Huge old house: Z-Wave or Zigbee?

Dear Hubitat colleagues,
I want to add smart devices to my house, mainly to automate lighting and to have some security such as smoke alarms, door sensors and smart locks.

The house is relatively large, over 6 floors and about 50 rooms. It has been built in the 1800s so some walls are very thick and made with stones.

I currently installed around 10 Zigbee Osram Smart+ Zigbee bulbs that I was hoping would create a good enough mesh to cover all stairways and corridors, but they don't, in fact they turn on based on movement inconsistently and seemingly randomly. The reason why I went with the smart bulb approach instead of smart switches is that I have many different kinds of switches, for which finding compatible ones seems problematic. I also need about 20 bulbs but counted in total around 30 switches.

Besides the Osram Zigbee bulbs I already installed 3 Fibaro Motion Z-Wave sensors in proximity to the C8 hub that seem to work fine, same for 3 Heiman smoke detectors.

So now I'm facing the dilemma: should I choose Zigbee or Z-Wave and aim to build a strong mesh network with repeaters?
Or maybe I should have Zigbee for some devices and Z-Wave for others, and I will need to accept the fact that I need double repeaters to strengthen both networks? :thinking:

I'd be very grateful to hear your expert thoughts. I'm a novice and what I've done until now has been mainly for experiment and familiarisation purposes.

Thank you! :pray:

We're still in a constrained product availability world and picking one Z-protocol over another is boxing yourself in. You really have to pick what you need first and then determine the protocol if the choice is both.

I have much more ZWave than Zigbee but I have Zigbee devices that are Repeater greedy. I started with wall warts and after the family unplugged those a few time, I chose to swap a couple of my ZWave devices that were working perfectly with their Zigbee equivalents to gain in-wall Routers. They were hard to find then.

For a house that old, how's the electricity distribution? As in: do you have neutrals in the switch/dimmer boxes. Because finding no-neutral devices further reduces your choices.

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Seriously...relatively large? That's not relatively large, its objectively giant!! :slight_smile: Was it originally built as a house, or converted from business use, or ? Would love to see some pics if you're OK w/that, sounds amazing, six floors, 50 rooms!!

To help w/your questions, are you going to automate all six floors, and all areas of each floor? And in terms of automation are you going to want:

  • Motion lighting/presence
  • Contact (windows/doors) triggered lighting & notifications
    -- Could be very useful w/such a big house to be able to know if windows are open on the 5th floor when a storm is coming)
  • Exterior door smart locks
  • Other ?

Based on what I've seen here over the years, Osram may not be the best bulbs to use.


With a house that size, you might be better off with multiple Hubitat Hubs spread throughout the house and use Hub Mesh to bring them all to a coordinator hub. This way you can build out Zigbee or Zwave devices as you need to depending on what works best for each individual floor. @csteele's question about having neutrals is important for light switches. Do you have neutrals; otherwise, this will definitely limit your options.

The other question is how is your ethernet/WiFi connections within the house? Matter devices (available on the C8, in beta testing for C7 and C5) might be able to fill in some gaps as well.


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Old houses (my last one was circa 1926) are a pain to get reliable signals through. Lots of obstructions, signal attenuation and refleciton. Mine was only around 1000 sq feet of livable space.

Current house is a dream. 2800 sq feet, but the layout makes it so locating my hubs in the corner of the garage closest to our living space puts it pretty well centered. It's a 1986 build and the drywall, less dense wood structure and no heating ducts (electric only heat with a side bonus of a good Zigbee repeater in every room thanks to Sinopé thermostats) make my network very robust. Even my Xiaomi stuff on HA works great with just a few Xiaomi and IKEA devices doing the repeating for that Zigbee network.

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This would be my suggestion !!

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Dear @csteele @danabw @JB10 @SmartHomePrimer @Evilborg thank you very much for your suggestions, and time! :pray:

To provide more details:

  1. I never thought about using multiple Hubs, that's indeed a very interesting approach that will enable me to create a strong mesh network for Zigbee + Z-Wave + Matter. Very very interesting:

    1.1. Would you recommend connecting all hubs via Ethernet to a central switch, or will wi-fi work reliably enough? I have a PoE switch (also connected to UPS) from which multiple cables extend out and are routed alongside the stairwell, providing network connectivity to each floor of the building. The stairwell is more or less located in the middle of the building, so instinctively I think that could be a good option for both wired connection & power. What do you think?

  2. The house will host a mix of offices and residential spaces, and often I'm travelling and very busy for work, so it's for me very important that the system will be as reliable and difficult to be accidentally sabotaged. I won't always be able to tempestively troubleshoot issues, and that's why, similar to @csteele experience, I don't really like the idea of using repeaters or devices critical for the functioning of the system that could be involuntarily disconnected by the occupants of the building.

  3. Neutral wires presence - as I'm quite ignorant on the subject I attach the photos of two switches on the first floor. Can you help me confirm?

  4. @danabw I shall agree with you, for me as well the house it's freaking giant. I still get lost after 6 months owning it. But you know, some people would consider it as a small hut :sweat_smile: The building has a mix of commercial and residential spaces: it used to host an industrial coffee roasting facility, an electronics/jewelery/grocery shop, offices, storage, bedrooms... I uploaded a few representative photos in this folder (password: "Hubi") to give you a better idea of the building type

  5. Yes, I plan to automate all floors (some more heavily, some more lightly), and the main devices used will be: (1) motion lighting/presence (2) contact triggers (3) internal/external smart locks (4) temperature/heater management (5) smoke/air sensors.

  6. I installed one TP-Link Deco mesh Wi-Fi on each floor of the house, and that seems to give me reliable internet pretty much anywhere

What do you guys think, shall I plan to move ahead with the multiple C8 hubs approach? If yes, how would you recommend to check coverage and install them strategically to maximise reach and signal quality?

Thank you so much. Really appreciate your support, I find Hubitat as a very interesting system, but the learning curve is quite a steep one starting from ZERO experience/knowledge in home automation :grin:


Amazing...that is a LOT of house/office space. Especially like what I think must be the basement (all the stonework) and the attic (tons of materials up there!). Some of the paneled celings are very cool.

Going to be a lot of work, but lots of potential. You're definitely going to want to use multiple hubs, and best results will be via ethernet connections...always better/more reliable than Wi-Fi in any situation.

People often ask Zigbee vs Z-Wave, which Z-Wave device is best etc. My first question would always be - what country do you reside in. In the UK and Europe there's a lot that's unavailable that's discussed on here (Lutron, Inovelli, Zooz). As others have mentioned due to the size and construction of the property wireless range may be low. I guess it'll need multiple hubs and plenty of powered repeating devices to create a strong mesh (regardless of protocol).

This whole paragraph reads to me.....floor by floor SEGMENTATION of EVERYTHING from the networking to the smart controls. So I'd be thinking hard about how each floor of the building is going to be used. The up front investment will be higher than trying to bundle it all in one or two boxes but if you've got many folk in there that have nothing to do with you/your family (and/or each other) then you really want to be able to isolate them and their respective floor problems from each other.

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This :point_up:

In regard to the wiring, I have no clue. That is not the standard wiring color sceme in Canada or the US that I’m familiar with. Here, green is ground (earth) and I can’t see why a ground would be needed in a light switch. If you’re swapping out light switches, I would get a local electrician involved.


A house with 50 rooms is usually considered to be a mansion, and a large one at that. President Thomas Jefferson's home Monticello has only 43 rooms. George Washington's Mount Vernon has only 23 rooms.

No matter which protocol you chose, or even if you choose multiple, the construction of a structure from the 19th century is going to be a problem for automation. Radio waves are easily blocked by stone or brick walls. Even if you have plaster over wooden or metal lathing, it is a lot thicker and denser than modern gypsum wall board used in more recent construction.
Before doing anything with home automation, I would suggest that you set up a WiFi network for Internet to see how that propagates. I suspect you are going to need multiple access points throughout the area. Those access points have far greater range than a battery powered sensor.

Technically, Z-wave has a greater range than Zigbee which operates at a higher frequency and thus does not penetrate walls and floors as readily. However, the advantage of Zigbee is that the number of repeaters in the signal chain is unlimited. Z-wave only permits 4 hops. With Zigbee, you might be able to locate repeaters in rooms and hallways so the signals can route through doorways and up and down stairways rather than having to transmit through dense walls.

I hope you have the money, time and patience for your project. I suggest you take the approach you would take in eating and elephant. Bite off only a small piece at a time. Start with the most critical area. Once you have that working, move on to the next area.

Remember also that Hubitat has hub mesh. As long as you have Internet access through out the house, you can set up multiple Hubitat hubs for specific areas of the house and then connect them through your LAN. That is probably going to be a lot more effective than trying to run everything off one hub.

Also, Hubitat has recently released a new version of the C-8 hub with more memory and a faster CPU. With a structure as large as yours, you are going to need that extra capability.


