Best Practice for new ST setup? (device v controller upgrade)

Hello all - I am new to the smart things game and am looking to get a setup going in two new home builds (so wiring w/ neutral is not an issue) for both myself and a friend.
I have used other DIY solutions in the past (i.e. Insteon and X10) as well as some professionally installed options both at home and at work - for the purposes of this discussion lets assume I’m starting from 0 both with knowledge and equipment.

My question is: with the current state of the ecosystem, is the accepted best practice to upgrade (from a dumb device to a smart device) a controller/parent device (i.e. a switch) or a slave/child device (i.e a bulb)? and why? In other words: would I be better off upgrading a switch or the device the switch controls.
I know there are some situations where it may be valuable to do both - for example lets say i want a smart switch but i want my bulb (a hue for example) to change colours on a certain condition.
Further - I understand Z-Wave plus is the way to go for most controller/parent devices where possible - any truth to that?

If you have any devices you love and can’t wait to shout from the hills about id also love to hear of them so i can contemplate adding those to my setups.


Welcome! I’ve moved this to projects so you can get individualized responses based on your own needs and set up.

I’m afraid I didn’t quite understand what you meant by your “upgrade” question. If you meant what are the current preferences for various devices, that just varies as people have different budgets, household compositions, aesthetic preferences, etc.

The following thread is a good discussion of different device class features and why you might choose one over another:

With regard specifically to colored bulbs and switches, see the following FAQ:

Also, you would probably enjoy looking at the project reports in the community – created wiki. In particular, look at the quick browse lists for “get started”, “whole house”, and “impress your friends.”

As far as protocol, zwave plus is generally a good choice and very popular. Smartthings is a multiprotocol platform, so you can choose each device based on what works best there. For example, inexpensive Zigbee motion sensors tend to be a little quicker then the inexpensive Z wave motion sensors, as well as somewhat smaller and with better battery life, so a lot of people like to mix zigbee sensors with Z wave switches. But some people like to stick with just one protocol. It’s really up to you.

Well, that’s enough for this post. We can get into more details on any specific questions you have. :sunglasses:

One small note: in the SmartThings platform, “parent” and “child” have a very specific meaning which refers to software, not hardware. So that terminology is used a little differently here.

Hey JD - thanks for the quick help and reply - ill certainly take a look at those threads!
Ill edit the original post to clarify, but by upgrade I meant from a dumb device to a smart or manageable device. I assume (perhaps wrongly) that there is some consensus as to the best way to address that relationship in most use cases.

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Thanks for the clarification. Again, I don’t think there’s one “best” way for most things because people just have different needs and preferences. For example, i myself am Quadriparetic (use a wheelchair and have limited hand function) so while as a former engineer I greatly admire some of the multi button devices like this:

I can’t use it myself, and instead rely heavily on voice interaction or touchless switches.

But one of the best things about the SmartThings platform is the variety of devices that it can work with. And the ability for individual customers to create their own custom device type handlers expands that even further.

there are lots of other reasons why people have different preferences as well. Sometimes it’s just aesthetic Preferences, sometimes there’s a particular use case that needs to be met. Sometimes people are looking for a more limited feature set, such as “I need a controller for my 10-year-old’s room that won’t let him turn off the lights in the eight-year-old’s room.” :confounded: As The old saying goes, “your use case is not my use case.” But there will always be lots of community members who are happy to help you brainstorm whatever your own particular challenge is. :sunglasses:

