Help Planning A House Build and HA System

Hi Everyone,

I am having a house built and am working on my HA design so I can get things set up during the build to make the install a little cleaner. I have decided to go with ST for the HUB but could use some help on how to accomplish the level of automation that I am looking for. I have spent a lot of time on this forum learning and think I have a good idea of what to do but would like the advice of some of you that have actually used this stuff (I have only read about it).

I would like smart locks on the front door and door to the house from the garage, automate both garage roll up doors (via Evolve LFM-20 relay and multi sensor), irrigation system (just backed the Eve on Kickstarter), thermostat (lots of questions about this), landscape lighting, porch lights, interior lighting (for wake up and various scenes), Fans, a few outlets.

I still have so many questions that I can’t seem to find good info on:

  1. Do the Z-wave light switches act as mesh network relays like the duplexes do? Is it anything 120V hardwired acts that way?
  2. I really like the Ecobee3 thermostat, but don’t want even more sensors all over the house. Can I use the multi sensors that are part of the system to help control the HVAC or do I have to use theirs since it is not actually ST integrated?
  3. Are there wired buttons that can act as Scene buttons or do I have to use the app? The thing that almost pushed me to HA company was that ST doesn’t have a central control panel or scene buttons wired in next to switches. I really don’t like the idea of having to use my phone for everything, it just seems like a huge hassle.
  4. What is the best way to control a fan? It seems like the GE switch for instance is just a single button that you have to step through the fan speeds. Is there on that has 3 separate speed buttons?
  5. How do the dimmer switches work, are there any with a slide to dim?
  6. What is a good exterior camera to use at the front door? I don’t care for the doorbell cameras.
  7. I am thinking about wiring for my router and ST hub to mount centrally on the ceiling of the first floor. I am planning on buying some extra outlets to make sure the signal makes it upstairs well and wiring in a WiFi repeater for the upstairs so I get good strength up their too. Has anyone done something like this or have thoughts on what might work better?

I just want to make sure I am set up for future expansion (i.e. blinds, security, a few cameras, ???). Any help is much appreciated. I am supper excited to get this set up and start nerding out.

Thanks in advance,


  1. Typically all 120V does repeat. Check each product’s description.
    2.Check this thread, I don’t know the final answer, I lost track: Ecobee 3 Remote Sensors into ST
    3.I think there are, I saw something on amazon a while back.
  2. Use specific fan controllers not dimmers. Dimmers can cause damage or fire.
  3. Most toggle through the different dim levels to match the controller.
  4. I would go with FOSCAM.
  5. I have a wifi repeater that I suspect is causing issues with ST. Would avoid if possible and just use z-wave/zigbee equipment.

@keithcroshaw, thanks for the reply. There is a lot of good info in that thread. I didn’t have the attention span to get through the whole thing though. I really like the idea of utilizing existing sensors and not adding more that are specific to Ecobee, even if they can be read by ST. The fewer sensors the better.

Are there any multi sensors that plug in? I would love to not have to worry about batteries, though I know they last a while. I just hate batteries and can have outlets wired in wherever I want right now.

Also, is there any advice out there on A/V stuff that integrates well?

Short Answers: Please do a Forum Search :mag_right: for “New Home”, “New Home Construction”, “Renovation”, etc. You’ll find a dozen threads with the same general answers.

My answer is always the same:

  1. Lots of wiring everywhere is a great idea. There are detailed discussions on this, but I’d suggest a local home automation + audio/visual professional to plan it. Off the cuff, I like the idea of 4xCat6 to every room in the house (HDMI and even analog audio can be run over 1 or 2 Cat6, powered video can run over 1, etc. etc.).

  2. The rest? Don’t do it… I mean, don’t do it all at once. The technology is improving too quickly right now, and for this low price range (i.e. The SmartThings price market) the products have satisfaction issues. The prices are low enough to buy a hub and test a few things at a time, snd incrementally add complexity.

The prices are low enough that you afford to discard the first system you choose and/or change the brand of all your cameras, or locks, …

The market takes a long time to establish “winning” products with accurate reviews. In the meantime, you will have to deal with “reviewing” your choices after purchase, and that’s much easier “one at a time”, incrementally. IMHO.

In 2 to 3 years, pre-selection of all the components in advance may be feasible. Not yet.

There are some multi sensors that plugged in, smartthings sells a zigbee one (called their original version) although it plugs in by USB not to the wall. But it does act as a zigbee repeater.

There’s no good a/V integration with SmartThings except for Audio through a generic DNLA driver or the beta Sonos integration.

There is limited AV integration through an additional device, the harmony home hub universal remote. I use this and like it, but a lot of harmony owners are very frustrated by the limitations.

Some people have some very sophisticated custom AV integration set ups, but they require extra hardware and extra code. Take a look at the following home theater topic for discussion of those:

Smartthings is just not very good at scene management, probably the main reason why there is so much custom code. That’s true on both the software and the hardware side.

There is no officially supported wall mount scene controller. And the only officially supported handheld is a tiny four button device.

But then there’s no official software rules engine/scheduler, either.

But there are literally about 12 different ways to set up rules and schedule events for smart things. It’s just that they’re not put together in any consistent way.

There are some people who use the Enerwave SC7 or another wall mount scene controller, but there are other people who try the exact same models and find that they don’t work for them. None of it is officially supported, and occasionally seems to just stop working, probably because of changes to the ST clouds that are not documented. So there really isn’t a hardware option I would feel comfortable recommending right now.

There is a very nice free web based dashboard developed by a community member and now officially supported that many people use as a wall mount controller on a tablet. Through the use of virtual switches, you can trigger whatever complex scheduling you set up through one of the many options documented at the link above. But it’s going to require some effort.

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As Keith said, most wired devices will act as repeaters if they are zwave (repeating zwave only) or zigbee (repeating zigbee only).

The most notable exception is smoke alarms where the manufacturers want to make sure that the device doesn’t fail its primary alert function because it’s busy relaying some request to turn on a light switch somewhere.

Also, most ZLL lightbulbs only repeat for other lightbulbs. That’s true of Phillips hue for example. But there are some exceptions you just have to read each manufactures specs.

Also, in planning, note that zwave door locks are a special case and require devices that can relay “beaming” format messages. Not all zwave devices can.
So you need to plan a device route from your router to each zwave door lock that includes beaming repeaters, not just any zwave repeaters. It’s not a big deal, as there are many plug-in receptacles and light switches that do repeat Zwave beaming, you just have to make sure you’ve got the right ones in the right places.

Yea i don’t have much advice on A/V setups, but my Aeon Multi-sensor has an option for USB power which I use. (The provided USB mini cable was too short.) Read up on the latest model before buying, I think it’s supported but don’t quote me.

Also throughout the thread I linked I think @yvesracine got the Ecobee sensors working with ST. I may be wrong as I lost interested and switched to deciding to write my own SmartApp to suit my needs as it’s pretty darn easy with ST.

And yes is super easy to setup and use, I highly recommend it.

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On wiring for a new house, this recent topic should be helpful:

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As far as fans go, you probably already know that you should only use a control switch specifically rated for fan control. Do not try to use a lighting dimmer switch to control the fan, you will likely damage the fan motor.

The only Z wave fan controller switches that I’m aware of all use the step system of low, medium, high. They do not provide infinitely variable control like a non-networked switch might. There are technical reasons for this that are not easy to overcome in a device that would be inexpensive enough for a home fan.

The GE 12730 seems to be a good device and a number of community members are using it successfully to control ceiling fans with low/medium/high.

Thanks @tgauchat. That is sound advice, especially because I like to go overboard out of the gate. I just don’t want network issues because I don’t have a robust enough mesh.

I will take your advice on seeing a pro A/V person. I just haven’t done enough with that to have a good handle on what my options are.

Thanks for the help,


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Yea I honestly don’t have much stuff yet. I’m slowly mastering what few devices I have trying to figure out when things go wrong was it my configuration, or was it the platform… :frowning:

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Some home A/V-HA pros make a lot of their money on hardware margins (or on high end systems like Crestron or Control 4). The long term flexibility and savings of buying your own hardware is preferable. So, an ideal “pro” would be willing to understand your long term plan and just charge a profitable fee for wiring and occasional support services, rather than insisting on providing end-to-end solution. Good-luck!

Thanks for all of the replies @JDRoberts. There is a lot of good info in there. What does the Z-wave “beam” do differently than a standard Z-wave repeater?



Basically the message packets are encrypted for security. Door locks use a higher security level than your typical light switch.

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@keithcroshaw, I did see that he got the Ecobee sensors working. I just would prefer to keep the sensor count to a minimum and pass on ones that are not directly compatible, as I am a noob at the customization side of this.



@JDRoberts, yes, that is understood. I meant to ask the dimmer question just as it relates to lights. The dimmers I looked at didn’t seem to have a slide so I wasn’t sure how the dim function actually worked with them.

@tgauchat I got a quote from control4 which is what pushed me into the DIY arena, WOW.

Yea I wrote a SmartApp that averages two bedroom temperatures and two living space temperatures. It will then prioritise based on SmartThings mode. It also allows the user to enter offsets for all four temperatures. I haven’t gotten a good chance to test it but if you’re interested let me know. It’s nice to have something to start from when writing these apps.

For light switches it’s sort of done the same way as a non-network switch in that it’s just increasing the amount of current to the light. But Nonnetwork devices are increasing the current as you move the slider, while the networked devices almost all wait until you stop moving the slider, and then treat that as a percentage. So if there’s a slider control, you’re moving from 0% to 100%, even if the control doesn’t have a display that shows you that. Once you stop the switch at any position, the internal device decides what percentage that means and then that is the instruction that gets used.

So you can find networked wall controllers that have a slider, Cooper makes some in their aspire line, for example. And most of the app controllers, whether it’s from a manufacturer like Phillips, or a hub like smartthings, will have a slider control in the app that you can move to the position you want. Again though, the instruction doesn’t get sent to the light itself until you’ve finished positioning the slider.

This isn’t always obvious because there’s still a ramp up in the light itself so it will get gradually brighter or dimmer, but the change isn’t directly synced to what you do with the slider control as you’re changing it. It just ends up at the same place.