[SOLVED] What am I doing wrong with zwave?

I see so many folks around here who have big zwave networks and lots of devices doing great things. Cool!

When I started the HA journey… well, let’s say when I came back to it. Twenty years ago I had some X10 things I used with some success. We all know the limitations of X10, and I’ll just say I had it working as well and effectively as it could. I was satisfied with it.

When I came back to HA, X-10 is still around, but most people only deal with it if they have to, and I understand why! So many people and reviews talked about the amazingness of zwave. My research said, “zwave or zigbee?” and I chose zwave.

And it was awful!

The controller loses items regularly. They still work, but it claims they’re dead. Toggling something leads to delays. Delays past visible and into irritating. Sending a message from the zwave remote (which was a nightmare to pair with anything) adds the same delay so you get it twice!

And the stuff is sort of expensive.

In desperation, I tried insteon. Insteon worked flawlessly, quickly, and easily. Why would anyone ever leave this glorious thing? Plus, I found the Insteon scenes and device binding to be so much easier to do and work with that a lot of my Insteon configuration doesn’t depend on OH - nor, really, should it have to. Neither end of a three-way switch, for example, has to talk to OH - they’re peer to peer and control each other. (I understand you can do this with zwave, but I was never able to make it actually work.)

So, when I finally come here to ask some questions and learn some good things, what do I see?

Insteon is an all-but-forgotten controller. People use the old one, or move to an external service which maps to and from MQTT. (This makes me sad, because Inseton is pretty slick.)

Zwave is king and people love it and do amazing things with it.

When I go to the Insteon forum, what do I see? Nobody uses software - they all have hardware to manage their Insteon networks. Some of it sounds like really nice hardware (the ISY machines) but… its a lot more expensive than a Pi and OH, and won’t be as flexible.

It makes me wonder what I did wrong with zwave, if anything. Did I screw something up? Was the Aeon Labs Z-Stick a bad choice? Is my electrical system somehow bad for zwave? What things happened that led me to such wildly different experiences?

I started with X10 in the early 80s. Recently went Zwave everywhere, much more that I ever did with X10. I have the same Aeon Zwave stick and an assortment of whatever wall switch or plug in dimmer or switch was least expensive the day I purchased it, mostly GE switches and a few $11 two button scene controllers. It all seems to work perfect except for the scene controllers which often seem to take a while to work and sometimes just don’t work for a short while. But other than that, it’s been perfect. I don’t ask much of it, mostly it means my wife can control all the lights from her phone and ipad so she’s happy which means so am I. I am using the daily releases so I’m running the most up to date, and possibly not quite finished code. I’m used to running betas so I’m OK if it suddenly fails because of an upgrade.

I had a smilar feeling and noticed a couple of things which might be good to know.

For all Zwave nodes you have to configure the association for "lifeline"to the controller (can be done in paper-ui) and set polling to a long interval. If this is omitted the device will be polled after each command slowing down the network significantly. By setting association the device sends its new state autonomously.

Another aspect is is that the OH2 Zwave binding retries a transaction multiple times if the device cennot be reached. The binding does not interleave ZWave transactions, which means that if it is retrying and you switch on a lamp, the lamp command waits on the queue until the retry operation is finished. I have seen this taking more than 10 seconds. This problem specifically occurs when you remove ZWave things, but do not remove them from OH2. In this case OH2 tries to poll the thing once in a while affecting the response time by retrying to reach a non existing device.

This particular situation I experienced when doing some test with wall plugs. After removing the wall plugs from the wall outlet the response of the ZWave network became terribly slow.

Another aspect what I notice that after restarting OH2 it takes about 20 minutes until ZWave responses are acceptible. Did not look into it yet, but expect it is related to some initial polling.

Well quite a number of people are happily using ZWave, also with the Aeon stick, so sorry but yes your problems must be related to your specific handling.
But you would need to give way more specific information if you want people to help.

A couple of things to note:

  • if Insteon works, you at least don’t seem to have a fundamental radio problem with your building. Still you should ensure that you have enough mains powered zwave devices to be able to form the mesh. Remember battery powered devices will not forward messages.
  • the stick cannot loose items. Items (and things) are a OH config components that you just map to IDs on your zwave network.
  • Ensure you have a gen5 stick (not the old S2 one).
  • in OH before 2.4, zwave mesh healing was disabled.
    So if you did include devices while having them close to the controller, they both believe to be in direct range of each other. If you move the device away and out of range after that, communication will fail.
    Normally, the healing process would regenerate the mesh once a night (identifying nodes to route across), but this process was disabled before 2.4.
    If I was to guess then that was your main problem.

So if you used on older OH version (you didn’t tell), I would give it another try with 2.4 or better 2.5M1.

And please follow this next time:

Yay! It’s nice to hear I’m not the only one who’s experiences don’t line up perfectly with what others say.

Both of those are interesting, and things I did not know.

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting detailed help - and I’ve gotten a lot more than I expected possible already! - and was just musing and commenting on the very different experiences people seem to have had with what should be the same technologies. Had I been expecting detailed tech help, I would have provided more detail.

I’m frankly blown away by the detail people have gone into on in response to my rambling question.

I didn’t know battery powered devices were dead ends. All my devices are mains powered except one - the Z-Stick. That made me wonder if it’s limited to radio communication, and if it’s too far from the devices for reliable communication to work.

One notable difference between the Z-Stick and the Insteon PLM is that the PLM plugs into the wall and has both radio and mains access to devices. If my radio mesh is weak where the OH server is, Z-Wave might be struggling while Insteon will keep working.

I also have more Insteon devices which will be closer to the OH server, so the mesh network via radio will be better for Insteon, but that’s only because I’ve had better luck with Insteon and installed more of it.

Sloppy use of the word “items” on my part, sorry. I didn’t mean items in OH.

The things in OH show as disconnected, and if I use Open Zwave Control Panel to interrogate the Z-Stick, it lists the nodes as dead.

That’s interesting! I do have the Gen2 one. It was current when I bought it… is it a problematic device?

Of course the controller was close to the device; that’s how the Z-Stick works. You unplug it, take it over to the new device to add, and push the button on each of them. And then the Z-Stick assumes it has direct radio connection to the device.

Yes, that probably was a big part of my problem!

I started with OH 2.0, immediately as it was released. Most of the advice on the forums was still for 1.8 at the time. I’ve kept it upgraded regularly and am now running 2.4.0-release.

THANK YOU for giving that much detail! I was not expecting it, and it is extremely interesting.

I wonder if I put a mains-powered Z-Wave device near the OH server/Z-Stick if that would bridge between the wireless and wired networks and give the Z-Stick a better view of what devices are on the line.

Of course, I keep also thinking I’ll just replace the last three Z-Wave devices with Insteon and then not worry about it any more, but I haven’t done that because I’m sure there will be some Z-Wave come along that I can’t do another way, and I’ll want to have the capability.

That one obviously is an exception. In operations, it’s powered by the computer it’s in.

It’ll do but the gen5 is better (ZWave+ etc) and will allow for for backing up the network data - the S2 does not as far as I know.

You’ll need a plan B anyway. What if there’s no suitable Insteon device for an application. And like with any proprietary system, there’s always a risk of the vendor being shut down or abandoning the technology.

It does not.

So all I can add to the discussion that hasn’t already been said is I too had relatively poor zwave performance when I first started. I looked at my neighbors tree in HABmin and I noticed that only one mains powered device was listed as a direct neighbor to the controller. I added one more mains powered device, strategically placed to be as close to as many other devices and the controller as possible. This gave me two direct neighbors to the controller and suddenly all of my problems went away.

I wonder now if the problem was as described above. I too had the Gen2 and I took the controller to the device instead of trying to include the device with the controller in place. If the heal wasn’t working then that could explain the problem. Though even now, I still only have those same two mains powered devices listed as direct neighbors of the controller.

One caution to give re Insteon on OH is that there is only an OH 1.x binding to support it. Continued support for 1.x bindings is going to become awkward in about a year or so when OH 3 comes out.

As with any wireless technology, YMMV. But by and large most users on this forum have a very good experience with Zwave. It tends to be the recommended technology to start with because for most users “it just works.”

That’s another fun thing! I’ve never had any neighbors tree show in HABmin. That whole part of the display is always blank. There are neighbors listed in the information sections of the Things. There are various Z-Wave actions hidden in the Tools dropdowns here and there. But the neighborhood map is always blank. It really inspires confidence in z-wave!

Yes, I’m seeing that. I’m trying to set up the dev environment to see if I can get a binding working, but there’s a huge learning curve and very few resources. I’m seeing some other users here struggle with the same things and feeling rather like it’s the blind leading the blind.

Insteon itself doesn’t seem that hard - there’s some tolerable documentation on the 'net and @Bernd_Pfrommer has written really clear and understandable code in insteon-terminal. If I can just get the IDE working and enough of OH understood, I should be able to do something.

Automatic discovery off the modem would also be pretty slick; just go add items to the PLM and a few minutes later they’re in your Inbox… sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Currently or back with OH 2.0? I remember there was a brief period when all that was broken but it’s been working great for years. Well, I should say it’s at least been showing the tree for years. Apparently in 2.3 it wasn’t showing reliable information, mainly because of the heal issue already discussed.

And unfortunate timing. Had you started a month ago or started later once the build problems after the merge get straightened out I’m sure it would have been less painful.

Though if you have any lessons learned, additions or corrections to the docs, or the like they would be most welcome as contributions.

With Zwave I can add the devices through the inbox. Just press the scan button, select Zwave, and that puts the controller into inclusion mode. It is indeed nice.

Both in the past, and with 2.4.0-release. I’ve never seen that section work at all. There isn’t much interesting in HABpanel lately, and with the z-wave view broken, it mostly gets ignored.

The nightly heal may have sorted out the devices; they’re all showing on-line in Paper UI today and have multiple neighbors listed.

Yes, I saw that my timing is inopportune. Hopefully another month will have everything stabilized and that will help!

If I do find anything concrete I will try and get it added. I know that new people coming into a project have a unique perspective because they don’t know all the assumptions and can’t just do the right thing out of habit. That perspective gives a unique chance to help with the documentation.

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