So it’s coming up to 2 years now since i’ve had the xiaomi aqara sensors up and running, and I thought i’d give everyone an update as to how they’ve performed, battery life etc, as well as some things I’ve been doing with them. If you’re interested in how I paired them to my zigbee USB stick initially you can check out the post here. If you’re interested in my post detailing which sensors I bought, where I bought them from and a cost breakdown for an average 3 bedroom home, then you can read more here.
In terms of my set up I am still rocking a 6th Gen Intel Nuc (Celeron) and the same CC2531 zigbee USB stick that I bought initially. SOftware wise I am using Hassio/Home-Assistant supervised (i.e. with add-ons) and for a zigbee software I am using Zigbee2mqtt via the add-on in HA. Now this zigbee USB stick is considered the entry level model, and so it should be for $4. If you read in the forums and online, you get mixed opinions on them. Mine has been working solidly over the last two years with the odd issue which I believe has been software related (more on that later), but I know others complain of drop outs and some range issues. There are several variants of CC2531, some have connections on the end of the stick so you can add additional antennas, but mine does not. Some have used USB extension cables to help solve interference issues, but alas, mine has worked fine without the cable. I guess not all CC2531s are made equal, or maybe some people have had some pretty beefy wifi or bluetooth signal which could have caused issues, who knows?!
As I alluded to earlier, I have had some issues with zigbee2mqtt over the period. These have ranged from a chunky update that broke the set up causing me to redo the configuration (they basically added some security features to the network which meant we all had to update) and I had an issue where I suddenly lost my zigbee network. Nothing would bring it back. After searching online, I saw some people were needing to reflash their USB sticks to bring it back. I did the same, but took the opportunity to upgrade the Zigbee2mqtt firmware to the latest version at the same time. It took a couple of minutes to flash and I was back up and running. It was annoying, but wasn’t critical.
Now on to the Xiaomi sensors themselves. For two years, I’ve been running the following:
Motion sensor 1 (RTCGQ01LM) : sits on the landing and of an evening, turns on nightlights for a period of time and then if no further motion detected after a couple of minutes, turns the lights back off.
This is used all day every day, several times a day. Battery life: 36%
Motion sensor 2 (RTCGQ01LM): sits in a cupboard and turns on additional lighting when the cupboard doors are open, and again, if no further motion detected turns the lights back off.
Used rarely, couple of times a week if that. Battery life: 100%
Aqara Push button (WXKG01LM): Sits on bedside table. One click turns on lights, double click turns them off.
Used every evening. Battery life: 100%
Aqara Vibration sensor ( DJT11LM): Sits in a drawer with valuables (passport, cash, watch etc). If I’m at home, an announcement over google home tells me the drawer has been opened. If I’m away from home I receive a telegram.
Used every week or so (infrequently). Battery life: 100%
Temperature/Humidity/Pressure Sensor (WSDCGQ11LM): In several locations providing environmental data to HA.
Office- Battery life: 37%
Bedroom- Battery life: 45%
Lounge- Battery life: 86% (this is an anomaly because i only set it up about a month ago, so it’s been sat in it’s box, but not connected for almost 2 years).
Aqara Contact Sensor ( MCCGQ11LM): Used on a balcony door to alert us whether it’s been left open or not.
Door opened a couple of times a month on average (more in summer obviously). Battery life: 100%
Aqara Wireless Switch (WXKG11LM): Used to turn a lamp on in a guest room.
Used infrequently- Battery life: 91%
I must confess when I first bought these I was sceptical. I bought some of the sensors in Beijing whilst on vacation, but the bulk I bought on Aliexpress. Believe it or not it’s difficult to find a Xiaomi seller in Beijing. The battery life on these sensors has been nothing short of brilliant. Obviously the environmental sensors are going to be the ones dropping the fastest, but the batteries are an easy replacement when they do run out eventually. I am a huge fan of wired everything, in fact I wrote a book pretty much based on that whole premise, but after two years of zigbee, I’m a convert (at least for the sensors). I still have a box full of brand new unopened aqara bits and bobs ready for when we move, but for now we’re making do with what we have.
One issue I had with the bedside button in node-red was that I had it initially wired to toggle the bedside lights on and off every time you tapped it. This was working fine, but then there were some changes and updates in node-red and home-assistant which suddently caused no end of issues.
My home-assistant installation would randomly drop connection and be inaccessible. Once it appeared back on the network, for some reason, that state change would toggle the lights. The short version, the bedside lights would come on at all times of the night and morning waking up my other half. I rebuilt the flow and amended my mqtt set up and that seemed to immediately fix the issue. What this has meant though is rather than toggle, it’s now one click for on and two for off. No hardship! I pulled out the payload by sticking a debug node on the state change sensor and then started doing various clicking operations until I can find the details the button was sending out. Unsurprisingly, single and double were the payload messages, so that was easy enough.
I’ve yet to buy any zigbee based plugs, but I have my eye on the sonoff ones. My blitzwolf and teckin (wifi) smart plugs have been working very well, but I assume that once I get into my own place and I deploy all these other aqara sensors I have, i’ll need a couple of mains powered zigbee devices to help boost the network. Also, whilst I’ll see how it goes with the CC2531, I could see myself upgrading to a CC2652R as needed.
I sometimes see people online slating the aqara products for being made in the far east and not having relevant certifications etc., and whilst I don’t wish to be political, my experience with them has been nothing but positive. I’d be interested if there were any other sensors that you think I should be looking at instead? For me it wasn’t just the price that drove my decision, but also the asthetics. These sensors are very small, unobtrusive and are easy to hide. If you know of another brand, let me know in the comments.
If any of you are looking for some aqara buttons, the below links are affiliate (Ali), as am sure you know by now, it won’t cost you anything additional, but it will help support the blog.