SmartThings Community

If it is so smart why can't it tell me why it isn't working?

(Cameron Larson) #21

I was searching for z-wave plus because I didn’t want a non-plus. You must not have the word plus in your ad. Search on Inovelli doesn’t bring up the dual outdoor plug. Search on Amazon has been horrible since forever.

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(Cameron Larson) #22

Repeater came in, installed it, did z-wave repair, worked fine. Had more people over, of course it stopped working. Like I have in the subject line, if it is so smart why can’t it tell me why it isn’t working? I am completely dismayed at how much jerking around I have had to do and I am no clear to getting the simplest thing to work. There is zero hope for home automation if every simple thing takes hours to unfoobar. Now what, I do a repair and it says it is okay but it is not.

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(Tyler Durden) #23

Just curious, was it just not working in Alexa? Or also from the ST app?

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(Glen King) #24

Ok, time to ask a few questions.

Tell us about the physical layout. You say it works when people are not there, but stops working when people are there. (kinda like telekinesis and miracles, eh? lol) Anyway, here’s something to think about: until I replaced my wireless router a couple years ago, my wife walking near my iPad would interrupt the signal and prevent it from connecting to the network. Other people in the same position would NOT interfere with the signal.

Here’s another thing to think about. Last year my outdoor Xmas light module (GE zwave) worked sporadically at best. This year I changed its position, got a concrete wall out of the “line of sight” between that unit and the repeater to which it is linked, and it has worked perfectly.

So then. Is your inovelli toggle switch located out in the yard somewhere? Are there items out there that, in concert with a bunch of human bodies, interfere with communications between it and the repeater to which it is linked?

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#25

Glenn has a good point: human bodies do block signals to some extent. Not totally, but it can effectively reduce the range so if you have something on the outer limit of your range anyway, that might result in a missing signal. :disappointed_relieved:

If the “not working” part is on the SmartThings side, you can use the simple device viewer smart app to get a notification if it has stopped working, although it’s not an immediate notification because that would require constant polling, which is not what Z wave is designed for. But it’s been a very popular smart app, for good reason, and you can get push notifications after a set interval. :sunglasses:

If you want a system which will tell you pretty much instantly if some devices dropped off, you need to go for a nonmesh protocol like WiFi.

Just as one example, apple HomeKit will show you pretty near instantly on its dashboard when a device is not available. ( you don’t get a Push notification, but if you do try to use Siri, Siri will then tell you the device is not available) but all of that works because the devices are either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. But you aren’t going to get that with a system that uses Z wave devices. Including SmartThings.

If your main intention for that light is to use it with echo, my suggestion would be to get any of the Wi-Fi switches that work with echo. There are quite a few of them. They have much better range, a continuous connection, and most are reliable with echo.

You can try the Wemo Wi-Fi wall switch which works with both smartthings and echo directly and set it up with a direct connection to echo. However, those have turned out to be very reliable with echo but not so much with SmartThings. Multiple reports that they have to be re-added to the account from time to time which can obviously be frustrating. So again, depends on how you will typically use them:

https://www.amazon.com/Light-Switch-Wi-Fi-enabled-Amazon/dp/B00DGEGJ02

(when you look at the reviews, make sure you check to see what specific model each review is referring to. There have been a lot of issues with the mini smart plug.)

This isn’t my favorite light switch of all time, but as far as I know it’s the only Wi-Fi switch that works out of the box with SmartThings, so in your particular case it might be worth a try.

The other alternative would be to wait a few months until Phillips has their outdoor hue lights available. When used with hue bridge, the indoor Hue lights have been rock solid for me, are always highly reviewed, work well with echo (Color management is still a little weak, although you can now activate hue scenes which solves a lot of those issues), and the integration with SmartThings is OK, although not perfect. But that might be another dual Control option.

I’m sorry you’re having so much trouble with your current set up. Sometimes local conditions just make it tricky to get signal through. :rage: When I was in college, one of our exams in a networking class involved a house where everything worked perfectly when it was empty, and then as soon as the people moved in all kinds of things started failing. So the test was to mark every vulnerability.

