Running Smarththings in a remote Barn?


We have a BARN (metal siding/roof) which is approx 300’ away from the nearest Z-wave light switch. I get good coverage to the centrally located hub, in the house, but no coverage in the Barn.
I tried a repeater in a wooden pump house which is ~100’ from the house. Smartthings does eventually connect to the repeater, in the pump house, once we’ve repaired the network, but there is still no coverage in the Barn.

We have very good WIFI in the Barn, from a TP-link CPE210 datalink. S/N ratio for this is awesome at better than 60dB.

I have no idea what the S/N ratio is for the things on my network, but I suspect that the low power, combined with distance and shielding in the Barn of the Z-wave devices is the cause of the issue.

So, I want to lever the WIFI in the barn and create a local smartthings network in the Barn. Can I use a WIFI hub, from smartthings, to create the local Z-wave network ? As I understand it supports both WIFI and Z-Wave protocols. In my case I would just disable the WIFI on the smartthings WIFI hub and connect to the LAN in the Barn with ethernet.

PS. I can’t believe that no-one else has connection/range issues. Are there any tools out there to report the S/N ratio for each device and where it is on the mesh ?
Just adding more devices or repeaters seems a “shot in the dark” and “hope for the best”. Not a professional solution.

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Unfortunately, smartThings does not give customers any way to map their networks. :disappointed_relieved:

You can buy a third-party device which has its own utilities and use those, but these are either expensive or complicated to use. If you’re interested, let us know, and I will give you the links.

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Thanks for the reference. I had read this previously. I already have 2 hubs at different locations (150 miles), so I think the easiest approach is to just add a separate hub for the barn. It’s not an elegant solution and prevents any interaction between the House and the Barn.

I guess 99.9% of users are looking for a solution in s single location (House), but it seems like a poor architecture design to not include remote buildings and no real way to evaluate/debug a failing network.


Appreciate the reply. As I mentioned in another reply, I think I’ll use a separate hub for the barn. Much reliable than trying to figure out if the threshold marginal Z-Wave network is going to work today

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If you only need limited interaction, many Wi-Fi devices can be added to both hubs. So you can use something like a Hue bulb or a WiFi pocket socket as a “man in the middle“ between the two hubs.

For example, one community member has a particular WiFi pocket socket in the outbuilding turn on when there’s a perimeter breach in the outbuilding, and that device turning on triggers a siren at the main house. It’s not elegant, but the cost is only one additional $15 device, so it’s not out of budget for most people, either.

So again, just depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

Thanks for your reply. TBH, I’m not trying to do anything special, just to control a few devices in a ‘remote’ part of our property.
We bought a ST repeater and located it mid way between the house and the barn, in a pump house. I cannot see the repeater in the APP on iPhone, but I can see it if i log into the developers site.
However, I’m speculating that the repeater is not sufficiently powerful to make it to the barn. We used EMT with metal boxes since the environment can become damp or wet.I think this combination and the metal siding is preventing sufficient signal from the repeater.
In the WIFI world there are many simple/elegant solutions to establish a reliable link over long distances (km) and I’m using a pair of CPE510;s, one as an AP on the house and the other as a client on the Barn. The CPE510 has a nice webserver and it’s easy to determine the S/N ratio of the link. Something like that would be great for debugging the smartthings network too.
If they just provided a slave hub, which i would locate in the Barn and connect to my LAN, that would be perfect.
Anyway, just my 2 cents from the Homestead…

Different protocols have different purposes.

WiFi slurps energy, making it expensive to run power-wise and it is also limited practically to around 50 devices. But it’s great for streaming video and audio over a relatively large area.

Zigbee Home Automation (the profile SmartThings uses) has amazing power management, but is intended for tiny messages sent infrequently over short distances. It’s a near perfect match for battery-operated sensors, especially if you want a couple of dozen or more. Batteries that would be used up in less than a week on WiFi will easily last a year or more on an identical device using zigbee. And you can add literally thousands of zigbee devices to one network, which is why smart lightbulb manufacturers also really like it.

Zwave is closer to zigbee than zwave, but uses more power and supports fewer devices per network, with a hard stop at 232. It’s not great outdoors. It’s biggest advantage over zigbee is that WiFi doesn’t interfere with it, making it a near perfect match to low cost DIY residential light switch projects. It also has a somewhat longer range, say 25m instead of 15m inside a typical US Home.

Both Zigbee and Zwave are “mesh” networks. It’s not about being “powerful,” because that would raise operating costs by using more energy. Instead, mesh works through a really elegant pony express system where those tiny messages get passed from one device to another along the route. Any mains-powered device, from a light switch to an inwall relay, will do double duty as a repeater with the exception of critical use devices like smoke sensors. But zigbee repeats only for zigbee and zwave repeats only for zwave, so it may take two devices out in the yard if you need to repeat both protocols to an outbuilding. Popular choices for this on a farm would be one outlet of each protocol, although there are other options as well.

I have no doubt a professional installer could get signal out to your barn using a combination of the methods in the wiki article And some professional network management tools. If you’re going to do it yourself, unfortunately there’s no alternative to digging deep into the details of how mesh works in these protocols and doing some trial and error efforts. Or just putting WiFi devices in the barn, which is a good solution for many people.

