Building Out My Smart Home - Any Insight Appreciated

Right now. Lifx has a19 and br30 bulbs on sale on their site. RGB WiFi. Br30 are rated for outdoors. 1100 lumens. Use code “LIGHTMEUP” at check out. Buy one get one free. Normally $59.99 each. That’s a steal. Promo ends tonight. 4/30

Where are you located? UK? Makes a huge difference as to which devices are likely to be available to you.

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The promo does not apply to the BR30 :slight_smile:

@marktheknife We’re located in Southwestern PA. I’m uploading a snip of my Excel spreadsheet of options that I’ve (unless otherwise persuaded due to price or quality) narrowed it down to. As you’ll see (hopefully it’s not too small to read), I still have quite a number of blanks to fill… been going back and forth on posts here as well as ST’s site and other sources to help dial down what we’ll goo with. Definitely appreciate the insight given so far.

For contact and motion sensors, many people are happy with iris branded sensors. They’ve certainly worked well for me. Especially if you can get them on sale, the price point is great, imo.

There are a few different generations of those iris sensors though, make sure you get the ones that will work with ST right out the box. That’s model 3320-L for the contact sensor and 3326-L for the motion sensor.

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(I’ve moved this to projects so you can get individualized responses based on your own needs and preferences.)

First things first:

When people are considering whole house home automation, they are generally interested in three things:



And Versatility , that is the types of different devices that can be supported and the complexity of the rules you can create.

In high-end systems such as Crestron or control4 you can get reliability and flexibility, but the cost is often as high as 10% of the value of the home, plus an annual fee.

If you make low-cost a priority, that is you are looking to do the whole house for less than $5000, unfortunately you will often have to give up either some reliability or some versatility.

Some systems in the lower cost price range will be very reliable, but they have a much smaller selection of potential devices and while you could set up a rule like “turn on the entry lights when I get home between sunset and sunrise,” you can’t set up more complicated rules like “turn on the Entry lights when I get home between sunset and sunrise unless Michael is already home and is watching a movie.”

Systems which emphasize reliability typically have an MFOP (maintenance free operating period) of at least six months and more commonly 12.

Systems which emphasize Versatility have introduced more complexity and consequently may be more vulnerable to glitches. SmartThings Falls into this group.

SmartThings, at least with the classic app, has amazing versatility because customers can write their own device type handlers, which significantly increases the number of devices that can be used. And they can write their own code (or use code written by other customers) which allows for amazing complexity in rules, but again can introduce vulnerabilities.

For the last 18 months, smartthings has had a platform outage at least once a month every month except, I think January 2017. And in some months more than one. There are also frequent small glitches which can result in a particular device or device class not working when it did previously. Or a particular type of code.

In my own case, since September 2015, my system has had an MFOP of about 10 days.

You can read more about this issue in the following thread ( this is a clickable link)

There are many people who are very happy with smartthings because of the price and the exceptional versatility. they are usually people who like to tinker, who are OK with a system which requires some maintenance every two or three weeks, or which goes out unexpectedly. You occasionally see comments in the forum like “first world problems“ or “after all, how much trouble is it to get up and go over and turn on the switch?“

Then there are people like me. I’m quadriparetic (use a wheelchair with limited use of my hands). After having smartthings for over a year I realized that while I very much appreciated both the price and the versatility, I needed to make reliability a higher priority for my own home system. So I switched all of my critical use cases to something else.

I still use smartthings for convenience stuff like “send me a phone notification if the guestroom window is left open, rain is expected, and the guest is away from the house” because it does that better than anything else in that price range. But I don’t use it for simple things like “turn on the lights in the entry if I get home after sunset.”

Different households will have different requirements in this regard. Some will be willing to pay a much higher price than I can afford. Others will really want the versatility and be willing to put up with the occasional glitches. Choice is good. :sunglasses:

But before we start getting into the details of individual device features, it’s really important to be honest with yourself about your own household requirements with regards to cost, reliability, and versatility.

