SmartThings Community

At what point do you throw in the towel?


(Mark) #1

At what point do you throw in the towel? Three years after jumping into SmartThings, I still don’t have a reliable HA solution. Devices stop responding, lights come on or turn off for no apparent reason, sensors report they’ve been opened when they haven’t, and routines fail to fire. Why? I’ve repaired the network over and over again, I’ve added devices to ensure ample z-wave/zigbee coverage, and I’ve replaced devices that seem susceptible to failure. All to no avail. At what point do you just give up and say this solution is fatally flawed and Samsung is incapable of fixing it or doesn’t see adequate ROI to do so? For years we’ve heard about “infrastructure improvements” and “database optimization.” And the solution still doesn’t work reliably. Do the ST/Samsung employees who frequent this forum have some magic elixir that allows their systems to work reliably? Or do they also have family members asking them to just go back to the “old way?” After the last few weeks of inconsistencies and outages, I feel like I’ve pissed away a whole lot of money and, more importantly, time. And now we have the “great platform migration/consolidation” coming. Which given all of the “great things” we’ve been promised in the past, scares the hell out of me and will likely go very, very badly for all of us.

So what are the options? Are there more stable, reasonably affordable solutions out there? Does one exist or am I just an “early” adopter (three years ago) who needs to step back and wait for the market to mature? I don’t want to do it but I feel like it’s time to stop throwing good money after bad and give up on HA and the frustration that comes with being a ST user. Does anyone have a ST setup that works consistently? If so, how did you make that happen? Has anyone given up on ST and moved on? If so, to what platform? Are you happy with it?

I’m frustrated beyond belief and any suggestions are appreciated.


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #2

Mine works great. Certainly not perfectly, and I am affected when there is a major SmartThings Cloud outage or a bad App update, but otherwise… pretty darn reliable.

But… I am still running on a Hub V1, which means I’m not affected by firmware updates and perhaps quirks and bugs in Hub V2 and/or certain iterations of its firmware.

Suggestions?

  1. Determine where your problems lie. Disable Device Health, as I still believe it is more likely to mark something offline that is still healthy.

  2. Determine if you have network mesh issues. Eliminate problem nodes from the network. Run entirely on Z-Wave or entirely on ZigBee for a while (and if you are already on just one, then try the other protocol … Z-Wave is unaffected by 2.4ghz interference and gives a tiny bit more information in the Hub Event log when running a repair.

  3. Replace batteries more often, with good batteries. Add powered Things (outlets, generally) of both ZigBee and/or Z-Wave as necessary to ensure you have a strong mesh. Check your ZigBee channel vs. your WiFi channel.

  4. Use Smart Lighting as much as possible and be sure you are using Local DTHs. Be able to recognize when a problem is local vs. cloud related.

  5. Don’t use presence sensing (neither fob, nor phone). It’s far too unreliable. – Yes… you can always add this variable in once everything else is stable.

  6. Learn to read Live Logging. Be willing to uninstall all SmartApps to ensure there’s nothing rogue running.

In other words… Take the time to patiently “know your home”.

There are a limited number of issues that SmartThings has. If you have multiple ones, seek to eliminate them one at a time. If a problem cannot be eliminated (e.g., you can’t get ZigBee to work because you have a home with bad RF noise?), then either find a workaround (Z-Wave), or leave SmartThings.

But… If you’ve confirmed, hypothetically, that ZigBee is the problem, then that problem will likely still exist with Wink, Iris, etc… Similarly with Z-Wave and Vera, … etc…


(Brent ) #3

Sounds like you have some gremlins. My experience has been similar to @tgauchat Most of my ST problems have been self induced problems or something changing locally (i.e Neighbors AP etc) FYI You can search find plenty of other threads that cover the same general topics. You will be able to find the answers your looking for there. But it you are interested in other platform you can find more detail there.


(sidjohn1) #4

(Dan P Parker) #5

Commander Taggart frowns upon that question.


#6

ST is unreliable for sure but seeing the recent announcement from Samsung, it seems they are taking it more seriously now.


(Kirk Hilzinger) #7

Mine works great. The only thing that I ever have problems with is if the Internet goes down or ST’s cloud has problems. But, I did careful planning.

Zigbee used to be a bear for me until I got more Zigbee devices so the mesh worked. Ever since I converted all my ceiling fans to the Hampton Bay Zigbee modules, that seems to have fixed the problem.

With the exception of 3 lights, I am using smart switches and dimmers over smart bulbs.

I use the stock Smart Lighting App where possible so I get local processing.

I read and research before I buy.

I don’t use Zigbee for long distance. The outer devices are Z-Wave.

I moved my IOT to its own VLAN and subnet and for the IOT devices using wireless, they are on their own SSID.


(C L Sanchez 1877) #8

I am going to sound like a broken record now, especially for a new guy, but here I go again. I have been playing with Home Automation for 20 years now, since the X-10 days back in the 90’s. ST has its issues but it is by far the best “all around” product I have gotten my hands on today.

It is most similar to Vera, which I just took offline last December. Vera lacked compatibility with other platforms and the user community was not even close to helpful as this one is. Vera was local, which was great and reliable…but also greatly limited what you could do.

