Home protection layout with smartthings which can serve any new user

Hi all,

As a new user to smartthings (ST) I am in search - as probably so many new user - to a fitting configuration. I haven’t found a topic yet discussing some great possibilities which will work out of the box with ST and set itself apart from all the other. Since ST support z wave and zigbee there is a tremendous choice for each particular use. Having a lot of choice is a superb feature but this doesn’t make it easy for new users to get the tools they need so they can start setting up the basics for a good system which they can then build on.
Since there is a difference between US and EU market, I would like to ask if possible to differentiate in your answer for which market the suggestions you are about to provide hold true.
Any home alarm system needs any of the following features to my opinion to be worthy of a good system. Please complete which device / utility would be best fitting:

  1. Motion sensors? Wide angle motion sensors with at least 10m coverage seem reasonable. I guess there will be still older homes which have wired 12v cables ready for traditional PIR sensors. So it would be great to address the possibility of hooking up a z-wave motion sensor to a 12v battery supply in order to avoid system failure due to loss in power. I am aware of fibaru don’t consider this as an out of the box tool which will thus not serve most new users (= an non answer).
  2. Door/window contact? I guess vibration is a nice feature since it prevents hampering with the sensor.
  3. Smoke detectors? Since smoke (and fire) can spread across a room in less than 1 minute a detector will serve not only as means to warn the fire department when you are not home, but also to save lives. A detector should make noise, always on and connect to ST.
  4. Outdoor siren? I have seen a lot about indoor sirens and to a lesser extend outdoor sirens. To me only an outdoor siren makes sense since it will frighten burglars and attract attention from the surrounding. Nevertheless a siren needs to be proof of hampering by burglars (so go off if opened or breached and the sound shouldn’t be blocked if foam is poured into the speakers). Weather resistance and additional cable power supply are a bare minimum since these devices are often installed many meters from the ground and you do not which to climb the ladder every month or so.
  5. Indoor cameras? As privacy is important a camera which can be tilted seem logical, additionally the camera should be surveying the room (pointed to a blank wall) when the system is disarmed, but should automatically turn on and point to the right direction when the system is armed. This way burglars/ hackers can’t peek around in your house if they find access to the camera recording/streaming functionality. This protects privacy as well as your house. As with all cameras, recording after motion detection, locally and on the cloud are required. Local storage can play a major role if the LAN network has been interrupted.
  6. Outdoor cameras. Same rules as indoor, except night vision is must. Tilting doesn’t seem to be important since you expect fix corners to be inspected and of course power through cord is a requirement.

Furthermore some generic questions.
a) Since the beauty of z wave is the signal can hop from one sensor to the next. Which delay is present in such a system? And what can be expected from the maximum coverage without timeouts in a normal brick home?
b) Can ST be setup that when a sensor trips (fails) the system is triggered (alarm goes off)?
c) Since the second generation a battery supply is available, but how does this hold up if the router is down? Can alternative solutions be used to send the signal to the web instead of through general LAN connection which can be hampered from outside of the building.
d) Since Z wave isn’t unbreakable as well as the communication send onto the web, how can one best protect its propriety information. If the information collected by the system isn’t safe, it may well act as a source for burglars or online hackers as well (reminder wannacrypt, burglars do not always need to be physically present). Is protecting the router enough or can users do more?

This seems a lot, but this is just the basic any good system needs. From this point on I guess everybody can design its own whishes but rest assure their home is safe.

Thanks everybody for reading and hope to get a good discussion and more concrete to the point suggestions which are well accepted. As price is for most users an important issue I guess it shouldn’t dominate the right choice if it doesn’t meet all the requirements as mentioned above.


@JDRoberts I can tell you that outdoor sirens are probably not allowed due to code reasons and or causing a public disturbance

That is the case where I live.

You may not allowed since the system is designed from a wireless aspect, or not allowed as general law. I know outdoor sirens for traditional systems are build to warn the surrounding for a given and fixed amount of time. Even if a component of the system fails and the system thinks a burglar is at work, the system will go off in intervals but silence itself because of public disturbance. If an outdoor siren can to do this, I do not see an immediate problem with disturbance. So can you define the scope?

ST is a poor choice for serious life safety issues like fire or CO. It’s a cloud-based system that’s subject to too many points of failure.


Well typically your ST connected fire/CO alarms are going to alarm audibly like any other non connected detector you just get the added bonus of it alerting you if you’re not home


Yup. The same issues make it a crappy home security system too though (and you may not even get local alarms if the logic lives in the cloud).

Lots of good questions! :sunglasses: I’ve moved this to projects since many of the answers will be a matter of opinion, and different people will have different things that they like or dislike. Also, that way you can get individualized responses based on your own preferences.

To take the easy questions first, as far as delay in zwave or zigbee signals being passed around the mesh, there can be a slight delay, typically maybe two or three seconds. Shouldn’t be longer than that.

With regard to coverage area, see the FAQ:

As far as motion sensors, the short answer is that there are no really good Z wave motion sensors for use outdoors. But there are other options you can use. Again, see this FAQ.

Now to some of the more complicated questions. The fact is, SmartThings simply isn’t really suitable as a primary security system. To begin with, it’s cloud-based. If both the SmartThings cloud and the Internet are not available, you can’t get any notifications at all, not even on your own phone even if it’s on your own Wi-Fi. The battery back up is only good for a few hours, maybe 3 or 4, but it can’t send notifications as there is no cellular option at all. Not only that, when the system is disconnected from the SmartThings cloud there’s no way to either arm or disarm the security system. The mobile app on your phone cannot talk to the hub at all without the cloud.

On top of the basic design issues, the SmartThings system itself has some reliability issues. There has been a major outage every month for the last eight months except for January. Sometimes it only lasts a few hours, sometimes it’s a day or so, but it’s not what you want from a security system. In addition, they can and do push out firmware updates, typically one or two a month, which will take your system off-line for anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours and you can either refuse nor postpone these outages.

So most people who really need a security system choose something else. They may then integrate it to some degree with their SmartThings system, just for convenience sake.

The SmartThings system is not UL listed as a security system, and with its current features and limitations it could not be. There are a number of other systems to choose from.

All of that said, I do like SmartThings for complex convenience notifications, such as notifying me if the guestroom window has been left open, the guest is away from the house, and rain is expected. It does this kind of thing much better than most systems in the same price range. But it’s not a disaster if it fails to notify us.

If you look at the SmartThings product usage guidelines, you’ll see that they say in two different places that the system should not be relied upon for security uses.


Data accuracy and consistency from SmartThings sensors, including those provided by SmartThings directly, resold by SmartThings, or supported by SmartThings, is not guaranteed. Therefore, you should not rely on that data for any use that impacts health, safety, security, property or financial interests.
For example, because temperature readings may vary significantly from reading to reading on an individual device, between devices, or
Alternately, presence data from SmartThings devices or mobile/Smartphones can vary in accuracy, and therefore should not be used to control access to secure locations without secondary authentication.
SmartThings provides information on the physical state of many devices, including through contact sensors (which may provide open/closed status of windows and doors), accelerometers, locks, appliances, HVAC, light and power fixtures, and presence sensors. The complexity of combining physical interactions with digital interactions may result in inconsistencies in the representation of the actual state of a device in the physical world in its digital representation.
In all cases, SmartThings does its best to interpret and maintain the state of these devices (including by querying for current data), but this is not intended as a replacement for direct, physical verification in situations where the true state of a device may have an impact on health, safety, security, property or financial interests. For example, you should not assume that a curling iron (which may cause a fire if left on too long) is actually off without physically verifying the state.
While SmartThings supports multiple communications standards, including ZigBee and Z-Wave, we cannot guarantee the implementations of those standards by third party devices. Certain devices may not work, or may cease to work with SmartThings despite supporting the same standards.
We provide no guarantee or warranty of compatibility for third party devices, even if we provide access to or resale of those devices through the SmartThings Mobile application or ThingStore.
SmartThings allows for the control of electronic devices through pluggable outlets and supported third party switches, outlets, relays and controls. Where possible, SmartThings has worked to ensure message delivery and control reliability, but many factors can impact this, including electromagnetic interference, solar flares, wireless and cellular connectivity, and the natural complexity of software instructions that might be in direct conflict caused by SmartApps or by end users.
These and other issues can cause commands to not be delivered, to be delivered repeatedly, or to be delivered in rapid succession. Therefore, do not use SmartThings to control any device that may have an impact on health, safety, security, property, or financial interests, or where the device is sensitive and could be damaged by power cycling or power surges. For example, do not control medical equipment or expensive electronics with SmartThings.

So it’s a useful system for many things, but not really recommended for primary security, even by the company itself.

With regard to specific features of different sensors, the following FAQshould be helpful. Again different people have different needs and preferences so it’s not that there’s one “best” answer. But there are differences between models and it’s good to know what the options are when you’re considering one.

Well that’s a little different because your security sensors and the alarm itself are reliant on ST where as the fire detectors operate independently of ST

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The bottom line is it’s a not a particularly reliable option for serious events like home invasions (cloud gremlins cause false alarms; may not alarm at all), or fire/other dangerous conditions (unreliable remote notifications if there are pets or medically frail people in the home, for example).

In my opinion at least. Do you disagree?

These answers already point out some serious security issues. I will have to look elsewhere for a decent primary security system but still like the cloud approach for less live changing events and will use it in the future. I guess a must have gadget is the best description. Are there good diy wired home security systems available? I know this doesn’t belong here, but since you are knowledgeable…

No, I agree that it is not the best option for security. I use it because it’s cheaper then a traditional monitored system and its better then nothing.


V[quote=“shadowclaim, post:3, topic:88241, full:true”]
You may not allowed since the system is designed from a wireless aspect, or not allowed as general law. I know outdoor sirens for traditional systems are build to warn the surrounding for a given and fixed amount of time. Even if a component of the system fails and the system thinks a burglar is at work, the system will go off in intervals but silence itself because of public disturbance. If an outdoor siren can to do this, I do not see an immediate problem with disturbance. So can you define the scope?

In many places in the United States now where the minimum zoning is less than 2 acres per home you will not be allowed to have an outdoor siren unless you get a license for it. They are just too annoying to the neighbors. There may also be concerned that they will be confused for a town’s emergency warning system. But you can check with your local township to see what the regulations are where you live.

In places in the United States where most homes are on at least 5 acres, outdoor sirens are much more commonly allowed.

I agree. I’m relatively new to smartthings and recently went on vacation. I had a new motion sensor set up by the front door, new sensors on the garage, and set up vacation lighting director to work while I’m gone. I tested it all before I left and everything worked.

We leave for vacation and big storms hit the area the day we leave. I have my cable modem / router on a UPS but I guess the power outage was long or it failed. My whole system was off, my hue lights were on the whole time. This was a week and a half. I needed to restart the cable modem. If it’s not one thing it’s another. Too many possible failures. My old X10 stuff was still working though!

I use it because I like the diy aspect and I don’t think I really need a monitored system anyway. An unreliable system could be worse than nothing in some situations.

I also like that it’s pretty cheap though.

This is a repost with some updates reflecting the past 9 months…

SmartThings Purchase/Thoughts
I have had monitored security for the last 25 years. When I built my last home, (2004), it was prewired, about $500.00, for an alarm system and I opted for monitored security with an established regional company connected via a landline. The basic package came with, 1 motion, 3 doors, siren, and keypad. I added another keypad, 2 motion, 1 glass break, fire alarm, and voice response….that cost me $679.00 along with a $35.99 monthly fee (5 year contract). So, for 12 years it has cost me just under $6,500.00. I never had a real emergency, but in my “duh huh moments”, the response time was about 60 - 90 seconds, and twice they didn’t respond at all…supposedly my phone didn’t work.

I looked into the SmartThings setup because I wanted to eliminate my landline, and the monitoring company was going to charge $149.00 for installing a cellular connection, a monthly increase, and a new contract. My SmartThings startup consisted of, ST Hub, 2 motion, 3 in jam doors switches, fire/CO2, siren Minimote, and one electrical outlet….about $400. With that basic setup I would “break even” financially in about a year. (I have since added 3 lights, speaker, 3 pocket sockets, Samsung camera, and an Echo).

My thought on home security is that I’m not overly concerned with what happens when me or my family is away…I have insurance, and personal valuables stored off site. What I am concerned about is someone entering while we’re asleep, or having been away from home and walking in on a burglar, pervert, or other scum of the earth.

With my setup, each entry door has a sensor, and there is a motion sensor at the bottom of each staircase…bedrooms are all upstairs. If someone breaks in and immediately runs upstairs in 10-12 seconds, I may be in a jam….but if it takes them over that, then hopefully as they say me, my wife, the dog, and Smith and Wesson will be awake and as ready as we can be. When I’m away, with ST/SHM notification, and text messaging I’ll know, (as long as the internet, etc, is working), if I’ve had an intrusion prior to entering the house. The other thing I’ve done is to add a receptacle in the garage hooked to a small red light that gives me a visual conformation that the alarm is “armed” when I pull in or out.

Internet Availability Impact
If the internet is unavailable it is not possible to arm/disarm the SHM app…as it is run as a “local” app. So, if you’re home and the internet/cloud is not available your alarm will still function. Again, remember that this
can also be a “PItA” because it cannot be disarmed. So if I get up one morning with my internet unavailable it will be impossible to turn the alarm off…it will alarm when I go downstairs…the siren will sound for 60 seconds, (maybe unplug and put in a closet if it’s annoying), and cell phone notifications will be sent when the hub is able to connect to the internet again…this is certainly annoying to say the least.

One final thought, is that the level of true “home automation” using SmartThings is very interesting. However, I invested in this as a basic replacement for my existing alarm system, and that functionality has to be my primary concern. I intend to stay away from any “custom code”, (non Samsung/ST supported apps), that are available through the user community, and use only limited, fully supported HA functionality. I purchased this to replace an alarm system….not necessarily the home automation side of it. I will use the Samsung/smartThings “Smart Home Monitor” (SHM) app for the alarm function as it is a supported app.

Since September 2016…
For me two major incidents, 11/19/2016 - SHM arm/disarm issues for most all day, and a similar incident on 04/13/2017 having SHM issues most of the day.

First off I know that everyone apparently hasn’t had the same luck/success that I seem to have had. I do think that some of that has to do with how I’m using it…no custom code, (CORE, etc), and not much in the way of home automation other than a few lights being triggered.

thanks for the comment tgreenway. Its a good perspective which your bring to the table. If nothing is available for burglars why should you care. Nevertheless you will always have that creepy feeling as what they did. Camera’s can certainly help with this. I haven’t seen this before but:

can the hub be hooked to a local usb hard drive in order to capture recorded images?

For a primary security system the fail rate should be none. It should always work, if not the system isn’t worth it, whatever the price.


That would cut out SmartThings’s potentially lucrative opportunity to sell add-on cloud video storage.

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