Any way to connect existing appliances such as ceiling fans or AC?

project_getstarted

(Alexandra Gebhardt) #1

Hi,

Does anyone know if it’s possible to connect your existing remote-controlled appliances like a ceiling fan to SmartThings? I’m a total newbie but once I get started with a new technology I like to keep going, lol. I also don’t have an unlimited budget and we recently purchased (before going “smart”) a few items we’d like to get some more use out of.

I came across this product which I don’t think is available yet called the BOND (http://www.bondhome.io) has anyone else checked this out or know of a way to do this? The fan has a remote-control but isn’t designed for a smart system.

Any ideas? Thanks!

Alex


#2

Sure, there are several different ways to do this depending on the specific device and the specific requirements.

Method 1: Control the Power Source

If you think about it, when you plug a regular dumb table lamp into a smart pocket socket, you’ve made an existing device work with your network. The idea is that you have a SmartThings-compatible Device that simply controls power to your previous nonnetworked device and there you are. :sunglasses:

This is the basis for many different setups involving existing non-smart devices.

For example, for fans, you might just replace the existing wall switch with a smart switch. Same fan as always, but now you have network control over when the switch is triggered.

For some equipment, you need to splice a networked control device into the existing wiring in order to get the same effect. This can be an in wall micro or a larger relay. But the idea is the same as when we replace the fan’s wall switch with the smart switch controller. We’re just adding something to the existing setup which lets us control when Power is sent to the existing device. There are many different brands and types of these, they are designed for different loads and wiring. But you just find one that matches the specifications of the device that you want to control. For example, this device could be used even with a 30 amp water heater.

For more about fans, specifically, see the following FAQ:

FAQ: Ceiling Fan and Dimmer light wall mount control compatible with SmartThings and Alexa?

Method 2: replace the remote

Another option is if the existing device has a remote control, particularly an IR remote control, and you can then substitute for the remote with something that you could control from your SmartThings account.

The harmony home hub is a very popular “universal remote” that could work with over 600,000 different devices, everything from television sets to some air conditioners to electric candles. There is an official SmartThings/harmony integration. So you can put these devices on a schedule, trigger them from a motion sensor, have them turn off when you leave home, etc., because SmartThings talks to harmony and harmony substitutes for the device’s original remote.

This method has a limitation that the first method does not, however, because if the control is via IR, the harmony hub has to be line of sight to the device being controlled. But it’s still useful.

The Bond marketing campaign that you linked to (the product is still in pre-release, so there’s no way of knowing what it will actually deliver once it’s available to ship) would fall into this category. But the odds are very high that anything that you could do with that for a device with an IR remote you can already do with the harmony home hub. :sunglasses:

Although the bond’s marking materials claim that it’s the first to combine both an IR remote and an RF remote, it’s not. There are already a couple of competitors on the market.

But again, the basic idea is always the same for this method – – replace the existing remote.

Method 3: Use an actuator

The third method is a little weird, but it works for some situations when nothing else does. There is a South Korean company, Naran, that makes a “robot finger”, the “push Microbot.” This is just a small but powerful actuator that you can attach to an existing device so that the actuator will physically push a button.

People use these for devices that just can’t be made smart in any other way. For example, I have a blender where the start button is very difficult for me to press. So I have a microbot press it for me. Some people have big fancy expensive coffee makers that they just love but that require an initial button push. Again, the microbot can then make that something that you can control from SmartThings.

This method works well, but it’s expensive. $49 for each push microbot plus $89 for the communication Bridge (one Bridge can handle up to 40 microbots). But it will be worth it for some people for some use cases.

More ideas

So those are the three main methods for making existing devices communicate with your SmartThings account: Control the power, replace the remote, or add an actuator.

If you’d like to see examples of what other community members have done, take a look at the project reports section of the quick browse lists in the community – created wiki. There’s a lot of really cool stuff there. :sunglasses:

http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=How_to_Quick_Browse_the_Community-Created_SmartApps_Forum_Section#Quick_Browse_Links_for_Project_Reports.2FQuestions


(Alexandra Gebhardt) #3

Great! Wow, that’s a lot to digest I will look through this and keep you posted. Thank you!


#4

If you give us the brand and model number of the fan, we can tell you how it might be integrated with SmartThings. :sunglasses:

You could also check the Logitech Harmony compatibility database to see if the fan is listed there already:

https://support.myharmony.com/en-us/compatibility

However, for fans specifically most people go with the method where you replace the existing wall switch with a smart fan control device. :sunglasses: