Hi, I'm new.....and scared


(Gabe) #1

I am in the middle of a huge remodel and I was really excited to add smartthings to my house until I came to this forum. It seems like half of the new posts are about things not functioning correctly. The wife was already on the fence about home automation, and if instead of simplifying our life, it adds annoyances, there is little reason to even start.

I planned on installing half a dozen light switches (that will be on timers), a bunch of multi-sensors + motion sensors (for a “security system”), a honeywell RTH9580WF (got it cheap from target), and an August doorbell cam (hoping that I could figure out some integration once they released an API).

What are the chances that it will run reliably? Does it just seem like ST never works because most people only post when things go wrong?


(John) #2

Put it this way, ST will become your hobby.


(John) #3

Oh yeah.

Sometimes, most of the time, but fails enough to annoy

It works most of the time. Really it does. BUT when it doesn’t, it can go really wrong, really quick. Feast or famine during those times.

Recently, I (and many others) have zigbee failures everyday due to database corruptions. Just a new chapter/annoyance in the ongoing saga.


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

You can do everything manually all of the time without smartthings or some things manually once in awhile with smartthings.

All “non-professional grade” home automation systems have their issues.


#5

Run reliably, or run reliably when controlled by SmartThings? Those are two very different questions.


(DLee) #6

Zero.

If I knew then (two years ago) what I know now, I wouldn’t do it. Just 15 minutes ago my garage door announced it was open. It wasn’t. That’s why I’m checking the forum at the moment.

Its been 2 months of okay with minor glitches followed by one month of chaos over and over again for about two full years now. When I have time I don’t mind fixing stuff every 2 or 3 days. It’s a hobby. When I’m busy or on a trip or have guests and things fail I tend to get pretty disgusted. Reliability is not what SmartThings is about. A peek into the future? Yes. But it’s really rough.


#7

BTW, The good news here is that there’s nothing subtle about the issues that SmartThings has. Maybe it will work perfectly for you. It is pretty easy to install. So if you’re curious, buy it from someplace with a 30 day guarantee and try it with a few Devices that you don’t have to wire or pay anyone else to install and that you can also return in 30 days.

A couple of pocket sockets, some motion sensors, a siren if you’re going to want one, A couple of contact sensors. Install them and use them for two weeks. You’ll know by then whether the system is reliable enough for your purposes.

But understand that if you see weird stuff happening (lights coming on when they shouldn’t, or not coming on when they should, or the siren going off and you’re not being able to disarm it, etc.) that the odds are pretty high that you will continue to see those kinds of problems.

When it comes to security, everybody has their own requirements for peace of mind. I pay extra for a purposebuilt security system with a monthly fee. Like everybody else, I complain that the fee is too high, but I’ve had it for about 10 years and it’s only had two false alarms in that whole time. It works whether the Internet is functioning or not and whether the power is functioning or not. It calls a professional monitoring center who is authorized to call both fire and police. But that’s what I want. It doesn’t mean it’s what you want. :sunglasses:

A lot of people are OK just with a system that sends them a text message or a push notification and won’t work if the Internet is down. They just don’t want to pay a monthly fee.

As long as you don’t pay a lot of money for devices you might not want in a month, including installation fees, I don’t see any problem with getting SmartThings and trying it. Just in order to be fair to yourself decide ahead of time what your expectations are for reliability, stability, and ease-of-use, and then judge the system against those standards.

JMO


(Jimmy) #8

Go ahead and install the hardware but not the hub. Once you get done remodeling, check back here and see if things are stable. If not, try out wink, Vera, homeseer, etc. Since the hardware is compatible with other systems, and can be operated manually, it won’t hurt anything to do it while you’re remodeling.


#9

I’m not in favor of picking wired hardware based on what works on with smartthings until you know you like SmartThings.

Z wave switches are fine, but the fact is Lutron Caseta switches are engineered better. And they don’t require a neutral wire. But they’re not directly compatible with SmartThings. So if you know you want smartthings, you’ll be looking at zwave switches. But if the only thing you were doing in your house was light switches, you probably wouldn’t pick Zwave.

So there are a lot of choices. The thing about switches is that they are one of the most difficult devices to install, so if I’m still unsure about the controller, I probably won’t jump into switches right away… But that’s just me. :sunglasses:


(Eric) #10

I now have three installs that work pretty well. My buddy has one now and works well. I am setting up another.

If you manage your expectations, and smartly plan what you are doing while being prepared you may need to do some changes once all setup to insure optimal operation, you will probably enjoy it as I do. I certainly learned a lot from year 1 to year 2…don’t go crazy at first, and stick to common, standardized items like zwave and zigbee for portability sake as insurance.

You really will if you like to tinker and play with stuff which I do, so while there has been a stretch here of issues, do know that there is a super vocal subset of folks here that will just continue voicing until ST resolves this growth hurdle.


(Tim Slagle) #11

Hey @Takeagabu

Really appreciate you posting on our community. Just wanted to come in as a “staffer” and give some perspective.

Some of the things said in this thread are true. We don’t try to hide behind anything.

That being said, we are working very hard to make this a really solid platform. We have entire teams dedicated to stability. I understand your concerns, but wanted to stop in and let you know we are working on it.


(Convinced ST will never be unbroken…) #12

@Takeagabu
I ordered SmartThings about two years ago. While waiting for it to arrive I came here to check things out and quickly discovered it was entirely cloud based (that’s not something they made obvious in their marketing materials). I called to cancel as I knew better, but was offered some very reassuring remarks similar to Tim Slagle’s above. But the reality is they’ve been working on it for two years and things have not gotten better.

I have had more issues than I could possibly recall. While I appreciate the instant gratification of being able to woof up an app or device type to get something added, much of what I have done in SmartThings I have actually ripped out due to lack of reliability. No more doors, locks, alarms, heating, etc. Now, failures are mere inconveniences instead of things to worry about.

So, if this isn’t mission critical, and you’re prepared to be inconvenienced by it, SmartThings is great. But, if complete reliability is expected, and anything else can’t/won’t be tolerated, run away.


(Shelley Powers) #13

And that’s the main reason I stick with SmartThings. I’ve never seen a company let people constantly slam it in a community forum–or even discuss the finer points of competitor offerings.

This isn’t the only smart home technology I’m using. SmartThings, though, is the only company that has decent communication with customers. Yes, decent communication.

Go try Nest…oh my god.

Or how about Google’s OnHub? Though I have been able to have a nice discussion with the lead engineer on Twitter.

Then there’s Netatmo. I don’t think there are human beings working at Netatmo. No, seriously, I think it’s all bio-engineered guppies.

But, it will become a hobby. It is going to take your time. You will get frustrated. You’ll be asked to do really bizarre things that actually work, but leave you wondering what the heck?

But you’ll also enjoy the times when it works.

What JD said about switches…good advice. Don’t start with switches. Bulbs. Bulbs are a great starting point. Bulbs and motion sensors.


(Gabe) #14

and here i was thinking that it was a huge advantage that all the electric in the house was being rewired and it would be no additional effort to hardwire devices. but instead its possibly tying myslef down to something that may not work.


(Douglas) #15

It really depends on your usage type. If you were buying it to automate things for health reasons or as a major security system, I’d say it isn’t reliable enough. If you’re doing it for fun/as a hobby (which is more what it sounds like), you need to know that there will be hiccups at times.
That being said, my wife was on the fence as well when I first started. However, she’s more than happy to tolerate it now that things are setup and working. Sure, sometimes there are problems, but I personally have not had anywhere near the problems that others seem to have (all my door locks work just fine, my lights turn off and on when I hit the switch or button on SmartTiles, etc). The key is that I have manual control at the switch when something doesn’t automatically turn on like it’s supposed to. And in a lot of cases, think about it this way - if it was something that was manual before (ie, no timers, etc), if an automation fails, all you do is turn it on manually. Which means that when it works properly, great! And if an automation fails on occasion, you’re no worse off than before you tried to automate it. Just remember not to be using it for mission-critical applications.
So, it seems like it can be hit or miss. For us, it’s been a hit, but then again, we haven’t had any of the terrible problems that others have reported in the forums.


(Gabe) #16

I guess i am really thinking about it in 2 ways. If a routine fails and some lights need to be turned on or off manually, its not a big deal, but if a bedroom light randomly goes on in the middle of the night or my front door unlocks for no reason while I’m on vacation, the consequences are much worse.

Its making me think about only installing things in places where a failure doesn’t cause big problems. No lights in bedrooms, no exterior door locks, no security siren. Maybe someday, but not today.


(Douglas) #17

Makes sense. Personally, I’ve never had something turn on (or unlock) when I didn’t want it to. The only failures I’ve ever had were where something didn’t turn on.


(Brian Salyer) #18

I use smartthings mostly for convenience features. Turning on lights (switches and bulbs) and fans and if a door opens (contact sensors). If it does not work, the world does not end for me. I do have water sensors as well and would be upset if all a sudden my basement is flooded and my sensors don’t send the message. I am taking that risk, but I look at it that I have a better chance of knowing with SmartThings than knowing with nothing. I am getting ready to add a lock from my garage to my house. I felt it was a good safe way to start and get the feeling of reliability since if it does not lock, I still have my garage door as somewhat of a extra barrier. I am with @JDRoberts regarding security. I go with a professional service that I have had for 9 years. One false reading. Then of course, I have a couple echoes that just add to my laziness! Said best - a hobby.


#19

Here’s one piece of advice I’d give to take advantage of your situation: whether you choose to include smart switches now or not, plan the wiring for them. Code now requires neutral at all boxes, so that’s one problem taken care of, but another issue is three-way lighting – there are may ways that can be wired for non-smart switches, but only some of those ways will work for smart switches. See the discussion here for an example.

I personally would probably put z-wave switches in at most if not all positions, even if I don’t plan to network them right away. It’s an established protocol, that most systems support, and I don’t think there will be any major changes that affect switches in the immediate future. But it’s an investment. If you don’t do it now, go for the cheapest switches you can, so you don’t feel bad replacing them when you upgrade.

edit to add: my understanding is that z-wave 3-way switch configs, with a master switch and accessory, will work even without the z-wave being setup. That is, the accessory tells the master what to do locally, not through the z-wave network.


(Jimmy) #20

not sure at what stage you are at with remodeling, but at the minimum I would install the biggest/deepest versions of electrical boxes you can get. Smart devices tend to take up a lot of space in boxes. Most switch problems seem to happen with lack of neutrals and/or power into light fixture scenarios, so avoid those.