HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR Z-WAVE NETWORK QUALITY

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MAKE Z-WAVE WORK FOR YOU

Maybe It’s Time to Add Some Z-Wave Range Extenders

If you’re unhappy with the performance of your Z-Wave system, we’re going to take a shot in the dark and say that it probably has something to do with your mesh network. The mesh network design is part of what makes Z-Wave so great, but as with any technology, there can be problems if it’s not set up correctly. Below, we discuss the importance of Z-Wave range extenders and how they can ensure that all of your smart home automation devices connect smoothly and reliably.


How the Z-Wave Mesh Network Works

Before we can get into the role of Z-Wave range extenders, it’s important to have a firm understanding of how mesh networking works.

Mesh networking is a “network topology” that allows devices to piggyback off one another to allow their wireless signals to reach a main hub. Instead of every device having to be within range of the hub, they can be within range of another repeating device (we go into what “repeating device” means in a bit). By sprinkling repeating Z-Wave products around the home, each device connects to each other to create a communication mesh.  Z-Wave allows the signal to make up to four “hops” between the device and the main controller, but it’s best to keep it to two or less.  With each hop, the signal takes a fraction of a second longer to reach the main controller or vice versa.  When you add up this delay for each hop, it will start to be noticeable.

Beyond allowing you to place Z-Wave devices further away from the hub, mesh networking has another great benefit. It also allows you to circumvent many of the common household items that tend to affect wireless signals, such as large appliances or heavy concrete walls.   

Speaking generally, there are two types of Z-Wave devices: those that contribute to the mesh network and those that don’t. In order for a Z-Wave product to help boost the signals of other devices, it needs to be plugged into a power outlet.


What You Don’t Want: Gaps in the Mesh

Speaking generally, there are two types of Z-Wave devices: those that contribute to the mesh network and those that don’t. In order for a Z-Wave product to help boost the signals of other devices, it needs to be plugged into a power outlet.

This is because repeating Z-Wave signals is a tiring job, and devices need the constant power to be up for the task.  If your home is chock full of Z-Wave devices, but none of them plug into outlets, you’re not going to have a strong network.

Every Z-Wave device will have different range capabilities—we’ve tested devices that could only reach 50’ all the way up to 260’. So it’s important that you pay attention to the range specifications of each device you add.

Let’s look at an example of how an incomplete mesh network might affect your smart home. Say you want to add a leak sensor to your bathroom to help monitor for leaky pipes or overflowing bathtubs, but the hub is located in your home office.

Speaking generally, there are two types of Z-Wave devices: those that contribute to the mesh network and those that don’t. In order for a Z-Wave product to help boost the signals of other devices, it needs to be plugged into a power outlet.

This is because repeating Z-Wave signals is a tiring job, and devices need the constant power to be up for the task.  If your home is chock full of Z-Wave devices, but none of them plug into outlets, you’re not going to have a strong network.

Every Z-Wave device will have different range capabilities—we’ve tested devices that could only reach 50’ all the way up to 260’. So it’s important that you pay attention to the range specifications of each device you add.

Let’s look at an example of how an incomplete mesh network might affect your smart home. Say you want to add a leak sensor to your bathroom to help monitor for leaky pipes or overflowing bathtubs, but the hub is located in your home office.

 
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The sensor may or may not work effectively. But does that mean you have to move your hub or forego the advantages of a smart water leak prevention system? Of course not. Instead, you need a Z-Wave range extender. You simply plug in the extender into an outlet between the hub and the device that’s out of range, and then your leak sensor can piggyback off that device in order to reach the hub.

 
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For Best Results, Upgrade to Z-Wave Plus

Z-Wave Plus devices have significantly better range, response time, and battery life. The “better range” aspect is key here because a setup that previously required three repeaters could now only need two, making your system more reliable and fast.

Z-Wave Plus devices also have a feature called “network wide inclusion.”  In non Z-Wave Plus networks, when you add a device to the system, you have to be within range of your Z-Wave controller (even if the signal will be going through a repeater in the final location.)  With network wide inclusion, you can be in your final location during inclusion, and it will still work even if the signal has to hop. 

It’s also worth mentioning that Z-Wave Plus devices utilize a new security protocol called “Security 2 (S2) framework.” While regular Z-Wave devices use strong security measures, Z-Wave Plus goes above and beyond to ensure your system has the highest levels of protection possible.

Have Redundant Signal Routes

If devices are going to rely on repeating nodes for the signal to reach the main controller, it’s always best to have multiple paths for the signal to follow.  This is because small changes (moved furniture, new appliance, or someone unplugging a device to plug in the vacuum cleaner) can disable a repeater or make it out of range, which can disable an entire area of devices.  To avoid this, have two or more paths for the all signals to follow back to the main controller, and never completely rely on a single device to repeat a signal.

Types of Z-Wave Range Extenders

While you can purchase a range extender that has no other purpose than to boost the Z-Wave signal, we’re fans of multitaskers. After all, why take up two outlet spaces when you can combine those plugs into one?

Our recommendation goes to this Z-Wave plug, which boosts your Z-Wave range while also allowing you to monitor energy consumption and remotely turn plugged-in appliances or products on or off. Use it to turn a lamp on or off via your smartphone or shut off the crock pot in the kitchen.

Another cool device that can help with mesh networking performance is this smart door sensor, which has an LED light that will let you know if it has adequate range for Z-Wave connectivity. That way, you have an easy time troubleshooting connection problems and know for sure if you need to add a Z-Wave range extender nearby.

With a strong mesh network, you’ll be well on your way toward smart home success. For more DIY smart home automation tips, follow us on Twitter or Facebook.