When every flush counts, Hubitat to control sewer system for lake cabins

Has anyone seen an application where the Hubitat Hub is used to control multiple Zigbee or Z-Wave smart devices, sensors and repeaters daisy chained in many locations on multiple buildings?

We have a volunteer group that maintains a sewer system that serves 53 lake cabin lots in northern Idaho. Each cabin, roughly 120 feet apart, has an Orenco controller tied to an effluent pump, the operation of which responds to 3 float level switches in a 500 gallon pump tank.

The problem that we have is during 4 to 7 days out of the year (ie 4th of July) we exceed the design limit for the daily quantity of effluent put into our system as read by an ABB electromagnetic flow meter. We are faced with very costly consequences from the state of Idaho when this occurs. To solve this problem we want to use our existing pump tanks as a buffer, proactively pumping down the tanks prior to a high use season, and then monitoring total daily flows to assure that we do not exceed the daily maximum.

We are kicking around the idea of using either Aeotec or Sinope heavy duty smart switches installed in the Orenco controllers with repeaters on each side of cabins, and using a Hubitat hub in one of the few cabins that has internet service, for the logic and control. We will need to “see” the condition of each of the 3 tank float switches, not sure of the best way to do that without the hassle of batteries. But of course the biggest question we have is this approach even feasible ? In searching the forums it seems that others that have installed Hubitat smart systems in buildings outside the main house like a barn or shop, but have a separate Hubitat in each location.

Please forgive me if these are dumb questions, I have very basic experience in using Hubitat to control thermostats and smart switches at our lake cabin. I was very impressed with the ease of control logic development, overall startup and system reliability.

So my questions are:

  1. Is this approach using a Hubitat hub and either a Zigbee or Z-Wave network tied to smart switches, sensors, and repeaters over such a large distance seem feasible?
  2. If so, what suggestions might be out there for powered sensors to pick up on the limit switch positions for the float switches.
  3. What suggestions are out there for robust, powerful powered repeaters?
  4. What type of weather enclosures might work best for transmission?
  5. Again if this is a reasonable approach, from what I have read it appears that Z-Wave may give us the best performance in light of the distances between cabins, and the overall size of the network which extends over roughly a mile, is that the best approach?
  6. What overall suggestions might you have for us?

I am not an expert, and these are my personal opinions, but I would say, not feasible with one hub and mesh.

I think it tells you something when the "latest and greatest", so to speak, for Z-wave is Long Range Z-Wave, which doesn't use a mesh at all-all devices connect direct to the hub.

I don't recall the numbers, or tests, but throw some trees or whatnot in the line of sight, and, well, you know.

I feel Z-Wave meshes, or is it called networks, I don't know, (I have no real experience with Zigbee meshes) are too fragile. All it takes is one device to screw it all up.

Then you have to think about the consequences when it screws up, and it will. Constantly running pumps. Pumps that won't turn on. Overflowing...whatever.

Could Orenco have a solution? Like a programmed timer (for each panel) for previously defined seasonal days? You'd have to visit each cabin and program it in, but they would sit there and do their thing. Unless their clocks got screwed up, lol.

I'm not really a pessimist at heart, but in this case, I don't think it's going to practically work with Hubitat.

Others more knowledgeable will chime in, I'm sure.

Max hops on Z-wave I think is 4, not sure on Zigbee (30 according to google). So for Z-wave even if the devices between cabins could connect to each other, at most you can only chain 4 together.

If the area is fairly open (line of sight), Z-Wave Long Range might work for a lot of it, but the selection of devices is much more limited.

How close to center would you be able to place the hub?

LoRa (e.g. Yolink) would be better suited for this application provided you can procure the devices you need.


Thank you for your insight.
The target would be to allow the Orenco control panels to provide the base underline control of the pumps, and have anticipatory preparation via Hubitat or whatever overlay to provide the desired tank buffer for high use time.
Orneco does offer programmable control panels, but unfortunately we have to many variables in the mix (variations in peak seasonal use, party / weddings, data regarding flow data from the flow meter) to not have communication between cabins and the flowmeter.

The hub can be fairly close to the center of the roughly 1 mile total distance. But it sounds like the maximum hops, which I am interpreting as the max # of repeaters can possibly be a show stopper. Thank you for your help!

You can have lots of repeaters, but the max number of devices that can route between an end device and the hub is 4. Each time a message has to pass through a repeater to get to its destination it is considered a hop. So if you have one repeater per cabin, you could only reach 4-5 cabins away from he hub. (I am not totally sure if it counts the hub or endpoint as a hop in the 4 max).

Also only having one good route with multiple hops for a device is not very reliable for Z-wave, it works much better as a mesh network with multiple routes available for each device.

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Thank you for the tip regarding Yolink as a potential solution to our problem!
Do you know of someone well versed with Yolink networks and gear, that we could consult with to determine feasibility? As I start to explore, it appears that this route will probably not be as user friendly in the area of logic development in addition to potential scarcity of devices.

How does Long Range Z-Wave compare to Yolink?

edit: That might not be a bad topic by itself. :slight_smile:

I love the challenge of this kind of project!

But everything about this,
the commercial use of the property,
for large numbers of people,
the environmental impact concerns of the State,
the "volunteer oversight"....
....AND the fact that you ALREADY have made the investment in Orenco Control Systems;
all suggests you ought to put this problem on the table in front of Orenco engineers and see what they suggest to coordinate THEIR systems with your tank capacities and time constraints.

As their website says:
Our solutions include community collection systems,

I very much like the idea @velvetfoot put forth of cabin independence/self control (kinda like teaching a kid :crazy_face:) . That way, all hell can't break loose and complicate or compromise every stinkin (literally) cabin's facilities.

I don't think I fully appreciate the logistics of the tank farm and controls/operations you need to implement at that end...but THAT is where I would focus your high level of oversight without trying to perfect the end member oversight/measurement/control.

If necessary use metering in multiple areas (line confluences) that are "within radio reach" to help "AI the solution" you need. In other words, through empirical observations over time you may be able to "understand your worst case scenarios" ...and with that knowledge set the individual Orenco Control Systems to operate in timed echelon or some reasonably round robin pattern that accomodates your needs at the tank end.

Folks have pushed Zigbee 150' in a relatively radio quiet environment with end devices that aren't radio wimps (or at least I have). But THAT isn't where I'd have the most concern for your project... Just peruse this Community Forum for 30 minutes and you should come up with enough dissuasive arguments to poop on your own parade. Potty pump independence ought to be a design criteria for this scale of party poopers.


Seems like this would be the easiest solution! :wink: :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: :rofl:


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Sheash, no question is beyond her.

You are right, that could be one part of their mitigation program. But I'm kinda thinkin this place is on a certain Idaho lake,,, and maybe a little too posh for that signage. I'm just not picturing a Scout Camp with cabin plumbing and Orenco Control Systems :rofl:

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Oh, it was a joke for sure. But the ratio of water to solids is interesting.

When I was young, probably about 10 years old, I went with a friend to their small cabin on a lake. That sign was prominently placed above the toilet, and I have had that memory stuck in my head ever since! :laughing: :grin:

I would really like to hear from "Orenco Control Systems" as I have to believe they have had this questioin asked of them already, and if not it would be good to for them to consider it.

I also wouldn't suggest depending on any wireless technology when you can consider how critical this potentially could be. If Orenco can't take care of it then i would use something that can be hard wired with Ethernet at eash location. Then collect the usage data either from the Orenco system or through it's own float sensor and relay it back to a monitoring system kind of like InfluxDB Grafana some of use here. That same system could probably either use a API to trigger the Orenco to purge itself when needed, or could control it through whatever means you were already thinking.

My point though is really to make it physically connected to reduce the chance of communication failure, and then collect the data so you know..

How is the Orenco Control System connected now. Do you get access to it in some fashion. Does it use Ethernet, or some flavor of wifi, or cellular?

Thanks, you have encouraged me to pursue a bit more with the tech folks at Orenco . Thus far it has been primarily surface discussions with sales reps, which did not seem to yield much hope.

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Your suggestion is voiced each year at our yearly community gathering, typically the end of July. I suspect most of the kids are to busy splashing to make a trip to the cabins to contribute to the problem.

The sign would fit right in to all of the places in our community 10 years ago when most were basic accommodations, old, rustic, uninsulated seasonal cabins (similar to our 1948 version), but things change, and we are starting to see more of the larger "cabins" starting to show up.

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All of the Orenco control panels are completely independent monitoring the condition of the 3 float switches in the pump tanks which capture the effluent from the septic tanks at each cabin location. There is no communication between cabins, very basic. These panels are mounted on the side of each cabin and typically no one pays any attention to them unless the rare occurrence of the top high float switch tripping , and alarm sounds which means usually, the pump has failed.

I don't know a lot about the technology but a mate of mine insists that 'LoRaWAN' is the future of iot and it's range would work for you. More here: About LoRaWAN® - LoRa Alliance®

Yolink uses LoRa as its physical layer but adds its own proprietary network layer (unlike LoRaWAN, which is also built on LoRa, but defines an open standard for the network layer).

I don't personally have a favourable opinion of Z-Wave in general or Z-Wave LR in particular. LoRa has been around for a decade and is used in lots of industrial applications. It was designed to work over long distances, in weather, etc.


I could see a way to make it work - Yolink integrates with Hubitat thanks to a community integration - but I agree with other commenters that it would be best to focus on designing this problem out of your existing system rather than set up a complex monitoring & alert system using consumer-grade devices to trigger human intervention.