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Zigbee and Z-Wave are the best part of my smart home

144 points13 hoursarstechnica.com
joshstrange11 hours ago

This is the advice I give everyone who is interested in smart home stuff: Pick Zigbee or Z-Wave and only buy that type of product, WiFi is trash.

I'm not super keen on Thread/Matter seeing how one of its goal seems to be allowing your devices access to the internet which is the exact opposite of what I want. I want my devices to be dumb, only able to talk to the hub, and then the hub can optionally run some code to connect outside the network if and when I decide.

The best part about my Z-Wave setup is every manufacturer can go out of business and I won't even notice. That's a stark difference to something WiFi based which almost always requires a cloud component. I understand why people start with WiFi devices, they don't need a hub, but having a local hub is the best way to do anything "smart home" by far. Personally I use Home Assistant but before that I used SmartThings and liked it well enough.

ssl-310 hours ago

But reality seems to be more nuanced than that:

Matter devices can be "dumb". They're intended to be able to work without Internet. Matter uses IP, and Thread provides IPV6, but that doesn't mean that either thing needs to be able to talk to the WAN.

Wifi devices can also be "dumb". For example: I have ESPHome devices that Just Work and that don't have any outside connectivity.

I don't advise anyone who asks me about smart home stuff. I'll tell them some about what I'm doing in my own home, and answer any questions they have accurately, but their eyes glaze over when they hear phrases like Zigbee or MQTT, and they've completely stopped listening by the time something like Home Assistant comes 'round.

I don't know that Matter and/or Thread will make anything better or more secure by default. The Matter 1.0 spec is only a year and a half old and it isn't clear at all how implementation is going to wind up being shaped in the real world.

But they can improve things and I hope that they will.

wokkel3 hours ago

The main thing that i remembered from thread/matter is that vendors can lock out devices and other users hostile stuff. I sure hope plain zigbee is here to stay as having bigtech decide the brand of my in-wall switches are wrong would truly suck.

ssl-31 hour ago

How can a vendor "lock out" a device that cannot talk to the outside world?

zamalek6 hours ago

> Pick Zigbee or Z-Wave

Picking both is fine. Zigbee is significantly cheaper, but you have to make sure that the device is interoperable (Ecobee is a good example of a manufacturer to avoid - Zigbee interoperability is optional). If not, that's where Z-Wave steps in. Having an "off-brand" Zigbee adapter is a good bullshit force field. I use the Aoetec USB for Z-Wave and the Sonoff USB for Zigbee. Both are incredibly interoperability conscious, so I have no problem supporting them (I also have a lot of Zooz devices, who are equally awesome).

All the WiFi devices went to Goodwill.

CharlesW7 hours ago

> I'm not super keen on Thread/Matter seeing how one of its goal seems to be allowing your devices access to the internet which is the exact opposite of what I want.

Happily, that's not a goal and definitely not a requirement. Thread/Matter work great without internet access unless you use them via a platform which does (e.g. Alexa).

vineyardmike5 hours ago

Most commercial platforms, which people will realistically use, are border routers. IP routers with internet access.

Beyond that, the protocol allows for logs to be uploaded to your ecosystem of choice, and allows for OTA installation of software updates.

Internet access is not a requirement for protocol, but neither is any other part of the modern “networked software” stack. Good luck with your internet-disabled SMTP server.

bradgessler10 hours ago

There’s really good WiFi smart home hardware out there, like anything Leviton ships I’d recommend. There’s also a lot of crap out there too.

I think the ideal smart home device can connect to the internet to check for updates either when I manually want to update it or setup an auto update schedule. An account should NOT be required, which sadly lots of smart home hardware requires.

windows20208 hours ago

There are some fantastic products (LIFX, Twinkly) that are WiFi and don't require the cloud. Zigbee falls apart when controlling a large number of devices in real-time.

rootusrootus6 hours ago

In my experience it's more nuanced. Some of my most unreliable devices are Zigbee (but they're also Aqara, and that may well be the real problem there). My Z-Wave devices have been pretty solid once configured, but they were also some of the most finicky to get paired up and on the network. My WiFi switches have been rock steady, not a single problem.

stavros6 hours ago

I got a Sonoff Zigbee USB dongle to use with Zigbee2MQTT and it's been bulletproof. It even managed to upgrade my finicky IKEA Zigbee devices to rock-solid firmware versions.

35mm6 hours ago

I can also vouch for the Sonoff

billfor7 hours ago

I’ve used Tasmota with Wi-Fi and mqtt and it works great.

Lendal7 hours ago

I use Hubitat but everything is Z-wave except for one Alexa-only bulb, which was a gift so I can't get rid of it.

What I've learned is that smart wall switches of all types are still too failure-prone for me. Now I'm converting back to standard wall switches with Z-wave relays wired in behind them. I don't like the extra lag they have, but I do like that standard wall switches last forever compared to smart wall switches.

If anyone knows how to reduce the lag, I'm all ears. The switch operates the relay which sends its signal to the hub, which then sends a signal back for the light to turn on. This process introduces a noticeable time delay between the switch closing and the light coming on.

35mm6 hours ago

Also wifi devices always seem to want a special app or account registration first, whereas with Zigbee you just allow new devices and then turn on your new device.

SI_Rob5 hours ago

Shelly's WiFi devices are all fairly cloud-optional - you can completely disconnect the internet and they will all work with Home Assistant just fine. Still, I'm not as excited about them as I used to be (mainly due to realizing there's a ton of cool-looking I/O flexibility they have that ends up being redundant once you settle on a control plane for wifi - MQTT in my case), and because their exposure of features and properties is somewhat inconsistent across device families.

But as a way to unburden your (usually one and only) Zigbee channel from certain types of chatty messaging, such as high-accuracy presence sending or complex lighting curve adjustments that can't be done ergonomically (or at all) via Zigbee, they are invaluable. Wifi (jailed in a VLAN, if you like) also provides a layer of failure protection should your Zigbee coordinator die unexpectedly.

nirav7252 minutes ago

Shelly is one of few HA component makers that have an open http API. I love that I can script a CURL call directly against a shelly smart plug.

magicalhippo4 hours ago

That was my approach as well when I invested some years ago in various dimmers, heater controllers and such.

