Incorporating Lights outdoors using smart outlets: apparent connection issues

I’ve been building out a smart home system in a fairly large home for the last 4-6 months. So far the system cocnsists of:

  • List item Phillips Hue Lights - Appx 50 throughout the home in all the main entertaining rooms of the home

  • List item Lutron Caséta switches controlling all rooms without the Phillips Hue systems and all exterior, porch/deck lights

  • List item Sonos connects controlling a built in whole house audio interior and exterior system

  • List item 6 Nest systems controlling a zoned heating/cooling system

  • List item Simpli Safe security system

  • Eero network system with 4 eero’s. Coverage is solid throughout the house and covers a lot of the exterior yard and entertaining areas.

  • List item 2 Harmony hubs controlling two separate entertainment systems

  • List item Smart Things hub purchased primarily for expansion with the intention of using it to control the items I’m trying to add to the exterior.

  • List item 4 Amazon Alexa dots in various rooms for voice control.

Now to my issue. I’m trying to grow the system further and incorporate some outdoor items. After reading up on various projects from past posts and reading reviews, I decided on using smart things with Leviton Zwave switches and receptacles to control 4 Luminaire 600 watt transformers and 3 outdoor fountain pumps. The transformers control landscape lighting that I recently converted to all LED bulbs.

My plan was to install 4 Different Leviton zwave receptacles (DZR15). They would be in 2 gang plastic outdoor electric boxes with a Leviton GFI in 4 locations on the sides of the house. The fountains were already setup with switches at each location to turn them on and off. I purchased 3 Leviton DZ15 zwave plus switches to control them.

So far, I have finished installing the receptacles. The problem I’m having is trying to add the receptacles into the system. The hub is positioned in a room about 10 feet from where the first receptacle is located. It is positioned about 8 feet away from the eero it is wired to. There is an exterior wall with large windows between the hub and first receptacle. The hub recognizes the first receptacle but despite trying everything I’ve found on the net for troubleshooting, cannot find any of the other receptacles. There is about 25 feet from first receptacle to second and about 60 feet from first receptacle to the others. The switches which I have not installed yet are all within 40-50 feet of the first receptacle as they are all located on the front and side of the home. I haven’t installed them as I didn’t want to open and install them if my setup was flawed from the get go.

Any insight as to where I may be going off the rails on my setup? Would I be better served with WiFi swicthes and receptacles since I have string WiFi coverage in all those exterior areas? I don’t have connectivity problems with any of the other devices in the home.

Any help or ideas are appreciated.

First question: did you run a Z wave repair after you installed the devices that are having problems? That usually the first troubleshooting step for a Z wave device. It can take a while for everything to complete, so you may not see the results until the next day, but it can definitely improve network communication.

Second question: brand and model of the weatherproofing boxes you have around the exterior plugs? You said they were plastic, by any chance are they blue plastic? Different materials block signal to a different extent and sometimes it’s just a matter of changing to a different box. For whatever reason, blue plastic seems to block more signal then clear or light gray plastic in most brands.

You can test the signal blocking for an individual plastic box by taking a battery device, like a Contact sensor. Put it on top of the box 1st and if you are getting signal there, then put it inside the box and see if it stops responding.

Also, before I forget, the DZR15 is an older device from the previous generation. It’s still a good device and still sold, but it does have shorter range than any “Z wave plus” device, so I would probably have gone for a Z wave plus instead. The zwave plus devices are also better at being paired in place.

1 Like

Thanks for the reply.

I have run a zwave repair on the network and it completed without a failure on the one device it can see. The other outlets are not being found by the hub so the repair won’t run on them. I can control the one receptacle the network recognizes without a problem

The electrical boxes are Taymac brand from Home Depot. They are grey plastic boxes with clear outdoor covers designed for cords to exit the bottom of the cover through small notches.

I went with all Leviton switches and receptacles thinking they’d work best with each other. But didn’t realize the receptacles weren’t zwave plus until I already had them. I’m starting to wonder if that is my issue.

1 Like

Are the other outlets showing up on your things list? They should show up on the zwave repair, but they might have an error message if they can’t be reached.

If they aren’t on your things list, they were never paired in the first place. That’s where zwave plus might make a big difference. They can use a repeater to complete the pairing which the older zwave generations cannot.

BTW, if you’d rather use Wi-Fi devices, you certainly can, they definitely have longer range and can be more suitable for outdoor purposes.

I’m not sure if there are any that work with SmartThings right now except through IFTTT, though.

IHome has its own official integration, but those are plug-ins, not in wall outlets.

I’m still working on solutions. I’ve boiled my choices down to two or three

  • Go with zwave plus throughout. So far I’ve only found zwave plus receptacles from GE. I’d be combining zwave plus devices from GE for the receptacles and Leviton for the switches. From what I’ve read, this should be fine

  • I could also install switches at every outlet, which is a little more work but can also be done and I’d go all Leviton zwave plus products so they should all pair together fine.

  • I’ve had very good luck with Caséta. All the switches I’ve installed have been rock solid. They work perfectly and have yet to have an issue. I can use Caséta switches throughout and likely get things working. The con is I’d be looking at multiple bridges. One for inside and one placed a little closer to the exterior switches to control outside. From what I’ve read there are several setup drawbacks. But, reliability here based on experiences so far, seem better.

Thoughts? I’m trying to avoid making another mistake…

If your issue is that devices (in this case, smart outlets) are not pairing with the ST hub, the solution to get over that hump is to get the device and the hub within a few feet of each other. It takes the mesh out of play, gets you paired.

In this case, the outlets are installed somewhere that is some distance from the hub… right?

Since you cannot bring devices such as light switches and wall outlets to the hub, bring the hub to the devices.

For installs like this, get a length of cat6 cable terminated correctly with RJ45 plugs. Make sure it’s long enough to reach any potential device install location, accounting for stairwells, windows and the like… as long as that is less than 300 feet of cable from Ethernet hub/switch to SmartThings hub. It won’t be your cheapest smarthome expenditure, but it sure will make your life easier. Sit the hub next to the newly installed device and pair it.

Then bring the hub back to its usual spot, and proceed. At this point a mesh repair would likely do good, as it would get the devices to see their ‘assigned’ repeaters.

I’ll give that a shot. My current receptacles I purchased were the Leviton built in receptacles which are not the zwave plus models. I did have a zwave plus plug in receptacle I also tried. That would not register either once placed outside. There were no zwave plus devices between hub and the plug in module. So that may have been part of it

Just a little hesitant to order more zwave devices since my experience hasn’t been stellar so far. Trying to avoid another error…

You won’t be able to use multiple Caseta bridges with smartthings, unfortunately, unless you use one with the official integration and one with the unofficial, which would get pretty complicated.