses and within refrigerators and freezers.

I found Zwave operating on sub gigahertz to be very helpful to reliably go through thick walls, even when it was a very closed garden. And, I would challenge you to say that they do not have a vibrant product universe.

The coming LoRa technologies (as well as Amazon’s Sidewalk) is very useful. What dog, cat child herder does not want a GPS fencing product that works over multiple 10,000 meter ranges at a reasonable cost???

Raise a :beers: and back to work integrating :grinning:

No one is arguing that there aren’t uses for all of these technologies. But all of these technologies come at a price (added complexity). I’d be interested to hear how you’re monitoring all of your BLE devices around the house? Yet another server installed nearby reporting back to HA?

As for Sidewalk, I’ve turned it off, I’d rather not trust Amazon to manage who has access to my wireless network. Doesn’t mean there isn’t a use for it. But you’re trading security for convenience.

I’m using an esp32 flashed with OpenMQTTGateway to monitor my Xiaomi LYWSD03MMC Temp & Humidity sensors. And I prefer Zigbee over Zwave. With over 100 Wifi devices and 40 Zigbee devices in the house, can’t say I have drop-offs.

You are correct, there is another dimension that has to be factored in… move to a single server/hub or have multiple server/sub-server and hubs.

To my joke and reality ‘Life sucks and then we die.’

Yes, I struggled with bluetooth low energy for a month. Bottom line, it’s implementation on Linux SUCKS!!! I have a solution that seems to run for multiple months (hoping for years, which is what I expect from Unix/Linux) as a raspberry pi/linux collector ‘hub’, but was it hard, yes. But have a found a better sensor end device than the BLE units, NO. So in balance… are they Linux python solutions, yes, are there ESP32 solutions yes. But I can tell you, based on experience, Wifi and Zigbee temperature / humidity solutions SUCK SUCK!!! So I have a bluetooth with a raspberry pi in my mix, will it play out as a long term solution, TBD. But it filled a price/performance/quality gap that I was unable to fill with any other tech mentioned, so it was add it to my toolbox. Growing…

Sidewalk, I am not going to debate, yes a whole corporate / privacy issue. But, you did not mention LoRa, which seems to be a positive ‘pretty open’ technology that addressed the use cases I mentioned. Of which, bluetooth, wifi, zigbee, zwave (maybe??) cannot address. And if Amazon increases the universe of hardware for LoRo, by pushing their own proprietary software on top of the same hardware I can use for LoRa, should I complain?

Okay we can open the whole LTE, 4G, 5G can of SPAM now too :grinning:

Life sucks and then back to work integrating :grinning:

@netregha] You do not need to flash Zigbee devices other that updating firmware on them if available.

Suggest that you try out ZHA first and if it does not fit your needs then try out Zigbee2MQTT later. This as ZHA is super easy to get started with but it is not stand-alone so not as flexible as Zigbee2MQTT.

I do however not recommend starting out with Tuya and Xiaomi/Aqara devices as they do not quite follow the standard Zigbee specifications and as such can be less stable than Zigbee devices from example IKEA and Sonoff.

Also research before buying a Zigbee coordinator, as some are compatible with more integration software than others and some are more powerful, regardless make it a USB dongle and not a bridge:

Recommend read advice on Zigbee range extending as well as it uses network mesh technology:


Excecutive Summary

No. But choose your coordinator hardware wisely.

No. But take a look the the supported devices before you buy.

1 Like

Curious why you recommend a USB dongle over a bridge solution. Other than the pain to flash the Sonoff Zigbee bridge with Tasmota, in my testing I have found it to work pretty well with ZHA. Silicon Labs, the maker of the zigbee module in the Sonoff bridge seem to be leading in terms of function and market share. Getting a good USB stick with the Silicon Labs hardware would solve the Tasmota flashing step and perhaps better communication between the zigbee processor and host software. But so far, the wifi serial connection between my HA server and the Sonoff bridge is working well. The added benefit of this model is that it allows you to place the Sonoff Zigbee bridge in a location where you can optimize coverage of the coordinator module. And to that point, if you do go down the USB dongle route, I think using a USB extension cable to get the zigbee device away from noise generated by you host computer is a must. I sense a number of folks have had an unsuccessful start to their zigbee experience because they USB dongle was plugged directly into a noisy host computer. Especially, a host with USB 3.0, as someone the forums recently experienced.

On your point about noncompliant devices and the frustration this can cause, I completely agree. Unfortunately, based on my experience and reading some others, I think the problem is far greater than Tuya and Xiaomi/Aqara, though they may be some of the worst. However for example in my own testing, two items I have found, and believe there are more:

  1. Ikea switch will not stay online (and visible, this is the key part, it totally disappears from network, and will not comeback without a re-add) when connected via LEDVANCE wall socket module. Ikea switch works fine when connected directly to coordinator.

  2. Sonoff SNZB-02 EwElink temperature and humidity module, when added via a CentraLight RZHAC appliance plug, reports temperature, humidity and battery levels fine. But as far as the ZHA coordinator is concerned, the SNZB-02 has no network links paired with ANY device on the network, it floats out there in isolation in the network diagram. But as I said, has been reporting data just fine since day one.

Zigbee is a very useful technology for home automation, but even with it’s long history(in tech years) it still suffers from ‘walled garden’ syndrome (aka Hue devices with Hue hub, Ikea devices with Ikea hub, Aqara devices with Aqara hub, work better and grudgingly, at best, support adding other vendor devices to the garden). And even though it was offered as an open standard, it seems there are far more cases of ‘this device will not connect with that device’, than say bluetooth or wifi. Not to say those don’t have same issues, just IMHO, zigbee comes in third in this race.

1 Like

I now see you post on this new dongle, interesting. Other than the flash, I still think there are pluses and minuses for both bridge and dongle. An ethernet connected bridge would be another interesting option, and I see some folks are working this. To the bridge connection options, based on my ownership the following info, in my LAN both wired and wireless bridges have worked fine:

Phillips Hub - ethernet connected but has wifi option that I think was never turned on (which is interesting)
Aqara Hub - wireless only
Ikea Hub - ethernet only
Samsung hub - both ethernet and wifi option (perhaps it is not fair 2 call this device a ‘hub’ but rather a host with direct connect zigbee coordnator processor)
Lutron hub - ethernet (but totally different wireless frequencies for devices)

I run around 60 IKEA bulbs, 8;remotes and 4 IKEA motion sensors. All are reliable and after 2 years I’m only just changing batteries in some of the remotes.

1 Like

Just created a setup from scratch, using Raspee II and Zigbee2mqtt. Currently 41 devices of various brands (IKEA, Innr, Osram, Philips).

The mesh took about 1-2 days to optimize routing, since then it‘s running flawlessly.

1 Like

My one take away w/ zigbee is its worth it to start out with a strong coordinator adaptor and not the CC2531. See Supported adapters | I got the one from Slaesh and its great!

1 Like

The main reason is that especially the EmberZNet serial protocol that Silicon Labs based products uses does not do a good job at handling the loss of serial packages (serial communication faults) which could be caused by WiFi interference if network packages are lost or if WiFi goes down.

bellows library for zigpy which ZHA uses has posted this warning about using Zigbee to WiFi bridges.

Warning about Zigbee to WiFi bridges

zigpy requires a robust connection between the zigpy radio library and the serial port of the Zigbee radio. With solutions such as ITEAD Sonoff ZBBridge or a Ser2Net serial proxy connection over a WiFi network it is expected to see NCP entered failed state. Requesting APP controller restart in the logs. This is a normal part of the operation and indicates there was a drop in communication which caused packet loss to occurred between the zigpy radio library and the Zigbee radio. The use of serial network proxies/bridges/servers over WiFi is therefore not recommended when wanting a stable Zigbee environment with zigpy.

I would advise against using internal GPIO/HAT adapters like the Raspbee or Elelabs Zigbee Shield because the risk of interferance from being so close to the board, and especially if if you also plan on using WiFi and/or Bluetooth on that same board as those operate on the same frequencies.

Tips on improving Zigbee network range and lower interferance

One of the more commonly asked questions about using Zigbee with Home Assistant are regarding to improving or extending signal reception/transmission or resolving problems with poor link quality, thus here are gathered a few possible options to resolve most problems related to range extension.

The fact is that bad signal reception can be due to many different things and experienced Zigbee users in the community will normally advise that there are a few simple fundamental things that you should really attemt to do first in order to better optimize your Zigbee devices equipment which can resolve many basic problems related to signal strength or interferance issues. Note that there are always exceptions, however, if possible to try follow at least some of these general recommendations before you take more advanced steps like reporting issues to developers and submitting debug logs.

Just following these simple tips below should help improve signal strength and reduce signal interference which can normally many problems with a Zigbee network.

