A Year of Home Automation (2017)

Inspired by Brenden Mulligan’s Nest-centric post on Medium (see link below), here is my personal experience with home automation devices since last December.

Nest Cams replaced Arlo outside and Blink indoor and have been rock solid. I am very happy with them and thinking to add the doorbell when Nest releases Hello. The Protect family grew to replace every smoke detector in my home and still love it. And because we had a great experience with the cams and protects, we added 2 Nest thermostats this year. We are still learning about them, but the first impression is that the “so called” AI algorithm behind the self programming brain is not as powerful as advertised.

Speaking of cameras, this year we added a Ring Floodlight Cam to oversee the driveway and we really like it, although it added yet another app to our phones. Another addition was the Netatmo Welcome camera, which at the bargain price we paid for, is worth every penny. The face detection is excellent and the local recording beats the Nest cams by far. The only disadvantage is its form.

Continuing with Netatmo products, the weather station and the Health Coach have replaced the other environmental sensors we used indoor and outdoor. We said goodbye to the Bloomsky and several zigbee motion sensors we used to gain indoor temperature. Although, Netatmo support is horrible in the US, their products are top notch.

Zigbee products have taken a back seat this year, and have been replaced by zwave, which turned out to be more reliable in our home. SmartThings contact sensors have been replaced by Ecolink contact sensors and the motion sensors by Aeon Labs Gen 5. No problems whatsoever with any of the zwave products.

The only zigbee that are (still) going strong are Hue Light bulbs and NYCE ceiling motion sensor. The Hue really maintained a super high FAF (family acceptance factor).

Unfortunately, we cannot say the same about Keen Vents. They have turned out to be a huge pain. They fall too easy, physically and programmatically. They are too hazardous.

Voice control has been steadily inching its way into our home, thanks to the progress made by both Google and Amazon. The Alexa-Sonos integration is a delightful experience for my wife’s musical needs and the release of Amazon’s drop in, was an easy way for my boys to learn not to yell from their rooms when they get scared at night. Google Home’s shortcuts have made things a lot easier for everyone to operate garage door, AV equipment, light switches and more.

Earlier this year, we welcomed a new controller that turned the sluggish SmartThings-zwave integration into a fast and reliable solution. I now have moved over 40 devices into this new hub and adding more each week.

To sum it up, we learned a few things this year, but we love our Home Automation gadgets as much as last year and we are excited about what the future is going to bring.

Would love to hear what others learned about Home Automation this year…

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“Welcomed a new controller”?

@SBDOBRESCU, @agenovese820 I was wondering about that statement too.

same here, I’m assuming not a ST V2 hub?

@SBDOBRESCU Great post and summary of the year! I’m looking forward to hearing from others.

My year was pretty good with SmartThings. My entire system has been very reliable, until very recently, but otherwise there has been very little maintenance spent this year on making things work. I’ve been spending my time on other adventures!

I did jump into the connected camera’s this year. I’ve installed a Ring Pro 2 doorbell out front and the Ring Pro on the back door. I’ve also installed a couple of the Ring stick up cams. The doorbell integrates with SmartThings, but I haven’t done much with it yet… I’m still playing. lol. I also have 3 (about to be 4) of the Netatmo Welcome camera’s. The facial recognition is outstanding on these things. I got big plans for them!

I haven’t installed very much other than that. A few sensors here and there to improve things. But the big advances came with SmartThings updates. The Philips Bridge running local made a big difference. I really like the changes in the Alexa system, though since the big update a few weeks ago my Alexa/Philips integration has been horrible.

There have been some huge advances in Voice Control in the home. Alexa is in every room of the house and is very integrated into the family life. My family has fully accepted her into their lives.

It’s still hilarious to go visit family and watch them walk into a room and get frustrated when the lights aren’t already on… lol

Overall, it’s been a great year for Home Automation. We welcomed in some new things, Camera’s, more voice control and interaction, a new controller, more lights and some new automations.

The family is happy, I’m happy. And we are excited about some new things in the new year!

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Well my year of Automation has had it’s up’s and down’s but it finally is getting to the point where its not just my hobby but the Wife and Kid’s appreciate the convenience of some things (and they still get annoyed by some others :wink: )

I have always been playing with home automation (I still own several X10 devices!) but I really think this year is where I reached automation nirvana… and got addicted to it in the process.

The year in lowlights and highlights:

  • Moved from Staples Connect to SmartThings and are overall very happy with ST, specially for the community
  • Added some GE Light bulbs, thats when my troubles started, not only because they loose connection every so often, but that I tried to force family to only turn on/off with App/Alexa… needless to say my automation project almost ended right there and then, it was either that or my marriage. I have since atoned for my sins
  • Added an echo dot downstairs and connected it to the Home Theater Receiver (also a mistake as it depended on correct input being selected and lost to much time and effort looking at alternatives to connect and disconnect to receiver via BlueTooth depending on situation, learned to KISS!, added split output to receiver for when I want to hear music and small speaker for other interactions)
  • Added Harmony Connect to the mix (this was not very welcomed by family @first since I moved from a touchscreen Harmony 1000 to the companion remote and App, one more lesson where automation by itself is not necessarily progress, learned that convenience is king in WAF, even when I think its so cool to be able to turn on TV by voice)
  • Added Nest Thermostats and love the look and convenience of (“Alexa lower temperature”), this got me some points back in WAF
  • changed some of the GE Links to Aeon micro switches and this worked perfectly on reliability and WAF
  • Added GE Outdoor switch for LED Garden Lights and added them to the “Night” routine together with Porch light (+ WAF)
  • Finally had time to move to WebCore my pistons and given the convenience of the new interface added several pistons that I had on mind (Turn downstairs lights if no movement -Kids always leave on-, Turn on hallway lights when someone unlocks door if its dark, inform of door left open for more than 10 minutes, etc.) again good points for WAF!
  • When multi-room audio was announced for Alexa finally decided to go with Echo Dot devices for Music, so added One for Garden Rock speakers, one for my studio paired with good set of powered speakers, and 2 for the kids that they also use as bluetooth speakers
  • I also finally had some time this week to re-do my Action Tiles setup (cheap android tablet in picture frame) and that is what finally got my Wife excited about the whole thing! she loves that she can control all things from the tablet (no more taking her phone out or talking -or should I say, discussing?- with Alexa)
  • The final WAF point to where she now “loves these gadgets” was adding a couple of virtual buttons for her to start Pandora with her favorite station playing on both the downstairs receiver and garden rock speakers, and one button does it all for her! (Harmony Turn-on receiver and change to Echo input, VLC Thing “talk” to Alexa and ask to “Play Pandora wife-station on downstairs music group, turn on outside rock speakers, VLC Thing tell Alexa to STOP and turn off when done”

My truly smart home is finally getting there.

Now to start my New Years resolutions…

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Almost all of my ST branded sensors have been retired. Ecolink has been 99% solid, same with the Lowes Iris (zigbee though).

Is it just me, or do your zwave devices get better battery life? What’s all this talk about zigbee being better for battery devices.

Can you elaborate?

They do, because they don’t have a bunch of extra sensors…

Oh where do I begin? In-ceiling design is flawed. The grill falls, the magnets that hold the grill comes loose, the whole mechanisms might fall at any given time, the battery pack doesn’t make good contact, the installation screws are wrong, the on board sensors are useless. The relay stops working with or without notice. If you start hearing a grinding sound, you can expect the relay to stop working. Of course there are workarounds for most of these annoyances BUT for as much as these things cost, the expectation is that maintenance is low. Out of 10 vents, 5 stopped working and had to be replaced in 2 years.

I have about 12-13 vents also, most are less than a year old. My only issues so far are that they rattle a little. I fixed this by attaching pennies to the underside of the fins.

I wasn’t sure they were worth the price for the functionality at first. I got most of the deals from Lowes for $40-$50 each. However, I have since figured out the best settings for each vent during each major season. Life changing. I hope mine pull through…

This has been my only year of home automation, since we just bought our first home last December. I started with a Google Home and a Nest, and now I have nearly 100 devices working well with ST. Addicted, yep.

Most of my door sensors are ecolink, which have been almost perfect, aside from the rare battery stopping reporting. I have two Monoprice recessed door sensors which are great as long as we don’t open/close too fast.

I use Osram tunable white for all the closets and a hallway. Never an issue.

Iris motion sensors almost always flawless except for a few bad batches (I believe) that cause the battery to drain faster than it should. I also have a few Ecolink motion sensors and Monoprice sensors. They have stellar battery life and never had a problem.

All switches are GE paddle dimmers. Have a few outlets too.

We use a minimote to put the house to sleep. And we have a Remotec on the wall to control the TV and some lights.

ActionTiles on the wall. WebCoRE controls 99% of automations.

Pointed a Multisensor out the window purely for lux values to trigger lights when dark.

The only things I’ve consistently had trouble with are the LIFX lights, but it appears the latest firmware has FINALLY addressed the bulk of the problems. I was willing to stick it out because the other rgb bulbs just don’t hold a candle to them in terms of richness of color.

So I’m the home automation guy now. The only partners in crime I have are on this forum. :slight_smile:

What’s next? Probably more lighting. All the undershelves, cabinets, maybe even step lights. As cartooney rainbow as this house already is, I imagine it’s going to be a psychedelic carnival funhouse in 30 years.

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I had the same issue, I had to give up on them because I have a 3 year old who sometimes opens and closes too fast.

Same…

Same…but through network upgrades I was able to get them working better. More recent firmware has made them basically 100%.

I have 250ish physical devices and I still have about 40 devices on the shelf waiting to be installed.

It’s not just you, but a well engineered zigbee device should get somewhat better battery life than a well@engineered zwave device. That’s why zigbee devices can typically be smaller. ( The sensitive strips may be an exception, as they have a patent on the battery design.)

All of that said, there are a lot of inexpensive devices of both protocols that just haven’t bothered to address really high-quality standards. And if your mesh is weak, then your devices may have to keep trying over and over to get the messages through, which will run down batteries. Finally, of course, I see a lot of people try to get around the engineering specs for individual sensors by adding polling and refreshes and all kinds of stuff the device doesn’t do out of the box which will also impact battery life.

So I think anyone may find that any given brand/model works better at their house. If you find one you like, that’s all that matters. :sunglasses:

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I get it. No polling or refresh hacks. 250ish devices probably a 50/50 split both battery driven and wired devices. So without actually seeing my mesh I’m assuming it is pretty good.

I seem to have to replace most of my zigbee device batteries 2-3 times a year. Most of my zwave devices that are over a year old I’ve still never changed the batteries.

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I’ve changed 4 batteries in just over two years… All of my battery devices are zigbee, except for 5.

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My year: let’s start with a baseline. I already had the Schlage 469 lock - which was my starting point. And I’d added SmartThings, along with a few additional sensors, plus an android control tablet running smarttiles and sharptools… the tablet was also running Autovoice, thereby allowing voice control of some functions.

Then the Echo Dot 2 dropped to $40.
Game change.

I now have five of them. Shopping lists build themselves now; as I’m running low on milk, I just say “Alexa, add milk to the shopping list” and when it’s time to go shopping, we take a phone with Todoist on it and the entire list is there. Alexa allows easy control over everything from unlocking doors to setting lights (Cree and Hue) to control of AV system to setting of ecobee thermostat. It also was/is the key to wife acceptance of this whole thing.

All my windows have sensors now. Washer and dryer tell me when they are done. Garage tells me whether it’s open or closed. Webcore pistons provide nightly reports on window/door status, as well as a dozen other functions including timed setting of access codes at my front door lock. My bathtub tells me when it’s full. This weekend I will be installing my new zwave CO2-smoke detector. (EDIT: installed.)

I do have security cameras, though they are not integrated with ST.

This community gets a lot of credit for helping me get there.
For that I am thankful… and hoping my input likewise helps others in reaching their HA goals.

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How is this achieved exactly?

A repurposed Everspring flood sensor. I have a 2-person tub. The user puts the sensor prong into the clip at the right (measured and marked with zip tie) spot, and when the water reaches that level it gets reported by the device. A webcore piston gets triggered, and that piston makes announcements via my Android control tablets.

It’s a nice little luxury to not have to constantly check the water level.

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Sounds neat, just when I thought there was nothing left to automate. I see they have them in the European frequency. Is the Everspring 100% reliable? And the battery life good?

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So far mine has been completely reliable. Battery life is good.

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I know right! Just when I think I’m done, someone has to come along and give me a new idea!

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