Ceiling Fans: Hampton Bay zigbee VS. Sonoff ifan02 WiFi

I see both of these controllers have been hacked into the Smartthings ecospace and just curious if anyone has used both and which seems to work the most reliably. I currently have a bunch of ceiling fans, 3 currently using a Bond, which works but the Bond seems to have WiFi drop out issues, and really doesn’t have any concept of state info, it just sends an RF code and keeps track of what it’s sent, but there just isn’t anyway for it to have any idea what the current real state is, just what it thinks it is based on what it last sent.

A few of my fans are factory remote fans, obviously since they work with Bond, but I have a bunch (like a dozen) that are just pull chain fans, all loaded with LIFX bulbs so the lighting aspect isn’t really a concern, although I do need the fans to be “hot” on the lighting circuit and do not have separate lighting/fan wires going to them. Also most of the dumb chain fans have substantial room in the lighting fixture portions of the fans, more so than in the canopy, and that is where all the wiring is anyway, that I would probably put the controller there where the antennae would be behind glass instead of in basically the shielded box that is the canopy. Even the GE/Sylvania wall controllers would probably fit there, and again I don’t need lighting control, but at almost double the price of the Sonoff, and even significantly more than what I see as the cost of the Home Decorators replacement part, I would really need a compelling reason to go that route.

Given the quantity, the Sonoff ifan02 seems the more desirable solution since it’s cheap, and frankly I don’t really care about the remote either way, so the Home Decorators replacement part would be fine too. I’m just looking for cost effective and reliable it’s really about integrating this with temperature sensors. I do wish reversing was an option but I don’t think it is with any of the solutions or any of the fans I’m trying to control, even though the Home Decorators part seems to have that function I seriously doubt it translates from one manufacture to another, even a little concerned that any universal type solution will work with the fans I already have controlled with the Bond which are Lamps Plus Casa Vieja house brand fans.

Anyway just looking for opinions here. Oh and BTW I’m new to the community, first post, and new to Smartthings, a couple weeks. So far, very impressed, almost bought a Wink hub and so glad I bought a Gen 2 Smartthings hub in the end. Lots of IFTTT and Stringify possibilities now that I didn’t have before, installed MyQ and Sylvania Lightify device handlers over the last 2 weekends, and love the Smartthings sensors. Looking forward to doing some Raspberry Pi integrations, I’ve got a long list there.

You keep referring to “Home Decorators” but I assume that you mean the Hampton Bay Zigbee “Wink” solution. I installed two of those and have been happy with it, but it looks like it is about 2x as much as the Sonoff. I ended up needing to put a Zigbee smart plug near each fan as a repeater to get reliable communication with my SmartThings Hub v2, which adds about $35 for each one, so this is not a cheap solution. Also, it does not support reversability - although I added a SPDT manual switch to let me manually reverse the fan if I want to. I don’t have any experience with the Sonoff solution - I didn’t look at WiFi solutions in my investigations. One thing that you may want to consider though, is that the Sonoff solution does not seem to be UL or ETL safety rated. I personally think that this is important for something that will be directly wired into my house.

Bottom line is that I am happy with the Hampton Bay solution, but if I were going to do a bunch of fans, the cost would make me think twice.

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Very good point, but this is where it gets complicated.

EU allows companies to use the “CE” Mark, Which is the company’s self certification that it has met all the applicable EU regulatory requirements, including fire safety. The Sonoff iFan02 has this Mark, which you can see in the picture above.

So a CE Mark should be the equivalent of a UL Mark. However, it doesn’t go through independent third-party testing.

One recent study in the EU found that all of the big brand names with CE Marks met or exceeded the regulatory standards. But many of the cheap Chinese imports did not. In some cases, even when there was an independent test report, the model that was submitted for the lab tests had different engineering and components then the one which was delivered to market, because cheaper parts were used, some of which did not meet the standards.

So it really comes down to trust. If you trust the company to do what it says it is doing, then the CE Mark is a good sign. But if you are concerned that they might cut corners to gain market share, a CE Mark is pretty much worthless.

All of the teardowns that I have seen so far of Sonoff brand devices Have looked good from an engineering standpoint except for some grounding issues Where it is possible to wire in a non-grounded device into a grounded cord, thus bypassing the ground. But if you know what you’re doing when you’re wiring, you wouldn’t do it that way, so I’m not sure we can count that against the Sonoff design.

That’s as opposed to the teardowns of some no-name Chinese imports, which were significantly divergent from the CE standards Even when they had the mark.

@erocm1231 May have more to add, as he has done a lot of work with sonoff devices.

Because fire safety is a huge issue for me (I’m quadriparetic), I follow the same rule that you do and only use UL or ETL certified devices if they will be wired into the mains.

But I think Sonoff might be one of the CE Mark devices that some people will want to consider as well.