One positive with Z-wave is that fallback is built into the protocol. So the switches can talk directly to the appropriate dimmer if the controller is down, for example.

ashman510 hours ago

I use both and both work well. There a pos/negs to both, Zigbee tends to be cheaper, but there is a complete lack of dimmer plugs.

somehnguy10 hours ago

I use both as well and see no reason to pick only one or the other. The USB stick hubs are very cheap and Home Assistant does all the heavy lifting seamlessly. Having both gives me pretty much unlimited flexibility.

For devices I usually pick whatever standard has the device I want at a more reasonable price or is on sale. So far I've yet to run into a scenario where I wish I had chosen the other standard for a specific device.

I also have a ton of devices on WiFi via Esphome on both esp8266 & esp32. Fantastic project, years of them running completely trouble free.

happymellon7 hours ago

I have dimmer switches, and I only have Zigbee.

Candeo are pretty reliable.

aeturnum7 hours ago

I think your attitude is almost exactly right but I will add: you can pick both. The two ecosystems don't really step on each others' toes and as long as you find a hub(s) to feed a single view there are basically no downsides.

vanviegen5 hours ago

I can think of two downsides:

- Harder to get coverage. Both zigbee and zwave use mains powered devices (like light bulbs) as signal relays for other devices. If you're using both, you need to ensure proper coverage for both networks.

- No protocol native groups and scenes. At least zigbee allows you to set any number of bulbs to a certain scene using a single fast broadcast command. When using something like Home Assistant to unify both networks, recalling a scene will cause each individual bulb to be sent a separate command, which can be sloooow when you have many bulbs in one room.

JshWright6 hours ago

If you're using 2.4GHz WiFi, then consider Z-Wave. It's a little pricier, but doesn't use the same chunk of RF spectrum (so won't cause interference).

bryanlarsen10 hours ago

Thread is based on Zigbee. It functions fine without the internet.

abollaert10 hours ago

I thought both Thread and Zigbee run on top of IEEE802.15.4, but Thread is based on 6LoWPAN / IPv6 where Zigbee uses its own network layer. But Thread idd functions fine without the internet (although you probably could connect devices to the internet if you'd want to).

ianburrell9 hours ago

Also important is that Zigbee is both the transport protocol and multiple home automational protocols. Zigbee compatibility is pretty good with the same protocol but not across different protocols.

Thread is a transport protocol for Matter home automation protocol. Matter is complex because it tries to do everything in one protocol.

vineyardmike5 hours ago

Thread is based on Zigbee in the sense that the thread designers read papers about the Zigbee spec. Also matter is partially based on Zigbee with its use of Zigbee clusters (deep in the stack, away from end users).

Zigbee and thread are different protocols and incompatible. You cannot mix them and that’s what most people are about.

tw045 hours ago

+1 for Hubitat - assuming they don't sell out their business model is perfect. They sell the base hardware which you'll need to upgrade over time as new z-wave/zigbee/other protocols come out. Additionally they will sell a subscription for backing up the hub configuration to the cloud, and essentially creating a reverse proxy to manage their hubs remotely.

The hub can operate completely offline, or if you're technically capable of setting up a reverse proxy/vpn/whatever to manage it you can do that as well. They provide timely updates, the hub for the most part has been rock solid, and the upgrade path between generations is pretty painless.

I've got a mix of both zigbee, z-wave, and a handful of wifi devices (that were free, I would never ever spend money on a wifi smart device if I could avoid it).

As an added bonus if you were a smartthings user, you can migrate your automation/drivers/etc with little to no modifications. Think about them as smart things 2.0.

www.hubitat.com

Disclaimer: not affiliated, just a fan.

devonkim8 hours ago

One thing I found a bit unsettling about some products is how manufacturers can say they support a standard when they’re really using it as a basis for a proprietary lock-in strategy. I didn’t realize the standards were so loose until I started researching some newer devices to support Home Assistant, namely the Aqara U100 which seems to require the Aqara hub to be able to support standard Zigbee when it’s advertised as supporting Zigbee

https://community.home-assistant.io/t/aqara-u100-smart-lock/...

yurishimo7 hours ago

Is this true of Zwave? From what I understood, one of the reasons that zwave devices are substantially more expensive, is that the licensing and certification requirements are much more strict. There also isn't a "first party" zwave hub that I can find. The Zwave alliance seems to only deal with the protocol and licensing, thus, any hub that claims to support zwave, will work with any zwave device.

gh02t6 hours ago

No. Loosely speaking, Zwave pretty strictly defines a list of device types (lightbulb, thermometer, etc) and supported formats for read/writes to it by device type (turn on/off, reports temperature,...). The API to handle those is then standardized, and the device manufacturer just fills in the code to implement the calls appropriate to the device. Devices are more-or-less "self-describing."

Baseline Zigbee is a bit more freeform (it's not solely a home automation protocol) and is a transport for whatever data format manufacturers want to send, with devices implementing their own details on top. Later on there was an attempt to standardize the communication format for home automation similar to how Zwave works and it was somewhat successful, but manufacturers still have a bad habit of having deviations and quirks. The standard is also not as rigidly enforced like it is with Zwave.

Again this is all simplified and there's more nuance but that's generally the breakdown. Practically speaking you'll have more consistency with Zwave devices, but nowadays Zigbee devices have a lot more variety. Support for (and quality of support for) new devices in Zigbee can be a bit more hit-or-miss, but it's usually pretty good nowadays with Zigbee having more marketshare/momentum. I use both, I have more problems with Zigbee, but I also have more devices for it by virtue of their being more choices.

organsnyder7 hours ago

That's been my experience so far. I have ~20 Z-wave devices from a variety of manufacturers. They all work very well with Home Assistant, and many of them now support firmware updating directly through HA as well.

vineyardmike5 hours ago

This seems like an edge case. It’s pretty rare to see a product advertise a protocol that isn’t freely used like this one. It even explicitly says in the product description it requires a hub. Aqara has always played fast and loose with support of various open specs.

