A Warning About Iris Smart Plug Z-Wave Repeaters

These are NOT RELIABLE repeaters.

After becoming increasingly frustrated with frequent Z-Wave power cycle events I blew away the entire Z-Wave portion of my system; well north of 100 devices, Since my Iris days I have always suspected their reliability. So I decided today to start the rebuild process by only connecting 20 of my 42 Iris Smart Plugs to create what was supposed to be a strong and stable Z-Wave plus backbone.

The first 5 SmartPlugs were in the same room as the hub. After pairing them I ran a Z-Wave repair with no errors. I then moved to add devices in an adjacent bedroom, 4 Smart Plugs total. Added in the 4 devices then ran a Z-Wave repair. Three of the 4 devices in the adjacent room, no more than 12 feet from the hub failed with “Could not update mesh info” and “Could not update route”. The 4 failed devices were removed, and one was added back. A repair was run again and still failed with the same message. Moved that plug into the room with the hub, ran repair and had no errors. Moved the plug back where it was, 12 feet from the hub, and the errors recurred. Thinking it might be a coverage issue, I added the 3 remaining SmartPlugs for that room back in, ran a repair and the same 4 of 5 in the room failed with errors.

So I moved into the dining room, adjacent to the room with the hub and added 4 Smart Plugs and ran a repair. 3 of 4 devices failed with errors, while 2 of 4 were non-responsive after the repair. I proceeded to add more devices into the living room, off of the dining room. Total distance from hub about 35 feet. These devices would not pair in place. I had to move them close to the hub to pair. Once moved back into place all of those devices generated “Could not update mesh info” and “Could not update route” errors. Most of them became non-responsive too. I’m used both a Iris Repeater DTH form the forum as well as one I wrote and observed the same behavior with both.

It is my belief that these devices are not reliable. Based on my observations they’re one-hop repeaters which will NOT repeat a message sent from another Smart Plug. I have not been able to reliably connect the repeaters more than 30 feet from my hub. Even worse is almost every repeater not in the same room as the hub generates mesh and route errors. There are no other Z-wave devices on my network other than the repeater portion of 20 Iris Smart Plugs.

All of my plugs have the 20011050 firmware. I’m told theres a 20081050 firmware available, but as a test the day prior to this experiment I powered up my Iris hub and connected one Smart Plug. In 14 hours it did not update. I’m going to re-add some of my GE switches this evening and run another re-build. My guess is some of the mesh errors will go away. I am very much unimpressed with the performance of the repeaters in these devices.

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I have one Iris pkug in the garage. Under ST, the repeater was set up as a separated device from the smart plug. The smart plug works although the repeater always show no recent activity. Anyway, my garage door opener has been working stably after I added that Iris plug in the ST network. The plug is at least 15ft from the closet addon switch while the gararge door opener is another 12 to 15 ft from the plug. I guess the GE switch is a better repeater to get tge smart pkug connected first.

I’m willing to buy these from you. How many of the Power Plugs do you have. PM me if you are willing to sell.

I picked about 15 of these for $10 each and never had an issue with the zigbee portion. Never even tried to use the z-wave repeaters as I have all GE Switches in every room.

I could definitely use 15 more!

I use the plugs just for their Zigbee repeater capabilities, and they’re working great for that mesh. My numerous GE wall switches already do a great job for my zwave mesh. Sorry you’re having problems with these because they are good devices.

How old is your house and what are the walls made of?

I don’t think you’re problem is with the devices. It sounds like you have a structural issue and you may need to set your repeaters up so they remain line-of-site from device to device all the back to the hub.

I’ve got six of these in my house and they work great.

I could use a few more, so if you’re like to offload about 4 to 6 of them send me a pm.

I agree on Zigbee portion. I used one in my shed as a repeater and it was connecting to another one that was inside my house and upstairs. Probably closest one that was line of sight.
It was going a good 60 to 80 feet across the yard. I just did it as a test to see if it would reach. Didn’t expect it to work that far.

