Z-wave behaviors - expected?

I’m new to z-wave and just bought a bunch of 700 z-wave equipment from the smartest house. I bought their z-wave usb stick, 2 aeotec repeaters, a leak sensor, a door open sensor, 3 AC switches and a remote switch. What I found when getting up the first 5 devices wasn’t what I expected and I’m wondering if it’s normal?

  • I had to include the new devices from right by the usb stick to get a complete and successful join with security. When in the same room the inclusion was very quick,
  • The repeaters would join from where I ultimately wanted them but it was slow and it always failed to do so with any security. Even when plugged in relatively close to the basement room where the controller is.
  • The water detector also wouldn’t successfully join with security if I did it where I wanted the sensor to be. Also not too far from the controller as the termite burrows.
  • Joining by the controller and then moving to the desired location didn’t seem to cause issues - other than potentially not getting the network mesh set up - everything started connected directly to the controller.
  • I’d got two repeaters since it had been a real pain to get Ring z-wave devices working across my 5 stories from basement to garage (I’m on a steep slope). But for the most part the two devices (water detector, open/close detector) didn’t seem to want to connect to the repeaters. So it kind of seems like the 700 promise of greater range is being realized. Except for my difficulties including devices.
  • And in general the repeaters also seemed to strongly prefer directly connecting to the controller. At a couple of attempts early on they did daisy chain as I expected but more recently they’re both directly connecting to the controller - even the one that is now farther away in the garage.
  • I did move a repeater this morning up to the corridor by the garage since the open/close sensor is on the freezer door in the garage and it wasn’t working reliably in a way that smelt like a range issue. After the move I see that the network finally has the devices using the repeaters - which was unexpected since I only tried to heal that one repeater. Up until now all my heal attempts (device level or for the entire network) achieved nothing.
  • The open/close sensor is showing as connected to both repeaters. So z-wave is a full mesh and supports
    more than one path back to the controller?
    So right now I have everything seemingly working as I desire (except for the switches which I haven’t started on) but it was a confusing and frustrating journey.

There’s a whole lot of question wrapped up in that wall of text!


  • If inclusion is failing, secure or otherwise, then there is too much interference between the device and the stick. I’m not sure which stick you got, I think most folks tend to use the Aeotec Gen5 stick and it’s a pretty good stick. If yours is a different brand then perhaps that contributed to the problem
  • Z-wave is generally self repeating, so the need for dedicated repeaters is usually not required. For instance, if you get a hard-wired Z-Wave device (outlet, switch, etc) then it is almost always a repeater. Perhaps in your case you only wanted a few devices and those devices were far apart - you could also have just gotten a couple more switches and automated even more of your house and gotten a repeater at the same time
  • If the Ring equipment you have is battery operated then that may be why you have had problems with Z-Wave since they may not be transmitting at the same power as, say, a switch would
  • When you are saying that something Z-Wave is “directly connected”, I assume you went into Z-Wave JS and looked at the map? If so, it’s not really accurate. Neighbors update dynamically as new and stronger routes are found
  • Healing can be useful but when you have battery devices it’s a huge pain as Z-Wave JS needs everything to be awake to heal. Generally any mesh issues work themselves out in a couple of days

In general, the best place for your Z-Wave stick is as central as you can make it and, even then, you generally don’t want it connected directly to your HA system (for instance, rPi doesn’t like it) and many of us use a USB extension cable to pull it further away (this has the added benefit of letting you make the stick more central even if the computer is not).

In my setup (200+ devices), my Z-Stick is almost dead center in my home with switches all over the place to repeat the signal and create the mesh. If I had only four or five devices then I would really want them to be pretty close to the Z-Stick or they may fail trying to find a path.

Z-Wave is funny in that it’s more reliable the bigger it is, but the bigger it is the more of a pain it can be.

One thing that helps is to get a USB extension cable and move the USB stick away from the computer. My reliability improved significantly when I did this. My stick is in the basement and I reach to my garage and outside (stucco with wire mesh underneath) without problems and have no repeaters. I have ~90 z-wave devices about 15 are battery for leak and door sensors. Battery devices never act as repeaters in the mesh.

Yes, I was using the zwave js page to view the map so how my small mesh was working.

