Where to start with ZigBee?

We should also mention the SkyConnect multi-protocol radio which is being developed by NabuCasa (the core team behind HASS).

It has the advantage that once fully developed, the SilLabs hardware will be able to support both Zigbee and Thread. Protocols Zigbee + Thread use the same radio (IEEE 802.15.4) with different addressing, and in the future it is likely that Thread (closely aligned with the Matter protocol) will take a lot of market share. This could take a few years, so inexpensive Zigbee hardware is still worth purchasing (there’s barely a handfull of Matter / Thread products actually in shops despite lots of hype).

The SkyConnect is being manufactured now, and is the same hardware as the Yellow appliance. My personal experience is the Sonoff 3 radio (with its external antenna) has a lot more range than the PCB antenna in Yellow, so SkyConnect may be similar.

Migrating hardware from Sonoff 3 to Yellow worked without having to re-pair all devices, but that was with the ZHA Zigbee software. Not all integrations support migration, and radios vary in what they can support.

Simply, use hardware a lot of other folk have as there will be lots of support.

1 Like

Thanks for the quick and detailed responses. There’s clearnly not a onestopshop for Zigbee!

@FloatingBoater
I do understand protocols and manufacturers but was unclear about Zigbee compatibility with the Hue bridge… and what Tasmota even is or that Tuya is only for WiFi devices!!

I’ve read conflicting information on Hue Bridge so wasn’t sure what to believe, newer information suggests they are part of (or work with?) the Zigbee alliance. I think I’ll just play it safe and look at the Sonoff dongle (the -p or the -e) or even wait for the SkyConnect to become readily available.

I thought Sonoff was a safe bet, but maybe that’s because I see their name a lot with WiFi devices. Looks like IKEA switches may also be a good starting place.

@Tinkerer
I think this is just what I meant, it feels like there are so many contributing factors with Zigbee… I don’t even know what a coordinator is :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks for all the advice, I think I need to be a bit more patient, do more research and just understand it a lot more before asking some more specific questions.

I think you’re experiencing the classic XKCD :slight_smile: :

Home automation products are a classic time/ money/ quality engineering triangle:

  • An open standard gets used by many with cheap kit, but might not always work (Zigbee, MQTT).
  • A rigorous, regulated standard should always work, but the approval testing makes products expensive and s-l-o-w (Matter, Thread, Z-Wave).
    How long has Matter been going to make everything simple? :slight_smile:

Sadly we also have to contend with butchered versions of open standards:

  • Hue + Zigbee (Zigbee can control Hue, Hue can not control all Zigbee)
  • IKEA Tradfri + Zigbee (sockets are great, remotes are wierd - although Zigbee2MQTT works better than ZHA)

A few Zigbee Top Tips:

  • A 90-degree USB adaptor from Amazon works well with a USB stick, to have the radio aerial upwards for maximum range.
  • Some say USB3.0 ports cause interference, with Zigbee/ Z-Wave, so recommend a short USB cable or (e.g. on a Raspberry Pi) using USB2.0 ports instead.
  • If you find Zigbee devices are eating batteries, buy more Zigbee mains switches to extend the mesh (CR2032 are cheap should last months - apart from IKEA 5-button remotes).
  • The reset/ pair button on Sonoff Zigbee remotes is TINY and behind a small pin-hole. Careful with the paper clip, as you might miss the button and bend it off the PCB. Take one apart to look!

The good thing about Zigbee, is it’s a lot cheaper than Z-Wave so a few devices to test shouldn’t break the bank.

1 Like

Waiting for a product that isn’t expected to ship for another two months or so doesn’t make sense.

For a product that will most likely (not guaranteed) have most or all the benefits of skyconnect, get the Sonoff ZBDongle-E or another currently available stick based on the EFR32MG21 chip.

It’s the little radio thingy that can “speak” the Zigbee wireless protocol. It allows your Zigbee software stack (ZHA or Z2M) to talk to the Zigbee devices. Typically a USB stick, but can be a little hardware box you plug into your network (not to be confused with a hub like the Hue/Tradfri/Aqara hub, those include the software end of things)

Your Zigbee mesh needs exactly one coordinator, and then a mix of routers and end devices.

Routers expand the reach of the mesh, and also allow you to connect more devices than your coordinator alone can handle (they usually top out somewhere between 5 and 50 directly connected devices). They have to have permanent power since they’re always listening for Zigbee packets.

End devices are all the other things. Typically battery powered sensors that spend almost all their time with the Zigbee radio asleep, just waking very occasionally (once an hour typically, but it’s not uncommon for that to be longer). They can get a year or few of battery life by doing that.

It’s not a theory, it’s reality :wink: Phoscon have it in the recommendations and Intel published a paper on USB 3.0 interference with Zigbee and Z-Wave.

A short USB extension cable can make a world of difference. Plus, moving the radio above head height means that people aren’t acting as signal blockers as they walk around.

3 Likes

Agree - given the supply chain issues with the Yellow, I’m not even sure two months is a certain delivery date - and that’s ignoring Thread protocol support (I read SilLabs “Incubator” as meaning Beta software).

As I mentioned, it could take a few years for Thread hardware to become common (and cheap - ESP32C3 with crypto support costs more than ESP12). Thankfully Zigbee kit is cheap enough to deploy now, and replace later with Thread (as I don’t need 3x meshes - Z-Wave, ZigBee, Thread).

I would echo most of @Tinkerer’s thoughts with a couple of differences.

I would add as point zero - GET STARTED. The FUD goes away pretty quickly once you’ve worked though it.

@Tinkerer’s first point was decide on ZHA vs Zigbee2MQTT. I strongly suggest trying them both out. I like z2m best overall, but it is subjective. My basic thoughts on the two are here: ZHA Vs Zigbee2Mqtt - #3 by jerrm.

I agree on starting with a CC2652P stick. The work great with both ZHA and z2m. (Amazon.com, CC2652P2 Zigbee to Ethernet Serial Coordinator | TubesZB Store, Sonoff Zb Dongle-p Zigbee 3.0 Usb Dongle Plus Wireless Zigbee Gateway Analyzer Zigbee2mqtt Usb Interface Capture With Antenna - Automation Modules - AliExpress).

NOTE: with Sonoff you want the ZBDongle-P. The “-E” is a different chip (EFR32MG21), very good, but z2m support is still beta.

Don’t let the the potential Thread compatibility add to the FUD. If you later decide on the SkyConnect or other EFR32MG21 chip, the cc2652p can be flashed to be a great router for your zigbee net.

Then get one each of each type of sensor - that should be pretty cheap. As @Tinkerer suggests, avoid Tuya to start. I have several Tuya products, but it’s variable you don’t want in the mix to start. Sensors are pretty inexpensive. If you can devote a few more dollars to testing, pick up a switch.

I wouldn’t look to get bottom dollar on the test devices. Save that for when your going to buy 15 door sensors for every door in the house.

If you purchase wisely, you may have extended return periods over the holiday if you decide zigbee isn’t for you.

First setup ZHA, it is easiest to get started with. Add devices, create automations, give it a good testing, but don’t get too attached as this is just a test.

If thoroughly pleased with ZHA, you could stop there, but I encourage testing out z2m as well. Just disable ZHA and then install z2m using the same USB stick. You’ll need to re-pair everything, but since we are still in the testing phase with just a few devices, it’s not a big deal. Again, add devices, create automations, etc. Note the differences in how things present, exposed to automations, etc.

Then choose your integration and start building things out for real.

But again, most importantly, GET STARTED !

3 Likes

Don’t wait. There is no evidence it will ever be “readily available.” There are the pre-order batches, but no mention I’ve seen how much “stock,” if any, they will maintain beyond the pre-orders.

1 Like

I’ll echo the don’t wait cries. There’s always going to be something newer/better/faster/cheaper on the horizon.

When you wait for that, another one will come along. I started with objectively the worst Zigbee coordinator on the market - the CC2531, but it got me going. I bought a bunch of devices, and I learned a lot along the way.

Not all my choices were good. Sometimes I ignored warnings and bought stuff I later regretted. Sometimes I bought stuff that wasn’t yet known to be bad, but was able to warn others.

1 Like

I see your CC2531, and raise you a Sonoff Bridge - a device so crap, that even after the effort of flashing two different uP via hand-soldered ICSP, it still can’t maintain a stable connection to HASS in normal operation with four devices! :smiley: :rofl:

The best part of owning a Sonoff Bridge is smashing it into small pieces with a large hammer! :boom: :hammer:

Even after such an inauspicious start, I still use Zigbee. As you suggest, just get some kit and play!

(PS If you do find a Sonoff Bridge, flash it with a different firmware to create a Zigbee mesh repeater to reduce landfill.)

