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Z-Wave Repeaters Expand Your System’s Range

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One of the more remarkable things about your Vera home control system is that it can be expanded to cover very large areas. True, each of our controllers does have a limit to the number of devices you can have in the system — it’s 200 for our Vera3 controller and 50 for the VeraLite — but there’s almost no limit on how far apart these devices can be, with a thousand feet or even greater distances possible. The devices can span a huge building, a group of buildings, even a small campus!

The key to covering large areas is to use “repeaters” in the system. The repeater, as its name implies, lets you extend the distance to the controller by relaying signals in both directions. How much distance can you have between the controller and a device before needing a repeater? That depends on the installation.

The underlying Z-Wave technology used in a Vera system specifies a range of about 330-feet (100-meters) when used outdoors with no obstructions. But outdoors without obstructions, and indoors, where various building materials and household items can reduce signal strength, are two very different things. Yes, Z-Wave signals do pass through walls, but compared to traveling through open air they meet more resistance, and as a result the overall range gets reduced. The amount by which signal strength diminishes will vary with each home depending on building materials and the exact locations of devices. To play it safe, we recommend you cut the range estimate to 100-feet (30-meters) for a “line of sight” installation (no walls or obstructions in between), and perhaps half that distance (50-feet) for a typical indoor home installation with signals passing through walls. If you need more range, add a repeater.

Repeaters can be confusing because they’re built into other devices. Practically every Z-Wave device that connects directly to AC power, in fact, is a repeater. This includes lamp dimmers and smart switches. So you do not usually need to purchase a separate “repeater” device — simply by placing a dimmer module or smart switch one hundred feet from your Vera controller, you will be extending its range in that direction.  (When we say “connects directly to AC power,” that means the device itself plugs into the wall without a separate power adapter. Devices that use power adapters are not repeaters.)

The repeater function of a smart switch or dimmer module will work regardless of whether you actually plug something (such as a lamp or appliance) into the device. You must of course “include” the dimmer or smart switch into your system, and when you do this, be sure to locate it where it will actually be used to provide repeater functionality. You can find dimmer modules and smart switches available directly from Vera here.

The Z-Wave system does have a four-hop maximum, meaning between the device and the controller you can have a maximum of four repeaters along the way. Within your home, by placing a dimmer module or smart switch about 50 to 100-feet from your controller, and then placing another one 50 to 100-feet further, and then another, ranges of many hundreds of feet and even more are possible. And since the range is much further per hop for outdoor line-of-site signals, as much as 300-feet or more, you can connect separate buildings into a single system by taking advantage of this.

Using devices that have built-in repeater functionality is usually the most economic approach to expanding your system’s range, because these devices may also be used to control lights and appliances. However, if you prefer the idea of using a “pure” repeater with no other capabilities, there are several choices available, you can see an example of an Aeon unit available from Amazon here.

 

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