I think there is some expertise here with both of these options. I’m having trouble in a detached garage, through a couple walls, trying to get a door sensor to respond and report correctly. This is an Ecolink, but I think its the distance and not the device. Does anyone have the knowledge and experience to comment on these options and whether range extenders work better than powered devices? One note, I also had an Aeon metered switch out there that seemed to be reporting energy use (and should repeat), but discovered it was not responding to the on/off command. As I tested, it also wouldn’t respond to the repair, so odd that I was getting the energy reported back. I have about 30ft across a patio, but more like 70 or so between the hub and the farthest door. Thank you all for any insight!
I use both. My setup is spread over some distance, and my garages were a problem. I have 4 z-wave extenders in my house, one in the garage. I also have z-wave devices throughout the house and the garage. Once I put the extenders in, I’ve had no z-wave problems at all. That may be superstition, or it may be real; it works.
Technically, there should be no difference at all between a mains-powered device acting as a repeater and a dedicated extender. The strength of the Zwave signal is set by the specification, and unlike Wi-Fi you don’t get booster devices of different signal strength.
The range for Z wave plus is noticeably longer than for the older Z wave generations. So that is something to take into account. A newer Z wave plus light switch, for example, will have a longer range then one of the older dedicated extenders.
For Z wave plus devices, you should be able to get unobstructed line of sight range of around 100 m. Maybe even a little longer. But there are a lot of things that can reduce signal. Outdoors, rain in particular can drop the signal down to 15 to 20 feet.
As far as architectural materials it’s the same things that reduce Wi-Fi signal: metal, concrete, tinted glass, water pipes, etc. Typically for an indoor installation, we would plan on about 30 feet of signal in a normal woodframe house. In a concrete house if the walls and the floors are made of concrete the signal will not get into the next room, you have to carry it around the edges through the hallways.
Interference is a separate issue. But there aren’t a lot of things in a modern home that would create channel interference with Zwave except other Zwave networks or baby monitors. However, any signal which is superstrong can interfere with many other signals on completely different frequencies, just as your microwave will probably mess up most of your radio frequency devices.
If you want to use dedicated extenders and you have the extra outlets to power them, there’s no harm in it. But you are not likely to be getting any more benefit than you would from a dual purpose device like a light switch or a plug-in module.
There is one exception to all of this, and that’s if the specific repeated device is kept very busy, either through polling or just because it’s continually being used. In that case, it may be less likely to repeat messages for other devices which can give you the illusion of not having as much range. I have seen some people set up their network so that they poll a light switch every minute, and then wonder why it’s not available to work as a message relay.
Zwave was designed for very low traffic networks. The assumption is that a light switch is probably only used three or four times in a day, so why not use it the rest of the time to pass along messages between other devices? Makes perfect sense. But again if for some reason your network has really heavy traffic, or if you’re just beating that switch to death with a lot of commands, it’s not going to be available to act as a repeater.
I have seen some networks that had time of day traffic spikes because of family activity patterns improved with the addition of a couple of dedicated range extenders just because the range extenders didn’t have anything else to do.
So sometimes it’s just a matter of trial and error. But in general I would choose a zwave plus device over an older device to strengthen the mesh.
Oh, one more thing – – renters in buildings with a lot of architectural blocks who don’t want to touch the wiring in the apartment may find it easier or less expensive to use a dedicated range extender because they aren’t adding light switches.
So it’s just a case-by-case issue. Both options are good, and your particular set up may make one more useful than the other.
Thanks Bruce - what models worked for you? And did you have to space a couple to get out where you needed? I’m not sure if they not extend the signal by hopping or have a 1 repeat capacity. Thanks again -
The extenders work exactly the same way as the repeaters do. All they do is pass along the message. They don’t boost the signal the way Wi-Fi boosters do if that’s what you’re asking. So you just put slot them in to wherever you need the next repeater. Each one is one hop, again like any other repeater device.
Although some of them advertise themselves as “signal amplifiers” they can only go up to the max for the specification which is what most modern devices do anyway. So again, not like a Wi-Fi booster where you really do get a significant change in signal strength from one device to another.
Awesome, very informative JD. I wasn’t sure if a dedicated repeater would provide a stronger signal in some way, sounds like it would not. I could go with in-wall switches inside at the patio door, and one inside at the garage door, which conceivably would reduce that distance to about 25-30 ft hops with just wood frame (and electrical boxes) to work through. And they wouldn’t be real active on their own either. I don’t know if those GE light switches that worked for my at another property are Z wave Plus or not, but maybe there are options there. My hub tho is the v1 repurposed if that matters, and it is sort of stuck with a bunch of other electronics in a media cabinet. But I know at one point it was picking up data from the energy meter switch in the garage, I just can’t seem to get to the other side of the garage with the door. Sounds like a good approach to take first anyway.
The plan sounds good.
You might also consider getting the hub out of the media cabinet and away from your other electronic equipment. in particular away from the Wi-Fi router.
I did move the hub out, good suggestions. Unfortunately the other thing to consider between the range extender and repeater is whether you have a neutral wire in the box for a repeating device (at least the light switch). I don’t have one where I wanted to add it for the repeating function. I did get a GE in wall light switch into the garage and it seems to help the door sensors, but the lights themselves aren’t working now. Repair shows a failure there, perhaps its just too far until I get another device in the middle? Also any ideas on how to deal with the repair failure? Thanks!
Zwave repair failure most likely means it’s out of range.
Any outlets nearby? Plug in modules will work as repeaters and you can still use the power, so you don’t take away from anything you have now.
I’ve had a lot of inconsistencies, either coincidence or related to the new iphone app. I installed the light switch and also moved a Aeon metering plug, tho both are basically at the same location at the garage access, removed and re-added as I went, ran some repairs, etc. They seem to be working again, tho the repair doesn’t like the Aeon multi which is actually closer. I also had some devices reporting as if fine (the Aeon multi and the meter switch), but still showed up as failures on the repair. Beyond me but I think I jumped that patio distance with this approach. Then will take your advice on a midway plug in module next if needed. Thanks for the ideas