The one that hardly anybody got right was a cast-iron frying pan in the kitchen. Depending on who did the dishes, it was sometimes on one shelf and sometimes on another – – and one position would block signal while the other didn’t.

There are almost always ways around stuff like that, the challenge is troubleshooting it in the first place to figure out exactly where the vulnerabilities are.

That’s the stage you’re in now, so, like I said, I know how frustrating it can be! You have my sympathies.

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(Cameron Larson) #26

it is not working in the app. I thought that the z-wave repair mesh error meant a range problem that was confirmed when I located my plus plug on an outlet on a wall right behind the exterior switch (in plastic box). I bought another plus plug for that location and it all worked, no mesh error. Z-wave repair reports okay repeatedly. Now I have two plugs, one right next to the switch and no repair mesh errors. Except it doesn’t work reliably, and more repairs didn’t find or fix anything. I will try more troubleshooting today, moving things around, knowing that the repair tool is not helpful.

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#27

The zwave repair is a standard utility provided with all Z wave controllers. It’s definitely useful, it just might not be useful in your particular case. :disappointed_relieved: It doesn’t have anything to do with the SmartThings platform as a whole, and many people have reported different device status issues from the ST platform itself.

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#28

Is this problem occurring every night (No Guests)?

After a specific hour? In between a specific set of hours?

Does it only occur at night when additional people are over?

Does it work 100% reliably during the day?

Or are you able to reproduce this issue, day or night?

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(Mark) #29

That’s kinda crazy, that people’s experience with wireless communication protocols could vary so widely with such specific changes to the local environment.

Unless everyone has a wireless network engineer at their disposal (and a good one at that), it would seem some people will always become easily frustrated that “it doesn’t work” without the knowledge of how to isolate and troubleshoot the issue. And that’s understandable.

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#30

Well, one of the first things we were taught is that you can certainly design an RF system that will work almost all the time really well – – but it requires lots of multiple devices to give you what is called “blanket coverage.” And hardly anybody wants to pay for that outside of commercial buildings and hospitals.

So almost all the planned projects involve trying to spend as little as possible on devices while still getting good coverage where you need it. And that’s even more true of residential do it yourself projects.

As I’ve often mentioned, Best practices would be to put two repeaters of each protocol in each room. At that point you should have really good coverage. But hardly anyone wants to pay for that. As soon as you start trying to plan for putting repeaters “only where you need them” you end up with these kind of variable conditions where things work part of the time but not always.

And on top of all of that you have potential cloud platform flakiness as well.

Me, personally, I just build a really strong backbone from the beginning. Two repeaters for each mesh protocol at a max of 30 feet and then I know the mesh is strong no matter what else I add. Or what the cloud factors are doing. But that’s not how most DIY projects are laid out. There’s no one right way – – My way costs more money but less time and aggravation. Lots of other people would rather save the money and spend the time. Choice is good. :sunglasses:

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#31

Oh, and before somebody asks “why not just make the individual signal strength stronger?” This is another one of those “choice is good” situations.

WIFi is a perfectly good home automation protocol that has long range, high signal strength, continuous connection, and works just fine.

The only problem is that it’s expensive in terms of power usage, meaning battery powered devices need frequent recharging. And the signal tends to be so strong that it will often interfere with other nearby networks.

The whole reason for designing zigbee and Z wave as mesh protocols was the idea that they would be very low energy draw and would only be used for tiny messages sent infrequently. Your classic light switch, which probably only get used three or four times a day. If that.

you want to avoid frequent polling, because if you’re going to do that you might as will just use Wi-Fi.

So devices drawing very little power, sending only a few messages, and each message itself being tiny. They are by definition low signal power devices.

Even if I have two zwave light switches in every room, my total energy draw will probably be less than if I have blanket Wi-Fi and only the HA devices actually needed.

If you live in an apartment, no problem – – zwave or zigbee probably covers the whole space within one hop from the hub anyway.