Ecobee remote thermometers use Zigbee, but they can’t be generally paired to non ecobee products, and as such they don’t advertise Zigbee support.

santialbo12 hours ago

I'm running Zigbee2Mqtt on my Homeassistant and so far it's been a very pleasant experience buying devices from different brands without having to use each vendors app. The compatibility list is gigantic https://www.zigbee2mqtt.io/supported-devices/

rekoil12 hours ago

I've seen a lot of references to Zigbee2MQTT. If I'm going to be using it through Home Assistant anyway, why should one choose Zigbee2MQTT over say ZHA?

pavon5 hours ago

Another minor reason is that AFAIK ZHA has to run on the same machine as Home Assistant, while Z2M can run on a different machine, and is less resource intensive than all of HA. So you can plug the zigbee coordinator usb dongle into a centrally located OpenWRT router and run Z2M on it, while your Home Assistant machine can be located anywhere that is convenient.

function_seven12 hours ago

I used to run ZHA on my Home Assistant setup, and switched to Z2M a couple years ago.

At the time it had a longer list of supported devices, and the UI for configuring them was better. It felt kind of “dirty” to layer in yet another protocol (MQTT) between the Zigbee side and the HA side, but it’s worked great.

It could very well be that ZHA today is the same or even better than Z2M, but at the time I made the switchover, there was some device that I couldn’t use with ZHA that Z2M supported.

rekoil11 hours ago

I haven't really run across any devices that haven't worked in ZHA.

I did recently buy the latest generation of Philips Hue Festavia string lights and Home Assistant (via ZHA) had no clue how to set any of the scenes on it. I was able to use the official app to set scenes via Bluetooth though, while still being able to use ZHA to control power and brightness.

I believe the product was released very near the Christmas period though, so I'm sure it'll have full support in ZHA by next year, might just bring em out early and do it myself if nobody else has done it by then.

stavros6 hours ago

Same here, but with Z2M. Even some random, no-name, $20 thermostat works perfectly with Z2M, I can even set the week's schedules easily.

zer00eyz6 hours ago

I like home assistant. There's tons of reasons to use it. You get a lot of good enough moving parts out of the box.

MQTT is something you should set up ASAP. There are plenty of reasons to set it up: ESPresnse is a big one (can't say enough about this offering) AWTRIX is another, even if you aren't going to integrate zigbee.

MQTT becomes a cheap and easy way to add data to, and interact with home assistant. And, any device that communicates over MQTT can be controlled by you (custom code, dead easy) outside HA.

AHTERIX50005 hours ago

I used ZHA until I encountered devices ZHA didn't support or the support was broken yet they worked with Zigbee2MQTT.

That said Zigbee2MQTT isn't without its problems, it's still hobby-grade and not hard to crash with cheap and badly behaving devices.

iforgotpassword11 hours ago

I can second the sibling comment. I naively started out with ZHA for less moving parts in December. Switched to mosquitto and z2m a week ago because of one completely and one partially unsupported device. It's more involved and if something doesn't work you have to check two (three) different places now, but it seems worth it.

wkat424211 hours ago

I prefer DeCONZ instead. It's got a really nice UI both the web interface for the pairing and a great live network view over VNC.

ZHA is much more bare bones. I didn't try the mqtt one but I'm not so interested in something that uses mqtt in the middle. Another thing that can break..

rusk7 hours ago

I was on deconz, but eventually migrated to Z2M due to compatibility issues with some devices. It’s a far better experience to be honest. Haven’t looked back!

santialbo10 hours ago

Another silly reason is that unlike ZHA, Z2M doesn't restart everytime you restart HA.

rekoil9 hours ago

That's actually a lot more of an upside than it should be...

bhaney6 hours ago

Apparently I'm one of the rare few people who fell on the WiFi side of the WiFi/Zigbee smart home war.

All of my lightbulbs, occupancy sensors, etc just connect directly to WiFi, and run custom firmware that I wrote so I know exactly what they're doing and how to control them. They make no attempt to access the wider Internet, but they're all on a vlan without Internet access anyway.

It feels like introducing Zigbee to this would just be an extra hub device taking up space, acting as an extra point of failure, and making it more complicated to develop against my devices. As it stands now I can easily manually control devices by piping crap into netcat if I need to for some reason, since they're all just normal IP networked devices. I think I would have to jump though extra hoops to do similar things with Zigbee.

Is the main aspect driving people to Zigbee just that off the shelf consumer smart devices that use WiFi tend to be annoying dogshit, and Zigbee keeps manufacturers in line better? I don't see any reliability or simplicity benefits to it, just the market poisoning WiFi and Zigbee being the only worthwhile alternative.

alwa6 hours ago

I’m a latecomer to the home automation game, so I’m speaking from theory more than experience. In the environments where I’m thinking about building out, the WiFi is… you know, fine, but it’s not a rock solid corporate campus pushing reliable signal to every crevice of every garage and outbuilding where I might be interested in adding sensors. Power, though, is plentiful, and Zigbee’s auto-meshing capabilities are therefore attractive to me.

I also have an impression that Zigbee et al are more friendly to extremely low-power, battery-operated sensors participating in the network in situations where a WiFi radio might drain down quickly.

You do mention occupancy sensors, though—if you have experience with battery-powered models that work reliably on WiFi, I’d be open to changing my mind.

bhaney5 hours ago

> I also have an impression that Zigbee et al are more friendly to extremely low-power, battery-operated sensors

That makes sense. All of my "smart" devices are wired to power because I don't want to maintain batteries, and "power is plentiful" as you said. But I can see why WiFi would be a detriment for battery-powered devices, and why some devices would be annoying to hard wire to power (door/window sensors come to mind).

