Z-Wave - How to reach an out-building?

What is your gateway/hub Z-Wave device? A Z-Wave USB dongle?

I have an Aeotec dongle attached to a Raspberry Pi.

The mesh comprises 10…12 powered devices, 7…8 battery devices, (and 2 so called range extenders, that don’t…j

Hi Andrew,
I have almost the same setup and issue:

  • Freezer in a Separate Garage with a Fibaro FGFS 101 for monitoring
  • Double Brick and Concrete House

I tried a bunch of extenders, mucked around with placement etc. I found most of the extenders were rubbish in this situation (eg ZW117)… but the standout was the Aeotec ZW098 Light Bulb. This thing looks like it has a fully exposed 1/4 Antenna and unlike power pack extenders you tend to locate them in more open areas. These and the best z-wave repeaters I’ve got - they really punch through brick walls! Next best is the older Aeotec ZW075 Power Pack, better than the newer models and all the small extenders (but it is a bit larger).

The other thing I did was moded my Z-Wave stick for better reception.

More info on all of this at :slight_smile:Guide: Aeotec Z-Wave Stick - Adding an External Antenna

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In addition to @jmone comments, a quick thing that might be worth trying is connecting your Z-Wave stick to your Pi through a USB extender cable. Again, my example is Zigbee so frequencies are different, but physically moving the actual dongle away from the Pi really helped with reception!

At one point I had OH2 + my ZWave controller running on a Intel Compute Stick stuck to the upper part of a window in my Laundry facing my Garage… to try to get a more reliable connection. Apart from failing the WAF it is just not a suitable compromise. Now I have OH2 and my ZWave controller running off my Windows Server and it all works as it should, fast, reliable and rock solid.

That said, if there was a WiFi equivalent of a the Fibaro FGPB101 (2 wire compatible in wall dimmer) and the Aeotec ZW100 Multisensor 6 I’d have not gone down the Z-Wave route at all.

It shouldn’t be impossible to reach the building, depending on how thick your walls are. In my house there was build an extension an some of the battery devices is in the extension. I have placed two FGS-222 switches so that the battery devices has something they could jump via to reach the controller. Over time I have increased the number of switches and that has certainly increased quality, as more routes to the controller will open. When that said, it seems like you have already tried different things without significant success. Seen in that perspective I think Rich suggestion is way forward. Actually I am already doing this as my openHAB server is located remote, so I have a Raspberry Pi hosting two Z-Wave controllers (I am trying to move to a new controller stick)

Hi Nathan, ( are you the same @jmone as the one at JRiver? ), many thanks for the feedback. I concur entirely with your observations about the lousy (so called) range extenders. I am certainly thinking of trying your suggestion about antenna modding; I have the same Aeotec stick as you, so I might do that, or alternatively I could try it on one of my Fibaro devices that have an easily accessible “pigtail”. (IMHO doing the latter is less risky since if I were to fry the Aeotec stick during the mod, I would have to crawl around the most inaccessible places in the house to re-bind a new stick to my 20 odd existing sensors).

Hi @hafniumzinc many thanks for the suggestion. In fact the stick is already connected to the Pi via a USB extender cord; this is because the Pi is installed in my (steel case) 19 inch server / router rack.

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Not sure if that wouldn’t be a non-starter anyway. We are talking about European ZWave on 868MHz so the can would need to be a lot bigger than a regular 2.4GHz or 5GHz can. More like a trash can perhaps…

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@rossko57 many thanks for the suggestions; (and yes you did correctly guess my intentions); I think I will try to solve it via ZWave first, but you wifi suggestions are indeed a good fallback if the ZWave route finally fails…

PS I notice that the Sonoff TH10 external sensor is a DS18B unit; so if I were to go the route that you suggest, then I could probably use the existing DS18B sensor that I have already fixed inside the freezer for the Fibaro monitor. That would be ideal, since I have already modded the current DS18B with a plastic ribbon section in its connector cable so it fits nicely under the freezer’s rubber magnetic door seal.

@rossko57 do you have any (positive) experience of integrating Sonoff sensors into OH? What binding would one use?

Not me, plenty do though. I understand the common practice with openHAB users is to reflahsh device with Tasmota open source and communicate using MQTT.
I doubt these are precision devices, not needed in this use.

Whilst not the TH10, I do use the Basic, flashed with Tasmota as @rossko57 mentions.

A few of my Basics have DHT22 sensors attached. openHAB uses the MQTT binding (and JSONPath transformation) to communicate with the Basic via an MQTT broker (software installed on the same computer that is running openHAB).

It’s not plug and play because you will most likely have to open up the device to get to the PCB, and you may need to do some soldering before you can program the device. But they’re far cheaper than any Z-Wave device…

If you are looking for a device with excellent range the smart implant is a good bet as a range extender but your problem is more likely the FGK101. The FGK101 have very poor range and a few other issues.

You might be better looking at that end first. You could try a FGDW-002 which are a lot better or there may be other options like a smart implant at that end. Possibly extend the cable on the temperature sensor so you can mount the zwave as close to the house as possible while keeping the path through a door rather than brick.

Also have a read of this as it gives a good summary of how building materials impact different radio frequencies. zwave is at the good end of the frequency scale.

@AndrewFG - Hi Andrew, yup I’m the same jmone @ jriver. :slight_smile:

Re: Modding the stick. I actually bought a 2nd one to do the mod on first as my soldering is terrible so the chance of mucking it up was high. I then backed up my original one and flashed it to the modded one = no need to re-pair anything. Actually it is just a good idea to take a backup of your Z-Wave controller in case your Z-Stick dies for any reason.

I also have the Shelly H&T that is a small WiFi Bat Operated Hum and Temp Sensor that is pretty good and it worked OK in the freezer.

I should say for me,

  • the modding of the Z-Stick just gave me location flexibility of where I could run OH from and reach the Z-Wave Network
  • it was the adding of the Aeotec ZW098 Light Bulbs in the centre of the house that made the Z-Wave robust and reliable. They are the “core” of the Z-Wave network for me.
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I think the FGDW002 doesn’t support external temperature sensors? (Anyway the specs don’t claim that it does). You are right that a smart implant would have been able to handle the temperature sensor. But it doesn’t have a magnetic door contact. That’s why I specifically bought the older FGK101 because it is the only one I could find that has both functionalities.

good point. Magnetic reed switch and smart implant? You can probably pick up a reed switch for a few euro.

I just want to give feedback on how I finally solved it: I gave up on trying to get the ZWave devices to connect to the outbuilding, and instead I followed the suggestions of @hafniumzinc and @rossko57 (thank you guys) and bought myself a Sonoff TH16 with a DS18B20 temperature probe.

  • I flashed the Sonoff with Tasmota (so I also had to buy a USB to TTL dongle to connect it to the PC for that).
  • For the flashing, the Sonoff TH16 TTL serial connection is easily accessible; just solder on a 4 pin header, which is quite easy.
  • The general connection into OpenHAB is by means of a Mosquitto MQQT server as described here
  • The detailed configuration of the Bridge / Thing / Channels is perfectly illustrated on the OpenHAB documentation here for “sonoff_th_thing”. Note: I had to change the JSONPATH expression for the temperature probe because I used a DS18B20 probe instead of the AM2301 in the example.

It sounds easy, but it took me almost three days reading what to do, watching YouTube how-to videos, etc. … and I also got blocked for almost a day thinking I had a router problem when really I had “just” typed in a wrong IP address :slight_smile:

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Your next one will take less than three hours. And I’m sure there will be a next one - you can’t let a good USB2TTL stick go to waste…!! :grinning:

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