2 Likes

I’m in a “starting from scratch” situation…sorta. I’ve got:

  • Latest HA containerized and installed on a Rpi4 running latest Debian Linux and 1TB local Sata SSD storage
  • The Nortek USB zigbee/z-wave dongle installed and it seems to work
  • Google Wifi Mesh connecting a bunch of Amazon Echo 4th gen orbs that all act as zigbee repeaters

What I’m hoping to accomplish is to toss all my old Smartthings kit. It’s all 6 years old and the hub is EOL. I’d like to buy all new door/window sensors, some motion sensors, garage door opener, smoke alarms, integrate with Nest thermostats, doorbell, etc. And I like the idea of being able to operate everything locally without the need for internet connectivity if my net connection temporarily drops.

I don’t mind spending some $$$ to get stuff that just plain works with HA without a lot of hair pulling.

Is there a solid brand of gear that has a record of little/no drama to integrate? :slight_smile:

I asked a similar question about a year ago and then had to shelve things due to work priorities. Now I’m on a sabbatical and ready to rock and roll. :slight_smile:

Best,

1 Like

They will not repeat for a zigbee network they are not part of - and they don’t join other networks. :wink: Count them out as repeaters. Sorry.

Also - edit.

any of your old ST gear is bog standard Zigbee - keep it.

1 Like

I started with that stick. Seemed like a good idea at the time. As I built up the network, I had issues with devices going offline. Replaced it with the Sonoff ZBDongle-P, and things have been solid since.

Another issue with the Nortek, is if you ever do want to use the migration tools and move to another zigbee stick, you may not be able to keep the zwave side up on the Nortek. Zigbee migration clones the ieee address to the new stick, and the old stick can’t be powered up while still using the same zigbee ieee, even if not actively using the zigbee side of the stick.

Luckily I had not started using zwave at the time of my migration and was able to return the Nortek.

Unfortunately, a lot of it depends on the device mix. Expect some issues. Add devices methodically, especially anything mains powered that acts as a router, and give it some time before adding a new variable.

I had added a Sonoff plug. I was happy with it and things seem fine for a while, then started having some weird issues popping up with a few devices. I found the problem devices were all routing via the Sonoff plug. Swapped the Sonoff plug out with a Sengled plug and all was well again (and remains well).

2 Likes

Good to know about the 4th gen Echo devices. I’ve also got a bunch of zigbee smart plugs that are supposed to be repeaters. I have at least one of these in every room and in the garage:

Hopefully, these will play nice. I’ll also order one of the Sonoff ZBDongles. Thanks for the heads up.

Best,

Is there a good giude that walks thru the process of migrating?

I’ve been using the Nortek zigbee/zwave stick (not actually using the zwave side - I use an Aeotec stick for that) since I started with HA 5+ years ago. It’s been fairly solid for me in that time.

I recently bought the Sonoff Zigbee stick but it’s been sitting in the box waiting for me to take the migration plunge.

And since the Nortek stick works so good I haven’t been too motivated to do it yet.

If there was an easy guide I might finally get it done. :slightly_smiling_face:

ZHA or z2m?

ZHA has it pretty much built in now with the migrate radio functionality.

ZHA

I didn’t even know there was a “migrate” function.

Has anybody used it to know if it works as advertised?

Brand single, no. Brands pural… mostly yes.

  • Door/window: I’ve had folks (in North America) recommend the Linkind sensors, but I’ve had zero issues with Xiaomi Aqara (original and E1) and the Terncy DC-01 sensors.

  • Motion: Linkind again, plus Aqara (original and P1) and the mmWave FP1. If you want more than just motion the Develco “mini” is great - motion, light levels, and temperature.

  • Garage: I’d suggest looking at OpenGarage to hook up your existing opener.

  • Smoke alarms: Many smart smoke alarms are great at being smart, and terrible at detecting smoke. The only one I know of that’s actually good (based on actual testing) is Nest, or if you live somewhere that FireAngel sells their kit maybe try a hacked WiFi bridge.

  • Thermostat: Nest works

  • Doorbell: DIY it

3 Likes

This is all incredibally valuable information, thank you all.

So like you say @jerrm, I just need to jump in so I’ll start with the Sonoff ZBDongle P to try out first ZHA and then Zigbee2MQTT.

Sonoff seems reasonably priced but not the cheapest (looking on Aliexpress) so for testing should I also get one each of the Sonoff humidity, motion and door/window sensors or something more specific for each one?

I’ll also get a Sonoff ZBMINI or two for lights.

  • mains powered so does this also perform as a router?
  • would I be able to use the humidity sensor with a ZBMIMI to control a bathroom extraction fan or is the mini only for lights?

Thanks again