Noob User - Looking for advice on devices/best practice for getting started!

I've new to home automation, and did a bit of research before choosing Hubitat. I have a hub on order via USPS, so may take a week or two to be delivered here in Ontario (Canada).

In the meantime, I've been trying to figure out the best way forward to learn/play with the hub without dropping a ton of $$$.

Eventually, I'm looking to add two smart deadbolt locks (front and back doors), but initially I thought adding a couple of switches that I could use to turn on/off/dim lights would be a good place to start and get my feet wet.

I know enough to be dangerous - that there's a difference between z-wave, z-wave plus and zigbee. I've read a bit about some zigbee stuff interfering with z-wave stuff, so thinking I should lean one way or the other initially - until I'm comfortable with the system and want to add complexity. It looks to me like z-wave/z-wave plus is the way I'm leaning.

I've seen the list of compatible devices, but wondering if anyone can shed some light on good choices for starters. I'm looking for:

  • easy to configure,
  • cost effective (i.e. purchasing multiple units to reduce price)
  • well made (not going to break/wear out in the short/mid term)

Our house is ~ 1500 sq ft on the main floor - which is the scope I'm looking at outfitting now, so I expect I may need to purchase a couple dedicated repeaters. Are there some that are better/cheaper than others?

Looking for some pointers to devices that are available in Canada either via, or bricks and mortar stores. I'm in London, Ontario, so lots of big box stores here, and electrical supply places if those are reasonable places to look.

Looking forward to getting up and running so I can contribute to this forum!


As far as this part I highly recommend getting Zigbee version locks instead of Zwave you will have a much better experience.

Also, Zigbee stuff shouldn't interfere with Zwave stuff as they operate on completely different frequencies.


Thanks for the quick response @waynespringer79! I was surprised to read about interference between z-wave and zigbee, but I'm sure I saw something about a brand of zigbee lights causing problems for z-wave stuff. Sorry - can't put a finger on the link - might have even been in these forums or reddit. Trying to assimilate too much info too quickly for an old guy like me I guess. :slight_smile:

The only potential interference is between Zigbee and WiFi (ZigBee and WiFi Coexistence – MetaGeek Support).

When you start setting up, as I recall, the hub picks a Zigbee Channel for you. In my case Zigbee was kind of flaky. I changed it to channel 20 and it's been solid ever since.

Advice - take it slow - get a couple of devices working and play with it a little bit. I strongly recommend you do that before buying any large quantities of devices.

Stick to supported devices on the list (List of Compatible Devices - Hubitat Documentation). At least until you get some experience.

Check out the documentation (Hubitat Elevation Documentation - Hubitat Documentation) most importantly the two articles on building a strong mesh.

Use DHCP reservations to give your hub an IP address that will not change.


Don't try the locks until you are confident that you have a strong network for whichever protocol the lock uses. Based on my frustrations with Z-Wave locks, I would suggest looking for a Zigbee lock that meets your needs and appears to be successfully implemented by others in this forum.

More on the "interference" question - some Zigbee lights don't make good repeaters. There is a lot to read about this in the forum - I won't try to summarize. Personally, I have avoided "smart" bulbs and used smart switches and dimmers instead. Of course everyone has different requirements . . .

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For lights, i strongly recommend Hue bulbs or equivalent lighting system. Add-on plugs are almost as much as the bulbs and just do on/off and power status. So for lighting, buy a lighting system like Hue or other that meets your needs.

Leak sensors and freeze sensors are a start for protecting frozen pipes, also I LOVE my door sensors to tell me when a door opens, and i have tilt sensors for my garage as well with a Siren for off hours and when we are gone.

All good starting points to gain an understanding how it works.

I also use in wall switches for non-Hue bulbs and ceiling fans and one outlet for the under cabinet lighting triggered by a motion sensor so you don't get blinded by lights in the middle of the night.

All can be turned off when you leave the home or automatically at a time, saving some energy costs for those that leave stuff on...

Alexa/Google/Apple integration allows you to say Turn off kitchen or any combo of lights or things you want... very handy for powering down the home.

