Easing into the zigbee world of devices. Need direction

Okay, I'm slowly climbing the learning curve with the help of many of you. Much Appreciated!

I'm coming from the Amazon device world; my first foray into smart home since the old X-10 system. I've successfully set up many of my tp-link devices, and that has gone well. I'm slowly learning what works, (TP-Link) what doesn't (Emerson Sensi Thermostat) and what I still don't understand. (Pre-Hubitat I purchased three Treatlife dimmable smart plugs DP-20). Apparently I need to desolder and resolder a new chip in order to use). Facepalm!

There appears to be a vast array of sensors, buttons, etc. in the ZigBee line. I purchased motion, temp, contact, button, and bridge. Ready to play. However, I discover that the first step is flashing the bridge with Tasmota firmware and going from there. Otherwise I wont be able to see and use effectively. I understand, open-source better in every way to OEM in many cases.

Question 1. Really? did I just purchase the wrong ZigBee bridge (Sonoff) and have to swap out firmware? Is there a better device or direction to go with? Does anybody sell ready-to-use bridges? Or do I just bite down, get the cable, and do this stuff?

Question 2. I have basic light switches covered, but with motion, temp, and contacts I can really start to fill things out and get into true "automation" and "smart". What brand - line should I be looking at.

Question 3. Should I be looking at systems other than ZigBee for these devices? I understand that they seem inexpensive, but they also seem almost toy like. I want to learn, and do this stuff once, so I'm trying to get on the right track and acquire quality components.

Thanks. Looking forward to the day when I can actually answer questions, not just ask.

Hubitat is (among other things) a Zigbee hub. Unless you have devices that don't work with Hubitat, e.g., because they are not compatible or you can't find a driver that works or that you like, then it's unlikely you need the Sonoff Zigbee Bridge. I've mostly seen a Tasmota-flashed incarnation of this suggested as a way to integrate Zigbee into systems that don't otherwise have Zigbee support, e.g., Home Assistant (where all hardware is bring-it-yourself and this is just one of many options). If you have Sonoff devices like their temperature/humidity, motion, and contact sensors, those can pair straight to Hubitat.

There are so many personal preferences here and you're likely to get just as many answers as there are people who answer. I'd look at Hubitat's compatible device list if you want to make it as easy as possible on yourself, though many more devices can work with stock or community drivers than are listed. If you have any preferences for protocol (e.g., Zigbee; Z-Wave is the other major contender that Hubitat supports), you can keep that in mind, otherwise I'd say just go for whatever price, appearance, featureset, etc. is appealing to you. The Sonoff ones aren't bad--they're cheap and seem to work well--but they're not exactly going to win any design awards. They are also less features than some others (e.g., their motion and contact sensors don't throw in temperature as a "bonus feature" like lots of others do). I really like the SmartThings Zigbee sensors, but they are apparently hard to find now as their hardware production is likely changing hands. On the Z-Wave side, Zooz, Inovelli, HomeSeer, and Aeon/Aeotec are some well known brands. See what you like, maybe check out some reviews?

As I hinted at above, the other major similar protocol that Hubitat supports is Z-Wave. I don't think most Zigbee devices I've seen are "toy-like," but we might be looking at different ones. :slight_smile: (Unless it's the Sonoff. I'm not sure it's "toy," but they do look like...something.) Many LAN devices are also supported, e.g., Lutron's Caseta and RA2 lines (these are really Lutron's own proprietary wireless protocol, ClearConnect, but Hubitat uses the telnet integration to talk to them over your LAN, as do most Lutron integrations on any system aside from the few Lutron licensed their radio to and is unlikely to do again). These have a well deserved solid reputation, but many of these devices also have a price to match. Some devices like Sonos can also be integrated over the LAN. The compatible device list above will give you an idea of what is possible.

Others might have more ideas or more specific device suggestions. I have a lot of devices and only a few I don't particularly care for (and a couple more I'd add to that list but aren't really "supposed" to be compatible, so I can't complain too much...). :smiley:

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Thank you for such a complete answer!

Just to be clear, I got my 5 Sonoff devices, and set about "Pairing" motion-thermo-contact-and button to the Sonoff Bridge.

What I should have done was put each one into pairing mode, and pair it with the Hubitat? This learning curve is full of wonderful little epiphanies.

Yep! The Sonoff Bridge would be more or less an alternative to Hubitat. Some manufacturers are better than others about recognizing that people might use another compatible hub with their products (assuming they are compatible--which the new Sonoff ones are standard Zigbee, as far as I know, or at least are compatible regardless). :smiley:

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Quick question. So I do have a Sonoff bridge. Can I piar it to the hubitat to act as a range extender? I have a shop that is wired to my network, and has mesh wireless as well, but it might be too far for zigbee device mesh. Would a second bridge extend that?
Oh, and, so far zero luck getting the Sonoff Bridge to pair with Hubitat.

No, the Sonoff Bridge is meant to be a "coordinator," i.e., hub. You cannot pair it to an existing network to use as a repeater, nor could you, for example, pair another Hubitat to your Hubitat network to use as a repeater. (As you've found, they just won't even pair.)

Besides this, however, most mains-powered (or USB-powered) devices are designed to act as "routers," i.e., repeaters, for the network they are paired to: smart plugs/outlets, dimmers/switches, etc., with rare exception, or dedicated "repeater"'devices like the Ikea Trådfri USB repeater.

Okay. Thank you again for the information. I'll continue to build out me Zigbee network, and see if I can jump the 75' outside-to-outside of my home to shop with indoor devices. If not, I'll tackle the problem then.
There is a way.

This should be achievable. I use a Zigbee battery operated contact sensor in my streetside mailbox; its parent device is an Iris V2 outlet 92' away in a bedroom inside my aluminum-sided house. It has never fallen off or required any attention other than annual battery changes.

Very good to know.
"It's parent device." I get that; the outlet is the device closest to the mailbox. Is there a way to "see" the Zigbee network and the various device relationships? I use an IP scanner to see all my network devices, but am not aware of a way to poll Zigbee.

The built-in options are limited--the only thing is the table that the http://YourHubIP/hub/zigbee/getChildAndRouteInfo URL will spit out. You won't (necessarily) see all devices here, just ones in either direct range of the hub or close enough (one "hop"/repeater, I think?) that they show up.

Some community members use an Xbee to map their network, act as a (good) router, or both. There is a thread with lots of information: Everything Xbee. The XCTU software you need to "program" the module can also build a map of the network, whether the Xbee is added as a router (which you'd do for Hubitat) or acting as a coordinator. DeCONZ is another piece of software I know of that can map Zigbee networks, but it only works with a ConBee (or RaspBee) and I don't think there's a way to join those as routers/repeaters, only coordinators, so I don't think those would work with Hubitat.

But for the most part, Zigbee (and Z-Wave) are good enough about figuring out routes and there's usually not much reason to look into this kind of thing unless you're having problems--besides curiosity. :slight_smile:

Understood. When Tony mentioned "Parent device", I suddenly envisioned a star topology network, and wondered about a visualization. Likely wont need anything like that, but gotta ask questions to learn.

It's a mesh topology: the powered devices/"routers" are options that both "end devices," i.e., non-repeaters, and other routers/repeaters can route through. "Parent device" just means the device that the device in question is routing through/to, whether that be a router or the hub directly.

There are ways to visualize it, just not built in to Hubitat. The built-in "hidden" URL I mentioned above does show you at least partial information, just in a tabular format and not the graphs you might see some people make. But usually there's no reason to do either other than fun. :slight_smile: (Which, I confess, it is sometimes...)

The Zigbee designated parent/child relationship is part of the protocol-- a Zigbee battery powered device becomes a child device of one particular router at join time (the parent, which is an always-on router or the hub), and remains so until some disruption (or change in the environment) provokes it to find another one through an architected rejoin process. The parent can also evict the child if it hasn't checked in within a specified time interval; it can support only a limited number of child devices, so it needs to free up resources for re-use.

Though a child will keep track of other potential parent routers (it listens to their periodic link status messages), as long as it remains in the designated 'child table' of the parent, all communications to/from the rest of the network are only via that one parent device-- not directly from other routers in the mesh.

Messages intended for the child are routed to the parent, stored, and get retrieved during the child's wakeup interval when it polls the parent router. Unlike Z-Wave battery devices (which ignore and lose messages sent while they are sleeping), a Zigbee battery device is designed to have messages sent to it while it is asleep; they're received and held by the parent.

Lots of advantages to this child/parent scheme-- no need to physically 'wake up' a sleeping Zigbee device to immediately configure it (it will retrieve the config parameters from the parent on its next wakeup interval, within seconds), also no need for the special beaming repeaters that make Z-Wave battery operated locks possible.

A comment about motion sensors.
I was just trying to install a motion sensor at someone's house.
It was a bathroom, and I put the sensor on the wood casing of the door, hoping to turn on the switch immediately upon entering the bathroom.
I tried using the Sonoff. Great, small form factor. However, it took 3 seconds to turn on the light.
OK, I then put in one of my old centralite (Samsung V2) motion sensors. I don't think you can get them anymore. Response was instant. Worked perfectly. Not as small as the Sonoff, doesn't look as nice, but works like nobody's business.
I also think the Tuya (Zigbee) motion sensor responds quickly.

About to hit "Order" on yet more devices from Amazon. Thought I'd confirm. I seem to have found my Zigbee distance limits. The small Sonoff sensors (contact-motion-temp) don't appear to act as Zigbee repeaters or extenders.
Are the powered zigbee devices, (outlets, wall switches, smart plugs) the ones that effectively act as range extenders or Parents?

Most mains-powered Zigbee devices act as repeaters (whether directly powered or USB-powered). The rare exceptions I know of to this are Sengled products (both their bulbs and outlets; and bulbs are something you generally want to avoid as repeaters for other reasons) and the Hampton Bay Zigbee Fan Controller ceiling module. Battery powered devices do not act as repeaters--it would greatly negatively affect their battery life to be "on" all the time listening for messages to repeat. So, your conclusion is correct.

If you're looking for a recommendation, you'll get lots. :slight_smile: If you have a need for a specific type of powered device (e.g., switch, dimmer, smart outlet/plug, etc.) and can find a Zigbee version of it, that's an easy way to take care of two things with one device. There are also dedicated "repeater" devices like the Ikea Trådfri USB repeater, which is small and isn't too expensive (though does cost more than Ikea's smart plug that is also a repeater, though one that doesn't seem to have strong signal in my experience).

From the Z-Wave side of the world, here is a good thread discussing popular Z-Wave products: My Favorite Z-Wave Devices (Currently)

Don't listen to those Z-wave guys! Stay Zigbee! heh

Believe me, my muddled little mind can't afford yet another standard and associated learning curve right now.

There does not appear to be a standard or style indicator on Zigbee devices to let me know if it's a repeater or non repeating devices. Seems, other than the ones you listed, most AC powered units will have the bigger radio and capacity to act as a repeater. Is that a semi safe conclusion?