The switches are going to be as remote as it’s possible to be in my house so I figured I’d need repeaters given my Ring experience (which even with 2 repeaters was only barely viable). With my experience so far it appears that the new 700 series z-wave might be able to work between the basement rPi+usb controller and the distant switches but if I ran into the same issues that inclusion doesn’t work / doesn’t work fully I wouldn’t be able to take the switch down to the basement to work around it - so if I have inclusion issues for the switches I’m going to be reliant on the repeater to work the way I expected it should vs how it actually did (i.e. I couldn’t successfully include the open/close sensor from right by one of the already included repeaters).

I will add a small USB extension cable to get the Zooz USB controller a bit further away from the rPi and more out of my metal wiring box where the rPi is located. I can’t move the rPi elsewhere since it’s hooked up to all my old phone lines connected used as 1-wire connections to temperature sensors in all the rooms. If I needed more central, I’d need a separate rPi but there isn’t really a good central place for it and I figured that repeaters should mean I don’t need the controller itself to be central.

I couldn’t get the aeotec gen7 stick (out of stock), so I went with the Zooz one:
Zooz USB 700 Series Z-Wave Plus S2 Stick ZST10 700 - The Smartest House

So questions:

Which devices - and why were you trying to join with security (it’s not as stupid a question as it may sound - you don’t necessarily always need secure joins and in some cases, it actually hinders things (creates complex routing issues). Other devices (Locks, some garage door controllers) REQUIRE it to work correctly.

This is one of those devices I’d ask if it was necessary… None of my Dome water sensors, while capable, are joined with security.

Understandable. I generally dont like dedicated ‘repeater devices’ Remember, almost any line powered device (switch, outlet, etc) repeats for the mesh. Go nuts with plugs and switches and the mesh only gets stronger. AND your money gets you a usable device - not something just hanging on the wall.

Healing will do NOTHING for a range issue.
So about the range. You’ve referenced 700 series gear a LOT. and you know it is plus, therefore ‘enhanced’ from not plus gear. Lets start with practical range. SPEC says you should get 100’ (That’s also in open air direct line of sight.) REALITY (because walls and wires and carpet and concrete and such are things that EAT radio signals) says that distance is WAY closer to 40-50’ (yes half, and could be less if you have thick walls, real plaster construction, stucco, thick concrete, or any number of other conditions.) Because I follow the Montgomery Scott approach to practical engineering - I cut that in half again. I use 25’ (about 8m) for all node planning. I only start stretching that if I’m at risk of not reaching a distance within 3 hops. Overkill? ABSOLUTELY Yes, but I don’t mind - each node is usable I don’t have any money sunk into just moving signal around. Do I have a strength issue with ZWave signal strength? Never.


And I’ll pile on - it’s not your gear. If it’s thesmartesthouse.com 's house gear - that’s Zooz. It’s good stuff and I use their 700 series S2 ZStick myself.

The only stuff I’ve needed to actually move my controller was my Schlage (pre Plus) S0 locks but those things are NOTORIOUS for needing the zwave controller literally right on top of the lock body. That’s the lock’s problem, not the controller.

I figured that I should join everything with security if it supported it (assuming all 700 series devices which I’ve read is much better in terms of both the security and the impact of enabling that security). If you’re telling me that I don’t need it for my current scenarios (a water sensor, a door open switch on a freezer, and then repeaters + light switches), and that I’ll still see better behavior/performance without it for 700 series devices, I’m happy to include with security disabled. But is it the case that an insecure device can be used to attack a more interesting secure device (such as an exterior door lock)? I don’t have such devices yet but I might at some point.

It should if healing gets a better mesh setup to allow more nodes to be involved to bridge the range? That’s why I was trying to heal - to get those repeaters more involved to better handle the longest gap.

That’s a good point. Maybe I should have spent more time trying to work out where I might want extra smart light switches. I only really had a couple of the external light circuits that I wanted to become smart. Repeaters do have the advantage that they’re trivial to setup unlike replacing switches which is more involved. But in general I’m not that interested in smart light circuits - the external ones are the only ones I’ve so far cared enough about to start down the z-wave path.

Hah, me too! Hence the two repeaters although I’m still likely around 50’ between even then. I also suspect that I have quite a lot of concrete foundations line of sight between the basement controller and the external light switches I’m replacing. That’s why I was kind of surprised that the open/close switch was seemingly working at all when it appears to be directly connected to the controller via the mesh (but if that network mesh view is misleading then maybe the repeaters were helping more than I thought).

As I was worried might be the case, the switch is behaving the same way - it won’t join with security and it’s never completing inclusion. It’s been stuck at NodeInfo for about 3 hours now. The binary switch value showed up and I was (for a bit) able to see it updating / update it to turn the light on/off but more recently that stopped working too. The switch has a connection diagnostic which appears to be saying it has a weak connection through a repeater (but earlier still was saying it had a weak connection direct to the hub). But clearly not a good enough connection to complete inclusion. The nearest repeater is about 30’ away but around a corner. Per the network graph FWIW that repeater is shown as then connected directly to the hub which is some 100’ away. I’ve tried moving the other repeater nearer that one and further from the hub with the hope that might cause a daisy chained connection, but I haven’t had any luck forcing that to occur so now I’m just waiting.

I might be forced to unwire the switch and jerry rig something so I can include it in the basement room by the hub before rewiring it back where I actually want it.

Wouldnt bother. Its just busy work. If you don’t have a strong enough signal to join, you wont have enough signal to keep it from dropping. Dont unwire it, add to the repeater mesh. Keep adding repeating devices until the signal is strong enough.

When starting out with Z-wave I also made the mistake of thinking everything had to be secure… I would do everything non-secure except door locks and garage doors… it just creates unnecessary traffic and will end up slowing down your network… I will link the post from one of the resident Z-wave gurus explaining this if I can find it again…

As far as someone hacking a non-secure z-wave device to then open a secure device… unless you are a super secret spy…(sorry if I blew your cover) no one is going to waste their time doing that and just break a window or kick a door in…

I’ll add the more detailed explanation if I find it

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I’ll pile on to the consensus that making everything secure is just extra work with little real benefit. I only secure my security devices (doors, locks, windows, garage door, etc) and leave the rest unsecured. If or when I get hacked and some dope is toggle all my lights willy-nilly then I might have to re-think that but I’ve been using Z-Wave since it was first released and have yet to have that happen. :wink:


Is there any downside to having a mix of secure/unsecured z-wave devices on the same network? Specifically - can a secure device use an unsecure repeater to reach the hub without issues?

My experience is that adding devices doesn’t seem to be able to use the existing mesh to successfully join. I’ve had the battery devices literally sitting on a successfully included repeater (that I’d verified was able to be pinged by the hub without issues) and still have the include consistently fail. So even if I keep adding devices to create more in between hub and a new device - will it actually help with that initial join?

I did buy 3 switches so I could use 2 of them to control circuits I was less interested in controlling but wouldn’t mind being automatable to put more devices in between the hub and the remote switch I most want to automate. Then I’d be able to move the repeaters around more to see if that helped.

I also have two 25’ usb extension cables so if my main issue is the initial join I might be able to move the ‘hub’ ~50’ closer without actually moving the raspberry pi…

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Good news is that after my earlier adjustment of where the repeaters were located; doing a hard reset of the switch (just in case); and then attempting to join again without security (which had previously still failed) I was able to complete getting the switch included into the network. Everything seems fine so far - can remotely control without any noticeable lag.

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That still wasn’t reliable. The second switch (right next to the first that was being reliable) would still frequently stop being accessible even though the nearest repeater was still pingable. I tweaked positioning of that repeater and it didn’t seem to help. But once I rejoined the repeaters without security things seem to now be reliable. I rejoined the water sensor and freezer door sensor without security (had to do the usual join right by the hub to make it work - repeaters just didn’t work). For the ~15 hours since I wrapped up all the adjustments, everything now seems to be working without any dropped communication at all (where previously that was my first sign of trouble).

I do see occasional many second lags in response if I try and toggle things too fast though. Is that normal for z-wave? There’s no communication drops associated with the lags according to zwave2mqtt.

I did also add a ~3’ usb extension cable to get the usb stick from directly plugged into the rPi inside the metal wiring closet (no cover) to hang on top of my server monitor so it’s a bit more unobstructed by metal. Not sure if that helped at all.

Once in a while I get delays. Computer busy or usb bus busy??? It is not often and it mostly is within 300-400 ms. I used to put delays when I was turning on many lights but have quit that practice for about 3 years. z-wave js is just fast.