Trying out Zigbee for local control - what to get?

I'm thinking of trying out using zigbee for local control (but using Node-RED to control them)

Looking for recommendations for dongle to stick into a Pi and a basic smart plug to play with

I have the sonnoff 3.0 dongle & it works well however take a look at the recommendations zigbee2mqtt supported adapters

If I were buying one today, I would look to see if any support Matter/Thread (for potential futureproofing - but not a deal breaker since the adaptor cost is fairly minimal)

As for devices - checkout

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I can confirm Steve's recommendation regarding sonnoff 3.0 dongle. zigbee2mqtt works perfect.

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I love zigbee2mqtt for several reasons but I've had to abandon it due to extremely short battery life in end devices.

I started my home automation system on Hubitat 4-5 years ago and progressively moved away from parts of it as I found solutions more to my liking, NR for control processing, for example. Roughly 18 months ago I moved all of my Zigbee stuff off of Hubitat and to zigbee2mqtt and all was well for quite some months. Then I started noticing that batteries were draining at an alarming 100% (3.25v) to <30% (2.7v) in a couple weeks! That was worst case but battery life in general was crap.

I worked with Koen Kanters for months, trying to identify and remedy the issue. I captured and we analyzed weeks worth of Zigbee packet captures, from both Hubitat and zigbee2mqtt meshes. Koen sent me several devices configs to try instead of the defaults and there was a very minor improvement, like 3 weeks life instead of 2, in at least one case but in the end I moved all of my Zigbee stuff back to Hubitat some months ago where it all works happily and I've not changed a battery since. Koen was great to work with and I hope someone has a blinding flash of insight and these issues get resolved.

I also had mesh issues with zigbee2mqtt where devices would just stop reporting for anywhere from hours to weeks. And I know of at least a couple others with both dropout and battery life issues when using zigbee2mqtt. OTOH, there are many who do NOT have any such problems with zigbee2mqtt.

I used the Sonoff dongle cited above.

I hesitate to post the link to the reported issue because it's a confusing jumbled mess with the way it all developed but I figure someone will ask for it.

As you say there are many that do not have problems. I have been using zigbee2mqtt with sonoff temperature sensors and motion sensors for most of a year now, and I have only had to replace one battery, and that was only a week after I started using it, so that was a bad battery. I didn't expect the temperature sensors to last that long as I have increased the reporting rate over the standard rate.

I also have a bunch of sonoff sensors, for me they work quite great, but I have seen many reports about the PIR's that are just very flaky. Zigbee is quite nice, but it is also quite complex on protocol level and with issues like @LosinIt reports, it can become really hard to troubleshoot/diagnose - could it be that you are running against the limits of the sonoff dongle (they advertise 100 devices max, but is that true :')) for example ?

Just my two-penny-worth.
I use zigbee2mqtt and have had no issues such as those mentioned. I have some powered units which act as routers so the actual number of devices reporting directly to the co-ordinator is quite low.

The advantages for me, are reasonable price for sensors (which also have a good WAF because they are small - I use Aqara units), and they run for ages off a battery so I do not require PSUs all over the place

If you're asking me, no, as I have fewer than 50 nodes in the mesh

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