External antenna / booster for Z-Wave?

Every z-wave repeater I can find online is either built into a switch or is no bigger than a pack of gum. I have a z-wave pool pump switch that struggles to get a signal to the house despite being only about 50 feet from a repeater. The repeater is inside the house on an outside wall facing the pool with no other structures between them.

Wondering if there’s something that’s not built for ants that might actually reach 50 feet through a single wall, or if anyone knows of any modification projects to provide an external antenna to a repeater.

Z-Wave is a mesh radio system which means long single hops are not the best use of the design.
Mesh needs more nodes; not more RF power, so add intermediate mains-powered devices to act as routers along the way.

Radio never propagates the way you expect it will, so add nodes and leave the mesh to sort itself out.

Here’s an almost identical thread - search is your friend:

If this helps, :heart: this post!

Thank you - I’d searched extensively both with Google and the forums but apparently my search-fu is weak.

Still nothing on an antenna there and I do understand what you’re saying but both the repeater and the pump switch advertise a 500 ft range. The pump switch even has a 4" antenna on it.

And it’s open space with no electrical between the two so no option to put something halfway - it’s just grass.

First, tell me what pump you have because i would love to have a zwave controlled model

Next, walls are thick and not very RF friendly. Exterior walls are worse. If brick or stucco its worse.

You can try the aeotech tech repeater on exterior wall of home repeating to pump. I got the aeotech repeater to work poorly a good 100’ line of sight. 50’ may be more reliable. Ultimately i extended my LAN network using Ubiquiti repeaters and added a RasPi with zwaveJSUI only.

Without access to a spectrum analyser to look for other devices shouting on the same frequency, there’s only really:

  • Use a AM radio not tuned to a station to look for interference - a good example would be an unsuppressed pump motor.
  • Try a temporary Z-Wave switch in a waterproof box on an extension cable, and a mesh heal - might confirm a range issue.
  • Look at the Z-Wave JS docs for ideas. The API includes a signal strength measurement (RSSI) but I’ve not seen that exposed in the HASS GUI. Might be in the logs somewhere.
    Z-Wave JS - Z-Wave driver written entirely in JavaScript/TypeScript

@tmjpugh It’s a GE/Enbrighten ZW4007 switch. Works great 98% of the time. There’s been days though where it just goes offline.

Appreciate the suggestions from everyone. Details for you guys so you know a bit more:

  • I have several z-wave switches in the house and on the upstairs deck that overlooks the backyard.

  • In my garage (closest corner of the house to the pool pump) I have the Aeotech Range Extender 7 plugged in at an outlet about 4’ off the floor. Behind that outlet is insulation and then the outer board and siding (vinyl) of the house. There’s less between it and the outside world than a typical wall being unfinished garage. Yes, I know it all counts.

  • Running an extension cord out the end of the garage and propping it up on the outside of the wall makes a fine connection to the pool pump.

  • The pool pump is about 50’ from the repeater. I have a 100’ hose at the opposite end of the house that almost reaches the pump. There’s no structures, trees, shrubs, etc. between the repeater and the pump though it is at the other end of the pool.

  • I have no outside power outlets believe it or not, except where the pool pump is and the front porch of the house which obviously is much worse for range.

This is why I started wondering if there were any antenna mods or a more robust product than these tiny repeaters. Having looked at the expected ranges for the ZWave Plus hardware I didn’t anticipate any problems. Initially I paired the pool pump switch with the USB stick on my HA server, another 30 feet deeper inside the house from that repeater. It paired, but kept losing connection constantly so I got the repeater.

I woudln’t stress but we’re not talking about accidentally leaving an LED lightbulb on for 24 hours because your z-wave dropped off the network and HA couldn’t turn it off. This pump pulls some serious juice. Kind of need it to be reliable. It’s dropped at least 3 times I know of after being put on the repeater, once I had to power-cycle the aeotec repeater to get it to come back online.

If I’d known this would be so fringe I might have bought the wifi version of that pump switch, but I didn’t want to deal with a third-party web service to control it. My wifi is full strength around the pool.

Modern insulation is often foil based - many homes now have WLAN worse than castle stone walls due to the Faraday cage!

The switch looks a bit more like a dual voltage polyphase contactor, and includes power monitoring, so moving to something like a Sonoff or Shelly using WLAN and MQTT (no pointless cloud subscriptions) doesn’t look simple at first glance.

