Poor Z-Wave range - normal or can be improved?

Just started using home automation today, have only used 2 devices so far - the Aeon Z-Wave USB stick and the Zipato RGBW bulb. The USB stick is plugged into a server located in the void under the stairs. The stick is oriented vertically. The bulb is in a metal IKEA desk lamp in my office. My office is next door to the stairs, and there is a very thick wall between the office & under-stairs void. The bulb is literally 3 metres away from the USB stick in a straight line. If the light fitting is directed towards my desk, away from the server, the connection drops. So I have to direct the light fitting directly to the wall, so the bulb is pointing directly at the server, and the connection works reliabily. I’m getting a bit concerned about the poor range - is it just due to the metal light fitting or is this normal for Z-Wave? Is there anything I can do to improve without needing to plug in a range extender every 1 metre?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Zwave has a decent range, and its hard to directly answer. Whats in the floors and possibly other wireless devices possibly interfering?

But Zwave is also a Mesh network where each device can relay and pass signals to each and thru each other. So the more devices you have, the stronger the network and mesh gets.

To help you test. Move the bulb or server closer and see how it goes. I actually have 1 of those bulbs but its laying in my basement on shelf someplace unused since I never thought it worked well. You should also test with some other Zwave light switches if you can. I can’t really speak for any recommended zwave bulbs.

I agree with Paul, that Zwave has a decent range. At least to my experience.
When I started with Zwave I also had some experiences where battery powered devices didn’t communicate as expected. I have also had some problems with devices unreachable due to thick walls. Furthermore I was in a situation where I had a lot of battery powered devices and only a few devices powered with 230V. That alltogether gave some issues with devices going offline (the longest distance from controller to Zwave device is approx 15 meters). I have solved my issues by adding some powered devices. That has significantly improved the coverage and today my network seems to be more robust. As Paul mentioned Zwave is a mesh network, and you should be carefull when you move things around (or at least allow some time for the network to heal itself again).
In your particular case none of the above considderations seems to apply (you are close to the controller). You could be struggeling with inteference as Paul suggest? Please notice that battery devices cann’t pass signals, only 230V powered devices can do that. For swicthes I use Fibaro switches, They seems to work very well.

First of all (and before buying anything) I suggest that you engage debug logging for Zwave. The developer of Zwave has a log parser on his personal website. That does help pinpointing problems

“Metal desk lamp” – that and your description that you point the lampshade at the server and it works better are the big clues I see. The Z-Wave chip is almost certainly in the base of the lamp. The metal shade is effectively in an RF “cage” compared to the 900 MHz wavelength of 1/3 meter. You get some penetration from the open end, but the backside looks pretty well shielded, from the Ikea photo.

Z-Wave performs reasonably well in the open and moderately well in buildings, perhaps a bit better than what you would get from 2.4 GHz WiFi (classic band, not the newer 5 GHz band).

An old thread but I thought I would add my 2 cents in since I’ve had mixed experience with different devices. I’ve since moved onto using Homeseer but its the same with ZWave ranges etc.

So in order of best to worst for me:

Fibaro Dual Relays, Dimmers & Switches - Love them, all have great range and I now have them dotted all round the house

Aeotec RGB Light bulb - Only have the one but the range is “really good” seems to be picking up neighbours fine and relaying back fine.

Aeotec Sensor 6 - Range is good and a number of other units use these to relay round the house. Both of mine are powered by USB not battery

Aeotec Dual Nano Switch - I have one and had to update the firmware before I would work correctly. Range is “ok / meh” and it does not seem to locate many neighbours. They are cheaper for me in NZ then the Fabaro’s but think the neighbour range will keep me away.

Aeotec Smart Switch 6 - Range is “ok” but has real trouble finding neighbours. I’ve never got 2 of them to mesh together so thats why I got the Fibaro units. Shame I went and bought 4 of them before finding this out.

Thats all I have but maybe others can chime in with their range experience etc between brands and devices.