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I’m sorry, i’m a little confused by this. What’s the brand and model of the device you bought? Zigbee repeats only for zigbee and zwave repeats only for zwave, and field techs stopped using single purpose repeaters back in the third generation of zwave. We’re now in the fifth. Almost Any mains-powered device except smoke sensors should act as a repeater, but only for its own protocol. So if you use a light switch, it shows up as a light switch in the app. If you use a plug in motion sensor, it shows up as a motion sensor, etc.

There is a SmartThings “range extender” but it’s a subhub for the WiFi mesh product. As long as its firmware is up to date, it does also repeat zigbee and zwave, but in the exact same way that any other mains-powered device of those protocols would in that location. You don’t get any extra range for the other protocols just because it’s part of the hub. You should be able to see it and manage it through the Wi-Fi router capabilities of the main hub.

If I wanted to put a repeater outside and I didn’t need the Wi-Fi extended, I’d probably choose something a lot more weatherproof and a lot less expensive, but it’s your choice.

Have you had a chance to read the range FAQ yet? Start with post 11 in that thread, then go back up to the top and read the whole thing.

Note even if you are using the subhub as your repeater, you still need to run a Z wave repair after you add it to the network or the other devices won’t find it. This process is discussed in the FAQ above.

There’s no question that it absolutely sucks that smartthings gives us, the customers, no mapping utilities. I don’t know why they made that decision: most of their competition does it differently.

Since you have such a strong technical background I will say that it is possible to buy a third-party device that comes with its own diagnostic tools that you can then use to see your entire network of that protocol. It costs too much for the typical homeowner’s budget, and you have to be both committed and technically proficient to get value out of it, but it is something you can do if you’re interested and quite a few of the people who come in with a strong networking background do add these. Again, your choice.

And for zigbee

Also, just to back up a minute , what are the specific types of devices that you want to put in the barn? Light switches, contact sensors, leak sensors, etc.

Or do you just want to leave it open to adding anything?

Like I said, if you can do it all with Wi-Fi, that might be the simplest solution. But otherwise, if you can do it all with zigbee, even though zigbee has a shorter range per device it has more hops per message than zwave and travels better through rain and humid air. And you can use a device of a difference zigbee profile as a repeater to cover quite a long range, even up to half a mile or so, just to get the signal out to the barn. That’s how sensornets are typically deployed for outdoor uses. :cloud_with_lightning_and_rain:

Anyway, given your strong technical skills, that might be another option to consider if we can get zwave out of the mix.

Again, this is all covered in the wiki article on outbuildings, but I just wanted to call it out in case you hadn’t noticed the details on that one. It’s not something I would recommend to most people, but while it’s a bit tedious I think you’d find it a fairly straightforward solution for the zigbee part.

On the other hand, if you do want to use Zwave, the Zwave toolbox third-party diagnostic device is on sale right now for $149, which is a really good price for it. That gives you Topology maps, RSSI, etc. but only for Z wave, not zigbee. so that doesn’t solve the network problems, but it does give you a lot more information about them.

I have a similar issue and wish you could link two smart things hubs, but since you can’t I am using my Iris hub in the detached shop. I started out using Iris in my last house but after the switch to V2 I found out I had made a mistake and switched to ST. At that point I had quite a few V1 devices that only work with Iris so I kept the Iris hub around to do some simple automation task. Iris is easy to setup and works quite well for straight forward scheduling and basic things like turning a light on and off with a contact switch. We have since moved and I have a large shop that is about 50 yards behind my house. No way I can get any coverage from the house with zigbee or z-wave. I am surprised how well my WIFI is working. I use a couple of Netgear Nighthawk routers and I get really good WIFI coverage at the shop.

With my Iris hub setup on a free account it covers everything I need to do in the shop. I only want to be able to get notifications if a door is open or turn on and off lights and for that it works really well and I get some Alexa integration

I can control most things in the shop with Alexa. I can’t add the shop garage doors to my goodnight Alexa routines since Iris does not have the workarounds ST has, but it will cut of my lights and shut down the mini hot water heater and the space heater in the office if I leave them on, which is mostly what happens anyway.

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If you have wifi coverage in the barn, then I would look into doing TP-LINK Kasa switches/bulbs in there instead. That’s what I am doing to my in-laws workshop in the back since Z-Wave/Zigbee doesn’t reach out that far. With the device integration you can have it tied into your ST and operate it normally.

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That might be a better solution but I already have all this Iris stuff, so I figure I might as well use it.

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The price on Wi-Fi devices has come down so much that there are now a lot of different options to consider. :sunglasses:

Some of the WeMo and iHome WiFi devices work directly with SmartThings by local LAN.

Others will have a cloud cloud integration, or might be able to be connected through Alexa routines, IFTTT, or Stringify.

Or there may be a community – created integration.

The Wi-Fi devices will each individually draw more power than a similar zigbee device, And you do have the issue of a lower total maximum of devices possible, but particularly for an outbuilding where you may not need as many devices as the main house, I do think these can be very successful deployments now.

Since SmartThings is a multiprotocol platform, The fact that you can use Wi-Fi devices on one part of the property and Zigbee or Z wave on another is a real advantage.

Choice is good. :sunglasses:

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