Another newbie here - ready to say hello

(Beth) #1

Hi there,
I’m Beth, a wife and mom who is the resident IT manager in our NJ home. Most of my family would not know how to turn on the TV if I weren’t around. :slight_smile:

I started getting more interested in HA over the years but never really looked into it seriously until the past several months after RF remotes, reliable as they had been to turn on lamps and such, started to not be enough for me. After poking around at different things, I finally settled on SmartThings as it seemed to satisfy my inner geek without being TOO overwhelming. I also liked the less proprietary, ad hoc approach to setting things up over time. I’m a big do-it-yourselfer and like to figure things out, so while I understand that ST might not be perfect, I’m more than willing to put up with some growing pains and hiccups in exchange for learning and adding things slowly and making them bend to my will.

In my family, I have to be aware not of the WAF, but the HAF (husband acceptance factor), as well as the KAF. So until I have things better figured out, I’ve been trying to limit their exposure to things that I think will actually be beneficial and not just because I want to see if I can do it. lol Probably the best things I’ve done so far is to replace our horrible basement lights. We have an unfinished basement with ghastly pull-chain bulbs, most of whose chains broke long ago, so we were reduced to twisting and untwisting bulbs all the time. Several Hue compatible bulbs and a Hue Tap later, and we now have basement lights that we can turn on almost like it’s at least the 1970s! The other was to put a few other things like the aquarium lights/fan and some outdoor lights on Z-wave switches so we can schedule and manage them easier. No one is complaining about these conveniences!

I’m now turning my attention to more things that will quietly please me until they are ready for primetime with my family. I’ve set up the lovely SmartTiles dashboard app on an old iPad, and I’m looking at ways to integrate various items and protocols and what can be done with them. I’ve used IFTTT for quite some time, have been using Roomie Remote for a while but have a long way to go with it, and recently got an Amazon Echo (with another one on the way). Since buying my ST hub a couple of months ago, I’ve acquired about 57 “things”, most of which are light bulbs or switches/plugs, and a handful of sensors. Would soon like to move to smart locks and wall switches, but all in good time. We also recently got a Ring doorbell and our first ever smart TV - no clue yet if or how those things might also work together, but maybe eventually. Oh, and we have some IP cameras too!

After reading these forums for a couple of months, I figured it was time to say hello since I think I’m getting to the point where I will soon have questions I can’t figure out alone. One “acceptance factor” thing that I don’t quite have figured out yet is presence sensors for the family. With two older teenagers and a husband, I think they were all confused and skeptical that I would want to “track them” somehow! lol So far any geofencing benefits escape them, so it will take some time for them to see I’m not trying to invade their privacy, would just like to know they’re home safely and maybe have some lights turn on for them at night.

My biggest thing to do now is to wrap my head around Hello Home Actions. I haven’t made use of that at all yet and I know I’m missing a lot. Will get it all figured out soon.

So anyway, that’s me - nice to meet you all.

(Ron S) #2

Welcome aboard! And I am in Jersey too in a late sixties house, pull chain basement light and all the good late sixties-70’s stuff… and so totally understand! This community rocks!



In my family, my mom was the tech person, my dad literally didn’t know how to turn on the TV. So I usually use the term FAF (family acceptance factor) or xAF (anyone other than me acceptance factor). :wink:

If you’re used to IFTTT, Hello Home Actions will be easy to understand. They’re basically just a bunch of different “That’s” combined in one recipe. Turn light A on, turn light B off, lock the door, change the mode. Not sequentially, though–they’ll all happen at about the same time, just as though each was a separate recipe.

As far as the “If” part, you’ll get several different choices: time of day, day of the week, a particular mode, a particular sensor reporting, Michael arriving home, everybody leaving, etc. So If xyz, then abc. The biggest difference is that IFTTT sets up only one That per recipe, and Hello Home Actions lets you combine several. Also the selection of IFs is smaller with a Hello Home Action, but there are ways around that. Once the Hello Home Action exists, you can tie it to a virtual switch and then that gives you a lot of options.

Finally, in IFTTT you set up the If first, then the That. In a Hello Home Action, you define all the That’s first, then set the If conditions. It takes a little getting used to, but the core concept is the same.

Anyway, welcome again!

(The fish is still dead.) #4

Welcome aboard!

When you start diving into the presence sensors, make sure you have a solid ZigBee mesh in the areas where you want them to be detected. I found that adding a strategically placed SmartPower Outlet (which functions as a ZigBee repeater) made a dramatic difference in reliability.


As a (relatively) young person myself, I’m shocked there are teenage boys out there who aren’t the first to geek out over tech like this! :wink:

I got my wife to (provisionally) accept my investment in SmartThings and presence monitoring by building our alarm system around it when we moved into our house last week. She wants a home security system, but is happy to not have to deal with a keypad, and to just have the system react to her as she comes and goes. If you have a more traditional alarm system, you might sell Presence that way.

(Beth) #6

I know! I am not terribly young and I get all giddy about what’s possible, yet my 16 and 19 year olds are like “Meh…” (shakes head)

Thank you all for the welcome and the tips. And JD, that was such a helpful description of the Hello Home Actions - I feel like I have a much better understanding of it now. For newbies, the whole “mode” and “phrase” thing is a bit confusing at first. Well, for me anyway.

Good point about the presence sensors for a security system. Unbelievably we have never had one, although the previous owners had one in the house some 20 years ago. We just never bothered and, knock wood, have never needed it. That said, it does seem like pressing our luck and there has been the odd break-in around our small town. I will have to read the threads for the locks, sensors, etc. that people here feel best integrate with ST.

The other reason I’d love my husband to have it is he works in NYC and gets so busy it’s easy for him to forget to text me to let me know he’s on his way home. I loved someone’s idea on the board about setting up another “place” on ST (train station, or his office building, or something) just to get a heads up on when he’ll get home.

I actually have a couple of questions about the presence sensor options, but perhaps I should make a post specific to that.

Thanks again!

(Layne Robinson) #7

I know how it all works (and could build a lot of it) and I still get amazed by technology. [Self-taught programmer since 5th grade on the Commodore 64.] My kids are so jaded by technology, too.

(Greg) #8

This is one of my favorite features. I made a virtual second location right on the highway. Only alerts M-F between 5pm-6pm. No more “are you on your way yet?” :smile:

(Beth) #9

That is perfect! I will definitely set something like that up as soon as I decide on how best to add his phone as a mobile presence!!

(Tim Slagle) #10

Hey Beth! Welcome aboard! We are super glad to have you!

(Ron S) #11

Why scare a newbie, @slagle! :wink:

(Morgan) #12

@Beth I have 4 teenagers in my smart home and they were very “Meh…” about it as well, and did NOT like the idea of tracking at all. I use the keypad on the door to change the mode of the house when they get home, and I did get buy in from them when I created a different SmartTiles dashboard just for them so they can turn on and off a few lights that are in their room or they would need to deal with.

They like the idea of my Hello Home Action for “Movie Time”, when turns off the automatic light and turns on the light behind the TV and changes the Hue colors.

The door lock was huge, so they didn’t have to carry keys anymore and the additional SmartTiles dashboard specific for the different teenagers was another helpful buy into the system.

Just my 2 cents…


Yeah, we got the highest xAF for the keypad doorlock. Everybody likes it, the people who live here, the people who work here, family who come visit occasionally.

Echo control of lights has superhigh xAF for the people who live here as well, although visitors still look for wall switches.

(HousePanel Author) #14

Welcome aboard Beth … it is awesome to see a wife on here as the technology guru. I’ve been taking a similar approach as you to the WAF in our home as you have with HAF… the tipping point for us was when my wife realized that she didn’t have to check the garage after she laid down in bed. I calmly told her that ST had already double-checked and confirmed the garage was closed when our night mode was set - which for us is triggered by motion in the bedroom after 11PM as long as the family room is also dark and without motion (or one hour of no motion anywhere else in the house). I have over 50 sensors now and am a huge advocate at this point. I hadn’t thought about the second location until you pointed it out - that is what I love about the ST community. My current big project is to interface my ST hub with my TV RF controls. I decided to bypass Harmony and make my own ST aware RF controller using an Arduino. Ambitious project but worth it since the Harmony pairing is buggy and doesn’t work with the original Harmony hub.

If I could make one suggestion to increase your HAF, it would be to get one or more AEON button controllers. I bought one thinking I would never use it - and sure enough, I never do, but my wife lives by this little sucker. She is constantly pushing those cute little buttons to make the lights go on and off and she thinks is it nothing short of magic. She hates using the iPhone app because of the lag time and I agree with her but I put up with it. Okay, enough rambling from me - welcome aboard again - great to have you in the community.

(Beth) #15

Lol, I don’t scare easily - he’s cute! :slight_smile:

Everyone’s tips here are priceless as I look for ways to get the family to enjoy all this HA stuff as much as I do. Well, they’ll never come close to geeking out like I do, but I think it’s going well. Slow and steady wins the race!

I actually did buy two of the AEON button controllers and I think they will be great, but I have yet to figure out exactly how to use them. By that I mean, what types of things to implement for each button configuration. Got one for the family room/downstairs and one for our bedroom. I think they will be wonderful little things to have as soon as I program them to my liking.

Loving using the Echo for lights! My only irritation is that so far it only supports actual Hue or GE bulbs and Wemo switches, but not Cree bulbs or other switches (AFAIK). I bought a ton of Crees because I like the light they throw, and I have several plug-in switches and dimmers. So now I’ve been moving things around, using the non-supported stuff as slaves when possible. Kind of a pain moving things around, renaming, etc. But all part of the fun, I guess, and not enough to detract from the fact that I can talk to my house!

I’m jealous of all you super-techy ones who can code and build stuff. I keep hearing about all the cool projects with Arduino, Raspberry Pi, etc. and at this point it’s totally Greek to me. I am challenged enough just wading through the IDE and getting the stuff in there to work right. But I love learning new things, so who knows…

I now have three of the four of us “presence detected”, just waiting for my husband to get home later today to set up his phone for him. Then I’ll look for something cool for each of them that will introduce the wonders of HA. lol

Incidentally, I attempted to set up another location as was mentioned in other threads, but I guess I’m not doing it right. Wasn’t someone able to use the train station and/or a point on a highway as a location? I tried to set something up as a test, but it looks like I have to physically be at that location to set it as one of OUR locations. Will keep reading to see what I’m missing.


I’m sure we will see many more Echo integrations over the next few months. Hopefully one from SmartThings as well! :blush: