Help Planning A House Build and HA System

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.

Both crestron and control 4 are nice systems. If I had $30,000 to spend upfront and another two or three thousand a year to spend on maintenance, I’d go for one of those. :blush:

But I don’t. My personal guess (and it’s only guess) is that by the summer of 2016 there will be several players offering a reliable plug-and-play home automation system with some Voice control and some AV features for under $5000. Apple’s homekit/Insteon will be one. And I expect Samsung/smartthings to be another.

So for now, I’m only buying the stuff I’ll get immediate use out of, and that I would be willing to replace all together in about 18 months.

But what “willing to replace” is is going to be different for everyone, because different people have different priorities and different budgets.

For example, I’ve put off buying a video door bell for now, because to me, $300 is a lot of money, The use case isn’t that important to me, and I want to wait and see what platform I’m using for my big projects in late 2016.

But I went ahead and got the cheapest Apple Watch now, because I’m quadriparetic and voice control is very important to me. I use it a lot for home automation. So buying that device, knowing I might replace it in a year or so, made sense for me, because it gives me a lot of value now.

Everybody has different priorities, and different budgets.


Lots of people are custom-mounting cheap tablet computers to use as dashboards with scene (or mode, as ST calls them) control buttons:

I agree very much with the advice in this thread. Search the forums, then run as much copper in the walls as you can (minimum would be a neutral wire to every switch box), then take your time installing smart devices.

The one exception to the “go slow” method, in my opinion, is that if you are building new you should probably just bite the bullet and buy all smart switches/dimmers/fan controllers. The time and materials price that your electrician will charge you to install a dimmer is more than you would expect. Best to pay once for a smart switch.

One more thing: the accuracy and precision of temperature readings z-wave/zigbee multi sensors are often questionable. You will get the best readings from the ecobee remote sensors. This may or may not be an issue for you.


+1 to the ease of a dashboard.
+1 to Sonos, if you’re willing to pay a premium. For me, that was worth spending because a clean mobile phone app that easily integrated everything from the home computer library to digital services to NPR produced a high Spousal Acceptance Factor.

Some additional disorganized suggestions here:

(1) Plan around other residents needs (which they may not be able to articulate). Your willingness to tolerate HA that doesn’t behave as anticipated will always be higher than that of everyone else in the house. For proof, I submit the first post of this thread. Don’t be that guy. (Good advice there too.)

(2) Plan for larger electrical boxes. The Z-wave switches are fat. In a wall-panel of multiple switches, you can run out of room. Your electrician will not be anticipating this. He’ll think there will be tons of room in the box, because he’s accustomed to installing thin switches. Then he’ll see a giant z-wave switch and say, “what the hell is that?!”

(3) Buy your router last, at a place with a good return policy. I retired an old 2.4 Ghz router in favor of a 5ghz router because it reliably crashed my Zigbee network at high data through-puts. I couldn’t determine if it was the router itself, or all 2.4 Ghz traffic, but your best bet is to have all your HA stuff installed first, because you can’t easily replace that, and test the router at the end.

(4) Sounds like you’ve already decided on ST, but whatever you do, don’t get yourself locked into a proprietary system. If it isn’t interoperable, you don’t really own the hardware. If you buy a lot of ST hardware and decide you hate ST, you can still get their Z-wave and Zigbee stuff to talk to someone else’s system. If you get locked into a proprietary system of non-interoperable hardware, you risk having several $K in hardware orphaned because some CFO decided to cut loose the HA division in order to hit Q3 estimates.

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@matt how exactly does the interface with Sonos work? Can you actually control it and use it in IFTTT logic, like as an alarm or turn on when “away” and motion is detected?

I am liking the features of the Lync6 system from HTD and would like a Sonos as an input, but am not sure what that means for ST integration.

@mrjoedave - To connect another audio system to the Sonos, I think you need to purchase their Connect:Amp product, which is pricey. There’s no Line Out on my Sonos 1s.

At the software level, there is a sub-app inside the SmartThings app which finds your installed Sonos items and treats them like SmartThings devices.

Once that is installed, you can easily set up simple If-then routines. E.g., if the moisture detector I have next to our hot water heater detects moisture, the Sonos plays a voice message through its built-in text-to-speech engine. (For a while I had it set up to say “Matt has arrived” based on our presence detectors. It was amusing once and became annoying rather quickly.)

I think because it goes through the cloud, there can occasionally be performance issues, but I have a daily weather report that plays every morning when we enter the kitchen and it has worked flawlessly for several months now.

All that being said, I’ve been tinkering with @joshua_lyon 's awesome SharpTools on a cheap, dedicated Android tablet, and between that and the Android apps Tasker and Autovoice, I could probably build all of that without Sonos integration, on any sound system. But being a non-programmer, I find Tasker had a far steeper learning curve than the SmartThings app and Sonos.