We should also mention another point about the CE Mark. See how the two letters are quite far apart? That’s part of the logo definition, and was intended to differentiate it from just two letters that might be part of a model number or something. (I personally think they should’ve put a box around it, but they didn’t.)

Some particularly unscrupulous Chinese manufacturers have created their own Mark, which they call “China Export” and which uses the same font and coloring as the CE safety mark, where the only difference being that the E is closer to the C than the official definition. The China export Mark is not an officially registered mark and has really no meaning at all except the obvious one of trying to fool people, including customs inspectors, into believing that it has the CE safety Mark.

image

The European Parliament has formally complained to the Chinese government about the “China export” Mark for at least 10 years, but you still occasionally see it. So that’s just another thing to watch out for.

I have created several firmwares and handlers to get Sonoff devices working with SmartThings. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to work on their newer devices as my time is being consumed in other projects. I did create a firmware and handler for the iFan02 though that supports all of its features. It seems like a sturdy device but I personally do not have it installed anywhere.

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:point_up: this exactly! Safety really has to be the #1 priority.

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So I’ve been kinda following this for a while and initially the Hampton Bay universal package was a little sketchy to get so in some of the older threads people were buying the replacement parts for the Home Decorators fan, and as I understand it that is essentially the same controller but with the added feature of reversing and the remote is black vs the white remote of the Hampton Bay add on package. Also as I understand it, it was the replacement remote and controller were 2 separate part numbers, which together were more than the Hampton Bay package, but if you only really cared about the controller it was less.

I could probably only really justify it if I was buying the replacement part, which last I saw was at around $32 for just the controller. Like I said the remote isn’t really important to me. I might need one just for setup, but I could just cycle through the dip switches for that. Also the idea that maybe I could hack the reversing to actually work is something that appeals to me since one of the reasons I have so many fans is that I have multiple stairways and seperate AC/Heat for upstairs and downstairs plus a walk out basement (so basically 3 stories to deal with) and have installed, well are installing, multiple small 30" fans in the stairwells to kind of pressurize them and keep all the house more regulated. I would really like to be able to auto reverse for heating vs cooling which here in Georgia can switch back and forth a couple times a week in spring and fall.

Not UL rated, well yea that is kind of a concern, although before I started looking into the Smartthings sphere I was seriously considering doing something like this with Raspberry Pis and BCRobotics relay HATs, which is absolutely not UL by any stretch and the Sonoff is marked with a CE Certification, so I’m not sure it’d make me that nervous. I do get the concern though.

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Are you referring to me making DIY smart switches? I don’t see how you get that from what I posted, unless that’s simply a reference to the Sonoff in general, which frankly I don’t really see how a Sonoff packaged purpose built fan controller is different than one from Home Depot.

Your average RF fan controller, UL listed or not are not the most well engineered pieces of kit and from what I have seen of the Sonoff stuff it does look like a pretty well build piece and the company is not at all shy about showing off how their products are made. I mean no disrespect to Underwriters Laboratories but the old X10 wall switches were UL listed and were downright dangerous things to stick in your walls. I’d feel way safer with the Sonoff fan controllers stuck in a roomy light kit designed for 60W incandescent bulbs, running 9W smart bulbs in their place, metal enclosed and ventilated, than those X10 switches that got so hot their plastic housings deformed in the walls so much that you had to break them to get them out through a plaster ring, despite being UL listed.

Also the Sonoff is rated for 90-250V and in a US installation is being used much closer to the lower than upper rated limits of the product. There is a huge, huge difference between 110V and EU single hot wire 220V circuits and these products are being used a lot in Europe. I’ve seen many many reviews on lots of the Sonoff products, and most of these reviews are produced in 220V countries, so I’m not sure I’d over blow these as something obscure or inherently cheaply made and risky. They’re also using the same basic components inside that 90% of all WiFi enabled smart devices are using, the ubiquitous esp8266 which is in just about everything that connects via WiFi and cost less than $100.

So I’m not sure I would have a higher level of trust of the Hampton Bay, or even the GE/Sylvania products for that matter than the Sonoff, since I know what’s in the Sonoff and really have no idea what is in the others. But that isn’t really the concern I have, I’m really probably more interested in how reliably the Hampton Bay solution really functions I guess, as a device or if there is any real issues with the implantation of the Sonoff DH since it seems, less cut and dry, like involving a firmware re-flash. The comment about needing zigbee repeaters nearby the Hampton Bay devices does certainly give me pause, while every one of the fans I’m looking to control already are doing WiFi without a hiccup since they are all loaded with LIFX Minis. It really gets down to, I think, the firmware of the Sonoff vs the RF of the Hampton Bay I think, as I kind of already know what to expect from an esp8266 and know from my recent IKEA Tradfri experience just how bad zigbee can be if implemented poorly.

No, not you at all.

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The zigbee repeater issue is because of the fan blades. Big moving fan blades are just a bear to get signal past. That’s true regardless of protocol or device model. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I personally like to put a repeater up above the fan on the next floor if possible for just this reason.

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That’s good to know, and explains the issue I’ve been having with my Hampton Bay zigbee controller. Unfortunately my house is single story, so I’ll need to get a repeater up near the ceiling.

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An IKEA Tradfri lightbulb makes a good zigbee repeater with SmartThings And is very inexpensive. The product description will say that it needs its own gateway, but you can use the smartthings hub instead. :sunglasses:

The IKEA smart bulbs and plugin pocket socket all work well with smartthings. The handheld remotes and buttons have limited integration at this time.

https://m2.ikea.com/us/en/cat/wireless-led-bulbs-36813/

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Yeah, I already use Tradfi pocket sockets and bulbs as repeaters since they’re one of the few things I’ve found that play well with all of my Xiaomi/Aqara sensors (well, that and they’re really cheap!). Just need to figure out a way to put one of them up high enough. Thanks again for the insight.

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One more factor to take into account with any Wi-Fi device is that you can run into a device limit pretty quickly. Many home routers can only handle up to 30 devices, some will go up to about 100 but cost a lot more. In contrast, you can have literally thousands of zigbee devices, one reason they are so popular for lightbulbs.

And of course then there’s the power utilization issue, although if you’re running the fans anyway you may not care about that as the controller is only a tiny fraction of the total fan usage.

Anyway, just something to keep in mind once you start going up above about a dozen Wi-Fi IOT devices. :sunglasses:

Yea, got that sorted out, I’m using a commercial corporate campus type Aruba mesh for my WiFi, I can do hundreds of WiFi connections, especially low bandwidth things like IoT devices. Multiple meshed access points with a wired backbone. I have to dumb down the configuration on the 2.4Ghz bands to make consumer IoT devices happy, and even then I still have to fire up a ‘fake’ consumer network to install and update some device, well OK, specifically LIFX which I don’t think is capable of living on a network with more than a Class Cs worth of addresses (256). But yea I am well aware of the limitations of consumer routers and WiFi Access Points. If I didn’t have the network I do I would be a little more cautious of diving into WiFi devices in any significant way.

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So I guess we’ll do a head to head, I ordered a Sonoff ifan02 and a Hampton Bay. Tried to call the number listed in this thread: Hampton Bay Zigbee Fan controller for the Home Decorators Eastwind replacement parts, but was getting a “you are calling outside of our business hours” message not outside of their business hours so not sure what that’s all about. But given that what I had to order was the whole Home Depot Hampton Bay kit so it’s not exactly that inexpensive of a solution at $50 a piece.

This is kind of making me rethink about the Zwave wall control solutions from GE/Honeywell/Leviton which are all rated for much higher loads and most of my fans are setup in groupings that pulled from what was an existing ill placed ceiling box, and I pulled an extra lighting wire when I did it, meaning I could conceivably control, in most cases, 2 or 3 fans at a time per controller with those wall controllers, although the controller itself would be mounted in a ceiling box, if that makes any sense. All the fans branch out from what used to be a single circuit lighting circuit, all 3-way in fact but none have separate fan/lighting runs to the wall. They do however all have a separate circuit -from- the original ceiling fixture lighting box -to- each of the fan rated retrofit boxes I put in. Given though that same of these boxes are 16’ up it does make me concerned even more about the reliability of the device to stay connected, as even though they are exposed in a plate just like they would be in a wall they are effectively inaccessible in any kind of normal circumstances. Though I have seen where people have buried those devices into the canopies. Anyway point being the groupings are all mostly 2 or 3 fans and the load rating of the wall switches is more than enough to drive 2 to 3 fans per device, based on fan only load, that needs a little more research though.

Thanks Eric, I’ve just seen your device handler for the ifan02 on github. Would I still need to flash the firmware on the ifan02 unit in order to use the device handler you’ve written? Thanks again and great work!

Yes, it would need my firmware flashed on it. You can backup the iTead firmware though if you think you might one day want to go back.

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Thanks Eric, looking at github there are a number of Sonoff bin files so am confused which one I need…
https://github.com/erocm123/SmartThingsPublic/tree/master/devicetypes/erocm123/sonoff-wifi-switch.src

For the ifan02 specific device do I need to use the ‘firmware_flash.zip’ file?

Also would you be kind enough to point me on how to flash ifan02 device. I’m looking for a step by step process as I’ve never done any firmware flashing before?

Thanks Imran

The necessary files are actually here:

Also, there are a lot of good resources out there on how to flash esp8266 devices.

On this device, I didn’t do any soldering. I just held the wires in place during the flash procedure.

There is also a thread with a lot of info and probably the best place to post about flashing questions:

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Hi @erocm1231!

Would be fine to flash this ifan02 firmware in the new ifan03?

Thanks for your work!