First off, I'm not a developer or an engineer. Just a girl that likes to do some research. Since I've lived the problems I'm going to talk about, I can probably confirm this information is at least pretty close to being accurate.
So,I just wanted to take a few moments to discuss some of the issues that are coming up here. I’ve put together some information that I’ve researched during my quest to make my locks and other devices work in my smart home. It’s a bit of a read. I’ve bolded the hilights so maybe something stands out to you.
I located this document from silabs after someone recommended I look up FliRS . This answered all of my questions about why my expensive z-wave locks were not communicating . That was a frustrating time. So, I’ve taken the time to give you a few tools that you might need to understand what you’re being told in the community. This document will explain why you need a mains powered repeater that supports beaming.
There are different ideas of placement of a beaming repeater. Some say place as close to the hub as possible. Some say close to the lock. The purpose of a mains powered repeater with beaming is so that the repeater is sending the same message until it is received by the lock when it wakes up. This will conserve battery as your repeater is using the power and not your lock. This also ensures that the complete message gets communicated to and from your lock because the beaming triggers the lock to fully wake up when there’s a message waiting.
A strong mesh is just as important to keep the rest of your smart home talking. Z-wave has very little interference because of the frequency it runs on. And, since certification is recommended, you will always get a device that will work if you stick to certified z-wave devices. There are always going to be devices out there that use non standard protocols in Z-wave and especially with Zigbee, so it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into as not all devices are created equal.
A Z-wave device can only hop 4 times to the hub . But, you can have up to 232 devices in your mesh. That means that when building your mesh, you want to make sure that you’re repairing your network if you’re not running all z-wave plus devices. The more each device knows about its neighbor, the more robust your mesh will be . This will result in better communication if there is a lot of activity happening with your smart home. Zigbee can have a virtually unlimited number of devices in the mesh. With Zigbee, repeaters can be unreliable since there are so many different implementations, so compatibility can be hit and miss.
Even though you may have devices sitting right next to each other , they could be rendered unable to communicate due to materials located in the path of communication. Mirrors, metal, etc can reflect signal and render a communication path useless. This is why it is so important to have mains powered devices whenever possible. It will increase the likelihood of the command reaching the hub. Battery powered devices cannot act as repeaters because they would be required to stay awake all the time. This would greatly decrease the battery life of the device and render it useless when the battery dies, thus breaking a route. It is advisable to have several good routes so that any device can carry a message to the hub in case a route gets broken or traffic is heavy. The kicker is that there is really no way to determine what each device sees as a good route. That’s really an unfair disadvantage. Zigbee and Z-wave do not repeat for each other.
When adding different hubs to your environment, you are essentially splitting the communication. Although there are applications that allow different hubs to talk, like Smartthings to Hubitat and Hue to Hubitat, the protocols are executed at the controller level. The devices attached to each controller are talking only to the controller it is paired with. Devices cannot be paired to more than one hub and therefore will not talk to or repeat through any device that are not directly paired with the same controller. So, this means that your bulbs paired to your hue hub will not repeat for your motion sensors paired directly to your Hubitat hub. They’re on a different highway.
Now that I’ve mentioned being able to have multiple hubs connected in your environment, it’s important to mention that you pay attention to the channels that these hubs are broadcasting on. Nothing is harder on a mesh network than to have another hub running on the same channel. Please refer to the hub documentation on how to change your channel. This also means that if you are retiring a hub or removing a smart device, it is very important to get it excluded and powered off. An unconnected device that still has power can cause a new set of issues.
I hope this has been helpful in understanding why it is so important to build strong Zigbee and Z-wave mesh networks. You can never really have too many repeating devices. As long as you choose your devices and automations wisely.