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I can't think of any reason you would need to avoid Zigbee. I especially dislike Z-Wave motion sensors. The ones I have tried all seem slow compared to the Zigbee ones I have tried.


I second that, other than (imo) better energy monitoring outlets, I actually wouldn't recommend using zwave over zigbee on this platform other than if you need a sensor at a farther distance away from available repeaters.


If you want In-Wall switches, dimmers and especially outlets vs Wall Warts, then ZWave is the answer.

I REALLY wanted to improve my Zigbee mesh for the Hampton Bay Fan Controllers. I had some Iris outlets used for Christmas lying around and got it all working reliably... so I knew exactly which Outlets I wanted to replace with Zigbee outlets. Still looking.... I decided to swap an In-Wall ZWave dimmer with a Zigbee one..

Neighbor Table Entry
[peanutPlug01, 3190], LQI:255, age:4, inCost:1, outCost:1
[MasterBed WallDimmer2, 7454], LQI:255, age:4, inCost:1, outCost:3
[Hallway Dimmer, A66A], LQI:227, age:4, inCost:5, outCost:3
[PeanutPlug2, A6F5], LQI:254, age:4, inCost:1, outCost:1
[Outlet 2, D714], LQI:255, age:3, inCost:1, outCost:1
[Outlet 1, DC3C], LQI:254, age:3, inCost:1, outCost:1

Both the in-wall dimmers are sad :frowning:

The only correct way to interpret this is... everyone's house is different. Some homes love Zigbee, but not mine, while other homes love ZWave (mine does.) :slight_smile:


Also, consider looking at Lutron.

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You're getting lots of good advice about devices, etc., so I'm going to offer slightly different advice:

First decide what your first use case is. Then decide what devices are needed to implement that.

If you already know what you want to do, then you will be happier with the result, vs just throwing something out there to see if it's cool and then feeling meh.

As an example, I blame the cat I had at the time for my start in HA. She was old and frail and liked to sleep on my chest. I wanted a way to turn off my bedside light without having to move her. I bought a Hue starter kit with a single bulb and an Echo spot and figured out how to get Alexa to turn the light off and on. And it was cool because it was really useful for me. Cat is gone now, and I've gone well beyond that single Hue bulb. But it was a good start. And I still tell Alexa to turn the bedside light out.


I highly recommend replacing the antenna (or at least opening it up and making sure yours is securely fastened). I did this and have had zero problems--or need to worry about repeaters beyond what is normal for other devices--since. Of course, this assumes it's easy to take the module out. I still wish I had known this before I started, but it was at least easy-ish for where my fan is.

Oddly enough, I've also seen your issue with the in-wall Zigbee devices/repeaters. There are very few of them in the first place (I used the GE/Jasco), and I was disappointed when they seemed to be very unattractive repeaters for a friend whose house was filled with Sengleds and needed more repeaters. :confused: I'm sure they work well for some people, but your options will be much more numerous with wall warts and similar devices.

I don't have a lot to add for the original poster (besides replace the antenna if you go with the Hampton Bay Fan Controller, but I'd advise for a smart fan switch instead if you already have wiring--this is really a workaround for if you don't). Hopefully the rest of the above is enough to get you thinking!

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As a newbee (me)
Dont do Locks yet
do Zigbee
do supported devices
buy sensors and plug switches.
these four lines would have saved me a lot grief


Good advice @Eric.C.Miller. I've reviewed the Metageek article, and the two docs related to building strong mesh. I have a Unifi wireless network at home with two APs - one at each end of the house, and a few neighbours nearby with strong wifi signals as well. It sounds from the articles like it takes some work to get zigbee to play nice with 2.4GHz wifi. Hopefully that won't be an issue if I go zigbee initially. Z-wave sounds like the easier option 'out of the box' as far as increased range with fewer repeaters, and no wifi interference issues.

Agree that I should hold off on locks initially, but they're definitely part of my use case, so regardless of which way I go, I'll need to insure I have repeaters near both doors.

