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I'm going to try my hand at making a few sensors that are to report status to a central server. To make them wireless, I'm going with nRF24L01 modules. I intend to enclose the sensors (Arduino Mini Pro + nRF24L01 + battery pack + a couple of other small components) in a simple PVC box.

A couple of the sensors would be about 10 meters away from the server, which, as far as specifications go, is about the maximum range of the radio modules. Especially the ones with the integrated antenna that I'm using. I thought that maybe I could squeeze some radio performance by exposing the antenna, so that the radio signal isn't attenuated by the PVC case. I could carve a small opening in the lid and have the nRF24L01 stick out, so that the electronics would be protected inside but the antenna strip would enjoy open air.

I would like some thoughts on this idea. I'm especially trying to understand if I just had the most novel idea ever, since I can't seem to find anything about it on the net. Has anyone ever tried this in real life? Does it make sense? Is it worth the trouble? I'm not looking for a theoretical analysis (I get that fine), only for actual experience. Thank you.

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  • How much suffers the range of your nRF24L01 while in the box compared to outside of the box? Maybe you can try another box that does not shield off your wireless signal?
    – Kwasmich
    May 17 '17 at 7:51
  • You would do better adding a dipole to the board and ensuring they are orientated correctly. instructables.com/id/Enhanced-NRF24L01
    – Majenko
    May 17 '17 at 8:30
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    Only metal or other conductive materials (like water) impact the magnetic field. Also consider both PCB and Dipole antennas are not omni-directional: correct orientation might also be beneficial, even if it is probably a brittle solution. May 17 '17 at 10:07
  • @Kwasmich I still haven't tested the prototype. I'm still in the design phase, but I wanted to make sure I considered a possible case improvement (if it actually were an improvement, which does not seem to be the case).
    – Simone
    May 17 '17 at 10:46
  • Where did you get that 10meter figure from? Sound a bit low to me. Maybe indoors with multiple walls, but otherwise the range is much further. You could test different channels to see which works best in your situation. Also lowering the speed will increase the range.
    – Gerben
    May 17 '17 at 11:32
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In general no, this would make little or no difference. PVC has very little effect on RF signals.

After all, the antenna on your typical WiFi router is inside a PVC tube and it doesn't suffer from it.

Instead you would do better constructing a dipole antenna from a couple of pieces of carefully measured wire.

For instance this instructable tells you how.

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  • Thank you! I will test the performance and consider building the dipole.
    – Simone
    May 17 '17 at 10:44

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