Zigbee (ZHA) vs WiFi Smart Plug

I wonder why so many people are going for the WiFi plugs and through all the pain of disabling the cloud services, calibrating the measurement and more instead of just going for a zigbee device.
I am currently searching for good zigbee 3.0 smart plugs with monitoring for HA. Which ones can you recommend?

Plugs highly depend on which country you live. I can give recommendations for EU plugs (type E and F), but if you don’t live in the EU then my advice is worthless.

Hi @skrippi,

For many people, WiFi lowers the barrier to entry and may have better coverage than adding another protocol for their houses (especially people with mesh-based systems).

Site like LocalBytes stock various WiFi products that are pre-flashed with local-only firmware, so you don’t have to go through the pain you mentioned

(Disclaimer: I own LocalBytes. It was created after getting frustrated when trying to re-flash tuya plugs from Amazon)

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I am a big fan of zigbee over wifi plugs. I really don’t want cheap chinese devices on my internal network. It’s a security problem. Also, if your internet fails, many routers will stop advertising WiFi networks, because they can’t reach anyone. That breaks local connectivity as well.

I have found zigbee plugs to be really reliable when coupled with zigbee2mqtt. I would avoid ZHA for several reasons:

  1. ZHA is an integration. When you update HA, you update ZHA, which is nice until there is a bug that causes devices to drop off. With Z2M, once your network is stable, you can just leave it alone!

  2. When you reboot ZHA, you reboot your zigbee network too, causing all the devices to drop offline and then have to reconnect and rebuild the mesh. This sometimes take a little bit of time, though not that bad. Given the amount of tweaking that is done with HA that causes us to reboot HA, it’s best to avoid bouncing the zigbee network from time to time.

  3. While ZHA device support keeps getting better, Z2M still has better device support, and for devices, more full featured support. A plug may work fine in ZHA for example, but power monitoring may only be available in Z2M.

  4. Z2M can run on a separate raspberry pi that can be located in the best place in your home from a network reachability POV. Sometimes HA has to run on a bigger system or be located in a location that not be as better located for the zigbee mesh. Z2M gives you a lot more flexibility by decoupling.

Now, with all that being said, I have had good luck with these (again with Z2M) https://www.aliexpress.us/item/3256805068888687.html, though you get them via aliexpress. If you want to order from Amazon, these plugs are supposedly pretty good, and power monitoring works, at least with Z2M: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BPY5D1KC/?th=1

Good luck!

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As @francisp states, country matters, I can only speak to the US. I have tried several and settled on Sengled.

I think that is the primary reason. Zigbee can be a little intimidating to the uninitiated. I also imagine a lot of folks get started with WiFI plugs with vendor apps and then moved to HA later. I know I did. Many probably don’t upgrade from there and just get what they are familiar with going forward.

I am now virtually all Zigbee for sensors/plugs and Caseta for wall switches. I still have the WiFi plugs, but they are packed away with the Christmas lights most of the year.

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I’ll give you my experience on this.
After 3 years of using zigbee devices, loosing connectivity to some of them (random ones/locations) every few days, becoming unresponsive or delayed response (1-2 minutes even), and overall all feeling like half-baked solution that might works, I’ve throw all of if, except battery operated sensors (as they last month on battery and even if they loose 1-2 data point it’s fine).
I rather go with pain of opening each WiFi device, soldering, flashing, and reassembly, spent 1-2 weeks on this and had it on stable radio channel (both standard use 2.4GHz, but WiFi by it’s design is actually stronger and more noise resistant), set all automation and then totally forget it’s there, than have this musical chairs scenario with zigbee.

And, calibrating - whats problem there? At least I can calibrate them - i have some UK no name plugs for Zigbee that where off by few % and only option to correct this was after they reported to database.
And it takes 1-2 minute to calibrate, and majority of devices (especially pre-flashed) where on point.