But as soon as you’ve got a house and a yard and a mailbox at the street and a pool on the property and a shed someplace else, well, it’s going to be a challenge for mesh network.

You can still do it, but it just might not be the best match to the use case. And certainly the aggravation factor goes up.

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(Glen King) #32

It’s not limited to wireless.

Until Cat 5e came along, wired Ethernet encountered plenty of issues. In corporate environs that ran almost entirely on fluorescent lights, a network cable install had to do its best to avoid those ballasts. And the coax runs that existed before twisted pair became common were even more susceptible to interference, and a break or kink or disconnect anywhere in that cable would knock out dozens of users…

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(Mark) #33

I think that’s one problem with the current diy segment of this market. People have certain expectations about wireless protocols that’s based on the more familiar experience with WiFi, but just doesn’t apply to the mesh networks that allow for the low power use that’s needed to incorporate sensors with batteries.

I certainly learned a lot about z-wave and zigbee after I bought my SmartThings hub, mainly to make the experience acceptable (for me and especially everyone else in my house). If one isn’t interested in learning how the underlying technology for stuff like this works, then it probably makes some sense to stick with more limited but user-friendly interfaces like HomeKit, and devices that will connect right to a router with WiFi.

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(Cameron Larson) #34

Patio light plus plug is 10ft away through one exterior wall. Pool light plus switch is 20ft away through interior wall and exterior wall. Added plus plug on wall behind pool light so it is 20ft without exterior wall and is one exterior wall away from patio plug. Today will move hub closer but will probably make my one zigbee plug in living room drop out and will have to build up zigbee mesh. Job one is to get WAF100 (wife acceptance factor) on pool light. Will check out Simple Device Viewer. May try taking off my tinfoil hat.

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#35

I completely agree, however, the latter I see more times than not, those doing things on a budget looking for the cheapest way to get from A to Z and having everything just work, are not prepared for when they don’t (Not everyone). Either from: Not planning prior to purchase, understanding how certain things function (ie: Zigbee / Z-Wave mesh), not having some form of technical know how or being able to perform additional research/troubleshooting on their own, and after a short amount of time, giving up, frustrated and aggravated pulling their hair out, saying “I’m throwing this thing in the trash”, “if it’s so smart…”, “DumbThings…”, etc…

If there is one thing about getting involved with SmartThings, no matter how they market or advertise it, it’s not just simple plug n play technology. For some it’s easier to pick up on and others, more of a struggle, especially when something just doesn’t get discovered and added into ST and just begin working on its own. There is a certain amount that you need to do up front to plan some things appropriately and a lot of people getting into this for the first time, if they don’t have the patience, willingness to read document after document (100s on a specific topic going back and forth or reviews of a single product being endless) to understand concepts, functions, and terminology they continue to struggle with their HA platform(s) forever.

This applies even to those wanting/willing to spend the extra money from the start, to spend time up front doing the planning and preparation prior to ever purchasing a hub or a device to integrate with it, knowing exactly what they are getting themselves into with respect to HA as a whole (and I know that sometimes the starter kit was given as a gift or it was an impulse buy at the store, Ya, let’s get this! - Not really knowing what they are in for). Sometimes it’s easy, and other times, yes it can be frustrating beyond belief, even for those that have been involved and doing this for years. This isn’t something for everybody, especially if they don’t have the time and patience.

Specific to @PalmParrot, trust me, we have all been there trying to figure out some weird behavior on some level that we spend hours, weeks or months on trying to figure out, and trying to determine is it ST and the cloud, is it interference, is it my mesh, is it the device itself, or global warming or some sort of cosmic / solar event happening :slight_smile: There is definitely an answer / solution to the issue you are experiencing and sometimes it’s just not a simple answer. I fully understand the frustration, but take a deep breath and plan for being more patient and persistent. Sometimes it’s better to take a couple steps back and approach things with a slightly different methodology to track and troubleshoot this issue to a specific cause (one thing at a time to rule things out one by one). This community is your ally and their advice is priceless and will point you in the right direction. My .02 for what it’s worth.

