A Guide to Wireless Range & Repeaters

One more thought. While I understand the marketing reasons for the decision, the fact that SmartThings gives customers zero guidance on how to set up a network backbone does lead to a lot of frustration that shouldn’t have to exist. if people knew that

.1) The hub should be located centrally in the home, both vertically and horizontally. Don’t put it in a garage or basement as those have concrete and pipes and metal objects which will reduce signal. If your Internet router is off in some inaccessible corner, you can use a Wi-Fi access point that has a ethernet port on the side and plug into that. Also, the hub should not be put in a cabinet. You just want to make it as easy as possible for signal to spread around your house.

.2) you need one device that can repeat about every 40 feet (every 60 feet for Z wave plus).

.3) zigbee repeats only for zigbee and zwave repeats only for Z wave. The repeaters form the “backbone” of the network. So there will be one backbone for zigbee and one backbone for zwave. When installing several devices at once, install the repeaters first, beginning closest to the hub and working outward, so that the other devices will be able to use them to reach the hub. Then go back and install the battery powered devices. Using this method, zwave plus Devices should be able to be paired in place.

Some Z wave classic devices may need to be moved close to the hub to pair, and then moved to their desired location (or you can move the hub close to the device). Z wave locks will need to be paired very close to the hub so that they can exchange an encryption key.

If you do have to change the location of any devices, including moving the hub around, during the join process, you will then need to run a Z wave repair utility once everything is in place to update the neighbor tables.

.4) battery powered devices do not usually repeat, but most mains-powered devices do including most plug-in modules, light switches, in wall relays, and plug in sensors. It is up to the manufacturer though, so check to be sure. Sengled, for example, has made the decision that none of their smart bulbs will repeat.

.5) Z wave plus has the longest range per device of the Z wave/Zigbee options

.6) The hue bridge forms its own mini network and none of the devices connected to it will repeat for any of your other devices

.7) wi-Fi is irrelevant to the performance of zigbee/Z wave devices except that very strong Wi-Fi can drown out nearby Zigbee. For this reason, locate your SmartThings hub at least 3 m from your Wi-Fi router and any Wi-Fi access point.

.8) Different architectural features can make it harder or easier for signal to get through, effectively making the range shorter. For example, foil backed insulation inside a wall might make it hard to get signal through to the next room. Signal might pass easily from one side to the other when a garage is empty, but be blocked by cars when the garage is full. These kinds of obstacles may require an additional repeater or changing the placement of devices.

.9) Z wave is limited to four total hops per message between the end device and the hub, zigbee allows for 15.

A zwave network is limited to 232 Devices, including the hub. A zigbee network can support many more. so you will theoretically be able to add up to 231 Zwave devices to your SmartThings account at one location, although you may start to encounter some issues if you go over 40, it just varies.

However, as of this writing the smartthings hub can only handle 64 non-repeating zigbee devices connected directly to it. These are most commonly battery operated sensors or the Sengled brand lightbulbs. If you try to connect more than 64 non-repeating zigbee devices directly to the hub, some of them will just drop off the network.

The good news is that every time you add an additional zigbee repeater, it can “parent” some of the non-repeating devices, leaving more slots for the hub again. The number that each new repeater could take varies by brand/model, but is typically 3 to 7.

Also, your SmartThings account has a limit on the total number of devices you can add per location, independent of protocol. (As of August 2021, this was 200.)

.10) each end Device keeps a list of its closest neighbors. Anytime you add a new device to the network or physically relocate a device, you should run the Z wave repair utility for Z wave devices or do a zigbee heal for zigbee devices to make sure that all the neighbor tables are up-to-date.

To do a zigbee heal, take the hub off power (including removing the batteries) and leave it off for at least 20 minutes. When you put the hub back on power, all the individuals zigbee devices will automatically update their neighbor tables.

To do a Z wave repair, follow these instructions:

This process can take a while for both Z wave and zigbee, so you may not see efficiency improvements until the next day.