If the Z-Wave device can be turned ON but not OFF, my thought would be RF interference from the pond kit.

Detuned AM radios are standard issue kit for UK telecoms engineers looking for RF interference - cheap, simple, and find surprising issues (christmas lights, very old TVs, bad streetlights - all have killed VDSL due to RFI).

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No it just randomly drops whether on or off. In fact I noticed while typing this it’s gone dead again. I’m going to try running an extension cord from the current extender outlet all the way to the very corner of the house and elevate it about 10 feet and put the repeater there pointed at the pump switch to see what happens. Failing that I’m hard pressed to see a solution other than rip it out and put a normal timer back in and call it a loss. At least it’s pushed me to replace my Tuya switches with Z-Wave I guess.

What’s really interesting is that I can control the pump switch fine right now but a health check looks like this:

I guess before I give up I could always run a GFCI outlet on the back side of the house out the garage and try putting the extender inside its weatherproof case. I kind of need power on the back patio anyway…

Most Z-Wave devices have pcb antennas meaning they a traced on the pcb. The main advantage of PCB antennas is that they reduce the physical footprint and the maintenance cost of the device. The traditional antennas are soldered on so theoretically if you wanted use an external antenna you would have to find a repeater that uses these types of antennas then replace them with your own. You could do it with pcb antennas but it would be more difficult.

To accomplish this goal you need to do (2) things. First determine if a device is capable of acting as a repeater you need to visit https://products.z-wavealliance.org/. This is the official catalogue of all Z-Wave Certified devices. Simply search for a device and then verify that its Z-Wave Role Type is Always On Slave. This means it can act as a repeater.

Next you need to determine if it has a soldered on antenna. The easiest way to tell if a z-wave device uses a soldered on antenna or pcb antenna is by visiting https://fccid.io. This is the fcc database of all fcc certified devices. Part of the certification process requires internal pictures to be taken of the device so you can easily use the internal photos to determine what antenna type a device has.

I am pretty sure there are some other things you need to consider as well but the things I listed are what I know first hand. Hope this helps.

Okay that’s not normal. 50’ line of sight is easy, especially for low frequency devices like zwave even with the most basic PCB antenna. You have some other issue.

  • Make sure your USB Z stick is not too close to the server. Use a short USB extension cord to avoid interferences from the server.

  • Are you 100% positive that the signal is actually routed through the repeater ? The network might not do it automatically. Your screenshot seems to indicate the the signal is not routed through the repeater, but a direct controller → pump switch link. You may have to to targeted heals in the right order (first heal the repeater then heal the pump switch).

The USB z-stick is already on a 20’ USB extension to put it more centered in the basement, but it’ll never reach the pool, hence the repeater.

Yes, 100% positive:

I started with just the stick and the pool pump switch. When it wouldn’t work that far I put in the back patio light switch because you can literally see that point on the wall from the pump. No joy so I got the repeater, and started replacing my Tuya’s with Z-Wave. Have 2 more z-wave switches I will be installing tomorrow in place of Tuya’s.

Does Wifi (either band) interfere with Z-Wave?

That graphic sadly doesn’t mean what you think it means. It does not show the signal path. The pool pump may very well try to link directly with the controller even if that graph shows it with a repeater. In fact that graph is useless and misleading and should have been removed ages ago. This has been discussed numerous times, but for some unexplainable reason the devs want to keep it.

Pretty sure the problem is that the pool pump isn’t using the repeater. Try the following: heal the repeater. Wait until the heal is done. Then heal the pump switch. Do not heal the entire network !


Ugh. Okay, then clarify this for me in case I’m wrong here as well - when I click “Check Health” and pick a node to run against (from the node I’m testing) does it try to talk directly to the node I picked or is it going to use the route through the repeater? If the latter, no improvement after healing both.

Check health should work. Did you do the heal in the exact order ? First repeater, then pool pump.

Yes, that exact order. Repeater healed almost instantly. Pump switch took a good bit longer.

After running the heals, no improvement in “Check Health”. In fact it ended up going dead.

Does the health check on the repeater look ok ?

What you can try is to unpair the pump switch first. Then, while the repeater is running and the pump switch is at the final location (that is important), pair it again. It should then pair over the repeater.

I have several repeaters on my large property, sometimes with individual hops of over 300’, through thick walls, without any issues. 50 feet is really nothing for an RF signal.