How to improve your Zigbee network!

Almost everyone around me is switching to a Zigbee network now because of the price and features of great projects like Zigbee2mqtt. You build your own gateway and get rid of Ikea, Xiaomi, Philips boxes/gateways/hubs. Its cheap, reliable and fun to outsmart the vendors of proprietary gateways and build your own cc2531 router.

But some people have their doubts and question the range or the maximum devices paired to one router. Therefore we wrote this post. Some tips to improve the range and strength of your Zigbee network. And still it cost you almost nothing! So read learn, try and have fun!!

A zigbee network

Zigbee acts as a mesh network. And below you see how a typical Zigbee mesh network looks like.
There is always a single coordinator. If you pair some devices to it, you get a simple Star network. But when you have more end devices paired over a longer range, some devices will act as a router. That means that a signal for end-devices hops through this router to the coordinator. Or a signal can even use more than one router to communicate with the coordinator. The more routers, the stronger the total network will become. Just like over the internet, an end device will always choose the best path to the coordinator.

Coordinator

You always need at least one coordinator. It has router capabilities and is the start of your Zigbee network. This can be a proprietary gateway or your own DIY gateway.

Router

Routers transfer the traffic of end devices between the different nodes. They cannot be battery powered because a router they also have to be ready to transfer a message, which cannot be guaranteed when they are in power saving mode. AC powered devices like the Ikea smart switches are end devices that also have router capabilities.

End devices

Your switches sensors and devices, simple 🙂 Devices have one parent, and all communication is going through that parent. A parent can be a router or coordinator.

Maximum
A coordinator with the zigbee2mqtt supports 15 devices directly. BUT with extra routers this can be extended easily. When using the default coordinator firmware + 2 CC2531 routers your device limit will be:

  • Coordinator: 15 – 2 routers = 13
  • Router 1: 21
  • Router 2: 21
  • Device limit of 55 devices

The more routers (and remember that AC powered end-devices are acting also as routers) the better your network will be!

Use latest firmware

Always be up to date! Not only the software. The plugin/add-on but also the software on Zigbee transceiver, this called firmware.
Check our other article: How you can update your firmware. and use the latest firmware from:
https://github.com/Koenkk/Z-Stack-firmware/tree/master/coordinator

Zigbee2mqtt will output the installed firmware version to the zigbee2mqtt log on startup.

Extend the range of the cc2531

The range of the CC2531 (but also for other USB transceivers like rfxcom, zwave stick etc) can greatly be improved when connecting it with an USB extension cable instead of directly plugging it into your Raspberry Pi or computer.
When plugged directly in the computer, the CC2531 antenna suffers from interference of radio signals and electrical components of the computer. Also be sure not to position the CC2531 too close to any other radio transmitting devices (e.g. Wifi router). A USB extension cable of 50 cm is already enough to reduce the interference.

Create extra Zigbee routers

Improve the strenght of your Zigbee network by adding extra routers.
This can be end-devices like smart socket switches like those from Ikea for example. It can only act as a router when its connected through AC power.

How to create a dedicated CC2530 router?

Three cheap and simple little steps to achief a better range and stable Zigbee network.

  • Buy the right products (the links below go to the cheapest and reliable shops of AliExpress)
  • Flash the Zigbee firmware
  • And plug it in a charger / AC 220 socket.

What do you need to create a Zigbee router?

You can create a router from a cc2531 in a usb charger but you can also build a better range Zigbee router. A little bit more expensive but on 220 and a better range due to the antenna on the 2530 chip.

Flash the zigbee2mqtt firmware!

In our other zigbee2mqtt article we tell you how! Remember to flash the correct and latest firmware.
When Using a cc2531 you can use the default cable. but with an cc2530 you need the dupont wires. Check the pictures below for the diagrams to wire them correct.

CC debuggerCC2530
1GND
2VCC
3P2.2
4P2.1
7RST
9VCC


Put it in a box

When you bought the items above you can create this in a few minutes!

from zigbee2mqtt project

How to create a zigbee network graphic for Home Assistant?

A picture can tell us more then thousands words 🙂 So create a picture of your zigbee network.

User robin made a very nice component to display you zigbee network by image:

map

Important: you have to clear the browser cache after each update
Instructions

  1. Download or clone https://github.com/rgruebel/ha_zigbee2mqtt_networkmap 42
  2. Copy “custom_components/zigbee2mqtt_networkmap.py” to your “custom_components” folder.
  3. Copy the folder “www/zigbee2mqtt_networkmap” and content to your “www” folder.
  4. Add the following to your configuration.yaml. It is possible to update the map directly via button. If you want to use this functionality you also have to activate the webhook component
    1
     webhook:  zigbee2mqtt_networkmap:    panel_iframe:    networkmap:      title: 'Zigbee Map'      url: '/local/zigbee2mqtt_networkmap/map.html'      icon: 'mdi:graphql'
    You can set the graphviz engine via URL Parameter:
    map.html?engine=circo (Default: dot, Supported Engines 7)
  5. Restart Homeassistant
  6. Call the service “zigbee2mqtt_networkmap.update”
  7. Test if everything is working

We thank robin for his work. more info at his topic: https://community.home-assistant.io/t/zigbee2mqtt-show-the-networkmap-in-home-assistant/

Other articles

zigbee in home assistant

zigbee2mqtt in Domoticz

Check our shop page for a collection of zigbee products that are compatible with zigbee2mqtt, domoticz and home assistant.