Do I need a Z-Wave extender or repeater?

Do I need a Z-Wave extender or repeater

With a Z-Wave smart home system, there are no expensive wires to lay as the system uses wireless technology. But as with Wi-Fi, you might find spots in your home where the wireless signal is less than optimal. You might consider if you need a Z-Wave extender or repeater.


Z-wave uses a mesh network, which should overcome any dropouts or blind spots. However, it’s far from perfect, especially when set up incorrectly. Not to mention that wireless communication protocols don’t work well with incredibly thick walls.


Come with us as we discuss the importance of Z-Wave extenders and repeaters. We’ll explain how they can ensure that all of your smart home devices connect smoothly and reliably. And how affordable these devices are.



How does the Z-Wave mesh network work?

The best starting point is to understand how mesh networks operate. With this basic knowledge, you’ll have a clearer idea of how Z-Wave extenders work.


Mesh networking is a “network topology” that allows devices to piggyback off one another, allowing wireless signals to reach the main hub. Rather than requiring every device to be within the hub’s range, they only need to be within the range of another repeating device.


Don’t worry, we’ll cover what this means in more depth in a moment.


The more repeating devices in the network, the stronger the communication mesh between devices. Z-Wave allows the signal to make up to four “hops” between the device and the main controller. Ideally, you’d want 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 starts to be noticeable. Hence, why you want to keep the number of hops to two or less.


Mesh networking has many benefits over allowing you to place Z-Wave devices further away from the hub. You can also circumvent many common household items that tend to affect wireless signals, such as large appliances or heavy concrete walls.


There are two types of Z-Wave devices: those that contribute to the mesh network and those that don’t. For a Z-Wave product to help boost the signals of other devices, it needs to be plugged into a mains socket. Otherwise, it will only be reactive.



Z-Wave mesh network



How to avoid gaps in the mesh network

If your smart home system only uses battery-powered Z-Wave devices, you won’t have a strong network. So, it’s essential to have Z-Wave devices that plug into the mains.


The reason behind it is simple, repeating Z-Wave signals requires plenty of power. Battery-powered devices don’t have enough built-in energy storage to act as a repeater.


An element that complicates matters is that every Z-Wave device has a different range. Some will only operate within a range of 15 metres. Others have a range of up to 100 metres. So, it’s critical to pay attention to the range specifications of each device you add.


Let’s consider how an incomplete mesh network might affect your smart home system. You want to add automated blinds to all of your bedrooms, so you can control all window treatments with a single button. No more running around the house closing curtains and blinds!


There’s one problem, your smart home hub is located by the front door along with your Wi-Fi router. Your blinds might not work as effectively as they could as the hub is slightly out of range.


So rather than having to move your hub and create more issues, you plug in a Z-Wave extender into a power socket on the landing. As this power socket is in range of the hub, it can repeat signals and control the motors that your blinds use, without fail.



Z-Wave Devices that act as repeaters

It’s not plug-in devices that can act as repeaters, any mains powered device can, including:

  • All mains-powered devices
  • Dimmers, relays, switches and blind controllers
  • Wall plugs – On/Off and Dimmers
  • Some sensors – provided they are permanently powered (not battery powered)



Z-Wave door lock not repeater extenter



Consider upgrading to Z-Wave Plus

Z-Wave Plus devices offer significantly improved range, response time, and battery life. If your devices previously required three repeaters, they could now only need two, making your system more reliable and fast.


Z-Wave Plus devices also have another great feature, network wide inclusion (NWI). With non Z-Wave Plus networks, when adding a new device, you have to be within range of your Z-Wave controller, even if the signal will be going through a repeater to reach the device in its final location.


With NWI, you can be in your final location during inclusion, and it will still work even if the signal has to hop.


Another benefit of Z-Wave Plus devices is they use a new security protocol called Security 2 (S2) framework, which builds on the strong security measures found in normal Z-Wave devices. Using Z-Wave Plus ensure your system has the highest levels of protection possible.



Use redundant signal routes to beef up communications

If devices rely on repeating nodes for the signal to reach the main controller, it’s always best to have multiple signal paths.


Even a small change, such as moving furniture, a new appliance, or someone unplugging a device to plug in the vacuum cleaner, can disable a repeater, excluding an entire area of devices.


So, to avoid this, it’s best to have two or more paths for signals to follow back to the main controller. Never completely rely on a single device to repeat a signal.



Z-Wave Plus network



Should I buy a Z-Wave extender?

While you can purchase a Z-Wave extender, such as the Aeotec Range Extender, it’s better to use mains powered devices as they also provide a useful function. After all, why use two mains sockets, when one will do?!


We’d suggest using a Fibaro Wall Plug as it allows you to boost your Z-Wave range while allowing you to remotely operate plugged-in appliances. You could use it to turn a lamp on or off via a smartphone app.


By having a strong mesh network, your dream of having a connected home will be one step closer!