What stick do I need to start?

Hi guys!

I’m in the phase of gathering information about what I need to start with HA.

Hope I can scoop up a few recommendations without reading tons of threads :smile: .

What I have so far:

  1. Existing network.
  2. A rack.
  3. Free Pi4 with SD card.

What I aim to start with initial projects:

  1. House alarm.
  2. Entrance door lock integration.
  3. Lights automation.
  4. Motion sensors.

Maybe this is too many projects to begin with. But, for data I/O, protocols, what do you recommend Zigbee or others? What hardware dongles do you recommend? What about native HA stick, is it good for starters?

If I use multiple dongles with different protocols, will this potentially give me more ways to use with more hardware options?

Also, will I potentially have signal quality issues if my rack is located under-stairs room with locked door? My walls are drywall.

I’m aware of channels interference with existing WAP’s and USB extension that they recommend using. This shouldn’t be an issue in my case, I can do all of those above.

Thanks a lot.

I had my mileage with ZigBee and a few matter device and it was the opposite of impressive. Changed over to WiFi devices all running esphome and since then I have a super stable and reliable system. Big bonus no sticks necessary and no “useless” repeater devices just to cover areas that are anyway already covered by WiFi.

I would recommend Zigbee over WIFI every time but, taking @indeeed’s point, you do need to ensure the network has coverage in the areas you need it. I do this via my hallway and landing lights which act as a backbone for the entire house; no extra work required as I wanted those lights to be controlled anyway.

Staying off WIFI (for me) ensures my automations don’t suffer when everyone is streaming (using lots of bandwidth).

Zigbee uses the same range of frequencies as 2.4G WIFI, so make sure you check the channel to avoid interference between them.

I use Z2M and a Sonoff 3.0 dongle-P. Use a 2m cable to physically separate it from the PI to avoid USB 3.0 interference.

You can check which devices are supported by Z2M here:

And has a poorer range and penetration which ultimately makes it always “loose” the battle.

Check this nice write up on all the things necessary to maybe get a stable experience

But still you can not be sure if all advertised functions are also working. The limitations are mostly “visible” after purchase and can easily make automations unecessry unreliable like hygro/thermometer that are sending changes only every X minutes or motion sensors with a fixed cool down timer. Another topic alone are custom quirks to get functions working which often can be very time consuming.

Fromy experience the ZigBee network suffers the most with heavy streaming including devices dropping out of the mesh. On the other hand I never managed to satrate our 2.4Ghz - 600mbit WiFi link (would need a minimum of 12 parallel 8k streams ~50mbits) and even if I would expect everything to continue to work because from my mileage WiFi is (unlike zigbee) very robust even in heavy congested situations. Beside my streaming clients are using 5Ghz WiFi anyways…

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Our experiences differ then.

Not for me; I have sensors in my attic where I get a zigbee signal but no WIFI.
I’ve found my zigbee network to be extremely robust (not perfect though), whereas my WIFI devices can and do drop off frequently.

This must be true for WIFI devices as well, surely?

Perhaps this is ‘horses for courses’ and, for some reasons, my Zigbee is stronger than my WIFI and, for other reasons, your WIFI is stronger than your Zigbee. :man_shrugging:

Either way, the OP now has a couple of views for him/her to consider. Hopefully others will also contribute.

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In the Zigbee vs. WiF debate, I’ve used both with HA for almost five years now.

Personally, my preference is to use Zigbee for anything I can, and ESPHome (over WiFi) for anything which needs more specialized functionality.

As for range, the Zigbee devices build their own mesh network. If you find some area has a weak signal, you just pop a mains-powered smart plug or something between that area and a place where there’s a good signal. I have Zigbee stuff in outbuildings where it would be a lot more work to extend WiFi.

Beside being able to easily extend the network, a side benefit is it’s all totally plug and play. No need to tinker with routers or assign static IP addresses.

Another benefit of Zigbee is that it’s designed to be fully local. Most WiFi devices you buy (as opposed to build yourself with ESPHome) are designed to “phone home” to the vendor’s cloud. Disregarding the security concerns, this means the vendor is in control. They can start charging a subscription, abandon the product line, go out of business or update the firmware on the device to block HA local control. These things happen on a fairly regular basis. Best to just avoid vendor cloud solutions.

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I only use esphome based WiFi devices and they all offer the “same” 100% satisfaction experience for me.

Actually they can even easuly extended with functionalities the manufacture wasn’t aware of. For example my m5 wall switches also do work as BLE receiver.proxy which makes my exhaust automation (via fast updating BLE temp/hygrometer) independent from HA.

Maybe, my WiFi gear isn’t everything than new or professional but indeeed it covers all my areas.

All my devices were ether shipped with esphome or the first thing I did was installing esphome on them. All of them are 100% local and don’t make any internet request when not configured to do so.

Nothing of that is possible with my esphome devices but we saw manufactures in the past even trying to enforce online accounts - for example Philips Hue with their ZigBee compatible devices/hub.

The onboarding of a esphome devices for me was regualry more reliable and easier than random ZigBee devices with button presses and bringing them close to the coordinator etc. Regarding router tinkering and static IPs I don’t do any of this but just use DHCP.

All that is necessary in the end to onboard a esphome device is to configure WiFi credentials (even possible nowadays directly in HA with improv over Bluetooth) and add the esphome node which is auto discovered to HA.

In general I very much prefer the streamlined experience from esphome WiFi devices over the randomness of ZigBee devices (various vendors) I witnessed.

Fair enough. I agree ESPHome is great. I use it when there’s no simple, off-the-shelf Zigbee option. And, yes, there are more “advanced” Zigbee devices which don’t play well with standards-based systems like HA. Still, it’s hard to beat the plug-and-play nature of basic Zigbee stuff like smart plugs and temperature/humidity sensors. These things just work, and I don’t have to spend any time building them.


I kind of like this idea. But do you configure IoT devices to use Wi-Fi instead of other protocols? Are all common support this(probably not)?

Ones I looked were Aqara brand I think, they all mentioned Zigbee, not Wi-Fi.


What Zigbee stick would you recommend? Is HA made - SkyConnect any good?

Is ESP Home that many mention here a hardware or software?

That’s never been a problem here. I have over 100 WiFi devices on my network and there’s never been a congestion delay. Remember, WiFi devices, swiches, lights, etc only send data for a few microseconds, so even if every device in my house were activated at the same timeany latency would be so minor that you wouldn’t really notice.


You cannot configure Aqara Zigbee devices to use WiFi, no.

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For this you need to look at the available options for Zigbee integration. (ZHA and Zigbee2MQTT - there are others but these two are by far the two most popular.) people usually use ZHA I’d they like to pick defaults and Zigbee2MQTT usually if they have a specific device to support (Z2M tends to have better device support IMHO)

But for either they have a list of reccommended coordinator hardware. Use the list for the integration you will pick. (yes it matters some sticks dont play nice)

In your situation where you are in a rack. I’d seriously look at either a network connected coordinator or put Z2M on a separate Pi to get them away from the rack. And all the interference.

I won’t pick a side in wifi v. Other. Either way you go - your success will be directly proportional to the amount of research and planning you put in. I’ve seen absolutely crappy esp32 communication and fabulous Zigbee and concurrently also horrible Zigbee or ZWave and awesome WiFi. I firmly believe that the common thread for well performing configurations are planning and paying attention to the details - the hardware only matters in so much as it supports the configuration.

Your start is very similar to how I started many years ago and I wish you luck.


Hi Nathan,

If I put extension of the USB stick on one of the side, will it be stable?
It seems like that I must use Zigbee for certain motion censors.

Do you know about - SkyConnect USB? Is it good or I should try others?


The devices I use are mostly espressif (esp32) based and support wifi and Bluetooth. Newer ESP versions also support zigbee/thread/matter but they are not yet supported by esphome. The later is the Software running in this iot devices and is IMHO the besteht spairing partner for HA - probably because it is developed under the same roof: nabu casa.

Common? Esphome supports a wide range of hardware including very wide spread espressif, rpico, been and realtek chips which are very often found in tuya based WiFi devices. But when not bought with esphome installed (what for e.g. localbytes or athom.tech offers) you need to do that yourself. Sadly not all supported devices do offer a initial wireless install of esphome (with cloudcutter for example) but one initial install via usb-serial adapter can be necessary then.

Correct, I owned a few aqara ZigBee devices which I tossed out because of a low update frequency that couldn’t be changea and didn’t allowed proper automations in my case. But your needs may vary and they can be good enough…

It’s a software that runs on supported iot hardware which connects usually via WiFi (some per Ethernet) and therfor and utalize a present WiFi infrastructure. Some stick (coordinator) or the need to build a mesh is not necessary for esphome. Like Home Assistant, esphome is developed by nabu casa and is open source. It allows very flexible use of devices and is highly customizable when needed.

And that’s very much describes the WiFi I know. Rock solid - something that the highly praised ZigBee saidly never could deliver in my case (and I invested lot’s of time optimizing it - too much in hindsight).

Just to get an idea what non-stress around 60 esphome devices put on my routers 2,4Ghz WiFi radio here is a screenshot.

(All my esphome devices together including some with 1 second update interval like power meter are not even capable of even utilizing 0.1% of the available bandwidth).

WiFi limits with esp devices are RARELY bandwidth. It’s device density. Garden variety (pre WiFi6) routers rarely handle more than 128 devices on dhcp and start to get iffy on 32 simultaneous wifi connections (im looking at you Netgear)

To prevent that when using esp32 as your main connect. Ensure good quality wifi and network backhaul gear. Preferably WiFi6 (WiFi6 was as much about simultaneous connections as overall bandwidth)

Really no idea what you are talking as my already 10 year pre/non-WiFi6 router I got for $15 used doesn’t suffer any of your described iffinesses. No problems serving more than 100 DHCP leases or having 70+ devices connected on both radios.

Not sure what bad luck you ones had with a netgear router but just take this simple advice: Don’t waste your time with stock firmware on network gear but go straight for something reliable and trustworthy like openwrt.

Again, 10 year old used consumer grade WiFi gear which can be bought for $15 used is rock solid for me.

Others told before use ZigBee because it is so great and reliable and all devices are just plug’n’play. Reality for me was quite the contrary so I tend to bit allergic when people tell me something I proofed wrong already…

I really don’t understand the anger. I have not contradicted anything you said. I’m glad you are having great luck with esp32 and wifi networks.

I said MOST consumer grade routers… Not all. and you know what I’m very happy for you that yours wasn’t one of them. But for tens of thousands of others… There’s a reason Tomato and WRT and other DIY firmware were so popular they filled gaps.

Please research WHY WIFI6 was created in the first place. Bandwidth was only One of the underlying requirements.

FACT: to have BEST luck with Wifi as your transport use good gear that supports WiFi6 because then you don’t have to care how many nodes it supports - unless you have thousands of nodes, it’s just designed to handle it.

It does not say you did not and do not continue to have great luck and we’re all here to make sure everyone has the same kind of performant system as you do.

In 2023 if you’re building new and decide to use wifi as your transport. Use WiFi6. If you can’t for some reason (price) then ensure the gear is up to snuff by making sure the DHCP scopes and access points handle the count of nodes you expect.

Have a great evening!


I use the Sonoff dongle-P (with Z2M) and it works really well for me. Do ensure it gets the correct power and keep it at least 2m (6’) away from your Pi/PC though to avoid interference.