Help me plan the automation for my new home

I’ve been using Smart Things in my condo for the last year. Now, my fiance and I are moving to a new (for us) condo in a 90-year-old building. I’d love feedback and suggestions on how we can plan our new automation scheme. That said, I’m not electrically inclined, so I need some guidance on what to buy or what wiring I need to look for in the home before making the decision to buy a particular smart device.

Current home/background
Currently I have a Yale smart lock and two open-close sensors on my front (and only) door. One of the sensors activates as “closed” when I flip the security bar, and that’s the signal to ST that I’m home for the evening and it can activate the “going to bed” routine and change the system to Armed (Stay). When it gets flipped open in the morning, the system is disabled.

I have smart light bulbs in my kitchen, front hall, LR and BR. The LR and BR lights turn on and off according to a schedule. The kitchen and foyer lights are tied to motion detectors and only go on/off when the motion detector is tripped. My fiance hates the motion detector-light combo. His attitude: I can press a switch and I hate when I leave a room and am coming back in a few minutes and the light is off again. (I think I might get him to change his mind with better motion detector placement and a longer wait with no motion before the lights shut off.)

I have motion detectors and multisensors tied to a safe and another valuable so I know if either of those are disturbed. I also have a water sensor under my bathroom sink, a single Echo, and First Alert Smoke/CO2 detectectors.

New home setup/questions
The new home, which is on the 14th floor, has three doors – front, back and fire escape. We’ll have Yale locks + open/close sensors on both the front and back door, and an open/close sensor on the fire escape door.

Window treatments: The fiance loves the idea of having automated window treatments – we’ll probably be going for solar shades, which are raised and lowered using a chain loop. Every time I look at the automated shade modules, It seems as if the motor and controller(?) are separate pieces. Do I need a pair for every shade, or does one controller work with multiple motors? How can I figure out which pairs work together and meet our needs?

Lighting: I currently have dumb “paddle” light switches. The ones that have smart bulbs are always in the on position, and ST controls the on/off function. The downside is that if someone flips the switch, things stop working. I haven’t made the jump to smart switches because I wasn’t comfortable installing them myself and knew we’d be moving soon. That said, logically it seems as if smart switches are less expensive than smart bulbs in the long run.

Several questions:

  1. Are there smart push-button-type switches where I can turn lights on via ST and off via the switch button without screwing up the entire setup?
  2. And if there are, does my choice of switch depend on how many wires are in the switch box?
  3. Does my choice of switch also depend on whether there’s one switch or two that controls the same set of lights?
  4. Lastly, does my choice of switch depend on whether we want to use compact fluorescent, LED or incandescent lights?

While the fiance says he doesn’t want motion-sensing lights, I do think he’ll appreciate the idea of lighting schemes for different moods. Would that influence how my choice of light switches or how I set up my smart lighting system?

Temperature: Because of the age of the building, we have radiator heat that I believe is controlled manually by knobs. The house has been retrofitted with a SpacePak central air conditioner. I know Nest gets a lot of love. Any other smart thermostats we should consider? The home is 2200 square feet, but as best I can tell, there’s only one thermostat, and the room vents (for the most part) aren’t traditional vents that can be opened and closed.

Misc.: We’ll have water sensors under sinks, the washing machine, etc. Eventually (this moving stuff is expensive) we’ll get some Sonos speakers, and I’ll be curious about the new Echo mini, since our Echo isn’t large enough to cover the entire home. The valuables will continue to be secured with a motion detector and multi sensor.

**Other: ** I’d love to hear people’s suggestions about “things I wish I did when I moved/set up my system.” If it helps, we’re a couple in our mid-40s, childless, but have a cat and dog. I work from home. Our unit is on the 14th floor, so no worries about securing the windows.

With the age of the building, if the electrical hasn’t been updated you will most likely not have neutrals at the switches. you will need to confirm, but if you do not have neutrals you will be very limited to what smart switches you can install.

Also you say you currently have smart bulbs, there are many discussions about bulbs vs switches vs both around the forums you should investigate these.

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If you want it to have a more robust integration with ST, I have the CT100 and love it. It doesn’t look as nice as the nest, but if you are OK with doing the Scheduling yourself I recommend it. If you are not willing to schedule it yourself, then i would recommend one of the systems like Nest or the Ecobee 3 (which will still require some work to integrate some functionality into ST)

If you don’t have neutrals, the switches available to you have mixed results dimming led/cfls, but generally work pretty well with dumb incandescent bulbs ( I have 2 installed myself)

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Thanks! I’ll be in for an inspection on Thursday and will also have my handyman with me. I’ll bring a screwdriver so we can pop off one of the light switch covers and take a look to see whether there’s a neutral or not.

(I have a decent idea of what I don’t know. But these are the kinds of things that I don’t know that I don’t know. so this is exactly the kind of info I’m looking for!)

Lighting with moods - There are switches that are dimmable vs just on/off.

For me - I have a dimmable switch in the dining room but in the living room I have just a switch for on/off. The living room switch controls two lamps and they have 3-way bulbs in them so if I want to vary the light with those I just turn on the main switch and then adjust the lamps.

Also for mood lighting I have some color changing LED bulbs from Phillips.

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I am also a fan of the color changing bulbs. Osram also makes rgbw bulbs and recessed rgbw “pot lights” both osram and hue are zigbee

Aeotec makes a zwave bulb

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So we had the inspection today, and my handyman stopped by to give me some estimates. He was checked and said our light switches have a neutral wire and the wiring has been redone relatively recently (so I’m hoping based on a sample size of 1 switch that they’re all the same).

We didn’t take apart any electrical outlets, but I saw a mix – some looked older, some looked brand new. Based on the new wiring behind the switch, I’m assuming that the newer electrical outlets will have a neutral wire (assuming outlets have neutral wires) but the old ones may not.

With that in mind, are there particular switches people strongly recommend? (Specifically, a kind that will continue to work with ST even if it’s physically switched off at the light switch.)

I’m happy with the GE switches. I initially purchased the GE link bulbs for several fixtures but wish I’d just spent the money on the switches instead. I’m watching this post for additional ideas for my home.