Also, the route that you see in the smartthings IDE (the web interface to your smartthings account information) is not the only route that device can use: it’s just the one that was used most recently at the time the report was made. And the report does not update in real time. So in general you don’t need to worry about that route even if it looks strange. The automated routing algorithms take into account a lot of information that we as humans don’t have like network traffic and signal strength. But the route information can be helpful in identifying a bad repeater or not enough repeaters. In particular look at the ratio of failed message transmissions to total message transmissions. If there are a lot of failures, you probably need another repeater.

People would then know 95% of what they need to know to set up an efficient mesh network. One line in the hub user manual “go online for information on how to set up the most efficient communication network for your home automation devices” and a one page web explantation of those ten points and you’d save a lot of support calls.

Professionally installed systems, even Xfinity home, obviously don’t have to do that. Their installers will deal with those issues.

But I do think it makes sense to provide the backbone planning information for a DIY system.

JMO :sunglasses:


Do we know if the Zigbee and Z-wave antenae orientations are still the same as the illustration in that blog post? It looks like an older hub.

On point as always, JD. Thanks!

Question on fail over if a repeating node fails.
For zwave, if a repeater fails, battery powered endpoints seem to find the next repeater on their own.
For zigbee, if a repeater fails, the battery powered endpoint cant seem to find another.

What is the expected functionality?
If a battery powered device (zigbee in this case) is mobile, and goes in and out of range between 2 repeaters, will it be able to jump back and forth? Will zwave?

What you just described in the moment, although over time it’s different… Zigbee battery powered devices select a “parent“ when they join and that’s the device that they expect to be the first repeater. They should also be able to reach the hub if it’s one hop. But if the parent dies and they are on the edge of the network, they can get “orphaned.” The hub is supposed to notice that the orphan has not checked in for a while and then there are a couple of different things that can happen which will either rebuild the network by giving the child to a new parent, or if a new parent is not available, Mark the child as unavailable. How quickly all of this happens depends on the zigbee profile being used and some individual manufacturer settings. On the other hand, if you just take the hub itself off of power and leave it off for 15 or 20 minutes, then all the devices will basically remap themselves when the hub comes back online and that cleans up anything involving defective devices as long as another parent is available. So most commercial installations will force a network heal once a week or so. All of which means that eventually, the child device will probably find a new parent unless there just isn’t one available in which case the hub should know that.

Z wave, however, has two different mechanisms for providing alternate routes more quickly. First of all, most devices are aware of a couple of alternate routes to begin with. Second, through “explorer frames” zwave plus devices and some of the older generation can eventually rebuild paths around failing devices, although it can take a couple of days. You can also issue a “repair“ utility command to force the network to rebuild. A lot of zwave only platforms do a repair every night to keep things clean, but smart things has always recommended against that because they have additional synchronization issues due to the cloud.

So in practice if you are using smartthings a zwave end device probably has a better Chance of finding an immediate alternate path. Zigbee may require power cycling the hub to get things cleaned up. But both protocols do have housekeeping methods that should automatically improve messaging over time after a device goes defective. So both protocols are considered “self healing networks.“

For more information, see the resources on the various alliance sites. :sunglasses:

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@JDRoberts - some really helpful information here - especially post 11!

Can An Amazon Echo device (with Smart Hub) be a Zigbee repeater device for a SmartThings Hub?
I’m not sure how they would pair however as each is really a Hub and not a ‘device’ per se??

Unfortunately you are correct: the echo device is another primary coordinator, and the Zigbee profile that smartthings uses allows for only one primary coordinator per network. So you cannot add an echo device to your smartthings Zigbee network, and therefore it cannot be a repeater for that network.

Ikea Tradfri plug in pocketsockets happened to be good repeaters for a SmartThings set up, and are very inexpensive, less than $10 when bought directly from IKEA. And they are available in a number of other countries as well.

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I see there is also a Tradfri signal repeater - that looks like a USB adapter (as well as a repeater) so that is an alternative too I suppose - depends on your preference as to whether you want to have a smart outlet or a USB :slight_smile:
12.99 vs 9.99 for the outlet/repeater.