My house is small (only 4 floors) :slight_smile: but it is modern and mostly concrete with reinforcement so I opted for a hub per floor (wired back to my switch). This is working very well - I have some local floor specific logic and share devices that are more general purpose via hub mesh and then use 1 of the floor's hubs as the main place for the controlling apps. Really works fine, I chose to use ZWave for 90% as I wanted to ensure decent signal coverage but this may not have been essential though probably cost more than zigbee options

For people in the States, I usually recommend the Lutron Caseta/Divo lighting system. It is quite reliable. However, since this functions as a hub and spoke system with only one repeater allowed, it would be a poor choice for anyone with a very large house.

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In addition to the dedicated repeater device, it’s also possible to use one Caseta plug-in dimmer as an additional repeater in the same system.

@danabw yes, there is quite a large variety of spaces, and cool stuff around the house :blush:
@johnwill1 you are right, I forgot to mention that the building is located on the Swiss/Italian border. I'm also hopeful that multiple hubs and a few powered repeaters will do the trick!
@PunchCardPgmr the building spaces are going to be rented "room by room", meaning that each room will have unrelated people, not floor by floor. I agree on segmenting as much as possible to isolate issues, but it's going to be impossible "room by room", the floor by floor approach seems more reasonable. Then, obviously, if a specific customer will require a dedicated network for internet and home automation, that can be done ad-hoc.
@rwclements228 I already installed Wifi in the whole building, using multiple TP Link Deco repeaters, one for each floor. I didn't check thoroughly signal in each corner of each room but overall it seems good signal can be received everywhere in the house.
@Stylo it's great to hear that the Multiple Hubs approach is working well in your case. How do you set one hub as the "main place for controlling apps"? Also, will I need to pay for one subscription for each hub that I want to connect remotely to?

I'm going to follow the suggestions and go with the approach of multiple hubs connected and powered by ethernet cables:

  • Do you guys recommend me to purchase for example 2 additional hubs, try to position them as strategically as possible, power them up and see how the coverage/devices response is, and then if needed add more hubs, or would you install one per floor?
  • How to choose which hub to be paired with each device? I guess each hub will be usable as an independent hub, with its own IP address/web interface, so how to know which of the hubs has best signal for each specific device and therefore trigger the "pairing" from it?
  • Do you guys recommend buying the new C8-Pro hubs, or the older C8 will be enough for my use case?

I'm really grateful for all your suggestions, very insightful, such a fantastic community! :clap:t2::clap:t2::clap:t2:

Fantastic building, awesome project.

Some things I would have on my mind, in your shoes. If you are going Zigbee, then you may need to be mindful of 2.4 GHz interference (shared with Wifi, notably), especially if you plan to use battery-operated (sleepy) end devices. The recommendation is to have individual hubs on distinct Zigbee channels. The channel used by TP-Link Deco units may not be user-selectable. Together this increases the likelihood of overlap and potential interference. Careful placement of the hubs may or may not help - repeaters joined to a mesh define its range (to sleepy end devices) as much if not more than the hub location. Also, radio waves don't care about how humans like to organize things (per floor, per room) so some experimentation might be worthwhile before you commit to a particular deployment scheme (in this house, RF appears to prefer going through the wood floor than across plaster walls). Unpopular opinion : ethernet cables may be a premature optimisation if good wifi coverage across the building is a requirement. Figure out best hub/device layout first, cables second. Think about whether you need to design to tolerate power outages - have backup for the hub, wifi unit(s) and possibly repeaters.

Might also want to consider Matter / Wifi devices (e.g. Kasa - if something like that is available in the EU)

The price difference being negligible, go Pro.

Good luck !

My "master" is of course the same as other hubs it's just the one I use to link into the shared devices over hub-mesh so I can eg turn off all lights in communal areas with a remote button at night vs weighting for their own scenes to be activated. For me I prefer certainty of this to using motion sensors to keep lights activated as all are low energy. And yes subscription per hub.

As mine are 1 hub per floor it is a bit easier to plan what device connects to what hub but I have concrete floors throughout so figured that would generally be a more reliable config but with timber floors there may be better approaches. For me I do like knowing instinctively what hub a device is on if I want to do anything with it or a "local" app that uses it.

  1. Wonder if anyone in the community has meshed this many hubs together.

  2. Wonder what vulnerabilities & dependencies this presents, I mean there's no doubt that a Master Dashboard that controls each floor through a Master Hub meshing with each floor level hub sounds perfect....but I would not design this w/o fully independent operation on each floor.

I only have two hubs in service and I appreciate their fully independent oversight & operations every time there is a glitch in the ethernet link (wireless by necessity) between them.

I took the liberty, for those who come here w/similar needs, of updating the topic name. I hope you don't mind, but the original adjective "large" just did not quite capture the scope of your huge building/project. :smiley:

Am enjoying watching this topic very much. :slight_smile: