Help! info overload!


Wow, last week the most I’d really heard about is smart thermostats… Now I’m here, and somewhat buried in devices! Id love it if someone could confirm a few things. I have a vague idea of what I need, so some confirmation would be nice! This is all for a vacation home so I don’t want to go crazy. Though its always tempting!

  1. I figure I’d get the SmartThings Smart Home Starter Kit. The only question I have on that, is are all the sensors battery powered? I’m not planning on running new wires anywhere.

  2. Moisture/leak sensors are what lead me here, I was looking at Insteon ones, because the battery is about 10 years. Are the SmartThings ones similar? I’m looking at getting about 6 of them.

  3. I’m looking at getting one of the Kwikset Locks Deadbolts. I see its offered as both Zwave or Zigbee. I believe smartThings is compatible with both? Is there any preference? I notice online at least that the Zwave ones are about $70 cheaper then the Zigbee, and that the SmartThings shop seems to be selling the Zwave ones.

  4. I just hear about the Ring Doorbell which looks quite cool, but it doesn’t seem to be supported by SmartThings. Is there any kind of doorbell/video recorder that is?

  5. There is an existing home alarm in the house. Is there a SmartThings alarm which I can just replace the existing unit with? The existing one has dial out.

  6. Finally (I hope!) Is there a small camera or two that I can use, that will either do alerts and record, and is pan/tilt compatible?

I’m replacing pool pumps in the house and sticking in an EasytouchPentair system, though I dont think I particularly need that integrated with this. The only other thing that would be nice is if my (soon to be installed) Nest thermostats also worked with it, but I gather thats a little harder to set up.

Like I said, this is all VERY new to me at the moment so if there is anything else thats interesting that people think is handy for this kind of set up, I’d love to hear about it. How does range on these little devices work? I’m looking at putting the hub upstairs, are things like leak sensors going to have the power to reach from every little crevice in the house?

Just double checking, there’s no monthly fee for this?

Does the hub use much data on its own for updates etc? I’m setting up cheap 1gb a month internet for when I’m not there.

Many thanks for any tips, tricks and ideas, I’m looking forward to this!

(Patrick Stuart [@pstuart]) #2
  1. All sensors are wireless, battery powered.

  2. Battery on moisture sensor is rated at about 3-5 years, but your mileage may vary. I have 14 throughout my house and all are report their battery life, so you won’t be caught off guard, they are slowly draining and on pace for 3+ years.

  3. ST is currently only compatible with zwave locks, however, someone might be able to generate a zigbee devicetype, for now, if you need a lock, go with the zwave ones.

  4. ST doesn’t do video, so any doorbell / doorbot, camera will need to function outside of ST.

  5. I wouldn’t use ST for security, but I would look at ways to bridge those sensors into ST. Couple options exist depending on the type of security system. This is my opinion. ST requires an active internet connection to function.

  6. Again, ST doesn’t have video capabilities, yet. I would recommend Dropcam, I have 3. I also have panasonic cameras and the need to have a NVR sucks vs Dropcam’s streaming up to the cloud.

Just ask questions, the community will help.

Pool pumps not easy, but could via some relays and wiring up, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

No monthly fees.

Nest, just use the community solutions, most work well. Lots to choose from. I have one, others have one…

Hub doesn’t use much data to check in, but it will increase as all device / radio traffic has to route to the cloud and back. So more devices = more data. However, the packets are tiny.

(Tim Slagle) #3

Welcome to the forums @hotjambalay! Always love seeing new people around here!

All of Pat’s advice and info is dead on :slight_smile: Just wanted to welcome you to the forums!

(Fast, Good, Cheap...pick two.) #4

Go with Ecobee3 for your thermostat. Don’t get caught up in the “everyone has one so therefore it must be the best”.

No offense meant to anyone…

Ecobee invented the smart thermostat. With the Ecobee3 you can add an amazing number of remote sensors that currently sense temperature, motion (and will sense humidity with future firmware update).

As with anything…doing your homework on features benefits / reliability will pay off :wink:

P.S. Just look at the rating on Amazon and read the user reviews.


Thanks for all the help! Zwave lock it is!

Ecobee3 looks interesting, especially since it has a second sensor, thats actually very useful to me.

To be honest, I didn’t think Nest was the best because everyone has one, my reasons were more shallow. It looks damn awesome!

I have 3 hvac units in the home so would need 3 Ecobee3’s. Because they work with ST does that mean I could control them all, individually via the ST app?

(Patrick Stuart [@pstuart]) #6

Yes, individual control via devicetiles or hello home actions. Could even write your own smartapp to control them however you want without interaction.

Ecobee’s are great. Nest was my go to, and if you think of the dropcam, the integration between them is pretty cool.

There are some other t-stat’s that might work as well down the road and not at the ecobee / nest pricepoint. So if you can wait a bit, you might find some cool looking stuff that might integrate with ST. It’s a brave new world when it comes to HVAC.


When you say if I can wait a bit, 2 weeks is my timeframe, so it looks like Ecobee3. I’m quite upset about the Nest, but that second sensor really is key.

With regards to video, on SmartThings list of compatible products the show dropcam, its a bit cheeky of them to list it, if it doesn’t tie into their hub! The only thing that puts me off a bit is that those dropcams are expensive! I was previously looking at a foscam camera that pans and tilts at literally a quarter of the price


You’ve gotten excellent advice so far. A couple of additional thoughts:

  1. the state of DIY home automation in the US and Europe right now is that nothing is really plug and play except zigbee light bulbs like Philips Hue. And most of the control apps suck once you’ve got more than 5 or 6 devices. There are some amazing full featured systems out there, but they cost $15,000 -$40,000 plus ongoing maintenance fees. Then there are all the DIY systems under $3,000, and they’re all pretty cool, and they all have issues of one kind or another. And they’re all going to be more work than you expect to keep running.

  2. my personal guess, and it’s just a guess, is that by summer 2016 there will be several reliable, robust, plug and play options available with some voice control. Apple’s HomeKit/Insteon will be one. I fully expect Samsung/SmartThings to be another, but not with their current generation hub. So I personally am putting off my big home automation projects until then, and meanwhile just automating some specific convenience cases where I get immediate value, but if things stop working for a week or so I always have a plan B available.

  3. wherever you plan to end up, start small. Two or three devices at most. Get everything working well and learn your way around the system before plunging in.

  4. only buy returnable devices. Just sayin’ … :wink:

  5. if you have never worked with mesh protocol communications before (zigbee and zwave.), I can tell you right now it is not going to work the way years of using
    WiFi has accustomed you to thinking networked devices work. (Which is why Apple’s HomeKit isn’t going to use these protocols, but will instead use WiFi and Bluetooth. The HomeKit devices will be individually more expensive in terms of both dollars and energy draw. But a lot fewer consumer surprises in some ways.) We can go into more detail on that if you like, but that’s the top level. My background is in network engineering, and I would guess about half my posts on these boards boil down to: “Yeah, that’s the way mesh works.”

If you’re looking at any of the current top contenders (Vera, insteon, Fibaro, staples connect, Iris, Homeseer, wink, Smartthings) with one exception (WeMo) they all use mesh protocols because of cost savings. So this isn’t a ST issue itself, but more a state of the industry issue. But I do expect to see some shift in this over the next year.

  1. you asked about range. One of the things that makes mesh solutions cheaper is that generally any plugged in device (but not battery operated ones) can act as a repeater for the network. So things like light switches and wall receptacles do their own job and help pass along messages for other devices. Even some light bulbs. So you can turn corners and get around obstacles by passing communications in a different direction without having to buy devices that only act as repeaters, as you typically do in wifi networks. Adding another $15 light bulb might get your signal down the stairs. So the range of any one device isn’t great,but with mesh, usually the more devices you add the stronger the mesh gets. (If you add only battery powered devices you have a problem, though.) again, we can go into more detail on all that if you like, but in general range problems can be solved in a smartthings installation, although it may take some trial and error. (Buy returnable devices. :wink: ).

  2. local vs cloud. Some DIY home automation systems rely on cloud processing. This includes the current generation of SmartThings. This introduces the possibility of lag or unreliability, and it means if the Internet goes down, nothing works. (Personally, I don’t use cloud based systems for any emergency monitoring for serious situations. So I have a different system for security. But that’s a personal choice, different people have different priorities.) but it also means the local controller is probably cheaper, since the complex processing is being done elsewhere. ST has announced that they are moving to much more local processing in the next generation of their hub–but we haven’t seen any pricing for that yet, either. Staples Connect, whose target market is small businesses, made reliability their top priority for their system, but they got that reliability in part by stripping out a lot of flexibility compared to ST or Iris. Staples has very few devices, no geofencing, no way to add custom code. Limited scheduling options. So it’s local processing but with a limited feature set.

Anyway, the point is just to be aware going in whether the system you selected relies on cloud processing, and what that might mean.

SmartThings has a great vision, great staff, and an amazing and creative customer community. But your satisfaction level will likely be directly related to your expectations coming in. And I think it’s important to know that this is a market that Is changing very rapidly, and will likely see some major upheaval over the next year as new competitors come into the space.


(Patrick Stuart [@pstuart]) #9

Dropcams don’t integrate video with st but do work for image capture. So thus the difference.

The killer features of dropcam is the wide angle lense, audio and video recording and annual or monthly cloud recording fees vs a local NVR.

I have both local and cloud based. But are pluses and minuses but the dropcams were just easy to hook up and just work. As long as you have some spare bandwidth to stream up to the cloud.


wow, a lot to think about there, thanks for all that. Makes me tempted to wait for apple…

I’ve now moved over to the Schlage connect locks… A lot of articles talk about a bridge to the home hub, do I need one to use the schlage?


As long as it’s a zwave model, SmartThings can talk directly to the Schlage lock, as can other zwave controllers.

