I am in the process of developing a home automation plan. So far I have several Amazon Echo Dots and and Ecobee t’stat. Now I’m selecting a hub to buy and planning future purchases.
As I am planning on the SmartThings as the hub, now I need to standardize on lighting. I am trying to determine if I should standardize on Phillips which needs a hub that will integrate to the SmartThing or… just standardize on OSRAM Lightify… or will I be stuck with OSRAM Lightly as there may be other brand bulbs that can sit on the SmartThings Hub.
( I’ve moved this to projects so you can get individualized responses based on your own preferences and requirements. )
Different things work for different people, but the one thing I would say upfront is that I’ve found it works best for me if I judge each use case by what I need there. So I have some smart bulbs and some smart switches. The smart bulbs are mostly in table lamps, the ceiling fixtures are controlled by smart switches. This worked well at our house, but you might find something else works best for you.
The question of bulbs versus switches is an argument that is been going on since this forum started, and I don’t expect it will ever really end. There are passionate opinions on both sides. But, again, I’ve found that sometimes one is best, sometimes the other. Smart bulbs give you color changing options, which we have found helpful for notifications. A lot of people like a bulbwhich changes color temperature from cool white to warm white. And the bulbs can generally dim lower, for some technical reasons. We use smart bulbs or strips for our night lights, for example. And of course bulbs don’t require wiring.
Smart switches often cost less for large rooms and of course instantly solve the question of providing an intuitive alternative to go with the rules-based automation.
The following should be of interest:
One thing to note up front… There are now many different devices available to provide physical switch control of smart bulbs, so you can ignore any argument that says " people turn off the power at the switch, making the bulbs useless." That was originally a problem, but now definitely doesn’t have to be.
Finally, you might enjoy taking a look at the “get started” Quick browse list in the community – created wiki. Lots of interesting ideas there.
As far as Phillips versus Osram, my own personal preference is for Phillips just because the bridge is a really nice device. It’s one of the few that is happy being paired with multiple integration partners, so it just gives you a lot more flexibility.
In order to use the Osram bulbs with SmartThings they have to be paired directly to SmartThings, you can’t add their gateway into your system at all. But these bulbs at present have a problem where they are identified as repeaters but they have a tendency of dropping messages given to them by other devices, which means your sensors may not be able to get messages through to the hub. See the last section of the official support article:
That won’t happen if you’re using the hue bridge, because it forms its own mini network with the devices attached to it and they only repeat for each other.
Quite a few people who have bulbs of other brands have ended up moving those onto a hue bridge just to avoid this specific issue.
So if it were me, I would choose Hue. Cost used to be a really big issue, but with the introduction of the $15 hue white bulb in late 2015, if Hue has become generally cost competitive with the other brands.
But that’s just my opinion, there are other people who may prefer specific features of other models.
Building on the assessment from @JDRoberts, the other consideration I didn’t see in your original post was cost considerations. All bulbs in a fixture need to be replaced if you opt for smart lighting via bulbs (~$15/bulb for basic white), therefore bulbs are a good solution for individual lamps without a central light switch. If plug-in light fixtures have more than 2 bulbs then more cost effective solution is a controlled outlet (~$30-40). Finally, if several lights are controlled by a hardwired wall switch (single, 3-way, or 4+ way), then replacing the switch is the best solution (~$35-50, with addon switches ~$20).
Here’s where the planning gets technical. SmartThings communicates with 2 standard wireless protocols: Z-Wave and Zigbee. If you search the forums you are bound to find multiple discussions of these competing protocols. SmartThings, and other central Smart Home hubs, use these wireless protocols to directly communicate with devices rather than over an internet-based communication (i.e. no internet connection, no integration). Both protocols serve as wireless repeaters for other devices based on the same standard, so ideally try to build your system around a single wireless standard. Unfortunately there aren’t always equivalent devices available for both standards.
Zigbee: primarily light bulbs and presence sensors. Switches and outlets are available, but are more expensive.
Z-wave: Most device categories are available in a Z-wave variant. Outlets and switches based on z-wave are available from many different manufacturers.
Phillips bulbs are worthwhile if you want tunable white or color adjustable bulbs, but if you only want basic soft-white or daylight bulbs then try the Cree Connected bulbs. Tuneable white lights are nice to have in the bedroom, but they are not budget friendly.
Another consideration is that Z-wave Plus devices (the new version of the Z-wave protocol) are becoming more widely available on the consumer market. The main advantages to the Z-wave Plus standard is range and reduced battery usage (not an issue for wired devices). GE has Z-wave Plus variants of their switches in the pipeline, but their availability is limited.
I would also highly recommend in wall switches. They are way more reliable than smart bulbs. The biggest downside to smart bulbs if if the switch gets turned off. The lights won’t work and occasionally they won’t rejoin automatically.
There are places where that does not work, like renting or older houses with out neutrals. If you are running floor lamps that is another use for the Hues, which I use in all my floor and nightstand lamps.
I was planning on going with color changing hues everywhere, but then realized I don’t need them in many places and it was mostly a gimmick. I still have them in a couple places, and it is a cool effect.
I will go ahead and add my two cents on the bulbs vs switches as well. I agree with most everything that has been said by others here but would add this as a consideration.
I’m a fan of Cree Connected Bulbs. There have been some reports of problems with these bulbs once you get more than about 10 of them in use. I currently have 10 in use in my home with no issues at all.
If you have any doubts about wiring smart switches into your home the folks on this forum will do everything they can to help but keep in mind that if you need to have a pro do it for you it can add a lot to your expenses. Wires to different switches can be very inconsistent when it comes to colors etc and it can get really confusing if you are familiar with doing that type of work.
JD has some great feedback which I appreciate and pretty much give me the info I was seeking on the differences between those two products.
Yes, cost is an issue to consider and I’m sure I will expand my network in time. I see in going to Amazon for Smart Home products there are numerous competing protocols so the first decision to make is…… just pick a protocol and look for the one with the greatest potential expandability. Thanks for your feedback on Zigbee and Z Wave.
As my next addition is lighting, I have more lamp fixtures I want to automate and turn on with Alexa voice command (or maybe a proximity sensor) than lighting fixtures controlled via light switch. I’m sure I’ll add the switches later but just adding the lamps right now.
I might make adding something to my home network a monthly thing but at the moment, starting at the top (the hub which is how I landed on Smart Things) and then going from there.
Correct me if I am incorrect but it looks like I can get the Cree Connected bulbs and those can sit directly on the Smart Things hub vs if I go with the Phillips, it will require it’s own hub as a gateway. With that said, sounds like Cree would help me eliminate a gateway but in doing so I give up the dimming capabilities.
Thank Phil… I just got back from Home Depot. I bought the last SmartThings Hub and they were completely out of the Cree Connected, they only had the Cree Replacements. Their price on the Cree Connected vs. Amazon and other places was enough to wait until next Home Depot’s next shipment coming in next week. Now I just have to look at the SmartThing hub in a box and not play with it for a week. That might be torture
Eric had a great point on picking a protocol to standardize on… Sounds like Zigbee is established enough with a lot of products on the market, I can expand on that for a long time.
I don’t think I need to go to a pro to wire in the smart switches when I get to them but I very well may reach out for advise if I have questions.
As far as zigbee versus Z wave, some people use just one, some use a mix depending on each individual use case.
Zigbee sensors tend to be a bit smaller and a bit faster than the similar Z wave ones. But very strong Wi-Fi can drown out zigbee and doesn’t affect zwave. This is probably the reason why historically Z wave has been much more popular for light switches and door locks, both of which are fixed location devices. Typically one of the ways that we address Wi-Fi/zigbee interference is just to move a device a few feet over.
For example, I’ve previously mentioned that we had a situation at my house where a Wi-Fi booster plugged into the north wall in one room would cause all of the SmartThings-controlled zigbee devices to the west of it to lose connection to the network. But if we plugged in the same Wi-Fi booster on the east wall, there was no problem.
It’s usually very easy to move the sensor out of a dead spot. Not so easy with the doorlock or light switch.
But if you live in the US and you want to use just zigbee, you certainly can. It’s more challenging with SmartThings than with more expensive controllers because the SmartThings hub doesn’t do channel hopping. But there are some community members using it that way. Choice is good.
Thanks JD. In looking at things that work with SmartThings, there seems to be enough products that are compatible with SmartThings that I will not be at a loss for devices. Thanks for bringing to my attention the speed on the sensors, that is a good point to consider. What do you consider a STRONG Wi-Fi?
Most people who have issues have their SmartThings Hub right next to their wireless router. You should allow about 5 feet of space around the router or any other devices that use wifi (repeaters, desktops) to reduce interference.
I live in a very crowded 2.4 ghz area and don’t have issues with zigbee (about 25 devices). I did purchase a couple of smart outlets to help boost the mesh.
Another thing to remember with SmartThings, is that there are a ton of products that are compatible with SmartThings that are not on the Works with SmartThings list. If you see something that looks like something you might want, search for it on the forums and likely someone has made it work with a custom device handler. It’s a little more complex than using the Works with SmartThings certified devices, but not by a lot. Basically just cut and paste. You are definitely not limited to just the devices listed in the Things Marketplace on the SmartThings app.
Control 4 does. It’s an excellent system, but very expensive – – typically 10% of the cost of the home plus an annual maintenance fee. If I had the money I would definitely get their system, but I don’t. And if you use them you have to use their devices mostly, because they have a lot of proprietary encoding.
The systems used by most of the cable companies, including Xfinity home and Time Warner, do channel hopping, but they also limit the devices you can add and they have a significant monthly fee.
I’d consider anything -50 dbm and above to be a strong boosted signal. Different people have different thoughts on this. If you’re streaming video, you probably need to be at at least -57 or -56. -70 would be fine for just email or browsing. If you’re at -60 you’re probably going to see Netflix buffering, which is when people usually start looking into boosting.
Any certified Z wave device from the same region should work with smartthings as far as “basic”(that’s a Z wave term in this context) operation, which typically means on/off/dim. For other features, a custom device type handler may be required, but zwave is usually pretty straightforward.
Zigbee is a whole different story. The zigbee standard allows for different profiles, including manufacturer proprietary, and they can’t all talk to each other. They don’t even use the same addressing scheme. So just being “certified zigbee” isn’t enough to work with SmartThings.
SmartThings uses the “zigbee home automation profile” (ZHA 1.2) , so most devices which also use that exact same profile can be made to work with SmartThings, but they almost always need custom code. If the community has already create a custom drivers for specific model, you can find them using the quick browse lists in the community – created wiki:
I cannot recommend using switches over bulbs strongly enough. Even if you think it will be easier in the short term to use bulbs, the ease of use and reliability of switches can’t be beat.
That said, I think the best way to tackle any HA project is to start small. Pick a room, automate it, live with it, and then adjust based on your use case. As @JDRoberts likes to say, “all home automation is local.” My house is a living record of my attempts and lessons learned.
Paul, Thanks for the feedback. My issue is I have more lamps I want to automate than lighting fixtures. I want to be able to walk into my bedroom and say Alexa turn on bedroom lights. With that in mind I am limited to the balls or the outlets… Do you have any feedback on doing it through the outlets gives you better performance?