Zwave Plus device in outdoor metal box not reliable

I have a number of Leviton Zwave plus switches in my house connected via a v3 hub. All work flawlessly except for two that are mounted in outdoor, grounded, electrical boxes. Connections to them are intermittent at best. The two boxes are only about 20 feet from the controller. Does anyone have any suggestions for improving their performance? Is there any reason to suppose a Zigbee switch would work better?

Metal blocks radio signal. That’s true regardless of whether it’s Wi-Fi, Z wave, Zigbee, Bluetooth, whatever. This is a problem people commonly run into when they try to put a sensor inside a metal mailbox. Or a switch inside a metal outbuilding.

You have two main options: change the box to a plastic one or create access for the signal in the existing box.

To create access in the existing box, you need to drill a hole and then waterproof it with something that does let signal through. Most clear plastics will be fine, clear glass as long as it’s not leaded glass, either of those should work well.

You could also try a Leviton Wi-Fi switch because Wi-Fi is a much stronger signal than either Z wave or Zigbee. The metal will still block some of the signal, but there may be enough to get through, especially since the controller is pretty close to the box.

And here’s the official comment from Leviton support:

So those are your options. It’s just a matter of physics, not network protocol.


We’ll of course they won’t be reliable I. A metal box… For the same reason that if you place a cell phone in a metal box your signal will be zero…

Cutting a hole in the box is worth trying. The back of the box is against a wall and faces the controller. Would you (anyone) happen to know where on the Leviton DZ15S switch the Zwave antenna happens to be?

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We’ve installed a lot of mailbox sensors. Monoprice used to make an excellent Mailbox sensor, unfortunately they’ve discontinued that. You can still use some good sensors from other brands, just make sure they’re Z-Wave Plus to being with, they have more sensitive antennas and lower power with longer range.

First put a Z-Wave Plus Repeater on the outside of your house, with direct line of sight to the mailbox.

I would not recommend Levitron Z-Wave devices, we’ve seen all sorts of issues with them for many years now. There are many other better brands that do a better job as Z-Wave Plus repeaters.

There are probably lots of threads about this, but which brand of Z-Wave switches have others found to be most reliable?

You mean for North America, right? The device selection does vary by region, so the recommendations would be different for the UK or Italy, for example.


There are always exceptions, and you can find a complaint thread about just about every brand, but in general community response has been good to two budget brands: Inovelli and Zooz. Both are small companies (Zooz is the house brand for the retailer The Smartest House) and both have invested a lot both in keeping up with the latest Z wave technology and with keeping up with SmartThings’ idiosyncrasies in implementing that technology. You’ll find a lot of discussion of both in this forum, including participation by company employees.

Other budget Z wave switches For the US would include monoprice and ecolink. But these days for just a few dollars more, Inovelli and Zooz give you much better engineering. But if you’re counting every penny, there are some cheaper brands to look at. Zlink is another budget brand.


Other than that, Cooper and Leviton are both popular highend Devices with a lot of extra features like child lock, panic mode, etc. But they can cost almost twice as much as Zooz and Inovelli. I know there are a couple of people in the forum who have felt that Leviton devices did not work out well for them, but their reputation in general is good.


I haven’t yet mentioned one of the most popular brands, GE, which is manufactured by Jasco. They also have clone versions for Honeywell and Enbrighten.

These are decent budget switches sold at a slightly above budget price. They don’t make any effort to keep up with smartthings requirements, so you typically have to rely on the community for that. They’ve also had some engineering problems over the years, although they’re usually fine during the warranty period. And they have been getting better in this regard.

They wouldn’t be my personal choice, but a lot of people would buy them for the peace of mind they get from a big brand name, and that’s fine.


The Device class features FAQ goes over some of the other variations you might see from model to model. These are things that one person might care about a lot and another might think is irrelevant. For example, does it matter to you if the tiny little indicator light is blue or green? Stuff like that. The following post is old but still valid:

Bulbs, switches and sensors, oh my....what to buy (device class features FAQ) - #42 by JDRoberts


Lots of good choices these days and different things work for different people. Some people are looking for a black switch, some one that doesn’t require a physical traveler wire, some care whether the indicator dot is blue or green.

My own personal choices based just on engineering for Z wave switches would be Inovelli or Zooz for a budget switch and Cooper for a high-end switch. But if it was specifically for a SmartThings set up, I would go with Inovelli or Zooz just because I know they’ll keep up with things like edge driver requirements. Both companies are already working on them. But that’s just me, I tend to put good engineering at the top of my selection criteria. :wink:

which, by the way, is why my house has Lutron switches. Not zwave. But again that’s just me.

I replaced the two Z-wave swtiches in metal boxes with Leviton wifi switches and it works now flawlessly. Thanks for the tip, @JDRoberts.