> if you have experience with battery-powered models that work reliably on WiFi

I don't. Most of my sensor devices are just generic sensor components wired into a ESP8266 breakout board, plugged into power. Not much that's ready off-the-shelf.

dzikimarian6 hours ago

There's at least a few interesting points for zigbee:

* If you use universal hub like Home Assistant, they are pretty interoperable between various manufacturers

* Devices don't have direct connection to internet (again esp. with HA), so better privacy, they are faster (no cloud lag) and do not depend on internet connection

* Battery life is way better for small devices

* Mesh is nice when you have bigger area to cover

* If you have to use shitty ISP router, it will have issues with large number of devices

* Usually easy push-to-pair setup

And there isn't many downsides - one time cost of some kind of coordinator and very slightly pricier equipment.

karlgkk6 hours ago

For zigbee, you could either obtain a zigbee/usb dongle (interact over virtual serial port to send zigbee commands - tons of libraries exist to provide an api surface), or obtain a hub and figure out its api.

Zigbee also has functional mesh features that wifi doesn't. One is designed for high bandwidth single point communication while the other is designed for low bandwidth long range.

matthew-wegner5 hours ago

How long do your battery-powered devices last?

AFAIK a big benefit of Zigbee is that it's designed to be low-power. I have motion sensors that last for 2-3 years on a coin battery, depending on location/traffic. Mains-powered devices like lightbulbs act as repeaters in a Zigbee network, so placement can be anywhere.

Tomuus6 hours ago

ZigBee is a mesh network, this is very important in many situations eg. battery powered or large area

bombcar11 hours ago

The main thing I've learned from this smarthome stuff is make sure your light switches also work when damn near everything but the power itself is off.

Really annoying not being able to turn the lights on or off because something (doesn't matter what) is not cooperating on a software level.

eddieroger7 hours ago

I went with Lutron Caseta switches (though they're not the only ones that do this) for that reason. When all else fails, they are just dimmers and remotes that talk to said dimmer. When I want them to be more than that, they work with HomeKit and Home Assistant just great. But Lutron is a switch company first and foremost, and that shows in these switches. They surpass the Partner Acceptance Factor.

I'd add to your advice and say "do as much as you can to keep the experience vanilla," which in this case means standard fixtures and bulbs, just replacing the switches. For the price of half of one Hue bulb, my whole fixture is smart now, and I can still use whatever bulb I want.

ydant5 hours ago

Have you found LED bulbs that dim nicely with the Caseta?

It's been a few years since I've tried, but in the past I went through so many bulbs that whine when dimming that I gave up and put in smart bulbs where I can conceivably hear the bulb. Which means I've got switches that don't work properly if the hub is down.

I love the Caseta otherwise. We use it for recessed cans and the whine is just not quite noticeable. But, e.g. over my bed it's very noticeable. Maybe newer models of Caseta solved something and the bulbs aren't the solution?

bombcar4 hours ago

Dimming is always the problem. I'm so fed up with bulbs in general that I may next time just wire multiple bulb-holders instead of one in each area.

The dimmable room that is working "best" is the one where everything is Hue and controlled "together" but it has issues when the Internet is down. The push-button switch they no longer make works decently well even then (sometimes): https://meethue.co/products/philips-hue-tap/

Avamander11 hours ago

Yea, the behaviour I want is always just to enhance not replace.

This is why I dislike smart bulbs with dumb switches and similar bad combos. Smart home appliances shouldn't hide any features behind an app either. But every manufacturer has perverse incentives to push their apps.

bombcar11 hours ago

Things have regressed - the older Hue stuff could have switches that had no batteries (pressing the button generated enough electricity to send the signal) and they could communicate directly with the gateway or even the bulbs.

Now everything is wifi or bluetooth and it sucks.

Five years ago I would have designed a new house entirely around these things; now it would be so old-fashioned it wouldn't look out of place in the 1950s.

xrd7 hours ago

Yes, it is insane how these things work. We bought a 60s house which presumably had bad wiring. The sellers elected to use "smart bulbs" and "smart switches" for everything to probably save money on the rewiring cost.

The thing you never realize, is that for each extra communication protocol and endpoint you add, you need to then troubleshoot across all the permutations.

So, if you are only using a wire to connect to another wire, there is only one path that can fail, the wire between them. Electricians are good at troubleshooting that.

If you add a wifi access point, and a smart bulb router (or whatever the fuck it is) and then you add a wifi extender, when things fail, which path did it take when it failed, or when it worked? The permutations you need to troubleshoot are suddenly an N^4 problem. Get your graph theory textbooks out and study up on the traveling salesman problem.

That's why we have had electricians come by who cannot figure out why when we push the wifi light dimmer button in one bedroom, that the other bedroom lights turn off. It just started happening a few months back. It's absolutely maddening.

All these smart devices are awful. As a related aside, our Amazon Ring devices no longer allow you to connect to their wifi with the Amazon Ring app, and we have a bunch of cameras that are dead once the power goes off. Used to be you could just join their temp wifi connection, register the device on the home wifi, and go. They turned that off. Now, they all say you need to get the QR code, but we cannot find that on the devices, so they are bricked. I'm sure this is because probably someone found an open wifi Ring camera, added it using their phone when they walked by, and spied on the family. But, I don't really care, I just know cameras are sitting there unusable by me, until some hacker walks by and figures out how to register them. I won't be spending anymore money on Amazon cameras, but I'm sure Amazon would be happy to have me just buy new ones.

WirelessGigabit11 hours ago

I have one place like this. There is no connection from the switch to the lightbulb. If the network is down, no lights.

I have some TP-link press-switches (so no on-off, just press to invert state), and they work amazing.

They work when the network is down. And you can read the state. Even if you turn off the network, flip the state, and turn it back on, it works correctly.

doubled1127 hours ago

> I have some TP-link press-switches (so no on-off, just press to invert state), and they work amazing.

I just bought a 2 plug smart plug and this was a major selling feature.

What happens if I'm standing there and I don't have a device on me? I just press the button like I would anyway.

devnulll11 hours ago

The key engineering point here is about failure modes. If the failure mode is a brick, then the engineering and design team behind that switch has failed.

The failure mode for a smart switch needs to be a "classic" switch. This applies equally to garage door openers, showers, door locks, and the rest of the smart devices.

Note: I'll give a bit of a pass to smart window blinds as a selling point is lack of strings and cables and the therefore look cleaner.

bombcar10 hours ago

It's like the failure mode of elevators vs escalators - the elevator fails and it's useless, the escalator fails and it's just a flight of stairs.

AlexandrB7 hours ago

Not necessarily so. (Warning, video of a bunch of people getting injured): https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qE2Lv-t9BHk

WorldMaker6 hours ago

Related to this, I still think think the original version of the Hue Tap switch was clever and I'm still surprised didn't have more clones and didn't entirely survive the internal revision wars/external protocol wars: the original didn't use a disposable "button" battery and instead used mechanical energy of pushing the button to power sending the Zigbee signal. It takes more force than a regular light switch to hit it with enough physical power, but it's also kind of satisfying in the way a mechanical keyboard button can be or a big chonky "snooze button" that you kind of want to smack with some force anyway.

I've heard it said that sort of mechanical powered switch with Thread/Matter is much harder, except with these old existing ones in bridges with old Zigbee compatibility, and more's the pity. It still seems such a good idea to me, one less battery to waste/go bad at exactly the wrong time.

bombcar4 hours ago

It was a phenomenally amazing idea, and I'm really sad it was discontinued. When I realized how it did the magic, it almost singly-handedly sold me on Hue (their stupid upcoming app account requirement unsold me, let me tell you).

WorldMaker4 hours ago

Yeah, I'm not thrilled about that account "requirement change" either. To be fair, for various different reasons over the years, I've used third party apps a lot more than the main Hue apps, so this may just be a push to switch back to third party apps again and/or finally upgrade from a Hue-only bridge to something like Apple Home Hub, which I'd been considering lately anyway because Apple HomeKey sounds like something useful to me (I'm less likely to forget my watch than my keys these days).

bradhanson10 hours ago

Check out the Shelly products. They use local control of a relay using standard switching hardware, so if your network is broken the lights still work as normal. Technically the switch isn't actually switching the power so there's _some_ element of electronics between you and mains power, but it's close enough for me.

bombcar10 hours ago

I've started using these switches: https://assets.lutron.com/a/documents/369987_eng.pdf as they work fine with the network off.

Amusingly enough the failed Best Buy product line still work great with Apple HomeKit (and manually) - even though they discontinued the cloud service and refunded all purchases as gift cards.

edude0311 hours ago

(I've been running home automation stuff for ~10 years now but) I am little surprised the author thought wifi/bluetooth would be better than technology made specifically for (home?) automation. To me meshing is a natural fit for interconnecting devices all around the house vs the hub and spoke model that wifi has.

Furthermore, I (read) and kind of disagree that thread/matter is a mess, but I'm coming from the point of view of an engineer who is keenly interested in home automation tech; for the typical consumer that's probably a fair take.

agloe_dreams11 hours ago

Thread and matter are a mess from both technical and consumer angles. Yes, they are both good technologies...but the players in the hub space have made an utter mess of it if you have multiple hubs or, like most Americans, use an iPhone but have Nest or Echo devices. Then you have the lack of adoption of thread in general. And finally, Matter support being always 6 months away for everything or just straight up not working. It is mind blowing to me that it was easier for me to set up my Wiz bulbs to work in Homekit via HA than to get them to actually frickin work over Matter...seeing as the Matter logo was on the box when I bought them.

Honestly, I'm kinda shocked that no hub company has shipped a Cheap Zwave/Zigbee integrated HA hub. Sure you have HA Green and Yellow and all that, but you could get that price way down with a simple partnership and purpose built hardware that is elegant.

edude038 hours ago

Yeah, not having a way to share keys between thread networks I think is the biggest technical challenge for the user/user experience. Home Assistant for example is able to import keys from an iOS device using its app and join a HomeKit thread network, but I don't know if that approach is scalable.

> Cheap Zwave/Zigbee integrated HA hub

The ikea Dirigera and smartthings hub have great HA support from what I understand, I'm not sure what'd it take to get the HA logo slapped on the box and have them officially supported though

Xelynega11 hours ago

I think an integrated hub would be a bit extra tbh.

Amazon sells a coordinator usb for $20, so pair that with anything that can rub home assistant(raspi, ha green/yellow, old laptop, etc.) and you have a ZigBee hub that's plug and play for ZHA and Z2M.

rlpb3 hours ago

> Honestly, I'm kinda shocked that no hub company has shipped a Cheap Zwave/Zigbee integrated HA hub.

Samsung SmartThings does both, doesn't it? Source: https://support.smartthings.com/hc/en-us/articles/3600523901...

Xelynega11 hours ago

I haven't looked too much into thread/matter, but my understanding of them has been basically this: https://xkcd.com/927/

I shudder at the idea of ipv6 addresses for my lightbulbs.

edude038 hours ago

From what I understand the benefit of ip addressing for IoT things is that apps on your phone (for example) can communicate with them directly, ignoring the underlying transport (and therefore, no need to have a thread radio in your phone for the manufacturer specific app to work)

I've always found that the most reliable combination is the Manufacturers app + hub + IoT devices (for example all Aqara or all Nest or all Hue) and interop hasn't worked great because there are special features that only work with the app made for the device (which again, only works with that manufacturers hub) so thread should fix that by making the hub just a dumb Zigbee to IPv6 adapter.

tremon6 hours ago

the most reliable combination is the Manufacturers app + hub + IoT devices

This means that the standard has failed to be an actual Standard, and thread/matter really is a big mess.

WaitWaitWha2 hours ago

I started domotics with X10, and migrated time to time to some newfangled solution once they stabilized.

Right now, I use Home Assistant (HA) with Zigbee, Z-Wave, WiFi, BLE, and LoRa. Some talk directly to HA, some go to MQTT, some through ESPHome, some through HACS integrations.

Current winners are Z-Wave and Zigbee. Both very much depend on the manufacturer's implementation. I have some Zigbee or Z-Wave devices that choke randomly, but provide too many niceties (I am looking at you Aqara).

I am leery of WiFi solutions as many have noted. I block all access to the world, and on some sites where I have domotics, there is no internet most of the time. I have been delighted with Martin Jerry and Shelly WiFi switches. They work like fresh butter on a crispy garlic toast in a cold morning. Many others on the other hand are super heavy with outbound traffic. (Why does a thermostat need to "check for firmware" daily?)

There is something about Matter that just puts me off. Not the technology mind you, but the invisible business posture on how Matter may end up functioning. "You can use our Matter our device any way you want to and can connect to anything, as long as it goes through our Matter Commissioner first"... alas, I might not have to worry about this maturing.

walth40 minutes ago

> Z-Wave is in some ways the better pick going forward

Z-Wave unfortunately is already dead. The legacy certification process, the higher cost chips, and the global frequency bifurcation.

jwr12 hours ago

Incidentally, I am building my own lighting controllers, largely because everything that is out there on the market sucks. Most importantly, I didn't want any "online accounts" for managing my devices, I didn't want to "agree to our privacy policy, your privacy is important" and then share all of my data with a company, and I didn't want anything that is Wi-Fi based.

I decided to go with Bluetooth Mesh and so far I'm really happy with how it is designed and how it works. It hasn't seen much adoption in the consumer space, being mostly used in industrial settings — indeed, its apparent complexity may seem baffling at first. But if you start with a good implementation (Zephyr OS on Nordic devices), it works very well.

iforgotpassword11 hours ago

I went with zigbee simply because there seems to be a ton of devices available, and while many vendors try to build devices that don't adhere to default messages so you'd have to use their gateways that talk to the cloud, zigbee is simple enough to reverse engineer the communication and add support in all the open source ha solutions.

marcus0x6212 hours ago

I've run around 20 Zigbee and an equal number of Zwave devices for several years. Zigbee is great. Zwave is terrible: despite operating at a better frequency for a home environment (lots of walls,) in my experience is has worse propagation, higher latency, and an unreliable mesh topology that randomly breaks and has to be manually repaired.

planb12 hours ago

Anecdote from the other side: my zwave devices just work for 8 years now, while there are times some zigbee devices just don’t respond. I suspect the zwave network is more stable because all routers are powered all the time, while I have lots of zigbee bulbs that are behind a real switch so they leave the network if I turn the lights off. There seems like to be no way in zigbee from preventing those devices to be used as routers.

iforgotpassword11 hours ago

I've read zigbee really doesn't like routers that aren't available 24/7 so I'm planning on avoiding this.

yanellena7 hours ago

Yeah Zigbee routers need to be on all the time, if you turn them off, other devices will start to form connections with other mesh nodes and will fail unexpected when you flip the switch back on.

robalfonso12 hours ago

I've found that some people have great zigbee experiences and terrible z-wave and just as many are the opposite. I chalk it up to individual environments etc. Go with what works best from you.

rlpb3 hours ago

I had that experience with Z-Wave using openzwave. Then I switched to node-zwave-js and the difference was night and day. All unreliability gone.

My impression is that it therefore very much depends on the quality of the controller software since various mesh management operations are delegated to it.

somehnguy12 hours ago

Interesting, maybe your ZWave dongle is not the greatest? I also run a mix of ZWave & Zigbee with their own appropriate dongles plugged into my Home Assistant server and they've both been great. No issues with devices dropping or needing to manually repair anything.

For both I use a 6ft USB extension cable to mount the dongles up on the wall behind my server instead of hanging out of the USB port.

marcus0x628 hours ago

It has been consistent across the following hubs/zwave adapters:

Micasa Verde

Smart Things

Hubitat

Home Assistant with the Zooz Zwave radio.

jauntywundrkind11 hours ago

There's also many generations of zwave specs. Everything is backwards compatible but perhaps perhaps perhaps the presence of older devices might slow down or degraded what newer devices might otherwise be speaking.

bliteben12 hours ago

What zwave devices have you been using? I have only used zwave (leviton, ge) and have only had to restart a switch 2-3 times. My biggest gripe with zwave was when home assistant switched the supported plugin.

marcus0x6212 hours ago

* GE/Jasco switches (the bulk of my devices, around 10 total.)

* GE/Jasco outdoor outlet controls

* Schlage motorized door locks

* Linear garage door controller

* Aeotec outlet control

* Aeotec repeater

* Aeotec temperature and humidity sensor

CharlesW11 hours ago

For people who haven't started their smart home project, my advice is to focus on Thread and Matter. Regardless of growing pains, Thread and Matter work today, have momentum, and are clearly the future.

(Note: The negative article the author linked to under "Matter and Thread are a big mess" to support his position was written by the same person.)

Z-Wave was a pre-IP proprietary standard that was forced towards standardization (Z-Wave Alliance remains a gatekeeper), but its future is unclear at best. Thread and Matter are the spiritual descendants of Zigbee, all of which are based on IEEE 802.15.4.

Also, I've seen posts praising the old protocols because they allow local control, but those concerns are unrelated. Alexa supports Thread and Matter but does not support local control, while HA and HomeKit support Thread and Matter and do support local control.

santialbo10 hours ago

I tried that and gave up. Get ready to spend a lot of moeny, sensors and devices are still very expensive compared to the ZB counterparts. Most Matter devices go with Wifi rather than Thread which makes your wifi network implode if you plan on installing a large number of them. For that reason I decided to go with what's cheap and works today, which is Zigbee.

CharlesW10 hours ago

> I tried that and gave up. Get ready to spend a lot of moeny, sensors and devices are still very expensive compared to the ZB counterparts.

When you compare apples-to-apples, there's no price penalty — for example, a Leviton Decora smart dimmer is $56 for Zigbee or $50 for Matter. Kasa's Matter dimmer switch is $27, and I see $3 Matter devices on AliExpress. Matter and Thread don't currently match Zigbee in terms of device diversity, but that's just a matter of time.

> Most Matter devices go with Wifi rather than Thread which makes your wifi network implode if you plan on installing a large number of them.

Even hundreds of Matter devices using Wi-Fi would collectively use an insignificant portion of your Wi-Fi network's throughput.

santialbo9 hours ago

Try having more that 40-50 devices connected to your home router and you will see devices disconnecting randomly because your router can't keep up with them.

