Question regarding extending range with zigbee bulbs

(Richard Douglas) #1

Hi all,

Brand new to ST and home automation. I bought the starter kit with the intention of using it for security in my garden office and controlling lighting and some security in my house.

My multisensor worked sporadically then failed during testing for range and has not been installed on the front door of my office. The ST plug which I put in the office worked the first day, then failed the next day.
I have been reading a fair bit about extending range on this forum and had a few questions.

As I wanted to put in some smart lighting into the house it seems natural to use zigbee smart bulbs as repeaters. However, I read on one post that there are different protocols for ZigBee bulbs ZLL and ZHA and that I would need for the bulbs to be ZHA rather than ZLL in order to be able to repeat and stand a chance of receiving signal in my office. My office is maybe 15 metres from the hub and I had hoped it would just work.

Is there a list anywhere of which bulbs run on which protocol, are ST compatible, multi-colour or white, and are available in the UK?

My other question is about power. My understanding is that only a powered device would be able to repeat the signal. Can a lightbulb be switched off and still repeat a signal? I’m worried that a guest or the kids will use the dumb switch. Ideally I don’t want to buy smart bulbs and then a zwave Fibaro dimmer to control them!

I’m hoping that an outside light on the rear of the house and another to the front of the office would be enough to relay to the sensor and other devices I put in there. I wanted to stick with ZigBee as I quite fancy getting some Sonos speakers as and when finances allow :slight_smile:

Any advice would be appreciated.



Second things first: with regard to switches, read the following FAQ. In particular, in the U.K. the devolo and poppbattery operated switches work very well with smartThings.

OK, now as far as repeating.

Zigbee light bulbs

By far the simplest thing for lighting is just to get the Phillips hue bridge, attach your bulbs to that bridge, then use the official SmartThings integration between the hub and the bridge.

Any light attached to the hue bridge will be able to repeat for other lights attached to the hue bridge. It will work automatically, it will work well, and you will have a strong network for your lights. You also then be able to use other third-party app, including IFTTT, with your bridge, which can create additional effects like links or color loops. Again, simple and reliable.

The new Hue personal white bulb costs around ÂŁ15, in line with most of the other inexpensive smart bulbs.

While it is true that zigbee bulbs attached directly to the smartthings hub will take on the ZHA profile instead of ZLL and will show on a network map (using a third-party mapper, smart things does not supply one) as REPEATERS, the problem is that they just don’t seem to be very reliable repeaters when repeating for other device classes than bulbs.

Some community members have speculated that there’s a Timing issue with the bulbs. Whatever it is, they just miss some messages. So having a ZHA bulb may improve your network, but you should never rely on it as the only ZHA repeater in a zone.

ZHA Repeaters for the UK

The simplest ZHA repeaters for the UK market are the smartthings pocket sockets. But they can get expensive if you don’t have a secondary need for them. Unfortunately, There just aren’t a lot of zigbee home automation devices available in the UK, so after utilizing what comes in the initial kit, I would tend to recommend that UK members go with Z wave and compatible Wi-Fi devices instead.

So the short answer to your original question: to keep things simple and reliable, let the Hue bridge create its own mini network with the bulbs attached to it. Each bridge can support up to 50 bulbs. These bulbs will repeat for each other but not for anything else.

For the rest of your Zigbee devices, use the SmartThings pocket socket as the ZHA repeater for each zone. If you can find a less expensive ZHA pocket socket in the UK, use it, but I haven’t yet heard of one.

Other than that, for the UK market your life will be much easier if you stick to Zwave and smartthings-compatible Wi-Fi devices. I understand that’s the opposite of what you hoped for, but I think it’s just the reality of what’s available in the UK.

The following is the official list of UK-compatible devices:

(Richard Douglas) #3

Thanks for a great answer. So your recommendation would be to use the ST kit inside the house and look to go with zwave to reach the garden office?
It would be disappointing to have to purchase a zwave plug, temperature sensor and door/window sensor for the office when I already have some on another protocol.

You mentioned Hue, has anybody tested ST compatibility with Qube, the Hue clones? Likewise, I love the look of the NanoLeaf bulbs.

Some areas of the house I had planned to use Fibaro dimmer 2’s as it works out cheaper than replacing with smart bulbs (due to the number) and the ability to turn them off “normally”.


Regarding Qube, you will often see me say this in the forums, but anything which is still in “pre-release” is just marketing. Until you can actually buy it for delivery, there’s no real way of telling what features it will have or what protocols it will support.

The Nanoleaf bulbs are very cool looking. I haven’t heard of anybody in the forums using them, but their official support pages say that at least the Ivy model will pair as a zigbee dimmer.

That should mean it would work as a repeater but again, people have just had consistency problems with zigbee bulbs as ZHA repeaters. You could certainly try one and see. :sunglasses:


As for your office, since this is in a separate building, you will run into a number of different issues, including weather, regardless of whether you use zigbee or Z wave.

See the following:

(Richard Douglas) #6

Yes, the office is a separate building. It’s about 5 metres from my back door. I mentioned in my original post that I was hoping to use external garden lights as repeaters. That was the main driver behind asking for a list of zha bulbs for sale in the UK.
I have read a bunch of posts on extending range and outdoors buildings to try and not duplicate forum questions. Don’t want to waste anyones time.
Are there any plans for ST to create zwave versions of their zigbee devices here in the UK, or should I look to Fibaro or Aeotec?


My fault, then, I just misunderstood the first post. I thought you were hoping to use the outdoor bulbs to bounce signal back in through a window in the main house. People actually do that in some set ups, particularly when trying to reach a door lock on an outer door near the garage. (I am quadriparetic and rely on text to speech software, I occasionally miss a bit of detail. My apologies.)

As far as what SmartThings is going to do, I haven’t seen anything announced, but I haven’t heard them ever having intentions to build their own Z wave devices. There’s already a large variety of Z wave devices on the market that work well with smartthings in both the UK and the US, so there really wasn’t the same need as for zigbee ( and even those are actually built by other companies, just rebranded by smartthings. But the company that builds them doesn’t sell to individual customers, they’re usually sold as part of a security system, and smartthings wanted to make them available as individual pieces.)

Fibaro and Aeotec are both good brands, both very popular. :sunglasses: