Troubleshooting Guidance for SmartThings at a Distance

I installed several SmartThings devices in my house without a hitch. I love it. I even wrote a custom groovy script to control my lights with motion.

So, now I am helping a friend and having all sorts of issues that I THINK are related to signal strength, but I don’t really KNOW. So my question is how do I determine:

  • Why won’t a light switch pair with the hub?

  • Why won’t the gate controller pair with the hub?

  • The range extender he bought pairs with the hub, but it appears to do nothing for the range.

Is there a “signal strength meter” or anything that will conclusively tell me that my problem is signal and not something else? I have seen posts from folks indicating that they get 250 feet or better from their hubs.

I am at a loss for how to begin to troubleshoot the issues.

There is no signal strength meter. After installing the repeater, did you rebuild the mesh if these are zigbee devices or do a Zwave repair if Zwave devices?

  1. The number one reason that zwave devices won’t pair is because they are still paired to a previous controller. This can happen even with a brand new device if it was paired with the test bed at the factory. It can also be the result of a failed pairing attempt.

So the first troubleshooting step is usually to do what is called a “general exclude” which will clear out any old Controller information and get the device ready to pair with the hub.

This can’t be done from a distance, however, because the individual Z wave devices will have to be physically manipulated in some way (usually a button press pattern) in order to accept the exclude. This was considered a security feature since it meant you had to have physical access to a device in order to reset it.

( in the future, please include brand and model of any device you are asking questions about and we will be able to give more specific answers. In particular, it would be helpful to know if these are z wave or Z wave plus devices.)

  1. range extenders for Z wave don’t do anything more than any other repeating device does. These were useful back in the third generation of zwave about three years ago when not all devices operated at four transmission power. But these days pretty much every device does, So it’s usually a better use of your money just to get any mains powered z wave plus device Like a plug-in pocket socket so you can get dual use out of it. So tell your friend to go ahead and return that device, it’s not really helpful anyway.

  2. I strongly recommend reading the FAQ thread on range and repeaters. Start with post 11 in that thread and after reading that go up to the top and read the whole thread. ( this is a clickable link)

Smartthings itself doesn’t really provide us as individual customers with any signal strength tools. There are some third-party items you can buy but they’re pretty technical to set up and use, and they cost anywhere from $50-$200, and they’re really intended more for professional installers. And you still can’t use them from a distance.

I know most of that isn’t of much help for the immediate problem, but I would start by just picking one of the devices that isn’t being working, come back here and tell us the brand and model, as well as the model of the hub that’s in place, and then we can see if the next logical step is a general exclude or something else.

It could just be that everything is too far away from the hub. So we are going to need some more details.


If they are z wave devices,
I have had problems because of metal electrical boxes shielding the signal. Z Wave devices usually have a small antenna about 3 inches long. On wall switches it is sometimes wrapped in a grove under the face plate. If your z wave device is in a metal box you need to route the antenna outside the box. A couple of times I have added with solder a length of wire to the antenna. Rule of thumb add enough to make the antenna outside the box the same as the original. If you add extra you tune it by sliding more or less out of the box.

Yes, we did a full reset and still had issues getting the switch and gate opener to register. Only the repeater is present.

Thank you for the clarity of your reply.

I know the switch in question is the GE SmartThings Z-Wave Light Switch. I have installed 6 of them without an issue.

Do all SmartThings devices repeat?

I’ll be staying at his place this weekend. I was planning on taking a 100’ of network cable and an extension cord so we can play with the hub placement.

Interesting, never noticed. What is the “expected range” for Z-Wave?

There is no model by that name. GE and SmartThings do not have a co-branding relationship. They are two separate companies.

The only smartthings branded devices are the hub, some sensors, and one plug-in pocket socket. All of those use the zigbee protocol.

The GE devices are actually made by Jasco. They make zwave, zigbee, and Bluetooth switches. These all use the same outer case, so they look identical, which is one reason we need the model number.

GE zwave Switch (14294):

GE zigbee Switch (45857):

Beyond that, there are both Z wave and Zwave plus GE branded switches and again they look identical. That’s the other reason why we need the model numbers. The pairing options are somewhat different.

Do all SmartThings devices repeat?

With the exception of the hub and the pocket socket the smartthings branded devices are battery-operated zigbee devices. Zwave repeats only for Z wave, zigbee repeats only for zigbee, and most battery operated devices don’t repeat at all. So the SmartThings branded devices other than the hub and the pocket socket do not repeat. The pocket socket will repeat, but only for zigbee.

Most zwave mains powered devices with the exception of smoke sensors do repeat—But again only for Zwave.

See the wireless range and repeaters FAQ: ( this is a clickable link)

I’ll be staying at his place this weekend. I was planning on taking a 100’ of network cable and an extension cord so we can play with the hub placement.

That sounds like a good idea. Remember that even if the devices were bought brand new, some of them may need to be excluded before they will pair. It’s just something to be aware of, and usually the first troubleshooting step we take, just to get it out-of-the-way. :sunglasses:

The certifying body gives the range based on clear dry air, which of course is not what we find inside a home.

There are many different things that can block signal and reduce range, from insulation inside the walls, large metal objects like appliances and automobiles, tinted glass, water pipes, mirrors, etc.

So as a rule of thumb with typical US single-family home architecture, most field techs assume about 40 feet For zigbee and about 75 feet for zwave plus. Zwave classic is probably around 60 feet.

The wireless range and repeaters FAQ will answer this and other relevant questions, so it would probably be a good idea to read it before you go to your friend’s house. :wink:

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The other factor that matters a lot (and why I keep asking for model numbers :wink:) is that devices using previous generations of Z wave technology may not support “network wide inclusion“ (NWI), which means they have to first be paired to the hub, then moved to their ultimate location, and then you have to run the zwave repair utility so all the devices know who their true neighbors are.

The devices that support NWi, in contrast, can just be paired in their ultimate location provided there is an active Z wave repeater within range. So that saves you both time and inconvenience, and is particularly helpful for wired devices like light switches and garage door controllers. :sunglasses:


Where do you get the Z-Wave Repair Utility?

SmartThings Classic app->Hamberger Button->Hub is Online(Top Left)->Z-Wave Utility->Repair Z-wave Network->Start Z-Wave Network Repair


Do you have physical difficulty following links in topics? Or cognitive issues in processing longer posts? (For example, some of our community members have TBI and need additional assistance in these areas.) if so, just let us know, and we will be glad to help break things out for you.

If not, well… Read the wireless range and repeaters FAQ. Because the answer is in there. :sunglasses:

Nope, I just had not read the comments where that information is surfaced.

Post 7 in the FAQ