Here is a DTH that can help tell if your Zwave repeater portion drops offline.

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Thanks for the replies.

I have over 40 of these. They are excellent Zigbee repeaters. I’ve never had problems with that, but I now have proof that they do not repeat Z-wave reliably. I’m not selling as they still serve a purpose, but thanks for asking.

The house has none of the usual attributes know to attenuate signals. It’s typical 1920’s balloon framed wood construction with hollow walls. There’s no foil faced insulation anywhere or walls full of structured cables. The floor plan is fairly open.

The 20 (actually 21) SmartPlugs should have had more than sufficient coverage to cover the 1400 sq ft. 2nd floor space I tested. Every plug was in the line of site with another. However once a plug was not in direct line of site with the hub (with the exception of one plug on the back side of the wall adjacent to the room with the hub) they all reported mesh errors on rebuild.

Keep in mind the test was done using a DTH I wrote, and the only devices in the mesh were the Iris Smart Plugs. I also tested again using the DTH in the forum as a control. Nether of the DTH’s had any impact on how the Z-Wave repeater behaves in the mesh, which was as expected. My final Z-Wave repair had more than 2 dozen mesh errors with the Smart Plugs.

After my initial post yesterday evening I moved on to add in the 14 of the 27 GE Z-wave switches on the same floor as the Smart Plugs. Another Z-Wave repair was run that yielded much cleaner results. Only 3 mesh errors were reported, all with the SmartPlugs.

Thats where I’m at now. There are still about 38 more Z-wave devices to add today.

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I believe what you’re seeing, but there are also a number of community members who are using these successfully as Z wave repeaters, in some cases at least two hops from the hub, so I do wonder if there’s something else going on.

If you’ll forgive some field tech questions, my first question would be did you try any other brand/model of Z wave pocket socket in that same room to see if it worked correctly? I would specifically use a plug in module for this test to try and replicate the original conditions as closely as possible.

If the different brand works fine, then clearly there’s an issue with the Iris. If the different brand also fails, there’s a local environmental issue.

Since you aren’t seeing any problems with the building architecture, I would look for RF interference. This is most commonly a baby monitor or an older cordless phone operating in the 900 band. It could be in that room itself, or it could be anywhere within one hop, including on floors above or below.

We did have one community member who had a similar issue with the GE plug-in pocket sockets about two years ago that turned out to be a baby monitor. In that case they would work in the room with the hub but not one room over.

I’m not saying that’s your issue, just that since you already own the devices and intend to keep them, it might be worth a little more investigation just to see if it is a localized problem.

FWIW

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Nothing to forgive, I was hoping you would chime in! Unfortunately I do not have any other pocket sockets other than the Iris ones. I do have a brand new GE Outdoor module (Z-Wave Plus) that will be going into service today. As of this post all 27 of the GE Switches, Dimmers, & Fan Controls on the 2nd Floor have been added and a Z-wave repair has completed with 10 SmartPlugs reporting mesh errors. It’s important to note that all but 4 reported mesh errors prior to adding the GE in-wall devices to the mesh so there’s been a marked improvement.

The only 900Mhz device is the Ecobee I installed 3 weeks ago. No phones or baby monitors. My Z-wave issues have been lingering since I got into ST almost 2 years ago. Heck, I even powered down my quad-band ham transceiver for a while. :slight_smile:

I just cannot explain why the Iris Z-Wave repeaters cannot form a stable mesh on their own with 4-5 plugs in each room, 21 total on the floor alone. I’m starting to wonder if the 2008 firmware update may have Z-Wave fixes but I’ve not been able to track down a changelog from anyone and all of my contacts on Lowes Iris team have moved on to other things.

For now I’ll just put things back together and see if the Z-wave power cycles have diminished.

Are the walls of your home the original plaster? I’m pretty sure sheetrock didn’t exist back then, but I may be wrong.

If that’s the original plaster, that could be your attenuation problem. You wouldn’t believe what’s in that stuff.

Plaster from that time was basically cement, lol. They also used a metal mesh as the lathe for plaster in the 1920’s.

It’s possible you are living in a big farraday cage.

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Then you might try the GE outdoor module in the room where you had problems and see how it does.

@bamarayne Is also right that sometimes plaster from the 1940s or before may have attenuating materials, But then I would expect it to be affecting the zigbee signal as well.

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Happy to buy a few off of you if you look to unload them.

One other random thought: Insteon equipment can interfere with Z wave. So can some ham radio equipment. But again testing with a different brand in the same location would help isolate that issue.

For what it’s worth the iris 3210 plugs are listed as certified Z-Wave Plus devices, specifically always-on repeaters. That makes the range issues particularly puzzling. Some specifics here (click through the link):

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I spent the last 2 days rebuilding my z-wave mesh as well and it was painful. I have only 5 iris plugs and also think the z-wave repeaters were causing z-wave power cycle every 2 minutes. Support was looking into swapping out the hub and I resisted.
I removed 5 z-wave devices at a time and do a mesh repair. There were multiple z-wave devices failed to join/update mesh until all 5 of my iris repeaters removed.
I no longer use the repeaters in the Iris. Maybe I will add them back in after the new year to confirm the problem but as of now. Everything is working like a new MS windows installed.

Does that mean you just dropped the Zwave portion (removed it in IDE?) or completely quit using the plugs?

Just curious?

I just looked at the manufacturer’s instructions sheet linked at the Z-Wave Alliance page that I posted and noticed that the Z-Wave pairing instructions that it shows are not any that I recall reading in the forums here when I set up my devices sometime ago. Namely, the instructions linked there say to double tap the button to initiate a Z-Wave pairing. The instructions I recall reading in the community forums here recommended holding the button in waiting for a blinking light, and if that didn’t work then a process of continually pressing the button until the Z-Wave device showed up in the SmartThings app. I think that’s the technique that I used. I don’t recall reading in the ST forums of the double tap method for Z-Wave inclusion.

Anyway it’s curious that there doesn’t seem to be documentation from Iris that matches the generally accepted methods used here. That got me to doing a search to see if there was any news to be found in the iris Community forum. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of clarity there either about the Z-Wave setup process. But I did find a forum thread in which a poster said he was informed by Iris technical support that Iris had shipped a bad batch of repeaters (ref the last post in this thread):

I still heavily use all the plugs and like them because of the energy reading but removed the z-wave repeater part by force removal in the ST app.

Here’s the scoop on these plugs, everything that I know or was told. I was part of a very small group of a handful super users on the Iris V2 beta and was given some insider information on these plugs and how they operate.

What the button does:

  • Single Press - Toggle on/off state
  • Press & Hold while Plugging In (release when blue LED illuminates) - Reset Zigbee & Initiate Pairing
  • Press & Hold while Plugging In (10 or more seconds) - Factory Reset
  • Press 8 Times within 2 Seconds - Initiate Z-Wave Pairing

Iris controls the Z-Wave pairing via proprietary Zigbee commands which is why the end user does not have to do the 2-step process us SmartThings users do. Once the Zigbee pairing is complete the Z-Wave pairing is triggered on the Smart Plug by sending a value to a cluster. This process is completely transparent to the as the user only thinks they’re pairing a single device. I wish I knew the specific details like clusters to write to but my contacts didn’t have the specific details.

When things go awry, Iris will identify the Z-Wave portion of the Smart Plug as a “Repeater Slave”. This is the only time that it will ever show in the device list. Supposedly the Iris hub is capable of knowing when a repeater slave has dropped off the network and can attempt re-add it during a Z-Wave heal.

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I can confirm these button presses for these devices. I just reset several of mine tonight and repaired both the zigbee outlet and the zwave repeaters.

fyi, press 8 times, means press 8 times in less than 2 seconds. You do not need to turn the device on/off each press… just press it… and when you get it right the led starts slowly flashing.

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