  1. Add more Zigbee routers between the far away devices and the next nearest router, distributing more Zigbee routers around areas with poorer reception. Zigbee network topology uses a “mesh network” design which means that each device that acts as a Zigbee router will extend the range of your Zigbee network. While there are exceptions, as a rule of thumb, almost all permanently powered devices will serve as a router. This is a part of Zigbee design concept, simple add more powered permanently Zigbee devices to get better coverage, (there are purpose-specific Zigbee routers which you can find by doing a community search for “Zigbee signal repeater” or “Zigbee range extender”). Devices that can not act as routers are known as “end devices” and you should know that some end device models from brands like Xiaomi/Aqara have issues connecting through routers.
  2. Utilize a USB extension cable to move Zigbee coordinator adapter and place your Zigbee coordinator adapter in a sensible position, away from WiFi access-points/routers or other sources of 2.4GHz signals in a location that it is relatively free from strong signal interference. The best location will depend on your building’s floorplan though normally you want to place it somewhere in the middle. Building materials are also very relative as example dense/thick concrete, bricks, masonry, etc. dampen will all wireless signals and therefore it is best to place your Zigbee coordinator adapter some distance from walls, ceilings and floors. You could also try different orientation of your Zigbee antenna (or your whole Zigbee coordinator adapter if it has an internal antenna). This is because the connection between the Zigbee coordinator radio and your other devices also depends on the way the antenna oriented in space. Note! A bad USB extension cable may lead to connection issues between the system and the Zigbee coordinator adapter, symptoms of this are disconnection messages.
  3. Check your WiFi access-points/routers channels in use to see if your router/access point is overlapping the channel your Zigbee network is using. If so change the channel of the access-points/routers and lock it. It will normally be easier than changing the channel of your Zigbee network and then you will have to re-join/re-pair all of your Zigbee devices. A busy WiFi access-points/routers that are operating the same frequency range (overlapping channels) as your Zigbee coordinator will drown out the Zigbee traffic, and even more so if they are located close to each other. See this article for WiFi and Zigbee channels coexistance to avoid using overlapping frequency ranges.
  4. Update the firmware on your Zigbee coordinator adapter and your Zigbee devices. Note that depending on your hardware the latest Zigbee coordinator firmware might not always be the one recommended by the community so it is advised to ask before upgrading.
  5. If you Zigbee coordinator adapter a removable antenna with an SMA-connector then you have the option of buying a high-gain antenna as an upgrade. In addition, you also have the option to use an antenna extension-cable if needed (though for various reasons that is not a good alternative to only using a USB extension cable with your Zigbee coordinator adapter if possible). This should really only be needed if you are trying to cover a long distance, like to another building or very dense/thick walls, ceilings and floors.
  6. Buy more powerful Zigbee radio hardware with better radio range, preferably with an external antenna. If you are not only experimenting but want a permanently stable and healthy Zigbee network with potentially many devices then you should consider upgrading to a more powerful Zigbee coordinator USB adapter. Generally, those with an external antenna will have better range, therefore you will also want to avoid buying an internal adapter unless it has an external antenna.

If you want an adapter with stronger RF radio and are willing to wait then a tip is that several people are currently working on designing new Zigbee adapters with integrated + 20 dBm Power Amplifiers using latest SoC chips from both Silicon Labs (EFR32MG21) and Texas Instruments (CC2652P or CC1352P). You should expect to see many different such new adapters released before this summer if not sooner.

True. But for that reason on that Raspberry Pi Bluetooth and Wifi are disabled by appropriate entries in /boot/config.txt

1 Like

Much better though would be if all future versions of internal GPIO/HAT adapters like the RaspBee or Elelabs Zigbee Shield would come with an uFL/I-PEX-connector to allow the use of external antenna instead (external 2.4GHz antenna via example an IPEX/uFL-connector to SMA-connector converter).

Example Zigbee PiHAT which does have a Power Amplifier but is based on the older CC2538 MCU:

I also believe Electrolama is working on a zoe2 version of zoe with CC1352P and IPEX/uFL-connector

Already have’s CC2652R stick on my desk, but changing the coordinatore requires re-pairing of all devices. Something I don’t want to do without need.

FYI, a zigpy developers is looking into a possible universal backup and restore solution for that here:

1 Like

Getting back to the OP…

I just installed a cheap Chinese no-name-brand Zigbee smart plug in a shed about 10 meters from the house, and probably 12 meters from the nearest other Zigbee smart plug, through a few walls.

It connected immediately. By the time I got to checking the mesh using the ZHA visualization, it had established a good connection to both the nearest other plug, AND the HUSBZB USB stick on my Raspberry Pi, buried in the center of the house behind a few more walls.

For me, this Zigbee stuff has been dead simple to install, configure and use. My WiFi components demand a lot more attention. Even though I love tinkering, I keep reminding myself that my HA is a “production” system, not a toy. I rely on it to monitor my house when I’m away. So many very expensive things could go wrong that reliability is at least as important as having fun. I’m reading all the negative experiences and will watch for problems, but so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well Zigbee has worked for me.