That said, SmartThings does not support all of the features of this lock. It can lock and unlock remotely, no problem. When it comes to managing individual pin codes, there are some community-created device handlers that help with that, but I believe still don’t support all the manufacturer-built features. I know someone was saying they couldn’t find a way to set different time limits for different pin codes remotely. See the little “I” pop up on the official list:

So it all depends on exactly how you want to use it. But you shouldn’t need a separate bridge if you have SmartThings, SmartThings itself is a zwave controller so acts as its own bridge in this case.

(Ron S) #12

Ecobee3: The biggest benefit after nearly a month of use (90s here in Jersey. No spring this year) is that I can use the remote sensors. I have 5 of those in every room. The thermostat itself is a sensor too but it’s located in the second floor hallway right next to the blower (hope that’s what it is called) and so the comfort temp. Is off and doesn’t actually reflect what you want the set point to be. The first floor is always comfy but the second floor gets really hot. So, basically I ignore the thermostat main sensor and just go by the remote sensors in the three second floor bedrooms when we are back home from work, at home and only use the sensor in bedroom when we go to sleep. This has been working pretty well for us.

PS: you can set the comfort temp. based on any of the sensors in the standard Away, Home or Sleep modes. You can create any new comfort setting and select any sensors for those. I don’t use the occupancy stuff but use the smart home/away which is not perfect but works really well.

More experiences at

There are some gotcha’s but overall it is the best. I have not integrated it with ST.


thanks for that JDRoberts, that is rather annoying, but not a total loss. I looked at the kwikset one too and it seems to have the same message “custom keycodes not yet supported”

I guess they’re both basically the same lock so its not too surprising, a little annoying though.

Ron S -Thanks, thats exactly the same reason I’m looking at getting the EcoBee 3 over the Nest. My home is in Vegas and it has 3 HVAC units. An upstairs one which is rarely used and two downstairs ones. The thermostat that controls my bedroom is strangely in the hallway as is the hallway thermostat. It basically means that if I don’t keep the AC going at night in the hallway my ‘bedroom’ thermostat thinks its really hot, so freezes me until I wake up. Really stupid, means I have to run 2 hvac units to get the right balance!

You mentioned you have 5 sensors, I take it that means the unit averages the temperature between them?

Taking on board some of the info here I’m modifying my shopping list now.

ST hub only
Schlage lock
2 ecobee3
2 leak sensors.
Maybe a dropcam

JDR the caution is noted, I have zero experience with this, so slowly slowly!


That looks like a good start!

If you have a good use for it, I would consider adding a $20 open/close contact sensor (Peq brand sold at Best Buy to get the $20 price).

The reason is these are super easy to test and install and can give you functionality you didn’t have before home automation, a good reminder of why you’re doing all this in the first place. :wink:

For example, we have a guestroom with a window that is often forgotten about. by putting a contact sensor on it, I know whether it is open or closed. So I can make sure it is closed if it’s going to rain. It sounds trivial, but it’s actually one of the more useful things we’ve done. Similarly, we have a closet with a sliding door that has both first aid supplies and cleaning supplies. I really don’t want my dog getting into it. But it’s quite common for people to leave it slightly ajar. Now that I have an open/close sensor on it, I get a notification if it is left open too long. Again, really useful.

And unlike the thermostat, the sensor is one of those things you can both test and demonstrate instantly.

But again, only consider it if you actually have a purpose for it. You don’t need it just as a tester, but if you have a use case, a contact sensor is good for the first phase.

(Fast, Good, Cheap...pick two.) #15

To JD Roberts point about open / close sensors is I use them to “pet proof” my lighting scenarios.


I have a motion sensor in my laundry room / downstairs unfinished basement. This also houses the cat food/water/littler box. I also have amotion sensor for the “keep on” command and the “turn off command”

As you can imagine, with cats being so nocturnal the lights were being triggered all the time as she came through the cat door.

With open/close sensors (only) I can trigger the lights on/off with the (person) door open/close…but sometimes I want to be in that room for extended periods of time with the door closed behind me…which presented a problem.

Using the open / close sensor as the light on trigger and the motion sensor for the light continual and off command I am able to keep my cat from turning on lights in rooms such as this one.

(Keith Croshaw) #16

Most important thing is to start slow. If you try to conquer it all at once you’ll be overwhelmed. I have projects I’ve started in February that still aren’t 100% complete in my eyes.

(Tim Slagle) #17

Yep. One at a time or you’ll go crazy lol


very good tip on that PEQ stuff, their moisture sensors were on sale also for $19.99 at bestbuy vs $49 for the ST ones, so got them with the Ecobee3.

Good tip on going slow. Was just investigating the Eve Irrigation system!

Pretty funny ordering all this, the house doesn’t even have internet even yet!


@hotjambalaya, I am pretty good at getting ahead of myself too. I ordered the Eve and haven’t bought a Hub yet =)


Is the eve shipping already?