I have one question I would ask myself when looking at a setup for a new build.
If I lost internet (and therefore control of most ‘smart’ devices) what would I do?
I have tried to mitigate this mostly by an extreemly large UPS cluster (I can run most of my house for six hours and my I.T. gear for longer) which also covers my firewall, router, smartthings hub, hue hub, alexa etc. etc.
But… if the smartthings back-end fails or my ISP takes me offline most of my automation would go off-line with the internet failure.
Unlike JD my automations are considered a luxury rather then a necessity.
However… almost eveything I have is still functional without an internet connection.
E.g. I use fibaro relays for some more important lights as they can be wired for manual control and good old fashioned manual switches
Philips Hue bulbs are great and I have quite a lot of them controlled with Philips dimmers (the hub does not need internet to function like this - only to be controlled by the smartthings hub)
I have a VeraPlus controller to control lights & monitors in my office as this hub requires no internet connection to function and as I run my business from home and these are essentail for me to control my servers (which have a second business internet connection with a 4 hour fix guarantee)
So you see… everyone has different needs/wants for their installation and there are many discussions about smart bulbs vs smart switches
One point I would make, and I’m sure most people (especially JD) would agree with me, do NOT use smartthings for anything essential i.e life saving/dependant - I would also never use it for security on it’s own - Remember… if you loose the internet you loose control!
Having said all that, I still think smartthings is the best economical DIY controller currently available.



Very good points. :sunglasses: And again, different people have different needs and interests. Projects like askAlexa and EchoSistant are really amazing and can’t be done on most other platforms. But there’s no question that SmartThings is a high maintenance system right now with no guarantee that something that is working on Monday will continue working on Tuesday. ( and not necessarily just because the Internet went out. It could just be a platform glitch.) And that has to be a factor you take into account every time you decide to build a new automation on the platform.

I’ve gone a somewhat crude route to ensure connectivity: My primary internet connection is via ADSL (don’t know if you guys in the States still remember those). Although slow compared to fibre (which I’ll hopefully get within the next few months), it is extremely reliable and I am always never without internet. The problem is that when it does go out (once every two to three years), it usually takes more than a week for the semi-government service provider to attend to the problem. To overcome the issue, I’ve set up an LTE router as a backup. (I have a pre-paid sim in the LTE router, which I load with 20Gb of data which is valid for a year.) The ADSL and LTE routers are set up identically, with the same IP’s; port forwarding etc. Both act as DHCP servers for my network. The idea is that in the event of the primary router or the internet connection going down, I’m able to immediately switch to a backup router/internet provider by simply turning off the primary router and the secondary one on.
To accomplish that when I’m away from home, I connected each router to the mains via one of these switches : These are remote switches controlled via text messages. (I have about 8 of them which I use to control devices both at home and at my holiday home which is located 500 miles from my home. They are extremely reliable and have never failed me once. My ST Hub is also connected to such a switch, in case I have to reboot it when I’m away from home.)
So if my internet goes down or router becomes faulty, I remotely turn off the faulty one and turn the other one on.
Once I understand webCoRE better, I may even set up a piston to automatically switch routers if the hub goes offline for more than say 30 minutes. If webCoRE will eventuality be able to determine when the Hub goes offline (don’t think it currently can), one would actually need a very simple piston - if hub goes offline and stays offline for more than 30 minutes, then send an SMS to turn off the primary router , and another to the secondary router, turning it on.

I’m in the UK too
I’d be interested which modem/sim combination you use
I’m always looking to add more redundancy
I would probably use my VeraPlus to do the autoswitching
(VeraPlus works without internet and is on my UPS cluster)

I’m in South Africa, so my sim details will unfortunately not help you. I’m using a D-Link DWR-921 router which supports all the usual functions like port forwarding ; ddns service; IP reservation according to mac address etc. The only drawback I have found is that it only allows one to forward a maximum of 16 ports and with 11 security cameras, that becomes a problem. It also supports “fall back” to automatically switch to LTE if ADSL goes down, but I decided not to use it - rather use a separate ADSL router with the extra redundancy 2 separate routers provide.)

(You may be surprised to learn that my experience is that we have far more options when it comes to gsm data (especially pre-paid) than what you guys have in the UK and USA. I’m always astonished how limited your options are when it comes to pre-paid data when holidaying in the UK or USA. In SA, it is simply a matter of buying a sim (in many instances the sim cards are free) and you’re set. Pre-paid data can be purchased online according to your needs and depending on the service provider, will either expire after a month or a year.)

Sorry I had the idea you were in the UK for some reason.
Yes most of our data sim cards expire after 1 month which is why I was interested in yours I thought you had found something I missed :slight_smile: