Why use SmartThings or any Hub for that matter? (Not a troll, real question)

Hi everyone,
I’ll admit I’m new to home automation. SO I could be missing something. I have STv2 hub several Zwave, Zigbee and WiFi devices though out the house. There are also 6 Alexas. I’ve experienced problems with Zwave & Zigbee devices. None have ever just paired with the hug straight away. Been close to the hub, far from the hub, tried it all. Once connected they work fine, albeit sometimes a little slower than their WiFi counterparts. I have doors unlock when I get home, light scenes, Nest HVAC control, timers and etc. Having a mix of wireless types is kind of a drag, a little more work to get them all within between ST and Alexa. I’ve had found custom device handlers, and other cool fixes here. Not a big deal over all I’m happy with my Zwave and Zigbee combos.

My question is this. Why use Zware and Zigbee at all? The Wifi/hub less equivalents are cheaper and seem more reliable. I can usually get the same device, from reputable vendors, not talking no name made in china versions, for 30% - 50% cheaper, and just control from Alexa.

What am I missing here, am I not using ST and it’s devices to their full potential? Maybe missing some program ability the Alexa can’t provide?

Not looking to start a Hub/Anti hub war, just some insight.

Thanks for your help.

Zigbee and zwave are both low powered mesh technologies. Mesh allows for the more devices you have (mains powered) the stronger your network will be.
Consumer WiFi starts to have issues around 32 devices per radio
Zwave supports ~254 devices
Zigbee supports ~64,000
Ultimally it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish, if you just want to control a few devices with your voice WiFi is fine, but if you want something that can scale to 100+ devices/sensors w/ consumer grade hardware WiFi can’t handle that yet. Also if you want small battery powered sensors, you won’t find any of them that support WiFi simply due to power requirements.


Two completely separate answers here.

The first is an old answer which is why were zigbee and zwave ever developed at all, why not use Wi-Fi from the beginning? See the following FAQ (this is a clickable link) Although Wi-Fi devices have gotten cheaper to buy since this FAQ was written, all of the other issues still apply. ( I Cross posted with @sidjohn1 's excellent post, but the issues he is describing are the ones discussed in the FAQ.)

The second is a newer, but likely more temporary answer, which is that right now smartthings offers the ability to create much more complex logic rules than Echo or HomeKit. But the Hubless systems are continually evolving and adding more capabilities, so it’s not clear how long this will be true. Or how many people really need more complex logic anyway. But for now, you can create much more complex rules and schedules with SmartThings then you can with the hubless systems.

So there will be many people for whom the hubless systems work just fine, and you’re right, they will not need to look at a system like SmartThings. Others will want more complex rules or a larger number of devices, and then they may need to go beyond the current hubless systems. There’s no one right answer: the challenge is to find a system that works well for what you need. Choice is good. :sunglasses:


Your basic question has already been well answered, but I’d like to touch on the following items:

Having at least some issues with device pairing is par for the course for all but the most trivial setups (as is the occasional loss of a Wi-Fi connection between routers and other devices). But if you’ve never gotten any devices of either type to easily pair with your ST hub then you have either a defective hub, an extraordinary amount of radio interference in your home, are buying very low-quality devices…or some combination of those three.

That would tend to discount the radio interference possibility, and even the defective hub one. What brand(s)/model(s) of Z-Wave a Zigbee devices are you using?


I’m using 12 sengled bulbs and 4 GE switches, 3 GE Zwave plugs and about 1/2 dozen (cheap) WiFi plugs, and TPlink plug.

Thanks for the info! Especially [How to Get Started Creating Complex Rules]

1 Like

I have 4 Sengled bulbs myself, as well as 4 different GE wall switches (2 each of Z-Wave and Zigbee variants)…all of which are located on the ground floor of my house and had no trouble at all pairing from their current locations with the hub that’s upstairs. So perhaps there is some sort of issue with your hub and/or radio noise in your home that only impacts pairing…though I’m at a loss to imagine exactly what would cause such a problem across a variety of devices like that.

@sunil you don’t have any zigbee repeaters. So if you’re having zigbee issues, that could be part of it.

1 Like

Are Wi-Fi devices controlled locally or from the cloud. I have one tp-link plugin outlet that I have in case I need to reboot the smartthings hub if I am unable to reboot it from the ide.

As far as I know this outlet is controlled from the cloud.

It depends on the device, but most are cloud cloud integrations. If it can be detected by superLAN connect, it may be local.

I have too much to try and list, and for the level of automation I have in my house, I don’t think I could achieve it without a dedicated hub. Sure I could achieve some level of automation without a hub but I recently ditched my LIFX bulbs, I just could never get them to be all that stable, though getting a mesh WiFi helped that significantly. I’ve got a 16 or so of the Sengled bulbs and unless someone turns off the light switch, or a power failure, they have been solid and are a fraction of what the LIFX bulbs are. I have about half of my light switches in my house are GE smart switches. About the only places I don’t have them are boxes that don’t have a neutral wire, or a few 4 and or 5 way switches. I’ve got motion sensors and door sensors in almost every to turn lights on and I use WebCore a ton to do a lot of cool things, especially since Echo Speaks smart app was released.

But as other’s have said, I think it’s about what you want out of it. If you want to dip your toe in, maybe a hubless WiFi only setup would be good. But if you are serious about home automation, I just don’t see how you could get there without a dedicated hub.

1 Like

the GE devices work after 2 tries, and no problem. I’ve had a whole
batch (4) of the bulbs refuse to work.

That could cause instability/non-functionality during normal operation, but not the inability to easily pair devices to begin with even when they’re in close proximity to the hub (which is the symptom he described).


All the Wifi plugs are cloud based. Will Zigbee and Zwave work from from the ST hub it it looses wifi?

I think some of the switches and plugs are “plus” versions with repeaters built in.

I’ll have to check when I get home.

It always seems to me that controlling things through Alexa makes your house remote controlled, not automated. This is what ST does. It makes things happen automatically, rather than being initiated by voice. If that’s what you want, then by all means don’t bother with a hub. If you want automation, you’ll need a hub of some kind. But whatever your choice, YMMV for what you want to achieve, and it’ll be different for each of us. And automation will nearly always need z-wave or zigbee…

Seems a hub is the way to go for fully automated routines.

I’ll check out WebCore tonight as well.

1 Like

Don’t be intimidated by WebCore. It has it’s own forums and the users are very helpful in helping you sort out issues with pistons and help in getting things to work the way you want them to.

1 Like

Not necessarily. There are multiple cloud-to-cloud automation services (IFTTT, Stringify, et al) that can be (and are) used to automate hubless ecosystems (sans Z-Wave and Zigbee devices, of course). They’re not a great way to implement HA compared with hub-based systems, but they do work…and are sometimes the only option if you have devices/services that are not supported by a hub (or at least not the hub(s) you have).

Now, if you want locally-operating automation then yes, you’ll need a hub or the functional equivalent thereof.


Alexia can do some timed routines, I have not nor have any use for it (so far).