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6 Tips for Designing a Solid Z-Wave Mesh

Peter Borchers
March 21, 2023
6 Tips for Designing a Solid Z-Wave Mesh

Proper setup of your Z-Wave devices to develop a proper mesh network can go a long way toward ensuring reliable performance. Although a Z-Wave mesh has the capability to automatically establish the optimal path for devices to communicate with your hub over time, there are some design recommendations you should follow to optimize the network and achieve the best possible results.

  1. Locate your hub in central location
    Z-Wave is a low-powered, short-range wireless protocol. Locate your hub as central to your home as possible. This will allow signals to spread around your house with minimal obstructions between your hub, any routing devices, and your end devices. Avoid the corners of your home, basements, garages or locations with substantial concrete, pipes and other large metallic objects that may cause signal interference. If your router is in a corner of your home, take steps to get your Hubitat Elevation® hub centrally located in your home, using either a long Ethernet cable or Powerline Ethernet adapters to convert your home electrical wiring into a communication path for Ethernet devices.

  2. Use repeating devices
    A single Z-Wave network can support up to 232 devices, and up to 4 hops, so the total home coverage will depend on the amount of mains powered Z-Wave products in the network. The maximum range with 4 hops is roughly 600 feet or (200 meters). Having one or more Z-Wave repeating devices will help strengthen the ability of your devices to maintain communication with the hub. Your environment, the distance to the furthest device, obstructions and device performance will determine the number of repeating devices required. A Z-Wave repeating device is one that is plugged into an outlet or powered by mains voltages. Battery powered Z-Wave devices do not repeat signals. They are known as end devices, whereas Z-Wave repeating devices are routers.

  3. Work from the hub outward
    When installing several devices, install Z-Wave mains powered repeaters first, beginning closest to the hub and working outward, so other devices will be able to use them to reach the hub. Once the Z-Wave routers are installed, add your battery powered Z-Wave end devices.

  4. Understand structural limitations
    Building construction and materials can alter the Z-Wave signal and its ability to penetrate obstructions, thus making the effective range shorter. Signals may pass easily from one side to the other of a room where there aren't any obstructions, but a single wall depending on its construction, could significantly weaken a signal. Changing device location or adding repeaters can significantly improve this situation.

  5. Avoid metal server racks
    Metal completely blocks Z-Wave signals. Do not install your hub in metal racks or boxes.

  6. Run Z-Wave exclude when necessary
    Stubborn Z-Wave devices or those that are suddenly orphaned from a previous hub that has failed, may put up a fight when you try to join them to a Z-Wave network. It can be helpful to perform a Z-Wave Exclude, followed by a factory reset to fully prepare the device to join its new Z-Wave network. Some light switches have a small tab to pull out, commonly referred to as an Air Gap. However certain older GE switches do not disable power to the internal Z-Wave radio when the air gap is pulled. In such cases, where a mains powered device is refusing to join Hubitat Elevation®, try Z-Wave Exclude and then cut the power at the breaker box for 30 seconds before attempting the discovery procedure again.

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