FAQ: Are Smart Bulbs Repeaters? (Updated Sept 2017: the new answer is yes, but may be inconsistent)


#1

Hue Bridge

Lightbulbs connected to a hue bridge are repeaters–but only for other devices attached to the same bridge. They essentially form their own mini network. So they won’t help with nearby sensors.

Zwave bulbs

Zwave lightbulbs like those from Linear and aeotec typically are repeaters – – but only for Z wave. These can actually be very useful in some specific use cases like getting zwave signal down basement stairs or across a garage. :sunglasses: :bulb:

zigbee bulbs connected directly to the ST hub

Zigbee lightbulbs like hue or Osram if connected directly to the SmartThings hub without using a bridge shift from the ZLL profile to the ZHA profile and then do typically act as repeaters for other ZHA devices. We have a number of members doing just that. However, many members also report that the zigbee bulbs are unreliable repeaters. Sometimes they clearly repeat for other ZHA devices, and other times they don’t. It may be a timing issue. It certainly very frustrating because the bulbs will show on a zigbee map as a repeater.

SmartThings engineering has investigated and determined that some of these brands, including the Osram, have a limited buffer size which can get flooded, causing messages that were due to be repeated to be lost. This probably explains the intermittent nature of the problem.

https://support.smartthings.com/hc/en-us/articles/214191863-How-to-connect-OSRAM-LIGHTIFY-Bulbs

Note: OSRAM LIGHTIFY bulbs have a known firmware issue that can occasionally cause them to fail as ZigBee repeaters. This can potentially cause other ZigBee devices to fail to update and/or respond.

(However, if Hue bulbs are connected without using the bridge they cannot be individually reset without using a separate device like the Lutron connectable bulb remote. You also need a different device Handler than the official one (which assumes the bulbs are connected to the bridge). For these reasons, SmartThings support recommends using hue bulbs only with a Hue bridge. But some members do connect them directly.)

Because GE Link lights have a known firmware issue that can cause some of them to drop off the network every few weeks, they are generally not recommended as repeaters for other devices.

A few Zigbee brands have not implemented the full protocol for bulbs, and may not act as repeaters.

So the short answer for zigbee light bulbs is that having one directly connected to the hub may help strengthen the ZHA mesh but you should not use it as the only ZHA repeater in that zone as it may miss messages from other device classes from time to time.

For board discussion of some of the inconsistency issues with bulbs connected directly to the hub, see the following thread:

WiFi bulbs

WiFi bulbs do not act as repeaters.

Other protocols

Bulbs that use their own protocol like TCP may repeat for each other, but will not repeat for anything else connected to SmartThings.

Summary

So many lightbulbs do act as repeaters, and sometimes they are the most practical choice particularly in rooms that have a lot of potential signal blockers like cars in a garage because the bulb is typically placed much higher in the room than a pocket socket or even a light switch, and consequently offers additional lines of sight. But they introduce additional issues and there’s also the question of whether they are really going to be left on power all the time. So I usually bring them up if the particular use case under discussion seems like it would benefit from them, and otherwise not.

After you add any new device to your network, including a bulb intended to act as a repeater, you need to update the address tables or other devices will not use it.

More information

For more information about repeaters in general, see:

http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=Repeaters

As long as a bulb is drawing power, even if it looks like it is off, it will still be able to act as a repeater. Smart bulbs are not intended to be used with switches that cut the power completely – – this can shorten the bulb life considerably.

selecting switches to use with smart bulbs

For discussion of the best switches to use with smart bulbs, see the following:


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(Tolik) #2

So If the bulb is switched off using a “dumb” switch which cuts power to the load/bulb there is obviously no repeating done right?


#3

That is correct, but if you read the manufacturer instructions for the smart bulb, it probably tells you that those bulbs are intended to be always powered on anyway. It’s not good for the bulb to have the power cut frequently.

See the best switches FAQ linked to above – – there are several switch options that allow you to put a switch on the wall without cutting power to a smart bulb.


(Adrian Parker) #4

Awesome FAQ @JDRoberts. I was thinking only the other day if ZigBee devices on a hue hub and those on an ST hub are able to mesh together - question answered. Thanks!


#5

Can you elaborate? Once I configure a mains-powered device that should be capable of repeating, I need to take some additional steps beyond just adding the device to get it to repeat?


#6

It will start repeating right away, you don’t have to do anything for that. The issue is does it know which neighbors it should be repeating for? And do those neighbors know about it?

There are two possible situations.

A) you plugged the device in to the place where it will remain. Then you paired it. At the time of pairing, it took note of all the devices that were close to it. So the repeater’s neighbor tables are all up-to-date.

(Each device on the mesh network keeps A list of the neighbors closest to it.)