You may well have already done that, I just wanted to be sure. The marketing for all the systems make them look like they’re essentially interchangeable in these regards, but the fact is, they just aren’t.


Anyone have familiarity with the EcoLink brand sensors - EcoLink Z-Wave Motion Sensor on Amazon? Wondering how they compare to the Iris… Z-Wave vs Zigbee and integration with SmartThings.

Ecolink is a good budget brand. In general, low cost zigbee motion sensors are more responsive than low cost zwave ones. You can find much discussion of this in the forums. It won’t matter for many applications, but it does if you are looking for something to have lights turn on as someone walks into a room. More discussion of this issue specific to ecolink in the following FAQ:

If you haven’t yet, you might take a look at the device class features FAQ, there’s a lot of information there on how one brand might vary from another. :sunglasses:

@JDRoberts I’d seen your name come up in many of the threads I looked at. You’re a wealth of knowledge.

If you were planning a home that is going to be rented out (vacation area) but you were kitting out with all the smart devices (and could create a detailed guide to reconnecting devices, setup, etc. for the property management team to go off of), what would your recommendations be? I want to keep cost down as much as possible but have quality products I can rely on and interface with the ST hub relatively easily. Would like to provide as many “niceties” in the system (like lights coming on as you enter the home, etc.) but minimize the upkeep/fiddling with the system renters and/or property management team would have to do (especially in the event of outages).

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Speaking just for myself, I wouldn’t use the smartthings-based system for a rental. If nothing else, the fact that they push out firmware updates which take the hub off-line and you can neither delay nor refuse these, And that historically this has happened once or twice a month (Separate from the unplanned platform outages), just seem to be inappropriate for a rental system. If nothing else, I’m pretty sure it would kill your reviews. Renters aren’t happy about having to use a Plan B. But obviously that’s your choice.

What’s your goal in automating the rental?

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Be sure everything has a manual control option (ie, use Switches not smart bulbs…) and provide a way to override motion sensors and hard-kill any alarms, etc. too.

Though it doesn’t directly solve the problems I described, I certainly have to self-promote ActionTiles here, as a mounted Tablet at the property, as well as custom securely sharable web-based control Panels will add a lot of simple convenience.

I agree, too high a likelihood of something not working right at some point and you end up with renters that are annoyed at your broken home automation system instead of wowed by it.

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I look at it this way. If you had a voice-activated garage door opener that failed about twice a month, and the resolution was that you had park the Car in the driveway, walk around to the front door, go in the house, use the button on the wall inside the garage, get back in the car And then drive into the garage, you might be willing to do that for your own place.

But would you put it in a rental? Or would you stick to a more reliable, if less cool, garage door opener?

There’s no right or wrong answer, different people make different decisions, and it’s also going to depend on the competition for rentals in that area. I’m just saying I’m pretty sure that the first time it failed, I’m going to get a one star review. And it’s going to make people uncomfortable, because they are going to wonder what else is going to fail in the house.

But again, choice is good.

If I were outfitting a rental, I’d just put in Lutron Caseta switches for lights, Add apple HomeKit for motion sensors and a keypad lock. The guest would not have to install an app on their own phone, which would be important to me as I know there is some understandable resistance to that. High reliability, works even if the Internet goes out, Gives you the wow factor With minimal maintenance requirements. Very easy set up if your property manager needs to replace a particular device. But much lower versatility than some other systems, including smartthings.

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Yeah that’s what I mean. I have figured out how to deal with family members when ST has its hiccups.

I would rather not have to plan how to placate someone that paid to stay in a property I own who is mad for the same reason.

Lutron and apple HomeKit is a good idea from the perspective of reliability. Maximal versatility is less important for a house if it’s primarily a rental, IMO. Especially since it may come at the expense of reliability, as you mentioned.

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If it was me and I was going for the wow factor, I would also add an Amazon echo, which would give you voice control over the lights but not the lock. Which is what I would want for a rental.

