Am I getting this right?

I’m in the process of renovating a century home. This week the electricians are tearing out the old knob and tube and re-wiring the entire house. I want to use this opportunity to set up some basic home automation routines and would appreciate help from this community to let me know if I’m headed in the right direction.

I purchased a ST hub along with Alexa a few months ago and set up some basic integrations. They are now back in the box and will be re-installed once the electricity and Internet are operational.

Here are my immediate priorities:

  • I’d like to have the outdoor lights come on when it’s dark and turn off when it’s light. I’m planning to install several GE Z-Wave Plus switches for this.I’m assuming I can then set up an automatic on/off routine through the ST hub.

  • There are 2 places in the house where I’d like a light to turn on when we enter the room. I’m struggling a bit with how to do this. I’m currently looking for a hard-wired motion detector or occupancy detector to trigger the lights.

  • Related to the above question I’m a bit uncertain if a smart switch and a sensor are always needed to control a light or if there are sensors that can control a light without the need to install a switch?



Yes. There are several apps that can do this. Try “smart Lighting” to start

There are many zwave and zibee motion detectors. I would suggest using these because then you can move the sensor if needed. A traditional occupancy sensor switch is not going to allow you to control the lights when there is not an occupant (you might want the lights to go on when you are away to make it look like you are home)

I’m not sure I understand your question but I’ll try. If your light is hardwired and always on how are you turning it off? Does it have a pull chain? In this scenario you could use a smart bulb and turn the bulb on when there is motion.

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Thanks for your reply. I’ll check out the smart lighting app. Your
suggestion on the smart bulb answers my question.


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Thank you very much


Are the GE Z-Wave Plus dimmer or fan switches available yet?

The new zwave plus dimmer switches, which start with the 14 instead of the 12, were released early in December and have gone in and out of stock a couple of times.

They haven’t gotten a fan switch certified for the new Z wave plus line yet, so I’m not sure when we’ll see that one.

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We should see this out soon:

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I use the Smartthings smart lighting smart app to do #1. Is built into Smartthings and easy. I have multiple zwave devices outside turning on and off lights based upon a schedule or movement.

For #2 I use motion detectors around the house some with a zwave switch or if no neutral wire then with a lifx bulb. I also have a couple with just motion detector switches but that was a legacy decision that I have not rewirred (typically a three way switch)

Smartthings is sometimes unresponsive via the app so I have set up IFTTT rules as well which makes little sense since it still uses the hub but has made it easy to get everything turned off.

Thanks Norrman. Very helpful


All good advice, except for this…

It’s ok to use smart switches… If the hub is down or the internet is down, the smart switches still work just like a traditional switch.


If I were in your situation, knowing what little I know, I would:

  1. As @anon36505037 said, have neutral wires run throughout. This will allow you to add switches in the future where necessary.

  2. Install Cat-6 cable with all wire runs. This is just in case. Ethernet through the house equals faster internet and less load on your WiFi, which equals less interference for your Zigbee network (theoretically).

  3. Wire for whole house audio. It’s trivial, non-essential, but oh so nice if you have it. With the wire/cable runs you have to do, it’s ZERO cost outside of the actual wire.

  4. Redesign your home theater setup for in-wall speakers and a 65-inch+ TV. For me, this is kinda critical, though outside the realm of some HA. I have in-walls now that were positioned for a 46-inch TV, max. This has me looking at the adjacent wall for bigger mounting (or projection) options.

  5. Convert power outlets to region plugs + USB. It’s cheap, it’s near-term compatible, and it’ll make your guests really happy when it’s time to charge their mobile devices.

  6. Did I mention whole house audio??? Basic wiring is critical and makes a big difference in long-term/future costs.

  7. Rewire you security system to be compatible with home automation. One big problem that we have with newer homes is that they are wired for outdated security systems that were state of the art at the time the home was built. Try to be as forward thinking as possible.

  8. If the house is fairly large, consider wiring an intercom/vidcom system.

  9. VERY CRITICAL: Setup a room/closet as your tech hub/closet. It should be central to the rest of the house and hard-wired as flexibly as possible with the most current technology as possible. Ventilation is crucial. This will be your nest, even if you access it mostly remotely.

  10. If cost/efficiency is critical, use occupancy sensors where automated lighting is desired. This includes closets, through-ways, and all areas where a reasonable programmatic automation is not required. For instance, my mud-room and secondary pantry are fitted with occupancy sensors, since I don’t need to control them remotely. Also, my walk-in closets have occupancy sensors. These are self-contained and have no need for a hub.

  11. Factor in convenience now, since it is at its cheapest. Consider hiring a cutting edge HA or Home Theater company to come out and do an hour or so of consulting.

I hope this helps with ideas.

Oh, I forgot, please consider ambient lighting now too. LED strips are fairly cheap, but can make a HUGE impact. Your situation is the best time to wire them without weekends of frustration and headaches.

Ambient lighting can HUGELY increase the resell value of your home, as well as buyer attraction. Flexible RBGW lighting is unlikely to phase out of style. And if it does, your agent can simply ignore it as an amenity.

Okay, another thing I forgot: Motorized curtains and blinds.

One of the biggest issues “smart” home owners have to deal with is how to cheaply/efficiently wire curtains, blinds and sunsuintive/smart glass. You can actually do this now simply with proper placement without the full implementation.

This is great feedback.

Thank you


I read that to say “Don’t think you can do without switches altogether; offering parallel means of control will be helpful both with guests and in situations where the home automation system or the Internet is not working.” Not that he was suggesting that smart switches themselves were bad. Just that even with Alexa you still may want to have a switch where someone would expect a switch to be. :sunglasses:


My apology. I definitely understood you incorrectly. That is great advice and it was a lesson I learned the hard way at the beginning of my HA journey.

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