Network Guide to Wireless Range and Interference

When adding a new wireless system or adding to an existing one it’s important to understand what can impact the performance of your network. Let's go over some networking basics to help you get the best performance out of your system.

Radio Frequency Interference (RFI), what is it and how does it affect my network?

Radio Frequency Interference, also known as wireless “noise”, can be caused by electronic devices. While mesh networks are very strong and reliable, it’s still possible for electronic devices to interfere with their signal. 

Imagine trying to hold a conversation with someone in the front row of a concert. The louder the environment around you the harder it is to hear the person you are conversing with. You can try talking louder, moving closer to the person your speaking with, moving further away from the speakers, or turning down the speakers. 

This is similar to wireless communication. If the noise around your devices is too great it will make it more difficult for them to communicate. A common symptom would be that adding a new device to a network only works when you are close to the hub or node, but will not add the device when further away.

Some of the common objects you may have in your home that may interfere with a Z-Wave signal include:

  • Cell Phones
  • Wireless speakers
  • Plasma TVs
  • Baby Monitors
  • Cordless Phones
  • Other Wireless Networks and Hubs
  • Christmas tree ornaments

 

If I think Radio Frequency Interference is impacting my network then what can I do?

  • Put your Base Station in a more open space
  • Move your Base Station to a centralized location rather than at the far end of your home
  • If possible relocate other electronic devices that are in close proximity to your base station or sensors.
  • Strengthen your signal with additional range extenders
  • Move your Base Station to the same floor as the security devices you are adding to the network

 

What about building materials and physical objects? Can they affect my wireless network?

Yes they can, but some more so than others. Let’s talk about what has the greatest impact in your home. You should take into account the materials in and around your house when setting up a network. While many common materials may cause some loss of signal, certain materials are notorious for cutting signal strength as much as 80-90%. These materials include:

  • Aluminum siding and stucco
  • Metal foil on insulation
  • Thick wooden beams
  • Concrete, especially with rebar
  • Large fish tanks
  • Major appliances

We know every home includes some (maybe all) of these materials. The Range Extender is designed to help expand the signal strength and work around these obstacles.


Setting up Your Network

Now that you have a better picture of what a Z-Wave network is and how it works, you're in a better position to set one up in your home. The key to a good setup is to act as a sort of "geometric detective." Imagine straight lines radiating between the different nodes of your network and walk through them, keeping an eye out for things that might be interfering with the signal. Use your Range Extenders to fill in gaps in your network, whenever possible offering the signal multiple pathways to get around the network.

 

Click here to read our article on Understanding Z-Wave and Mesh Networks.

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