RF Interference With Wireless Home Automation Devices

Tips to minimize RF interference at home

As the number of wireless devices in use in the home increases, wireless home automation grows increasingly susceptible to radio frequency interference. The popularity of wireless technologies—such as Z-Wave, ZigBee, and other protocols—has revolutionized the home-automation industry. Toss Wi-Fi and Bluetooth into the mix and you have a house full of radio frequencies.

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

Testing for RF Interference

Various satelite and radar dishes broadcasting Wi-Fi and other signals.
Lizzie Roberts/IkonImages/GettyImages

An easy way to determine if your wireless home automation system experiences RF interference is by moving devices close together. If operation improves when the devices are side by side, then you are probably experiencing RF interference when they are in their usual locations.

Insteon and Z-Wave products operate at 915 MHz signal frequencies. Because these speeds are far removed from the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz Wi-Fi frequencies, they are unlikely to interfere with one another. However, Insteon and Z-Wave equipment potentially interfere with each other.

Most ZigBee products typically run at 2.4 GHz. ZigBee home automation systems transmit at low power levels, making the risk of them interfering with Wi-Fi negligible. However, Wi-Fi networks can generate RF interference for ZigBee devices.

Tighten the Mesh

When you use wireless automation technology, using 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 increase system reliability.

Signal Strength Is Important

RF signals degrade quickly as they travel 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 strong output increases system reliability by allowing the signal to travel farther before it degrades. Additionally, keeping fully charged batteries in battery-operated devices increases the strength of the transmitted signal. When the batteries start to wear down, system performance suffers.

Consider a New Location

Moving a wireless home automation device to a new location can substantially affect performance. 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 in device performance. To manage the risk of interference between ZigBee and Wi-Fi devices, it's best to keep all ZigBee devices away from wireless routers and other sources of radio interference, such as microwave ovens.

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