Speaking of locks - I'll have to do more research on them to pick the right ones. I want something that's physically as robust as a non-smart lock/deadbolt, I'm in Canada which means that the brand choices are probably a bit more limited than the US, or more expensive - or both. Also - I find the advertising on Home Depot, Lowes, etc doesn't really address Zigbee vs Z-Wave. I guess I'll have to refer to the compatible devices list to get more details!

Still trying to understand my use cases, but I think I'm leaning towards in-wall dimmer switches where I can - even if they're mostly just to help build my mesh in some cases. A good number of the wall warts I've seen block half the duplex, which isn't optimal.

I think you've hit the nail on the head @jabecker. I need to understand my needs fully before I start buying devices. I think I made the right decision buying a hubitat hub, but beyond that...

My wife does this thing I like to call "Ready, Fire!, Aim", where she takes action before deciding what the target is. Trying to avoid that here, especially with the cost of most of these devices!

Have to give this a LOT more thought around the details, but eventually the goal is to have:

  • lights come on automatically based on sensors near entry doors and in a few other rooms (kitchen, central dining room with dimmable led chandelier)
  • monitor/control HVAC via ecobee 3 lite thermostat
  • add smart thermostat to natural gas fireplace to automate it
  • ability to dim the lights in the tv room automatically
  • smart door locks as we have a fairly large (adult) family living with us
  • outdoor lights programmable based on t.o.d. and motion
  • distributed audio system (I used Logitech Media Server now, with a few rPi players, and an old Squeezebox)

We're also looking at putting together a security / camera system for outdoors, and would be interested in somehow tying the two systems together. We haven't had any issues with break-ins, but have had people go through our cars in the driveway a couple times when we forgot to lock the doors.

We're also in the middle of finishing our basement as a standalone apartment for one of our adult kids and her husband, which means that once complete, the ceilings down there will be finished, and we'll lose access for running cables, etc. so any wiring that needs to be done should probably be done within the next two months.

I know - baby steps, but I guess I should try to understand the big picture first!

Thanks to everyone for your advice and input! This is going to be fun and a challenge at the same time.

Edit: Added ecobee thermostat and fireplace to list

Part of that research should be on this very forum for which ones have problems (zwave) with this hub. It will save you in the long run.

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My take on lights is, focus on Lutron Caseta. My personal thought is that it's a much more reliable system then zigbee or z-wave. Plus it doesn't act as a mesh. If you need to move from one hub or to another system, there is no repairing needed to bring over your devices.

Lutron has never failed me, yes it costs more but for the reliability and less headaches, it's worth it!

As for applicanes, z-wave or zigbee is fine of course. Lutron doesn't offer a Caseta solution unles you jump into the RA2 system. (Even more expensive)

My whole home automation started with the MyQ garage door opener. My opener failed and I called a local company that installed the myq opener. After some research, I discovered they sold myq switches and plug-in devices, so I started investing money into their products for outdoor lighting control. Eventually I didn't like being tied to their platform so I started down the lutron path after lots of research....

But my initial purpose was to control outdoor lighting. That's how I started.


Honestly, I wouldn't worry too terribly much about WiFi and Zigbee coexistence. I'm running 3 UniFi APs, and have WiFi across several channels, not to mention a number of other visible WiFi hotspots in my neighborhood, and I have no trouble with Zigbee at all.

My Hubitat Zigbee channel is 14, and my Hue is running on 15. I don't recall changing either to those channels.

I would also suggest that having both Zwave and Zigbee isnt a bad thing. Personally, I like Zwave for switches, power strips, and appliance plugs. I also like many here like zigbee sensors.

As for light bulbs...if I could start over, with few exceptions I would choose dimmable LEDs and smart dimmers over Hue, Sengled, or what have you.

As for ceiling fans, I like the Hampton Bay Controllers, and while mine work fine with nearby repeaters, I would consider @bertabcd1234's antenna suggestion if I add more.

Beyond that you've received many good suggestions, but @jabecker is on point when she suggests thinking about your use cases!

Welcome, and enjoy!