FYI: Another person out here in the forum, every night between 2am and 6am, a specific set of Zigbee devices would go offline. Every day with exception to Friday night / Saturday morning. This guy was an engineer, so everyone can experience something like this. Taking a one step approach and the time to persevere paid off in the end and we all got to learn something. After 10 days, in the end, that person believes disabling Device Health resolved the issue or at least contributed to it.

And for what it’s worth, my post way up above on changing the Settings in Alexa was an attempt to try and lighten your frustration level. My attempt at a little humor. :slight_smile:

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#36

Distance is just one part of the equation, and applies most when you’re dealing with clear air or “line of sight” between the two devices. As soon as you start putting walls in the way (or trees or glass or human bodies) you make it harder for the signal to travel that distance.

Exterior walls are always a problem, they have a lot of materials that interior walls generally don’t that can block signal. Also, we tend to work pretty hard at making exterior walls more airtight.

Quite often, for example, the best way to get to something exterior to the building is to go up a floor and put a repeater near a clear glass window so signal will bounce down to it. Further distance, but it might be way easier than getting through the exterior wall.

Wi-Fi handles it better generally because it’s a much stronger signal and also because it’s a continuous signal.

But again, the specific problem might not have anything to do with the zwave range, it might have to do with the SmartThings cloud. I don’t know. The troubleshooting can be really annoying.

For anyone who would like to read more about getting signal to outbuildings or just into the yard, there’s a how to article in the community – created wiki with a lot of different discussions. But I don’t know that any of those would apply directly to the situation that the OP has, other than the possibility of just trying a Wi-Fi switch there instead. But the basic principle, that once you’re going through an exterior wall all bets are off as far as range, does apply.

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

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(Glen King) #37

How does one “plan prior to purchase” when one has not ever done any HA previously?

I ask because I did plan a bit… but I have an advantage in that I have 20+ years of professional experience in networking. Lots of folks have no such experience. To them, the available options must look like a blizzard. Comm protocols, programming languages (groovy??), rules engines… it was not easy concluding SmartThings was my choice (I almost went with Wink).

To plan, you have to know what you’re planning.

Ask an average guy to plan a home build, and he’d be lost. He can barely get past arguments with the wife about the kitchen counters, let alone ensure headers and columns are correct to support load or ensure the outflow plumbing is trapped and vented correctly. He needs to bring in an architect and a GC.

The upshot is that you get your SmartThings kit with a hub and a few sensors, and off you go. You learn by doing… which essentially precludes real planning. “Hmmm. I will need Zwave repeaters every 20 feet…” there’s no way to begin to know that until your first contemplated device purchase that happens to use that protocol. And your smarthome grows essentially on its own, based on the momentum you get as you learn by doing. And if you get hopelessly stuck, your smarthome becomes “this stuff is no good…”

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#38

I’m not saying that everything can be planned for or learned up front. Some of it as you say, you have to learn as you go along. It was a learning curve for me as well and I have been in IT since '87. My whole point in trying to prepare is that the personality of someone delving into this, and not knowing things, and having the ability, the time, the patience and the due diligence to read and research and learn on their own without a complete dependence on the community is necessary in a huge way. Otherwise, if you learn nothing and just do it for the sake of it just working and never take the time to understand it, problems will continue in the future. That’s the biggest thing that has to be understood and planned for before jumping into ST. Are other platforms with less extendability / flexibility better suited for some people, absolutely. We are all different and consume things differently and learn at a different pace. I just think that ST is a different beast over other HA platforms because of ALL the capability they give you, making it more difficult for some, even trying to choose the right devices, because there are so many directions you can go in.

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#39
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(Cameron Larson) #40

In the evening, I turn it on in the app and it it goes on, then I try to turn it off again and it does not go off. I click a few more times and it finally goes off. How would you troubleshoot that? At this point I don’t know if I need to buy more repeaters or not.

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