Lessons learned. A layman’s Zigbee setup, (and re-setup)

I recently had the experience of setting up a Vera, and then almost starting from scratch to set things up again. I am far from an expert in this field and leaned heavily on others in the forum who provided the help I needed to get my system back on its feet.

A little background.
I am coming from the Wink. The Wink is a capable device but lacks many of the fine-tuning controls that the Vera possesses. It is a little like an Apple product. It works out of the box, and is nice to look at; however, if you want to do anything beyond its design, you are out of luck. I had a few products hooked up to the Wink, namely 4x GE/Jasco Fan switches, 2x Sylvania Motion Sensors, 2x IRIS Smart Plugs, 4x Dome door/window sensors, and a whole lot of Lutron Caseta switches, dimmer and Picos. The Wink was pretty laggy, and not being able to use the Picos how I wanted was one of the main reasons why I switched to Vera. I also wanted something that worked locally, and that did not wholly rely on the cloud. Aside from the Wink, I have 6x Stelpro SMT402 (Zigbee Thermostats). A Stelpro SMC402 Controller was controlling those units independently.

Moving over to the Vera, I of course had to purchase a Lutron Smart Bridge Pro. I will not talk too much about the Lutron products in this post because everything was quite easy with them. I will concentrate on the things that were not easy.

I set everything up as I did the Wink. All in one shot. This appeared to work at first but then I started to have some major problems. A quick look at my logs showed over 2000 consecutive poll failures. Reactor was shutting down; I had lost control of my smart home. After much trouble shooting (mainly by experts on this forum), I had decided to redo the Zigbee portion of my network.

Here are the lessons learned from this experience.

  1. Go slow. We all expect things to happen instantly. We hit a button on our smart phone and stuff is supposed to happen. I did not find this to be the case with setting up Zigbee products through the Vera. My advice is to set up one device at a time, and take your time in between devices. Set up a device, wait about 5 minutes, and then check your log for errors. Rinse, repeat. Does this suck if you are migrating from another hub? Yes it does, but it is the only way to ensure that everything is happening the way it is supposed to.

  2. Bring your Vera with you. Go out and buy a 50’ Cat 5 cable. Bring the Vera to each individual device. This will require many natural reboots (unless of course you get a 50’ extension cord as well). I could not believe how a couple of feet were affecting the addition of various devices on my hub. I will give an example. I have those SMT402’s everywhere in the house. I live in Montreal and baseboard heaters are a thing here. My guest washroom is right beside the kitchen. The two SMT402’s are at most 6’ from each other. I brought my Vera into the kitchen, and added the SMT402 without a problem. I figured that I would be able to get away with adding the washroom one without moving the Vera. WRONG. While the Vera did in fact detect the washroom thermostat, it was added as a weird device, with controls that did not exist on the unit. After deleting the device, moving the Vera closer, the thermostat finally was able to pair with the Vera properly. I know dragging the Vera around, constantly rebooting it adds many minutes if not hours to the job, but it is essential!

  3. Manuals and literature in this domain are horrendous. You need to experiment with your equipment. Does anyone know how to reset a Sylvania Motion sensor? Bueller? Bueller? Try looking it up online. No info. Some say to hold down the button on the side. This does not do anything. I had to take the battery out a bunch of times and play with it. Finally found out that to reset the device, you take the battery out, and then reinsert the battery while holding down the button. If you want to go into pairing mode, you remove the battery, reinsert while holding down the button, and then release the button as soon as the LED turns on. Simple right? I am going to write that down for next time.

  4. Sometimes the problem is one of the devices. So one of my SMT402’s never paired correctly no matter what I did. Soft reboot, hard reboot, nothing worked. I now believe that this device was the cause of my troubles in the first place. That it is why it is important to go slow. I will try to exchange that device, but I have had it for a while so I may be stuck with it.

  5. Finally, if you can, wait to do this stuff when no one is home. It is very disruptive.

If you have made it to the end of this little rant, thank you. If you helped me get my system up and running, double thank you.

P.S. I cannot add my Done Sensors until I add my GE/Jasco Fan Switches because I need them to boost my ZWave signal. Basically, stay tuned for another lessons learned thread when I get to that (probably when the firmware upgrade is released, for real this time).

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I remember when the Vera 2 came with a power pack that you could plug in so you could take it with you for exactly the reasons you describe. I believe I had it somewhere might try with with my latest vera unit when doing the next inclusion. Logically they used to provide that for a reason and then moved away from it. I suppose it was down to Zwave perhaps getting better but as we all know being close to the then your including (as in right on top of it) really does help in some instances.

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Vera lite had batteries.

This is a really helpful piece, I think. Good guidance.

C

A few extra unsolicited thoughts on zigbee setup:

Zigbee operates on the same 2.4GHz band as wifi Amongst other things and directly interferes with them. If you don’t have a spectrum analyzer, just know that channel 26 is the only one interfering with wifi. Check the channel correspondance to make sure that your home wifi does not interfere with your zigbee channel. Your zigbee range will be drastically reduced if you have interferences and the vera antenna is already very weak. Not that the vera also has a 2.4ghz wifi antenna which interferes with zigbee if you are not careful. Make sure to turn it off if it is not needed.

Also when setting up your devices, you may not need to move your vera or device close together as long as you build your network from the inside out: from closest to the controller to the furthest away. I never had to do that for example but had very powerful relays close to the vera. (The centralite plugs)

Avoid zigbee devices close to other 2.4GHz devices. Sonos speakers and microwaves are examples of massive interference sources.

Zigbee has a much higher bandwidth than zwave so it can afford to be constantly healing but it also much more prone to interference and interfering with other systems and also emits a lot more RF energy and noise if you care about potential health impact.

Nicely written. I, too, used Wink for all things Zigbee, but that was after seeing Vera’s failures there. I’ve since moved all Zigbee equipment to Smartthings. They just work there, but I hate cloud dependacy.
I hope that there is someday an Ezlo product available that can truly do the all-in-one features the VeraPlus promised, while keeping processing local.

we are working on our zigbee hardware and full zigbee stack to support everything out there.
we want to give you a controller that can do all zigbee, do it fast and do it local! stay tuned.

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Another tip is to get a small UPS. It will keep a vera running for 30+ minutes so no reboots. Put the two in a shoebox or a backpack. Connect to the vera over wifi with a tablet so you can get log and statuses.

And then you have a UPS so your vera is up during power outages. And maybe reacts to it. (I.e. trigger on multiple 110v devices stop responding for multiple pills or something)

This is long awaited. Is it going to happen on Vera Plus? Or is it a brand new product?

New firmware will be a linux based firmware. So we will have 2 different platforms,
RTOS based
Linux based

The Linux based one will be launched with zwave stack first. It will go through beta testing and so on. It will work with g150 product first (not backward compatible when its launched for beta testing), we will then get g450 and g550 to work. We will also provide a brand new hardware to run this platform. We will provide 2 different chipsets offering 2 different levels of hardware series.
to summarize…we launch the Linux firmware as beta first, then it gets zigbee stack later on and it starts working with different hardware…

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So is that g150= edge, g450=plus and g550=secure?

Yes, these are the equivalents.

Equivalent means they are not The same unit, but new devices. Have I understood it well?

Do you have any time frame about the zigbee implementation? Not an e a t date, but I’m going to introduce some zigbee devices and I can way a couple of months, but not a year…

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