CharlesW9 hours ago

I have more than that on my ordinary consumer router and have never seen a problem. Worst case, it'd be straightforward to dedicate a Wi-Fi router to your smart devices in the same way that you have a hub (and possibly repeaters) for your Zigbee devices.

dm_me_dogs11 hours ago

HomeKit-over-Thread and Matter-over-Thread has been pretty okay in my experience, using HomePods and an Apple TV 4K as the border routers. I'm using Home Assistant, and the HomePods control everything nicely. Setup is a little weird (you have to set up your devices in HomeKit first, remove and then add again in Home Assistant without resetting) but they work great. My only complaint is that HomePod Software and tvOS updates tend to bork the devices until I reboot HA, but that takes 10 ish seconds so not a big deal.

ex3ndr7 hours ago

That is a super bad advice: most of the matter stuff simply unstable, very few devices. Apple's support is also subpar and unstable.

CharlesW6 hours ago

Yeah, I can't relate to that at all. My Matter devices are more reliable than what they replaced (mostly switches and dimmers so far), and HomeKit support has "just worked". Matter's a 16-month-old baby, though, so YMMV.

ars5 hours ago

This is very bad advice. You should do the opposite of that. Buy Z-Wave devices and use them. They just work.

Later, your Hub will add Tread/Matter support and you can do that too, but right now it's not worth the trouble.

justapassenger7 hours ago

[dead]

ab_goat11 hours ago

I've been using Z-wave devices since 2017 for the following:

1. Dimmer lighting 2. Door sensors 3. Relays to customize radiant flooring better than thermostats 4. Seasonal lighting (outdoor string lights/Christmas tree) 5. Thermostat

Overall it's been a good experience, however I think the SmartThings app is a pain in the butt and should be a much better experience.

yesimahuman7 hours ago

My zigbee devices are the best part of my smart home setup (with home assistant). They always work, battery life is ridiculous, and they’re interoperable. Have only had issues with one motion detector from a brand that has otherwise been rock solid. If I had only known about zigbee before I swore off smart home tech (instead of wifi and proprietary hubs) the last time I tried I would have had a lot more fun!

mlichvar10 hours ago

My current understanding of the wireless technologies wrt to home automation:

- wifi is most reliable, secure, easiest to debug, but usable only for mains-powered devices due to higher energy consumption

- bluetooth LE has lowest energy consumption, best for unreliable broadcasting of data (e.g. temperature sensors), but has shorter range

- zigbee is best for battery-powered devices where reliable communication is needed and is initiated by the device (e.g. switch, window/door sensor)

- zwave is best for battery-powered devices which need to quickly receive data (e.g. door lock or directly controller radiator valves), but security seems problematic according to some reports

burnerthrow00810 hours ago

Regardless of theory, my experience has been that WiFi communications are significantly less reliable than Zigbee or BLE, and typically have worse latency to boot.

Unless you have a bunch of WiFi APs around your house, practical range with Zigbee is also better than WiFi because powered Zigbee nodes (like lightbulbs and switched outlets) act as mesh routers.

One additional benefit of Zigbee and Wave is the possibility of creating battery-less devices, like the Philips Hue Tap switch, which uses a hammer and piezoelectric generator for power.

santialbo10 hours ago

Add to wifi that if you plan on having a lot of devices your router might commit seppuku.

Zigbee can hold hundreds of devices (as long a you have zb routers in your mesh)

zehaeva12 hours ago

I'm very privacy forward with respect to my home networks. I run a home zigbee network which does everything I want it to in the home. Yes I can't turn the lights on and off from the other side of the world, but neither can anyone else.

marcus0x6212 hours ago

Home Assistant (or, really, any local HA controller) plus a VPN will allow you to control them from anywhere you have Internet connectivity without exposing anything to a cloud-based service.

Medox11 hours ago

Or a combination of HA + Telegram (bots) that will trigger and respond to a /<command>, even with buttons.

Maybe less secure than a VPN connection (e.g. if somebody gets control over the channel or bots instead of you/other trusted members) and of course more finicky until the bot works as desired, but always a nice party trick.

Or a combination of VPN for home-critical automations and telegram bots for the simple/shared ones.

srmarm12 hours ago

There are still even ways to expose the zigbee stuff, I can turn my zigbee lights on from the other side of the world and even access it via Google Home but it's on my terms and under my control. The actual switch itself is relatively dumb (which is a positive in this case!)

(not to say you're doing it wrong btw, just to let others know that zigbee can still be linked onwards to the internet from the gateway)

HumblyTossed12 hours ago

Between timers and motions sensors, I'm pretty much fully covered. There just isn't a reason for me to turn something on or off when I'm away.

t435626 hours ago

I have had a rotten time so far trying to get anything to happen with my Tradfri lights - I started off assuming that all of this could be done from the commandline - no not without difficulty.

How do you pair your computer's zigbee with the lightbulb? Who @#$#$ knows. The button - how do you EVER get that to pair or do you?

I'm so hacked off with it I cannot go back and try again for a while but IMO it all has a very long way before it gets as simple even as bluetooth and that was always pretty horrible itself (from the commandline at least).

wlesieutre11 hours ago

What happens if your gateway dies and has to be replaced?

From what I've read, this theoretically can be done, but in practice you end up unlinking and migrating every device one by one.

But it's been a few years since I looked into it, maybe someone has made improvements? Otherwise, this is a huge advantage of wifi-based smarthome devices.

Klathmon11 hours ago

So for zigbee this is very possible and I've recently done it multiple times without any issues whatsoever.

I used to use a ConbeeII as my zigbee coordinator, but my server rack is located at an awful position in the house for coverage, so I picked up a TubeZB PoE EFR32 based coordinator [1] which has been incredible! I use home assistant, and it was trivial to backup the network, unplug the ConbeeII, put in the IP address of the new coordinator, and import the backup there and everything just continued to work.

Then I had that die, it was actually the PoE portion which died, so I did the reverse and transferred everything back to my ConbeeII while I diagnosed and fixed it, then when it was fixed transferred everything back to the TubeZB coordinator.

It actually took longer to get the IP address assigned on the TubeZB coordinator than it did to transfer my network each time, it was incredibly simple.

I'm not sure for z-wave though. I do use it, but I've never had a z-wave gateway die on me, or had any reason to replace it where I wasn't also moving or something.

[1] https://tubeszb.com/product/efr32-mgm21-poe-coordinator/

wlesieutre11 hours ago

Good to know! One of the more specific things I was wondering is that when you relinked everything if HA would forget what's what or if it would hook the devices back up to all their automations afterward.

I have some Hue bulbs which are Zigbee, but I've been considering getting out of Hue's ecosystem for controlling them.

Klathmon11 hours ago

The names seemed to reset for some of my zigbee devices (interestingly not all of them, just some of them, it's likely something else going on and unrelated but I don't know for sure), but they still work in their original automations and in my UI everywhere that I have them.

LeafItAlone11 hours ago

I just replaced my Ikea hub (changed from Tradfri to Dirigera). It was annoying to do, but not hard. Took about ~90 seconds for each device. I did them individually, but I could have done them in parallel to speed it up.

Not something I want to do once a month, but once every two years is “reasonable” (compared to non-smart home items).

rlpb3 hours ago

AIUI, at protocol level, Z-Wave supports multiple controllers and if you have two and one dies then you can switch to the other and replace the first. I can't see consumers arranging that though, and nor do I know how to do it.

mannyv11 hours ago

I believe the re-pair process is a side effect of how security was implemented. I also heard it was technically possible to migrate without pairing, but i think right now it's between hubs from the same manufacturer. It's been years since i checked.

alistairSH11 hours ago

Zwave devices definitely seem to be "sticky" - you have to unpair/pair each device. At least that's been my experience using Zwave with a Smartthings hub.

the_mitsuhiko5 hours ago

Zigbee continues to be the only reliable thing in my household. I switched to the IKEA Dirigera hub for most of it and it's pretty stable. Cannot say that about almost anything else and I tried a lot.

sdflhasjd11 hours ago

When I started I had a good mix of all 3 (WiFi, Zigbee & Z-wave). 5 years layer, everything's slowly been absorbed into Zigbee. WiFi isn't a mesh network, so there's extremities with poor reliability. Z-wave just seemed to suffer from poor device availability, and everything turned out to be more expensive with no real benefit.

Also, one other thing to mention with WiFi and Bluetooth is how it's basically a massive red flag, a stamp of "hey, this device needs our shit app to use."

It's just a shame there's no Zigbee ESP32 equivalent for all my hobby bits.

shellfishgene6 hours ago

There is [1], but it's not open source and 'advanced' functions, like battery operation, cost money. Also this [2] project is promising, but in the early stages I think. Also I guess newer ESP32 support zigbee in principle, there is some discussion of adding this to ESPHome.

[1] https://ptvo.info/zigbee-configurable-firmware-features/ [2] https://github.com/ffenix113/zigbee_home

anonuser123410 hours ago

I actually went down the zigbee rabbit hole with my house last week. I tried the best selling zigbee motion sensors on amazon, however, they only worked within line of sight of the zigbee antenna. I then tried the Phillips hue motion sensors. They worked flawlessly throughout my home.

cqqxo4zV46cp12 hours ago

Amen to this. So many ‘smart home’ battles end up being WiFi battles. Zigbee is itself not perfect, but I’d much prefer to deal with Zigbee problems instead of propitiatory-protocol-and-app-probably-using-a-cloud-service-over-WiFi problems any day of the week.

alright256512 hours ago

It's the opposite for me. I have so many problems with Zigbee devices dropping off the mesh for no reason and batteries dying in 1/10th the advertised time.

Meanwhile my ESPHome devices have never had any issue whatsoever.

blagie12 hours ago

ESPHome is fine, but it's not representative of what people mean by "wifi devices."

Most wifi devices require a proprietary app, sweep up your data to some fly-by-night operation, stop working during an internet outage, don't interoperate between vendors, "call home," and yet never receive security updates.

Technically, it's 802.11, but by design, ESPHome is closer to Zigbee with a different underlying interface (802.11 rather than 802.15) than it is to most wifi devices. It's 100% open, simple, documented, reliable, etc.

I'd be fine with wifi devices if they were ESPHome underneath. Heck, I'd probably set up a separate network for HomeAssistant and IoT.

To that point, one major upside of 802.15 over 802.11 is battery life. I don't have any battery-powered 802.11 devices. It is possible to power zigbee devices from mains, and on my to do list at some point is to move a few of them from batteries to external power.

wkat424212 hours ago

If you have a lot of it it's an ever ongoing war with empty batteries and lost pairing though. Every week I have to fix some switch, temperature or door sensor...

apapapa5 hours ago

So functionality isn't the best part of your smart home?

For me it is a wirelessly-controlled deadbolt

m4634 hours ago

question - what system would you recommend for people in high density housing?

malermeister11 hours ago

Zigbee and Z-Wave are the best, I agree. Inherently local-only, so no cloud that sends your data god knows where and can be turned off without any notice. A standard system, so you can buy stuff from any manufacturer and be sure it works with your hub.

It's what smart home should be.

alistairSH11 hours ago

The only "catch" is if you want to use a voice assistant/smart speaker, which is either built into the hub, or requires a integration.

r2_pilot10 hours ago

I rolled my own several years ago with Voice Attack and python

malermeister10 hours ago

rhasspy is a popular open source solution - I've used it before, but I'm not sure if it's still in development

otterley11 hours ago

I would very much like to adopt Zigbee at home since it has the privacy and reliability features I want. The problem is the market: there just aren’t enough equipment options out there, and the few that are available are nontrivial to acquire (and who knows how long the vendors will survive). Sure, I can get some light switches, but not at my local home supply. And light switches are just one type of controller. I’ve got shades, door locks, thermostats, and more. The choices are so few. Sure, maybe an example exists, but if I don’t like the ergonomics or style, well, too bad. It’s like shopping in the former Soviet Union.

hiddencost11 hours ago

I've been using zigbee for industrial applications.

The security angle is particularly appreciated by a factory that wants to control their vents from one button without running tons of copper wiring. They're not going to put that on their network.

apapapa5 hours ago

If their only worry is using less copper, I am worried.

sitzkrieg10 hours ago

becoming more and more impressed at the number of devices being crammed into each home clogging up the already decimated ism bands