How do I automate [Insert Device Here]: my next projects

Ok, I admit it, I am hooked. I have spent the past few weeks updating my older home with LED lights on ST dimmers. Adding motion detectors so I don’t stumble around in the early morning darkness. I have a sensor on the Garage Door to warn us if it opens. I have upcycled an old cell phone to be the bed side control unit.I added a smart plug to my aging low voltage lighting system and now I have a “floating start time” based on sunrise and sunset. I also wrote my own “Wake Up” routine because I didn’t like the defaults in the ST App. (Oh, I even freak out my wife by turning lights on around her when I am not home…just for fun.)

Now I am wondering “what’s next?” I don’t think anything I am looking at it crazy. But a lot of posts are old (like 2015 old) so I am wondering if my search criteria that include “SmartThings” is narrowing my focus. For example:

  1. What is the best way to add Open/Close to an existing Garage Door Opener? Or what is the best low voltage switch configuration? It seems a lot of folks use the big clunky relay for this purpose. At about $50 it seems like over kill.I have been looking for a simple ST switch that is used for low voltage switching. There is nothing elegant out there just big clumsy relays.
  2. Also along the lines of low voltage switches, I think about hacking a car transmitter to lock my cars when I lock my house. Is this a crazy idea? Seems like an easy way to add an additional layer of security, but how to start?
  3. How about sprinkler controllers? I see them at HomeDepot, but they all have their own apps. Not ST Integrated.
  4. What cameras are a good choice for exterior monitoring? I tried Arlo, they were crap and WAYYYYY too expensive. I just want to catch video of people who come to my door or enter my back yard and have the ST event turn on lights.

OK, that’s it for now…I am sure that the more I tinker the more ideas I’ll have.

Thanks for reading this far. This is a great community, that is actually why I landed on SmartThings over alternative options.


Welcome! :sunglasses:

There’s no one best way to do anything because different households have different requirements and preferences. For example, someone who lives alone would probably really like lights to turn on and off as they move around the house. But if you have two kids and a dog that’s not likely to work as well for you. So it always comes down to the small details, but you’ll find lots of people in the community who will be glad to help you.

The most significant changes since 2015 are First the introduction of two new official features, smart lighting and smart home monitor, which can both do a lot of automations that used to require individual focused Smartapps.

And then some very significant community – created offerings. There are now two major voice assistant smart apps, askAlexa and EchoSistant, both of which can do amazing things with Amazon devices. (You’ll find these on the voice lists in the community – created wiki mentioned below)

And then the introduction of first core and then webcore, which are essentially scripting languages for smartthings and allow you to create much more complex rules than the official features. So now, the answer to many “how do I automate…?” Questions is just “webcore.”

Another community feature that was added in the last year or so is the community – created wiki. There’s a lot of great information there, including the “quick browse lists” which should let you very quickly find both project reports and custom code contributed by other community members. These are divided by topic like “mailbox projects,” “irrigation projects,” etc. so that’s definitely a good place to check. There’s also a quick browse list under Project Reports called “get started” which has all kinds of topics from “top 10 things to do with SmartThings” to “what device should I get next?” Lots of great stuff there, both fun and practical.

Finally, when it comes to specific device questions, start with the device feature FAQ:

If you don’t see the device class there that you’re interested in, such as sprinklers, feel free to start a new thread under the devices category of the form. Please limit each thread to just one device class, or it becomes impossible for people to go back later and find information. So one thread for sprinklers, and a different thread for car transmitters. It just keeps the topics easier to follow.

If you have questions which aren’t really about a specific device class, but are more brainstorming how to solve a particular problem when you haven’t decided on which devices to use or when you are trying to tie together multiple kinds of devices or anything which is going to be specific to you rather than something that could be answered by reading a spec sheet, then start a thread under the projects section of the forum. For example “we have a family member who is deaf, and I’m curious about what other people with similar challenges have at it in terms of home automation” or “I’m really excited about home automation and I want to do as much as I can for $2000, what would you suggest for that budget?” Or " we have a garage apartment that we rent for Airbnb, I’m curious if anyone else is adding home automation to an Airbnb suite in their home?" would all fit well under projects. The answers are likely to vary from one person to another, the solutions will probably involve multiple device classes, and a lot of it may just be community brainstorming. :policeman::female_detective::man_farmer::woman_singer::man_factory_worker::woman_mechanic:t2::man_artist:t4:

Welcome again! SmartThings is a very powerful, very flexible platform, but not easily discoverable. So you do you sometimes have to do quite a bit of research to figure out what will be the best solution for you. :tada:

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I would recommend Rachio,I have used it for almost a year now & it works great. Tie it to a close weather station in your area & it will automatically run a rain delay.
It also works with ST & Amazon Alea

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Spruce is another a popular sprinkler Controller with a direct smartthings integration.

Also regarding sprinklers, anything that has an IFTTT channel/service can be integrated with SmartThings that way. You just have to check to see what features have been exposed in each service. :sunglasses:

For example, Rain Machine, Skydrop, and GreenIQ all have IFTTT services.

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I know you did not mention this but I think Echo or google home integration may be a fun project for you. I barely use any app to control devices since I set this up.

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Funny about that. My wife told me at the outset, “No door bell and no Alexa.” The door bell because my brother-in-law added a Ring and my sister-in-law hates it. It constantly makes her phone alert and she cannot turn off the sound. So, my wife isn’t a fan. Alexa because she doesn’t want her listening all the time…or the NSA. :slight_smile: I have looked at the Echo Dot but I am still not certain about it. Is it all the voice control without the speaker of the Echo?

No Ring? No Alexa?! Those are my two favorite components. “Alexa, give me a listing of divorce attorneys near me.” :grin: My Ring is integrated to control the front porch light when it detects motion. I understand where your sister in law is coming from. The Ring Pro has various motion settings to help you reduce the area monitored and the sensitivity. I actually made mine fairly sensitive so I would have recordings of everything going on in front of my house. Unfortunately there is no way to divorce the motion tracking from the motion notification on the ring app directly…it would be a simple but great feature imo. However, you could always not install the ring app on a phone or you could set the phone OS to mute notifications from the ring app. I set my phone to mute all notifications at night. As far as Alexa goes, I think my wife is jealous. There’s now a female entity in the house that does whatever I ask. My wife had already designated me to a similar role.

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The Echo dot is the same as the “big” Echo, except that it’s speaker sounds more like a cellphone speaker phone. Most people connect external speakers to it. For voice control, both do the same. The NSA will still listen no matter if you get a full Echo or a dot :wink:

You could also get a device like a Fabriq speaker. It has a button that you have to press to activate Echo and it will not listen all the time. You can also use it as a speaker to play voice announcements (“the garage door is still open” or the weather report) or other sounds triggered by Smartthings

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@TylerDurden too funny (man to man of course) if any spouses are reading then “I am appalled!!!” :slight_smile: Actually the camera in the door bell would be a huge help because our front porch makes camera placement a challenge. We tried to mute the notifications on the iPhone and could not get it to work.(Although I did not try very hard.)

@pizzinini Thanks for the options. I am still leaning toward the Dot just from a form factor perspective. I noticed that it also does not have batteries and must be plugged in, is that correct?

Is anyone going to jump in on the garage door opener ideas? Should I be looking at a different protocol? Does anyone sell a DIY SmartThings compatible controller that I could build into a solution like Raspberry Pi?

We have android but it looks like you can do it on iphone too.,news-21195.html

@TylerDurden Oh, I know you can in general, but IIRC the App (in this case it was from the home security provider) not Ring, did not show up in the Notification section.

Correct, it is plugged via mini-usb. You can connect external speakers via cable or bluetooth.

It’s important for garage door controllers which can be operated remotely to get a UL listed device with all the necessary safety features. Fortunately there’s a very good one which is available now for around $85 and includes both the controller and the tilt sensor. This is a Z wave device manufactured by Nortek and sold under a number of different brand names, including Linear, GoControl, Nutone, and Iris. They’re all the same model and even have the same instruction sheet inside, they’re just in a different box. This is the only garage door controller which is officially compatible with SmartThings. Very popular. :sunglasses:

It’s widely available, including at places like Best Buy and Home Depot, so if you shop around you may catch it on sale for around $65. But even at $85 it’s a good deal since you’re getting two devices counting the tilt sensor. Don’t pay more than $90 for it, though, you can definitely do better than that.


If you want to also look at some alternatives, the Telguard Will also work with SmartThings, although it will only show as an on/off switch and it doesn’t have its own tilt sensor. So it this point it’s usually more expensive. ( when the telguard first came out, the Nortek used to sell for around $130, so it was the cheaper alternative. But over the years, the price on the Nortek has dropped significantly, so the telguard is getting harder to find.)

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As far as cameras… What’s the weather like where you live? The Arlo have an official integration with SmartThings, but a lot of people like blink cameras, and some people use them outside even though they aren’t engineered for it. @lmosenko can probably say more about those. :sunglasses:

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As @JDRoberts, stated I and a lot of people like Blink for home hameras. They have a 3rd party integration with SmartThings and is created/totaly supported by @RBoy. This integration is $, but it is well worth the $ since you will get other apps and device handlers which can make your life with ST a lot easier.

Blink has both interior and exterior cameras. If you have overhangs or aunings outside of your house and the camera will be protected from the elements, than go and use it. They are cheaper than getting the exterior cameras which are weather proof. I use mine to catch intruders and Annoying Amazon Delivery guys/girls who toss my packages on video and report them to Amazon. They Hate me for that, but I don’t get anymore broken things.

This is a video from my interior camera which I placed under an auning on my driveway. It works:

And @MatthewMcD,

Here is a $25 referral link for buying your first Blink system.


The Echo Dot is on sale today:


@JDRoberts Thanks, we tried Arlo and they were terrible. The motion detection was poor. We get an alert that someone was at the door 2 minutes after the doorbell rang. The video clips were useless. The listen/talk function never worked in a timely manner. We ended up with a lot of video of people walking away so I returned them for a refund.

The weather here is hot and humid in the summer and rarely goes below 40F in the winter. The Hikvision cameras seem popular. I have a QNAP NAS that could handle the monitoring and recording side of the puzzle.

I should have mentioned that I am looking for exterior cameras.