The Tradfri signal repeater is specifically designed to work with their battery operated shades. It reportedly has a slightly weaker signal than the plug-in pocket socket. So I don’t recommend it for this purpose. But choice is good. And like you say, if it’s a place where you would put a plug in USB charger anyway, it may be the right choice. :sunglasses:

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I wondered what is going on. I just installed an older Schlage FE599 keylock. I have lots and lots of Zwave devices in the house, but had trouble pairing the FE599 to the hub.

Because the doorlock is difficult to install, I actually removed the door tonight and carried it next to the hub. When it was only a few feet away, it paired on the first try.

I then moved the door back to its location, but I can’t control it even though I have several Zwave wall switches very close by.

What does it mean “Zwave beaming?” What kind of repeaters will carry the Zwave signal from this Schlage door lock?

There is a community FAQ specifically on locks, I suggest you take a look at that. It also mentioned some specific issues that people have with older Schlage locks.

As far as beaming repeaters, pretty much any mains powered device released from 2020 on will support beaming. If it’s Z wave plus supporting S2 security it almost certainly supports beaming. Most of the other newer devices do as well.

The lock FAQ also explains how to find out whether a particular device supports beaming or not.

FAQ: why would I need another beaming repeater if my zwave lock is already close to my hub?

Hi - Quick question. Now that the old SmartThings API (see first link below) was replaced by My SmartThings (second link below), where is the best place to go to heal the network?

Location List (smartthings.com)


I used my Android SmartThings app on my phone to do it last night. It took 1 1/2 hours to complete. I have 25 devices that I set up over the course of 3 days and I had to move the hub all around the house to get many of them to work, so I am sure there was a lot of “healing” that needed to be done.

The problem with using the app on my phone is that it basically just looks like it is frozen and does not provide any information to indicate if it is working or to tell you which devices pass, etc.

I want to perform the procedure 2 more times as suggested above, but I would prefer to use a more robust tool, provided that one exists now that SmartThings is on edge drivers. I do not see a place to do it in the My SmartThings beta app.

Repair is a utility that runs on the hub itself, so it shouldn’t matter where you start it from, and at this point, most people seem to be just running it from the app. See post 31 in the following thread.

Life after the IDE: Questions and Answers

There’s probably also a way to initiate it from the API using the CLI. @orangebucket might know the specifics.

I’m not sure about runtime messages.

I haven’t pinned down how that works yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if it requires one of the various OAuth scopes that doesn’t get offered to developers or end users. The CLI seems to have its own private scope so might be able to do it in time, but otherwise they might consider it to be in the remit of the official client apps.

There is also the issue that while there is probably a ‘start repair’ command, that it may or may not be possible to use, there probably needs to be something listening for events as they come in.

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It can be slow. If you wait long enough, eventually you’ll see errors for any devices that failed to update, and a “repair complete” message at the end. I’m not sure whether you’ll still get those if you leave the app and return, or if your Android device goes to sleep. The old way of doing it in the IDE certainly offered more reliable / visible feedback than we get now.


Yes that makes a lot of sense. I suspect I lost the error messages because I left and app and/or the phone went to sleep multiple times during the 1 and 1/2 hours that it took to complete. Surprisingly, I did get a “repair complete” message at the end. Next time I run it, I will set the screen timeout to the max (albeit the max is only 30 minutes) so I guess I will need to make sure to touch the screen periodically assuming it takes 1 1/2 hours again.

It may have taken longer the first time since a lot of your devices will have lost their original connection as you moved the hub from place to place. 25 isn’t a lot of devices - if they’re all communicating now, a I would expect it to take <15 minutes. They may not have produced any error messages on the first go-round either, if your mesh has good connectivity throughout.

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You and my wife will need to agree to disagree on that statement :rofl:


It’s a lot if you purchased and installed them all at once, to be fair to your wife! But not a lot for a z-wave network to handle.