RF Interference with Wireless Home Automation Devices

Nest Home Automation Device
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Wireless Home Automation And RF Interference

As the number of wireless devices used in the home increases, wireless home automation is becoming increasingly susceptible to Radio Frequency (RF) interference. The popularity of wireless technologies such as INSTEON, Z-Wave, and ZigBee has revolutionized the home automation industry.

Wireless products such as telephones, intercoms, computers, security systems, and speakers can all cause less than optimum performance in your wireless home automation system.

Do You Have a Wireless RF Interference Problem?

An easy to way to determine if your wireless home automation system is experiencing RF interference is by moving intermittent devices closer together (put them right next to each other). If operation improves when the devices are close to each other, then you are probably experiencing RF interference.

INSTEON and Z-Wave products operate at 915 MHz signal frequencies. Because these speeds are very far removed from 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz, these products and Wi-Fi gear cannot reasonably . However, INSTEON and Z-Wave equipment can potentially interfere with each other.

ZigBee most commonly runs at 2.4 GHz (Some less popular ZigBee products operate at 915 MHz in the U.S. or 868 MHz in Europe.) ZigBee home automation systems transmit at very low power levels, making the risk of them interfering with Wi-FI negligible. On the other hand, Wi-Fi networks can generate RF interference for ZigBee devices.

Consider these four ideas for minimizing the risk of RF interference on your home networks.

Tighten Up the Mesh

When using a wireless automation technology, having more devices improves system performance. Because wireless home automation works in a mesh network, adding more devices creates additional pathways for the signals to travel from source to destination.

Additional pathways will increase system reliability.

Signal Strength Is Important

RF signals degrade quickly when traveling through the air. The stronger the home automation signal, the easier it is for the receiving device to distinguish it from electrical noise. Using products with a stronger output increases system reliability by allowing the signal to travel further before it degrades. Additionally, keeping fully charged batteries in battery-operated devices increases the strength of the transmitted signal. When your batteries start to wear down, your system performance will suffer.

Consider a New Location

Simply moving a wireless home automation device to a new location can affect performance a great deal. RF is known for having hot and cold spots. Sometimes moving a device across the room or even a few feet away can create a dramatic improvement on device performance. To manage the risk of interference betwen ZigBee and Wi-Fi devices, it's best to keep all ZigBee devices some distance away from wireless routers and other sources of radio interference (like microwave ovens) the same as for Wi-Fi devices.