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I’m one of this people and I do it to get maximum control and ownership. Other than most (or all?) of the zigbee stuf the esp based wifi counterparts can be completely owned. :+1:

While users who bought some Z-Plugs are mostly “stuck” with functions the manufacture shipped (maybe including vulnerabilities too) having some esphome compatible wifi hardware allows to easily extend functionalities and role out updates to fix bugs (or vulnerabilities). :adhesive_bandage:

There is not much pain. Ether buy your device pre-free’d or just install/flash esphome on it and the :cloud: is magically gone :raised_hands:

That’s a plus. Most Z-Devices don’t even allow this and you are forced to “eat” the measurements they give you :wink: It’s good if you “can” (you don’t need to) calibrate your stuff :trophy:

Well, for me it was mostly that just can’t own these types of device completely (sure I can buy a hardware but the software side is just a black box). :black_large_square:

Also utilizing a infrastructure (wifi AP’s) which is already in place doesn’t work with Z-Stuff. :signal_strength:

Last but not least if you look around this forum the mileage varies a lot for people. And if I just compare Zigbee with Wifi on the paper I see that they both work on the same frequency but the later has much more transmit power. :muscle:

So in all it’s very easy to just go for (ownable/esp) based wifi plugs :wink:

So expensive “chinese” devices on your network are no problem? :joy:

Can you give an example of one router which does this? The last 3 decades I never came across any consumer or business router which would act like you describe. Not even that it would be configurable (for consumer grade stuff) to stop the local network/wifi when the wan link is down. Maybe you are mixing things up?

With a device completely own-able like a esp based wifi device you can also configure a “detached” behavior and for example send a button trigger via esp-now directly to another wifi device when not connected to a wifi access point. That can work because you can really own this devices and not only the hardware :rocket:

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I don’t like expensive chinese devices on my wifi network network either. :slight_smile: Thats why my security cameras are trapped on a seperate vlan that only blue iris can talk to. I do feed them NTP but that’s it. I see no reason to extend the pain I already have with devices that can live on zigbee, Likewise I don’t plan on buying matter devices that spray ipv6 craplets all over my network either.

As for routers that act that way, my mom’s google wifi router i think does this. It confused me when I was trying to debug a problem, but they may have fixed that in a patch release at some point. It kind of makes sense - if you drop the wifi phones will go back to cell service instead of hanging on a disconnected network.

Thanks for sharing all your mindsets :slight_smile:

Now that being said - whats the real downside of using the new matter instead of zigbee or wifi? May that be best of both worlds?

Matter is still new as well as thread, you need to give it more time for devices to have support (having the skyconnect in multi pan mode lets me have access to use it for those not just zigbee) as well as be updated if they are already in the wild via firmware updates if the company that made them is still in business.

I have some lenovo tuya based wifi plugs that I got from Jb hifi at the time when I was first getting setup, I have migrated all primary devices to be on zigbee but still use those plugs for some non critical things that should the internet go out for maintenance are not an issue to not be able to be switched.

My door sensor is matter based as well as the switchbot hub 2 I am using for my switchbot bots to connect through since I had issues with USB bluetooth adapters dying (I am testing my pi3 as a remote instance BT relay once I get more devices that are on that connection now that I have it setup and linked to the main instance as well).

I also plan to invest in a z-wave adapter as well as one for lora to give more options as the best setup is one that is a mix of technologies based on the devices that you use or plan to use the most for your needs.

This is an example from The State of Matter talk from the HA team:

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I would say that you can’t really own such devices. For now it looks like only wifi devices which are supported by esphome or other projects can be owned fully (hardware & software). :muscle:

A few projects exist that use zigbee in a (partly?) free firmware but these projects usually focus on one device and are not comparable with the huge amount of hardware that esphome supports for example. :person_shrugging:

I had my mileage with devices that didn’t support esphome and essentially got rid of all of them. If you want full control and ownership you just can’t use black boxes (buying hardware without any control over the software) :package:

This is why I am glad that HA is part of the open alliance now and can’t be sold to some company in the future to ruin it and kill it with shitty ways to force people to pay up for things they already have integrated and use on a daily basis.

While I tend to use Zigbee based smart plugs for most home automation needs, there is one corner case where a wifi based plug can be the best solution:

Controlling the power of your main home automation server (and perhaps your internet gateway device).

In the case of lock up of your core home automation machine, for example a Proxmox server, Raspberry Pi or other Linux machine. Often, your Zigbee, Zwave or 433 Mhz coordinator/control device is on the same machine. If this machine is not accessible and your setup is as described, there is no way to power cycle this machine (unless the server hardware has a out of band server control module) if the smart plug on the server is using one of these technologies.

So using a WiFi smart plug, since it is often accessible as a standalone device, give you a better chance of ‘resetting’ your home automation server in the case of a operating system level lock up/out.

I realize there are far better ‘watchdog’ solutions to restart your home automation, however, using a standalone wifi smart plug that you can access and control by just going to it’s IP address gives you one more ‘chance’.

Good hunting!