The problem is that those neighbors don’t necessarily know that the new repeater even exists. So it’s a good idea to get them to update their neighbor tables. That’s why you need to do either a network heal for zigbee or A zwave repair for Z wave. Then everybody’s neighbor tables will be up-to-date and messages will be passed around in an efficient manner.

Or B) you plug the new Device in close to the hub. You paired it. You then unplugged it and walked it over to some other place in your house and plugged it in there.

Now we have two problems. The new repeater has no idea who its real neighbors are. And the neighbors have no idea that it exists.

The solution is exactly the same as for A) – just get everybody to bring their neighbor tables up to date. So you do a network heal for zigbee, or a zwave repair for zwave.

Basically anytime you’re adding new mesh devices to your network, whether they’re repeaters or not, once you have paired everybody and put them in their final locations, you should get all the neighbor tables updated.

It’s easy. See the range FAQ:


#7

I can no longer update the first post in this thread, but wanted to add another brand note:

Sengled

These bulbs will not act as repeaters. So they won’t lose messages from your other ZHA devices, but they are repeaters either. Oddly this may make them the best choice for some people looking for zigbee bulbs connected directly to the smartthings hub, but who don’t need them to be repeaters, because at least they won’t mess up your network. :sunglasses:

Otherwise, bulbs connected through the hue bridge are likely to be the most efficient and offer the most features.


(Roy) #8

Thank you @JDRoberts for this information. I think I can confirm the Ikea lights are also repeaters. When on, two buttons I have in the same area work. If off at the switch, the buttons are dead. So I’m thinking they’ve connected to the bulbs rather than the hub? Before I connected them they worked fine. Any way around this as my other half always hits the switch :frowning:


#9

The following might give you some ideas (this is a clickable link)

If you mean is there a way to keep your other devices from using the IKEA bulbs as repeaters, the only way is to take the bulbs off power, take the hub off power and take out any batteries in it, leave everything else on power, and leave it that way for at least 15 minutes.

This would cause your other zigbee devices, including the buttons, to go into panic mode because they can’t find the hub.

After 15 minutes, put the hub back on power but leave the IKEA bulbs off power.

Now all the zigbee devices Will start rebuilding their neighbor tables, but they won’t use the IKEA bulbs as a parent because those are off power and signal strength is part of the equation when the other devices are selecting a parent.

If it was me, I would keep the IKEA bulbs off power until the next day because it could take a while for all the neighbor tables to get rebuilt. But a lot of people would only wait one hour. It’s up to you.

This method should work to keep other devices from choosing the bulbs as repeaters, which means if someone turns the switch off to the bulbs it won’t affect the other devices, but it’s a pain in the neck, and you will have to do it again anytime you add a new zigbee device or you move a zigbee device to a different location in the home or your hub has been off power for at least 15 minutes.

BTW… back to your current situation (pun intended)… Most smart bulbs are intended to always be on power. The obvious reason is because that way they can hear the next command from the network. But the not so obvious reason is that when you turn the switch off and then turn it back on there is a big rush of current (called inrush current).

That’s not a major problem if it only happens a couple of times a year like when there’s an emergency power outage. But if you are using a switch to regularly turn current off and on to the bulbs several times a week, you can over time damage the radios inside the bulbs, making expensive bulbs that much more expensive. It’s not a safety issue, it just means that a bulb that is supposed to last 15,000 hours might only last 10,000. :disappointed_relieved:

That’s why it’s better to use one of the methods in the FAQ I linked to above to make sure that people are not using the switch with smart bulbs. FWIW…


(Roy) #10

Thanks again kind Sir. I was thinking just that RE the turn off for 15 minutes etc as I’d followed a previous thread where you gave this advice. And I purposely turned on all lights prior to powering the hub back up. So this is where it started, not only the buttons connecting, I’ve since realised all window contacts haven’t done the same. Not ideal when certain people in the household go against my advice (now considering wiring directly and blanking the switches lol).

So I’ve some thinking to do here. When I had the Ikea bulbs connected to Hue they dropped off twice. They actually seems more stable connected to ST. But now a dilemma, I have two Hue Dimmers which work very nice connected to Hue, but connected to ST makes it harder to use them properly as Dimmers. I’m going to purchase the Ikea hub so I can update their firmware, and also quite like the fact they are working well as repeaters. So I think I’ll reset the Hue Dimmers, get them connected to ST and work on a piston to use the Dimmers more like when they’re connected to Hue. This may (I use that word loosely) persuade my other half to stop using the manual switches, and only use when in an emergency.

Thanks for the great advice again.


(Roy) #11

PS. The reason for doing it in the first place was due to 5 Osram lights dropping. I wasn’t keen on delinking each and the powerdown cured that. I’m in the middle of doing it again and will ensure the Ikea bulbs are on last after triggering all others.


#12

See also the following thread which discuss a specific bulb brands and their behavior as repeaters: