Not sure if this is the right forum to ask but I’m having a senior moment on this. Sorry for the long read but I wanted to be thorough.
I’ve got SmartThings working great - not just well, but great! I have several bulbs, switches, outlets and even a couple of flood sensors, smoke/CO alarms and some dry contacts/relays in my mix. I even have one of the MIMO boxes that controls both of my electric gate openers. To top it off I have it all working great with Alexa!
A little background - I live out “in the country” on acreage. Most of my neighbors (with one exception) are clueless about technology so there’s no interference. I recently built a big ranch entrance to my place (I have a big circle drive in front of my house) and put up gates, which I put Osram RGB bulbs in. Obviously, they’re Zigbee and at 2.4ghz they somewhat interfere with my WiFi (or more likely, the other way around.) The main visitor entrance is a big heavy thing and the bulbs are in outdoor fixtures protected from the elements but still additional material for the signal to go through. Some of the time they will get enough signal to at least receive a command, most of the times not. I had an automation setup that when someone triggered motion at night on my Ring doorbell I’m using at the entrance keypad, it would brighten the bulbs from 50% to 100% and go back to 50% after 5 minutes of no motion (which worked awesome when they’re connected.) Problem is, all four bulbs - two entrances - can barely connect if at all. They all show “offline” if I turn device health on. They are approximately 50 feet and 75 feet from my hub, but the hub is inside and behind a brick wall and a few layers of drywall and the bulbs are behind wooden boxes or the entrance itself.
I’ve been on a bit of a witch hunt trying to figure this out - first I’m going to narrow my WiFi (802.11n) down to a 20MHz bandwidth and put them on channel 1; I listed out all my WiFi devices and with little exception almost none of it needs high speed internet. All my PC’s or devices that need high speed are wired ethernet (1GBs) and the few that are wireless, can be pushed into the 5GHz spectrum where they won’t interfere with the Zigbee devices. (Primarily my Ring doorbells.) The SmartThings API says my hub is on channel 20 for Zigbee.
My question is - am I wasting my time trying to get these bulbs to work at that distance, through heavy material? The big visitor entrance is basically a big box tube made from 2"x12" pressure treated lumber. The other two are made from 5/4"x6" pressure treated lumber.
I’ve been thinking about four options:
- Crack open the SmartThings controller (I’m sure mine is out of warranty, it’s V2 hub and I got it back in 2015) and add a UFL connector for an external antenna. I’m no stranger to soldering or making mods and since Zigbee is in the 2.4GHz range, any WiFi antenna should do the trick. Anything has GOT to be better than a PCB antenna.
- Make my own WiFi bulbs from one of the controllers I’ve seen an integration with on here and strip light wrapped around a short piece of 2" PVC. I already have the strips, controllers and power supplies for this.
- Get an Osram RGB floodlight bulb and put it mid-way to the entrance hoping it will act as a repeater/router for the other bulbs (which would likely involve complex scenario of deleting and rejoining the bulbs so they’d create a proper mesh?)
- Just wire the four fixtures up to the existing Zwave switch that I installed instead, and use plain-jane LED bulbs (doesn’t allow dimming or color changes so to me this is a failure.) The Zwave switch is already in-place and working, and controls the top outlet of the outlets I put on the backside of the entrances to run Christmas lights. Doing this option just means I’d remove the fixtures and change from the black wire to the red wire for “hot” on the fixtures.
I’ve already tried one of the Digi XBee router/repeater units and it seemed to help to a small degree - but I have no way of knowing/testing to see what it really does or where I should even put it. Again, on the back of the entrances I built weatherproof outlets; top outlet is switched by the Zwave controller and bottom is hot at all times. I’ve put the router/repeater in each of the boxes and seemed to work better but then it didn’t. I’ve tried unplugging the hub for 20 minutes (and removing batteries, which were corroded a little) with no luck.
Part of the other problem is I’m not sure if I’m joining the bulbs correctly; if I bring them in the house and plug them in near the hub, they work fine (I even got them to upgrade their firmware!) but once I take them out… they lose too much signal. My understanding of Zigbee is that if it’s a constant-power device (plugged in vs. battery) then it should repeat the signal. Either that’s not the case, or there’s simply too much material for the signal to go through (hence my idea about an external antenna.) These bulbs aren’t the only Zigbee devices I have either; I have a couple of Cree bulbs and a few sensors as well in the house, and they work fine.
If it helps, I can post pictures.