Assuming it was legal, I would add a Kuna porch light camera. It doesn’t integrate with anything else right now except echo to turn the porch light on and off, but it would give you a motion sensor light with camera at the front entry way.

And if I wanted to have entry light inside the house come on when someone got home, I would use HomeKit for that and trigger it off the lock unlocking.

This would be super simplistic compared to what you could do with smartthings, but You would get the reliability on the critical use cases. And again, the renters wouldn’t have to have a phone app installed. :sunglasses:

And a nest or ecobee can provide that wow factor for the hvac system. Even without SmartThings integration.

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As Terry mentioned, Actiontiles would be a good way to allow for interaction with a ST-based system, no phone app required.


I definitely like the idea of ActionTiles on a tablet tied to the property. Very much looking to stick with ST for our base as we can handle the tech setup from our end with all the installed devices, then creating everything on the tablet for our guests and having it be something straightforward to use in the home whether it’s us there or it’s a guest would be great. Will ActionTiles allow me to give the guest access to all the smart actions/functionality through the tablet but also an administrator login that I can access or property management team (looking to go w/ highly recommended friends of friends running the team who we’d be able to work with closely) can login to and correct any faults when things go offline, whether due to ST update or just glitches/hiccups in the system?

And yes, agree on the potential for renters to be “peeved” over smart devices not working and causing grief when they want to turn on lights, get in the garage, or have alarms/motions sensors triggering constantly. All for having manual overrides and ability to still use all the lights and other devices in the home despite ST running a system update or an unplanned outage rolling through for hours to days.

Now would you use some smart bulbs that can act as repeaters but not hook them into your system to be triggered by anything other than ST and the actions you set up through the smart switches? Or would you just go with dumb bulbs and the smart switches that are acting as your repeaters through the home? Does building a better mesh through having the devices in place but not necessarily being the sole point of control for action/inaction make the most sense?

ActionTiles is “only” for view and control … not for “configuration”. Using ActionTiles you can delegate access securely just by building distinct Panels and sharing the more powerful ones or limited ones as desired.

If “things go offline”, there’s nothing that ActionTiles can do to fix it … and, very little that can be done in the SmartThings Apps either, without physical access to the offline Things. Sometimes you might have to remove and add a Thing from SmartThings completely to fix an offline issue. This cannot be done in ActionTiles.

If such problems are frequent, then, indeed, the recommendations above are wise: Don’t use SmartThings for your use case.

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@tgauchat I follow now (hadn’t gotten my needed dose of morning coffee fully down yet when I wrote that, but have since looked at your site and more of the community forums/threads). Essentially though, ActionTiles is going to be the smart way with ST hub and devices to give control in one easy-to-use tablet app right there at their fingertips in the home and we could set up the login access for ActionTiles to an account we control… they’d still have access to the ones we deem fit and we can then access the other ones (or allow access to those we want through sharing, like our property management team) as needed when we’re there. Am I understanding it correctly?

We’d still be configuring everything in terms of our actions and device networking through ST ourselves… and when the system goes offline for an update or unexpected outage OR should one of the devices fail to respond properly (potentially after an update), we or our PMT would go in to resolve that through ST hub and configuration there - it’d never be something our renters access (nor would I expect or want them to).

We’re located close enough and I plan to provide our PMT with what amounts to a blueprint and full understanding of the ST setup inside the home 1) so they can thoroughly cover the features and integrations with the renters so as to maximize our traffic to it in comparison to other properties in the area & 2) to ensure they are able to go on-site to fix any hiccups quickly and easily… plus be there to mollify any potentially dissatisfied folks and provide peace of mind with customer service.

If we build it out intelligently with Smart switches (yet still able to be used manually like a standard “dumb” switch) rather than Smart bulbs and provide easy access to motion sensors, alarms, and other devices that may throw a more jarring wrench into the mix during an update or outage, we should be in relatively good shape, yes? And if access to ST and the action build-out is readily accessible to our PMT, going in to address any hiccups/issues should be relatively straightforward and keep things operating the smoothest… so I’d hope.