ST has relatively endless options of possibilities, at the cost that everything has to run in the cloud, and this presents reliability issues.

As far as your specific system, giving specifically the examples you have provided, I agree with others in that you have some Gremlins in your program. I do to. Because ST allows for extensive options and multiple ways to achieve those options, its very easy to have routines work over each other. For example, I came home today (Sunday), after 5:30…so ST welcomed me home and turned on all the house lights…while my 3 year old was FINALLY taking his nap. My wife was pissed and screaming at me while I shuffled through an endless list of scenes and SmartLight entries to find out why it happened. I found the gremlin, but damage was done.

I am now finally looking to consolidate my programming into WebCore. Should have done it sooner, but instant gratification was stopping me.

If you are looking for a system that “Just Works”…it does not exist. Sorry, at least not in the DIY area. You could go Homeseer, but be prepared to roll up your sleeves and do a lot of programing. You could go professional. Professional will work, but you will pay for it and you will find it to not be very flexible. Change your mind a few weeks later on something, it will cost you. Want the latest smart light or garage door or blender…$$$.

So far, I have played with IBM Home Automation (90’s X-10), various insteon interfaces, Indigo, Homeseer, Vera and now SmartThings. All of them have their issues.

So when do you quit? I don’t, I enjoy doing it. If I did not enjoy it, my alarm company can come set everything up for me at about $80 per device plus $75 per hour. Alarm companies and cable companies are cashing in on this too. I can’t afford what I want professionally.

I will also add that ST has added a new problem I never ran into before. Because with ST, I have mixed protocols, I do have some mesh reliability issues I need resolve on Zigbee. I know the solution, but my budget says I need to wait before I buy more devices. But in February, I plan to add a presence sensor for the Mother-In-Law/Warden’s Supervisor as well as 3 Zigbee appliance plugs to build a mini-network. However, as stated above, mesh reliability issues are not a Samsung problem, they are a protocol problem and will go with to your next platform.

Stick in and maybe we can help each other out, but as stated above, depending on how much ‘Things’ you have built into your system, you may have to deconstruct a little to get there.


(Glen King) #9

Markplewis, you should throw in the towel right now. It’s obvious.

My system is great. An occasional issue pops up, but those issues are rare…, but that is my experience, not yours. So based on your clear frustration as expressed in your post, you obviously should abandon SmartThings right now.


(Benji) #10

Usually when it’s stiff and scratchy and has lost its softness. At that point I just throw in the towel (to the bin) and order some more, ideally ones that won’t leave lint everywhere before they’ve been washed a few times, that’s really annoying.

Still, can’t beat the softness of a brand new towel!


#11

This has been discussed many times in the forums. I don’t want to repeat myself too much, so I will say that the first thing is to be honest with yourself about what your own priorities are. Every system has pluses and minuses.

SmartThings’ biggest minus is instability – – they keep changing things, and when they change them, sometimes they break. There may be workarounds, there may be simple fixes, the glitches may be minor – –but they do keep happening. And it’s not because of your configuration or the strength of your mesh or anything else within a customer’s control. Stuff which works on Monday will stop working on Tuesday, because the SmartThings’ design philosophy continues to be “run fast and break things.” They’re always sincerely sorry and they always try to get them fixed again as soon as possible, but it’s just the way they operate.

The flipside of that is that it’s one of the most exciting systems in the very low cost range, it’s always adding new features and new capabilities, and at least at the present it’s very open to allowing customers to add new features as well. WebCore is the perfect example. It is an amazing project and adds a ton of functionality.

But if the time has come when you want to trade that kind of versatility for a more stable system, there are certainly alternatives. There aren’t any low cost alternatives that have the same variety of devices and rules options for nonprogrammers that SmartThings has. But if you just want a system where the lights come on at sunset every night and a smart door lock and a few motion sensors, there are definitely options.

If you’re OK with an extremely limited set of Devices to choose from and single level if this then that rules, I personally like and use HomeKit. When used with Lutron switches, the Philips Hue bridge including sensors, and a couple of other brands, it’s easy, reliable, low maintenance, and essentially a “set and forget” system.

If you want to be able to use your existing Z wave and zigbee Devices, there are still some options, but again, simple rules, and many may limit you to only 40 total devices or so.

The following thread is old but most of it still applies:

Samsung is planning to move us to an entirely new architecture sometime this year. While the end result may be great, it’s hard to imagine that the transition period will provide more stability than the current system.

Different systems are going to work for different people. Your own household’s tolerance for unpredictability Will depend on many different things. How many people are in the household? How often are they home? How burdensome is it if the home automation doesn’t work on any given day? What use cases are you trying to accomplish and why? How much money are you willing to spend? How important is it to you to protect the investment you have already made?

There’s no one right answer. There are a dozen different right answers, that fit a dozen different preference profiles. :woman_mechanic:t2::man_technologist:t5::man_farmer::female_detective:️:man_cook:t4::man_singer:t3::man_teacher:t2:

So when do you throw in the towel? That answer is going to be different for different people as well.

