Z-wave Smart Plugs Outdoors Have Not Met Expectations

Based on the positive experience with my first z-wave project ( a ZOOZ Z-Wave Plus 4-in-1 Sensor ZSE40 VER. 2.0 (Motion/Light/Temperature/Humidity) from Amazon and a Silicon Labs / ACC-UZB3-U-STA Z-wave controller from Digi-Key), I thought I would add some smart plugs to control Christmas lights both inside (4 lighted strings of garland and 1 on the Christmas tree) as well as outdoors (4 different plugs for the various strings lighting on my home).

I’m running openHAB 3.1M5 (recently upgraded to 3.2 Release) on a Pi4B running openhabian.

I had little trouble setting up the plugs on the Z-wave binding (once I updated to a Milestone version, as the 3.1 Release Version didn’t recognize my plugs). The first plugs I bought were Haozee brand from Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B084ZLR3X8/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1). They showed as Neo in the binding, and the next set I ordered were Neo brand. They worked OK, though the one in the garage on the refrigerator (I have dreams of creating a UI Widget to monitor the refrigerator and make sure it is working) would occasionally lose connection. I put a plug between the stick and the refrigerator in a wall plug and that helped.

The logs showed the plugs that had problem cycling between being connected and losing the connection.

2022-01-03 22:22:50.030 [INFO ] [ab.event.ThingStatusInfoChangedEvent] - Thing 'zwave:device:d55bff6cef:node18' changed from ONLINE to OFFLINE (COMMUNICATION_ERROR): Node is not communicating with controller
2022-01-03 22:22:50.479 [INFO ] [openhab.event.ItemStateChangedEvent ] - Item 'ZWaveNode010_ElectricmeterkWh' changed from -21474825.27 to -18737847.8
2022-01-03 22:22:51.881 [INFO ] [openhab.event.ItemStateChangedEvent ] - Item 'ZWaveNode010_ElectricmeterkWh' changed from -18737847.8 to -21474825.27
2022-01-03 22:22:51.950 [INFO ] [openhab.event.ItemStateChangedEvent ] - Item 'ZWaveNode010_Electricmeterwatts' changed from 3.89 to 3.91
2022-01-03 22:22:54.541 [INFO ] [openhab.event.ItemStateChangedEvent ] - Item 'ZWaveNode007_Electricmetervolts' changed from 122.89 to 122.99
2022-01-03 22:22:55.198 [INFO ] [ab.event.ThingStatusInfoChangedEvent] - Thing 'zwave:device:d55bff6cef:node18' changed from OFFLINE (COMMUNICATION_ERROR): Node is not communicating with controller to ONLINE
2022-01-03 22:23:02.772 [INFO ] [openhab.event.ItemStateChangedEvent ] - Item 'ZWaveNode010_Electricmetervolts' changed from 123.7 to 124.03
2022-01-03 22:23:04.066 [INFO ] [openhab.event.ItemStateChangedEvent ] - Item 'ZWaveNode003025800200707217_Electricmetervolts' changed from 122.68 to 123.16
2022-01-03 22:23:06.385 [INFO ] [ab.event.ThingStatusInfoChangedEvent] - Thing 'zwave:device:d55bff6cef:node18' changed from ONLINE to OFFLINE (COMMUNICATION_ERROR): Node is not communicating with controller
2022-01-03 22:23:10.854 [INFO ] [openhab.event.ItemStateChangedEvent ] - Item 'ZWaveNode003025800200707217_ElectricmeterkWh' changed from 30.79 to 30.75
2022-01-03 22:23:10.880 [INFO ] [openhab.event.ItemStateChangedEvent ] - Item 'ZWaveNode003025800200707217_Electricmeterwatts' changed from 120.68 to 6.86
2022-01-03 22:23:11.663 [INFO ] [ab.event.ThingStatusInfoChangedEvent] - Thing 'zwave:device:d55bff6cef:node18' changed from OFFLINE (COMMUNICATION_ERROR): Node is not communicating with controller to ONLINE
2022-01-03 22:23:22.436 [INFO ] [ab.event.ThingStatusInfoChangedEvent] - Thing 'zwave:device:d55bff6cef:node18' changed from ONLINE to OFFLINE (COMMUNICATION_ERROR): Node is not communicating with controller
2022-01-03 22:24:10.928 [INFO ] [ab.event.ThingStatusInfoChangedEvent] - Thing 'zwave:device:d55bff6cef:node18' changed from OFFLINE (COMMUNICATION_ERROR): Node is not communicating with controller to ONLINE

Back to the Christmas lighting control. The plugs in the house worked well and reliability turned the lights in the garland and the tree on as directed by various rules (on at a fixed time in the morning and off at a fixed time at night; off if everyone left the house and on when someone came home). But the outdoor plugs were unreliable. Sometimes they would respond to commands, and sometimes they would not. It was particularly frustrating that the openHAB Item linked to the power switch would show the wrong state. It would show what the latest command had asked for, but if the command didn’t execute it would (sometimes) not revert back to the correct state (sometimes it would).

I understand that z-wave uses a low power RF signal, and that walls, especially brick exterior walls with a radiant barrier can be a problem. I read some where that Minoston plugs had stronger radios, so I tried the MP21ZD. They didn’t seem to work any better. I was able to improve things a little by putting one in a plug inside the house through the wall from where one exterior plug was. But two of them remained unreliable even with another near by inside the house.

I looked at the map the z-wave controller makes and it showed various routes, mostly with dotted lines, for the plugs that had trouble connecting.

I thinking about sending back the plugs I still can and using wifi plugs outside next as I have in the past next year.

Perhaps I was just asking too much of the technology to expect them to work through the exterior walls. Or perhaps someone has a suggestion on how I can make them work.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions

Try using an USB 2.0 extension cable to move the Z-Wave stick away from the Raspberry.

All of it sounds like possible range issues. BK’s idea above is a good suggestion for starters.
How many zwave nodes are in the network?
Zwave is a ‘mesh’ network technology and all mains powered nodes act as repeaters. The more nodes, the stronger the mesh. You’ve obviously figured this out by adding a smart plug near the garage refrig and seeing improvement.
Also, were the plugs used outside rated for outdoor use?

Thanks for the suggestions.

I have tried using a USB extension to move the stick away from the Pi. I will try that for a few days and see if it helps.

I have about 15 devices in the mesh network, which I hoped would improve things. It did a little, but I’m still not very happy (and my wife makes fun of me when a Christmas light doesn’t come on or go off as it should.

I didn’t check to see if the plugs were rated for outdoors. They are in covered boxes outside, and I live in a mild climate. But I suppose that is something I should check.

How many are mains powered devices? That is not a big network nor is it small. Depending on the physical distances and the structure itself… I’m not advocating buying more nodes, you have already expressed that the devices are not meeting your expectations.
Since the holidays are over, no need for Christmas lights for 12 months, invite the rogue devices inside. Moving nodes physically causes it’s own set of disruptions but eventually the network settles down, new routes established and things should work. Maybe the devices which don’t work so well outside will work better inside closer to the other nodes. Or maybe they won’t. Quality varies

You get used to that eventually.


Same situation with am z-wave (only!) mesh of 40 devices (based on razberryHat with and without external antenna). My house is full of ferroconcrete but no troubles in daily rule/work with the 40meter far chrismas lights outside.

I do have problems during 2-3 on/off after insersting a device.
…and executing a rule with 10 or more actuators (but that might be a problem of OH becaouse sending a single command is realy fast and relighable)

… and then there is the possibility that one of your (outdoor) devices has gone nuts and is interfering with the Z-Wave mesh - yes, low probability, but worth to pursue by removing the devices one by one.

I appreciate all of the suggestions and feedback. I ended up returning the devices that I could. I’m sure with more effort I could have worked through the problems, but I would rather spend my time implementing the smarthome control openHAB makes possible than troubleshooting devices.

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