Zigbee - from flakey to stable

I have been suffering from losing devices on an off, general instability… having only about 3 days of uptime before something stopped working.

It annoyed me not knowing why… so i started to keep track of variables that were triggering it. The only thing i could pinpoint was if lots of people were in the house (with mobile phones), then bad stuff would happen.

So, lets get more scientific. I bought an £11 xbee (actually £11 for 2)) a £3 usb converter and booted up XCTU, sketched together some settings from lots of other posts on xbee and connected it as a thing.

I can now see my zigbee mesh… i can start to play. first thing i saw is lots of mobile devices = lots of intereference.

What i saw was a marginal mesh at best, very weak signal between the hub, and the outlet, and pathetic signal to some of the areas i had devices. Mobiles killed the mesh, signal dropping to zero.

So, i then simply converted my xbee to a router, and placed it near the troublesome devices. Hey presto… stability.

So i bought a couple more xbees and converters (so outlay is now £22 for 4 xbees, and £12 for 4 usb converters), set them up as routers, saving one to plug into my pc to watch what is happening.

Hmmm… still instability for devices in my kitchen…yet signal is good. Looking at the routing, the devices are using my ikea tradfri as routers. Turns out that whilst they have strong signal, they are causing an issue somehow. I took them off my zigbee mesh (by adding them to my hue mesh), let the zigbee mesh heal and hey presto - everything stable.

Whats the takeaway

Zigbee from the smartthings hub and outlets is weak. think one, maybe two rooms only if block walls, or electrics interfering.

Wifi / mobiles interfere and can break weak networks

Troubleshooting needs and xbee series 2, XCTU software , and a hint of geek to work out…

if you flood your place with good repeaters, your network is likely to be significantly more stable.

Bulbs repeat, with good signal, but for some reason are causing a problem.

Update 16th April 2018

  • See posts 82-85 for some settings to try if you are using xiaomi sensors.
  • Ikea tradfri bulbs have proven to be stable repeaters for me
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Nice work Adam.

Very interesting! So IKEA bulbs are not reliable repeaters. maybe because they are ZLL? Not sure if ZLL can relay ZHA.

i’d love to try this in my home to strengthen my zigbee mesh, but xbee/XCTU are completely foreign to me

if you can provide the guide you used, or some pointers, that would be great

@adam_walker nice post thanks for sharing your experiences.

Anything’s running WiFi or Bluetooth both in 2.4ghz band will cause interference (ie your phones) Especially if your WiFi channel(s) is close to the channel of your zigbee radio, zigbee is a low power protocol and easily drowned out by WiFi signals and other sources of interference…

Bulbs are known to have issues as zigbee repeaters. Just do a search and you will find all kinds of posts on this forum. They seem to work well as repeaters for other bulbs but not other zigbee devices.

I’ll write a guide over the weekend - no probs

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they do connect to ZHA, so its not the different protocol issue. There is something else causing this, lots of anecdotal evidence.

3 Likes

GUIDE FOR CREATING AN XBEE ROUTER / NETWORK SCANNER

Required: This is for an xbee pro series 2 (s2b). You also need a usb adapter. Quality of the cheap ones is variable, i only have a 50% success rate (same board, same seller).

Step 1 Download XTCU Here

Step 2 Plug your xbee into your usb converter. Plus into your PC. you should see a couple of leds light up / flash on the usb board. If you dont…its junk.

Step 3 open XCTU

find your device by clicking this (right hand icon):
xctu1

You’ll get baud rate options etc, just select all options and let it find you device.

Step 4 Next you need to configure it. See screenshot here:

Click update, then select zigbee router API , 23A7 (newest).

It will keep asking you to press the reset button. Unless you spent on the official usb adapter, you wont have one. An alternative is to quickly unplug and plug back in the usb. Then just try again. With a few attempts it will upload. This method works for all instances of the ‘press reset button’.

Step 5 You need to apply my config

download this: https://nofile.io/f/oRnBnWrVmvm/xbee+router+v01.xpro

click profile and upload it to the device.

Step 6

You need to insert the smartthings encryption key in the field KY

The encryption key is: 5A6967426565416C6C69616E63653039

Click the write button at the top of the screen.

Step 7

Try to add a thing in the smartthings app. You should see a thing. just rename it to xbee. to test if you have joined the network, click the scan button. You will now see your network populate if connected.

Step 8

Enjoy your router… plug it in where ever you want. if you look around on ebay, you can get all components required for 1 router for under £15.

11 Likes

This looks like a great project. I think I’m going to try it. Thanks for the detailed directions and supplies. My understanding is that the xb pro, after initial setup, would be powered by micro-usb cable connected to the USB converter and to to any usb power adapter - is that right?

Thanks!
Alec

Just an FYI There is already a write up on mapping your ZigBee network by @JohnR - FAQ: Mapping your ZigBee network with Digi's XCTU

Also mapping your network is great if you just really like spending your time geeking out on these things like many on here but it’s not really necessary in the end you will end up going through the work just to likely confirm you need proper repeaters not Bulbs. Lowe’s iris 3210-l is a popular choice here due to number of zigbee devices it can repeat for and reasonable cost + acts as a Zwave repeater. Although many report Zwave repeater doesn’t seem to function. I haven’t really looked into whether it’s repeating for me because I only have 3 Zwave devices. You could also try repositioning the hub orientation or moving it to a central location. If you don’t want to spend money on repeaters that’s the first step.

One final thing about Bulbs is that in addition to typically acting as poor repeaters it is common for people out of habit to power off Switches for the circuit. Once that happens your zigbee mesh strength is going to be out of whack assuming they were repeating properly. All my lights are automated to turn and off yet no matter how often I remind friends and family there is no need to power them off it still happens regularly. Sure there are ways to mitigate this like disconnect the switch and hardware the circuit I prefer to still have the switch just in case bulbs become unresponsive. Also I believe it goes against building code to do so. The other option is to put a switch guard which helps but doesn’t stop the issue.

I don’t claim to be an expert but have learned from my own experience that just because everything is stable for a period of time that can suddenly change. Everything was working great for me for 9 months after buying ST. I signed up for a hub beta and not long after zigbee devices started randomly going offline usually pulling or replacing the battery fixed the problem temporarily. I initially resisted buying repeaters thinking it had to be related to the beta since everything had been working fine. After a couple months of doing this and beta being finished I finally broke down and bought a couple Lowe’s repeaters and no more problems.

3 Likes

Yes - I just found an old blackberry charger, and used a 50p plastic box from screwfix.

1 Like

Cool - I think I found a couple of good options on ebay as you suggested - this will be more fun than buying the Digi dongle, I think (and save me some money and get me a router in the bargain!).

I have two iris 3210-l outlets and they seem to be routing my zwave.

When my Xiaomi sensors try to route through it on zigbee, they drop off.

I am hoping to setup one of these routers and have some luck with the Xiaomi sensors…

The challenge will be how to stop the sensors attaching themselves to the flaky iris extenders…

Funny thing is, I am not using the iris plugs as plugs, only zwave repeaters. But I have been installing some zwave light switches so I may be able to remove the iris plugs.

When I bought them I thought the zigbee repeater would be a good thing. As it turns out bot so much.

How did you determine this? Map your mesh like the OP outlined?

So same for my Xiaomi Aqara motion sensors when routing through Smartthings Smart plugs. Based on everyone’s experience it looks like they do ok w/ some repeaters, like @adam_walker’s and not with others - like your iris and my Smartthings. I also have an Osram bulb, which is repeating some non-Xiaomi sensors, but the Xiaomi’s have never tried to attach to it. This gets interesting! I have small house but with old lathe and plaster walls - sure that makes a difference too - even so my 20-odd Quirky Trippers never fall off whether connected to hub or to router/repeater. They do however frequently do a rejoin (zbjoin) - which is something Xiaomi doesn’t do.

Unless this is different from other repeaters, you’ll need to rebuild your Zigbee mesh after adding any new repeater. Unplug hub and remove batteries for twenty minutes, plug back in.

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Interestingly this isn’t my experience…plugging in the xbee and scanning showed it had already claimed some devices.

There is a known repeater problem with many types of zigbee bulbs connected directly to the smartthings hub, whether they were originally ZLL or were only ZHA. ( The problem does not occur with bulbs connected to the hue bridge, because those bulbs will not try to repeat for your other zigbee devices. )

The bulbs will typically repeat fine for other bulbs.

Anyway, when traffic is high, the bulbs can get a kind of “buffer overflow” condition where they will simply drop messages sent to them to repeat.

Smartthings engineers have been testing this issue for over a year, but it just keeps cropping up with multiple different brands of bulbs. :disappointed_relieved:

See the community FAQ, which includes links to staff engineer comments.

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