You may also find that you only want to move some use cases to a different system and keep SmartThings for use cases where reliability is less important. If you already have Lutron Caseta switches and the Phillips hue bridge, and you already use an iPhone, you could move all of your time-based and many of your sensor-based basic lighting scenarios over to HomeKit without adding any new equipment at all, and greatly improve the reliability of those use cases. And then just ride out the transition and see if the new platform is indeed any more reliable.

Not an easy question, and there are no easy answers. But there are enough choices out there now that you should be able to find some answer that will work for your household as long as you can be honest about your own preferences.

My own smart house is pretty dumb right now, which is not what I would’ve thought I wanted. But it works reliably, it meets my needs, and I stay within my budget. Choice is good. :sunglasses:


#12

I have said it before I was on Vera (Mi Casa Verde) for a long time. Comparatively, ST is better in every way. Yes things stop working and there are issues, but this is HA. It has so many variables and things that have to be compatible.

It reminds me of Microsoft in the 80s-90s and their adopting of 3rd party software vs Apple that was closed (and still is). You can look no further than how many PC games there were vs Mac Games. And there were tons of DLL errors and incompatibilies too. But in the end prior to Linux, if you wanted to have options you stuck with Microsoft and enjoyed third party support.


(C L Sanchez 1877) #13

This was exactly what I tried to do when I left Vera and looked for another alternative. I could not get HomeKit to function reliably, despite having the latest AppleTV and upgrading my wifi. The routines within Phillip Hue are simple but they do work without fail. But as soon as you want to do something as complex as, say, dim my exterior lights at night, but then turn them on bright at motion…now your stuck - choices are stay on full bright or turn completely off. This was exactly the puzzle that sent me to SmartThings.

Like @JDRoberts says


(Eric) #14

I’ll have to say, I’ve considered it recently. The last 30 days of ST has been my worst 30 days of ST. Several devices going offline at the same time. Unplanned firmware update (which also causes batteries to drain planned or not). Now my hub has gone offline 2 times in the last 18 hours. Both requiring a reboot. (ticket submitted)

It it probably not worth it to move to another platform. It is more a decision of do I quit HA.


(Steve White) #15

I agree that 2018 has not been off to a good start. But I cannot help but remember my early days with ST. Migrating away from Iris in February - March 2016 was awful. There were so many backend problems I remember going weeks without being able to reliably add devices to a room. Most devices would only pair as a Thing. Cloud automations for stairway lighting running so slow that motion lights wouldn’t turn on until someone had already climbed two flights of stairs. From my perspective, this year hadn’t been great, but it’s not nearly as bad as 2 years ago.


(Eric) #16

I agree that the past has not been great and my view of 2018 issues is a it weighted by the number of devices I have not (300+) versus the number I had back then…


(Steve White) #17

Spot on. A high number of devices does amplify even the smallest issue. With north of 350 devices, I even something trivial like ST battery management is becoming problematic.


(Glen King) #18

If ST was so problematic, what drove your move away from Iris?
Why did you continue to pursue ST?

(I can guess the answers, but it’s good to hear it out loud.)


(Ron Talley) #19

^This

I have my share of problems and it seems like I am never done tinkering. The problem is, if I wanted a more serious setup, it would cost me WAY more than the $75 I paid for the ST Hub.

I am constantly tweaking because the majority of the rules I use are within webCoRE. I have moved from simple rules to more complex rules which in turn has more chances of something going wrong.

However, with more than 250 devices, I can say that I would NOT and I repeat ABSOLUTELY NOT, migrate to another platform just because stuff breaks every once in a while.

My setup is super super super sweet and I have to take responsiblity for 90% of my issues as they have been self inflicted.

I just don’t want to turn off a light after no motion is detected for x amount of minutes but:
I want to turn off the light if the room is not occupied or some switch is not on or no one is home and then turn it on at different levels at different times of the day oh and yes, what about different modes and then I want it to text me and then monitor the energy usage oh and what about…

All this because someone left the light on…

I am sure if I went back to just using simple rules for simple task then my setup would be much simpler to maintain. However, I do consider myself an expert now and my HA speaks to this. There is redundancy built throughout and stuff will still work manually if need be.

So, throw in the towel? Hell No! Until it just breaks outright, I am going to keep on rolling with my $75 purchase that has my home setup like I really have money.:rofl:


#20

You bring up a very good point. I did find with HomeKit that one brand of pocketsockets just wouldn’t stay connected at all, so I returned those. The Lutron Caseta switches, on the other hand, were solid from the beginning. Based on Amazon reviews, my experiences were typical with both. :sunglasses:

For many people, although not all, there’s a difference between a system that just doesn’t work well from the beginning and a system which takes you on a roller coaster ride where it will work well for a while and then, without the customer changing anything at all, it stops working well. There may be a workaround, there may not, but I think for many people this is the most frustrating kind of reliability issue. :scream:

On the other hand, there are other people who just focus on the highs and aren’t as bothered by inconsistency as much as they are by not being able to do something in the first place!

So people do have different kinds of frustration as well as somewhat different experiences. Again, it’s just a matter of finding a system that will best meet your own needs and preferences, there’s no one best answer right now. There is customer movement in all directions for pretty much every low-cost system. :sunglasses: